chapter  II
22 Pages

Italy and Italian Influence 2. The Renaissance in the Rest of Europe 3. Ideas and Manners II. THE REFORMATION

Henceforth, the Papacy was a political power only in Italy, and even there it was greatly inferior to Venice, the King of Naples, the Medici, and the Sforza. In order to maintain itself at all it was obliged to divert, to the profit of its temporal power, a good part of the resources which it derived from Christendom; so that its spiritual primacy over the Catholic world seemed often to be subordinated to its territorial interests. The prince often seemed to take precedence of the Pope in the person of the sovereign pontiff, the more so as the tiara was now conferred only upon Italians: Adrian VI (1521-1523) was to be the last of the ultramontane Popes. By thus Italianizing itself the Papacy escaped in some degree from the interference of the great powers, but it also became more alien to them, since it was imbued with a national character which assorted ill with its oecumenical mission. It is not surprising that under such circumstances nepotism should have made the most alarming progress in the bosom of the Curia. Each Pope profited by his elevation to assure the future

of his family, and of his policy, by introducing, without regard for their capacity or their morals, the greatest possible number of his kinsmen into the Sacred College. Already the cardinals of Avignon had caused distress to the many pious souls. But what can we say of those of the 15th century! Even in the world of the Renaissance, accustomed to the extreme licence of court life, their appointment was regarded as a scandal. We have to go back to the 10th century, to the days of Theodore, Marosia, and John XII, to find a spectacle of moral anarchy comparable with that which was offered by Rome under the pontificate of Alexander VI (1492-1503), and even by the pontificates of Julius II and Leo X. Again, the brutality of the feudal system afforded some excuse for the 10th century which could not be adduced in favour of the end of the 15th century. Imagine what an impression a believer must have carried away from the capital of the Christian world at a time (1490) when there were 6,800 courtesans in Rome, when the Popes and cardinals consorted publicly with their mistresses, acknowledged their bastards, and enriched them at the cost of the Church! It was really too much that a Borgia should have been able to sit on the throne of St. Peter. There is an only too painful contrast between what the Papacy should have been and what it actually was; and one would have liked to find more religious sincerity in the patrons of Bramante, Raphael, and Michelangelo. Wonderful though the achievements of the Renaissance may have been in Rome, there was something repulsive about it; the splendour which it conferred upon the metropolis of the Catholic world made it too sadly unlike the Rome of the great mediaeval Popes. The successors of Innocent III and Boniface VIII were so steeped in the new spirit that they no longer respected the tradition to which they owed what ascendancy they still retained over the world. It almost seems as though for them the Church was no more than a means of asserting their personal eminence, and that it was to their greater glory, rather than to that of Christ, that so many monuments were erected, so many works of art produced.