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somewhat scandalised at the proposal, and taking into consideration the marked accordance of the name with the fact, demurred, declaring that such an appellation would savour too much of mundane and personal vanity. Pietro Barbo, perhaps a little ashamed of his choice of appellation, made no difficulty about giving it up, but was unlucky enough to choose a second name which was also objected to. He said, well then, he would be called Marco. But to this it was objected that a Venetian choosing such a name would seem imprudently to declare too strong a partiality for his own nation. So he submitted to take a commoner appellation, and was enthroned as Paul II.
But this splendid lay-figure of a Pope died after a reign of six years and ten months, at the comparatively early age of fifty-three, quite suddenly in the evening of a day in which he had celebrated a consistory with much pomp and in high spirits. It was the 18th of July, 1471. The suddenness of the Pope's death caused the number of cardinals in Eome to be smaller than it would otherwise probably have been, and only seventeen cardinals went into Conclave at the Vatican, on the tenth day after Paul's death, and almost immediately and unanimously, after an entirely uneventful Conclave, elected Francesco della Eovere Pope by the name of Sixtus IV.
i But if this Conclave was short and its work easily accomplished, few Conclaves have ever done a deed of
tall and noblo person helped him not a little, giving him, as it did, tho appearance of a new Aaron, venerable and reverend beyond that of any other Pontiff."
more far-reaching importance in the history of the Papacy.
Historians and antiquaries have been much troubled by doubts, which appear to be insoluble, as to the parentage of Francesco della Eovere, and the position in life of his parents. He is said, in all probability with good reason, to have been a poor fisher-boy, the son of parents following that occupation on the Ligurian coast at or near to Savona, on the Genoese riviera. But this, the sole point of similarity between him and that first predecessor of his, in whose seat he was so proud to sit, was indignantly repudiated by his biographers and chroniclers as soon as he had been invested with the fisherman's ring. It was then discovered that he was a scion of the old and noble house of della Eovere, and the illustrious bearers of that name were glad enough to enroll a Pope among the glories of their house. The matter in dispute has been the object of much learned research; but I do not know that any one of the supporters of either opinion has put forward the theory that both statements may well have been true, and are by no means incompatible.
Let his birth, however, have been what it may, it is certain that during his early youth and manhood he was a Franciscan friar, and the learning which enabled him to acquire that fame as a preacher and theologian, which obtained the Papacy as its reward, was obtained by convent teaching. And it cannot be denied that Sixtus, when he was made Pope, had the qualities, character, and antecedents which rendered him no unfitting object of the suffrages of his colleagues of the Sacred College, and seemed to afford a reasonable hope that he would be a fair Pope, as Popes were at that day. Nor, further, can it be denied that Francesco della Eovere, let his forefathers have been what they might, was in many respects a born ruler of men.
Wadding, in his great history of the Order of St. Francis, writes of him in the following terms: "In truth," says the Franciscan historian, writing some century and a half after the death of this great Pope, "he appeared made by nature to govern. He was affable, a speaker of infinite efficacy, and quick and witty in reply. He was a common father, revered by the good, feared by the bad. With the learned he was erudite, with the simple forbearing. He reproved the faults of those guilty of them not by abuse but by reasoning. He was a prudent man, too, temperate in eating and drinking, and pleasant to look upon." Of course the Franciscan historian's account of the great Franciscan Pope must be taken with a grain—nay, with many grains—of salt. But it may be accepted as the truth that the fisherman's son had many of the qualities needed to make him a worthy wearer of the fisherman's ring.
And Sixtus would have, doubtless, continued eminently well fitted for the Papacy if he had never been made Pope. With the possession of worldly power, the demon of worldly ambition seems to have entered his soul, and to have worked till it obtained entire possession of the whole of it. Of Sixtus IV. I wrote as follows now nearly twenty years ago,* and I do not
* "A Deeado of Italian Women," London, 1859.
know that anything would be gained by attempting to recast what I then said.
"This barefooted mendicant friar, the vowed disciple of that St. Francis whom no degree of poverty would satisfy short of meeting his death, naked and destitute, on the bare earth—this monk sworn to the practice of an humility abject in the excess of its utter self-abnegation— was the first of a series of Popes who one after the other sacrificed every interest of the Church, waded mitre deep in crime and bloodshed, and plunged Italy into war and misery, for the sake of founding a princely family of their name."
It is curious to observe that generally throughout the pontifical history, scandalously infamous Popes and tolerably decent Popes, are found in bunches or series of six or eight in succession—a striking proof of the fact that when they have been of the better sort the amelioration has been due to some force of circumstance operative from without. Never were they worse, with perhaps one or two exceptions, than during the century which preceded the first quickly-crushed efforts of the Reformation in Italy—from about 1450, that is to say, down to 1550.* Competing Protestantism then began to act on the Eoman Church exactly as competing Methodism acted on the Anglican Church three centuries later, and a series of Popes of a different sort was the result.
But the conduct of the great family-founding Popes,
* Paul HI., whose death I have assigned as the break at which this book of the story of the Conclaves shall close, for the reasons given in the first chapter thereof, died in 1549.
which strikes us, looking at it through the moral atmosphere of the nineteenth century, as so monstrous, wore a very different aspect even to the gravest censors among their contemporaries. The Italian historians of the time tell us of the "royal-mindedness" and "noble spirit" of this ambitious Franciscan, Pope Sixtus, in a tone of evident admiration. And the gross worldliness, the low ambition, and the unscrupulous baseness of which he may fairly be accused, did not seem, even to Du Plessis Mornai * and the French Protestant writers of that stamp, to be sufficient ground for denouncing him and the system which produced him. Otherwise they would not have disgraced themselves and their cause by asserting that he was guilty of hideous and nameless atrocities, for which, as the less zealous but more candid Bayle t has sufficiently shown, there is no foundation either in fact or probability.
The new Pope lost no time in turning the Papacy to the best possible account in the manner which had for him the greatest attractions. And it so happened that he was singularly well provided with the raw material from which the edifice of family greatness he was bent on raising was to be furnished forth. He had no less than nine nephews, five of them the sons of his three brothers, and four the sons of his three sisters!—a field for nepotism sufficiently extensive to satisfy the "highspirited" ambition of even a Sixtus IV.! But among all this wealth of nephews, the two sons of his eldest sister, Girolamo and Pietro Eiario, were distinguished
* Du Plessis Mornai, "Mystere d'Iniquitfi," p. 535, et seq.