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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 Decade 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 Preformation 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 III., whoso death I havo assigned as tho break at which this book of tho story of tho 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. lie 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'lniquite," p. 555, et eeq.
by him so pre-eminently that a great many contemporary writers, thinking it strange that he should prefer them to those of his own name, have asserted that they were, in fact, his sons.* Giuliano della Eovere, the eldest of all the nine, who received a cardinal's hat from his uncle, but could obtain from him no further favour, was, nevertheless, destined, as Pope Julius II., to become by far the most important pillar of the family greatness. His sister's son, Peter Eiario, was, like his uncle, a Franciscan | monk, and was twenty-six years old when the latter was elected. Within a very few months he became Bishop of Treviso, Cardinal-Archbishop of Seville, Patriarch of Constantinople, Archbishop of Valentia, and Archbishop of Florence! From his humble cell, from his ascetic board, from his girdle of rope and woollen frock, baked yearly to destroy the vermin bred in its holy filth, this poverty-vowed mendicant suddenly became possessed of revenues so enormous, that his income is said to have been larger than that of all the other members of the Sacred College put together! The stories which have been J preserved of his reckless and unprecedented expenditure at Kome would seem incredible, were they not corroborated by the fact that
* Corio, the contemporary annalist of Milan, writes; "Hebbe duo che egli chiamava Nipoti. — Iatoria Milanesi, p. 974. Machiavelli says, "Secundo che ciascuno credeva, erano suoi figliuoli."—Storiat Lib. vii.
f Those who have had an opportunity of becoming acquainted with the nature of the tie which usually binds a friar to his order, and with the amount of feeling and sentiment frequently generated by it, will bo likely to find in the fact mentioned in the text a sufficient motive for the preference shown to Peter over the other nephews of Sixtus.
% "Papiensis Cardinalis," Epis. 548; but especially, "Infessura. Diaxio,"p. 1144.
he had in a very short time, besides dissipating the enormous wealth assigned to him, incurred debts to the amount of sixty thousand florins. He gave a banquet to the French ambassador, which cost twenty thousand crowns, a sum equal to more than ten times the same nominal amount at the present day. "Never," says the Cardinal of Pavia, "has pagan antiquity seen anything like it. The whole country was drained of all that was rare and precious, and the object of all was to make a display such as posterity might never be able to surpass. The extent of the preparations, their variety, the number of the dishes, the price of the viands served up, were all registered by inspectors, and were put into verse, of which copies were profusely circulated, not only in Eome but throughout Italy, and even beyond the Alps."
The diarist Infessura, in his valuable chronicle of the events which occurred at Eome from A.d. 1294 to A.d. 1494, the events of the latter years -of which period are recorded with great and most amusing detail, says that the viands on the occasion of this remarkable festival were gilt! He especially notes, as a marked indication of reckless extravagance, that sugar was lavishly used. In recording another equally magnificent festival given by this mendicant friar to Leonora, daughter of King Ferrante, who passed through Eome on her way northwards to be married to the Duke of Ferrara, Infessura tells us * that this Franciscan mendicant turned cardinal caused the bed-chamber of the princess, and those of all the ladies of her court, to be furnished with certain im23lcments, of a kind generally deemed more useful than
* Beruni Ital. Scrip., torn, iii., pars ii, p. 1144.