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ornamental, made of gold! "Look now," cries the diarist, as he well might, "in what things the treasure of the Church has to be squandered!" *
Such was the great Sixtus IV., the first of the Popes who conceived the ambition of making the universal bishopric of souls subservient to the schemes of leaving their kinsmen in the position of sovereign princes !— an example but too readily followed by the more powerful among his immediate successors, with results to Italy fatal, though it may be hoped not finally fatal; but to the Church, if not so perceptibly and unmistakably, and immediately, yet probably more ultimately fatal still, in their far-reaching consequences. He had lived (as Pope) but for one object, and despair of obtaining it seems to have killed him.
On the 10th of August, 1484, he "was seen at vespers with his hands clasped together, and very sad. The next day the ambassadors of the confederated Italian States, thinking f to bring him news that would cheer and comfort him, came to him and set forth how that peace had been concluded in all Italy, and all the powers of the League and Confederation had come to an agreement! At which, marvelling much that this should have been done without him, he was amazed; and finding, on questioning them, that he had no power to undo what had been done, he was smitten with great grief.
* "Oh! guarda! in quale cosa bisogna che si adoperi lo tesauro della ChiSsa."
\ The genuineness of their thoughts upon this subject appears to mo not a little questionable. Doubtless in addressing the Pope they pretended to think that their news would be acceptable to him, but they must have known right well, that they wero plunging daggers into his heart.
And the cause of his sorrow was, as all men deemed, this :" that whereas he had lived, and lighted war in Italy, and spent the treasure of the Church only to secure the greatness of his family, he now saw that all had been done in vain. "So crushed, both by the first of these sorrows (the ruin of his hopes for his family), as well as by the second (the consideration of all the terrible ill he had done to secure that object), he was seized by fever, took to his bed, and said never a word;"* and on the evening of the 12th of August breathed his last. "All," continues the recorder of the Conclave which assembled on his death, who writes in Latin worse even than that of the conclavist at Urban VI.'s election a hundred years before, from which I quoted in a former chapter, "all spoke ill of him, nor was there any man to say a word in his favour, save a certain Franciscan friar, who alone watched the body during that day, despite the dreadful effluvium. Many verses were made against him, perhaps because he had always been the enemy of literary men, and of all who lived good lives. Here is a specimen." t
It may be worth while, inasmuch as one very notable speciality of the Conclaves for the election of the Popes has always been the social condition of the city of Eome while the cardinals were engaged in the choice of a new sovereign, to give here a few notices of the
* "Conclavi de' Pontifici," V. i. p. 119.
f I will give the specimen in this note, because it is also a specimen of the times, and of the feeling -which the Pontificate of Sixtus had created among the Eomans. But I do not think it necessary to translate it.
"Leno, Vorax, Pathicus, Meretrix, Idolater, Adulter,
state of things that followed the death of Sixtus, as a specimen of an interregnum in the fifteenth century.
No sooner was the death of the Pope known than a band of young men, armed to the teeth, rushed to the palace of the Count Girolamo—the Pope's other favourite nephew, the brother of that Cardinal Peter, of whose magnificence some full account has been given—hoping to find him there. But he had not waited for the bursting of the storm, and the house was found deserted. Thereupon, with a cry of UA Colonna! a Colonna!" they proceeded to wreck the palace, destroying and despoiling everything, "smashing the doors and the marble window-frames with two-handed axes, and carrying off everything. They destroyed the greenhouse, pulling up the trees by the roots, so that not a door nor a window was left, as may be seen at the present time. On the same day the young men of the city, with similar clamour, went into the Trastevere; and there, finding near the river bank two magazines full of goods, the property of certain traders from Genoa, they, as is said, sacked them entirely. Then they entirely carried off two boats, the property of a citizen of Genoa, together with all the nautical apparatus belonging to them. Then, returning to the city, they similarly treated every house or goods that could be found belonging to any Genoese.* And some went to the villa of the Countess (the wife of
* The sort of "solidarity" recognized as existing between all tho citizens or natives of any one of the rival Italian cities during tho Middle Ages, is -worthy of notice. The instance in tho text is one of a thousand such; and the feeling is one of the most constant and curious factors among the causes of events in Italian history. Tho Genoese were deemed legitimate objects of plunder because tho Pope had belonged to that province.
Girolamo) and carried off a hundred cows, and an equaF number of goats, mules, pigs, donkeys, geese, and hens, which belonged to the Countess, together with an immense quantity of salt meat and Parmesan cheese and' furniture. Then the greater part of the band broke open the granaries of Santa Maria Nova, and took thencean enormous quantity of grain, which the Pope had not been able to sell last year, but hoped to sell it hereafter." The Colonnas, meantime, were engaged in recovering the strongholds which Sixtus had taken from them. In one place the constable whom the Pope had' placed there, together with all the garrison, were massacred either by the sword or by being thrown from the battlements of the fortress. At Cafraria, another hold of the Colonnas, the whole of the garrison was slain. The Countess escaped into Castle St. Angelo, her husband, with some of the Orsini, escaping to some other place of safety. Such was the state of Eome during an interregnum in the fifteenth century.
On the day following the Pope's death his exequieswere commenced at St. Peter's, but very few cardinals. took part in them, "because they were afraid of the Castle of St. Angelo," still in the hands of the kinsmen of Sixtus. At last, however, it having being agreed that the Castle should be given up to the cardinals, the Countess having got off in safety on the 25th—on the thirteenth day, that is, after the Pope's death—and both the Orsini and the Colonna factions having agreed to quit the city, and not return to it for two months after the new Pope should have been elected, the cardinals, to the number of twenty-five, three only of the entire College being absent, ventured to come forth from their fortified dwellings, and entered into Conclave at the Vatican on the 26th, a day or two later than they ought to have done so.
At the first scrutiny the Cardinal of St. Mark had eleven votes, whereupon the Cardinal of St. Peter ad Vinculo went to him and said that if he would promise to give his palace to the Cardinal of Aragon, the son of King Ferdinand, he (his Eminence of St. Peter ad Vinculo) would give him three votes, making with those he had already, fourteen. But the offer was rejected on the ground, first, that an election so brought about would not be canonical, and, secondly, that the palace in question commanded the Castle of St. Angelo to a very great degree, so that the giving it to the King's son might be very "prejudicial to the city, and to the whole of Christendom. For the King might easily come there and make himself master of the city, and disturb the state of the Church." So on these grounds, temporal and spiritual, the Cardinal of St. Mark refused the offer made to him; and this simoniacal Eminence of St. Peter ad Vincula went off with his votes to sell to the ViceChancellor— i.e., to Eoderigo Borgio, afterwards Alexander VI. But it is worth notice that he did not offer them to him with a view to any aspirations of his own. It would seem that Borgia had as yet conceived no hopes of the Papacy, or at least no expectation of fulfilling such hopes yet. Probably he was not yet rich enough to attempt the purchase of votes which he afterwards effected. The offer of the Cardinal of St. Peter ad Vincula was that they two should put their forces together