Pope Pius II
|Papacy began||19 August 1458|
|Papacy ended||14 August 1464|
|Ordination||4 March 1447|
|Consecration||15 August 1447
by Juan Carvajal
|Created Cardinal||17 December 1456|
|Birth name||Enea Silvio Piccolomini|
18 October 1405|
Corsignano, Republic of Siena
|Died||14 August 1464
Ancona, Marche, Papal States
|Other popes named Pius|
Pope Pius II (Latin: Pius PP. II, Italian: Pio II), born Enea Silvio Bartolomeo Piccolomini (Latin Aeneas Silvius Bartholomeus; 18 October 1405 – 14 August 1464) was Pope from 19 August 1458 to his death in 1464. He was born at Corsignano in the Sienese territory of a noble but decayed family. His longest and most enduring work is the story of his life, the Commentaries, which is the only autobiography ever written by a reigning Pope. He is also known for his erotic writings done before he was ordained a priest.
After studying at the universities of Siena and Florence, he settled in the former city as a teacher, but in 1431 accepted the post of secretary to Domenico Capranica, bishop of Fermo, then on his way to the Council of Basel (1431–39). Capranica was protesting against the new Pope Eugene IV's refusal of a cardinalate for him, which had been designated by Pope Martin V. Arriving at Basel after enduring a stormy voyage to Genoa and then a trip across the Alps, he successively served Capranica, who ran short of money, and then other masters.
In 1435 he was sent by Cardinal Albergati, Eugenius IV's legate at the council, on a secret mission to Scotland, the object of which is variously related even by himself. He visited England as well as Scotland, underwent many perils and vicissitudes in both countries, and left an account of each. The journey to Scotland proved so tempestuous that Piccolomini swore that he would walk barefoot to the nearest shrine of Our Lady from their landing port. This proved to be Dunbar; the nearest shrine was 10 miles distant at Whitekirk. The journey through the ice and snow left Aeneas afflicted with pain in his legs for the rest of his life. Only when he arrived at Newcastle, he felt he had returned to "a civilised part of the world and the inhabitable face of the Earth", Scotland and the far north of England being "wild, bare and never visited by the sun in winter". In Scotland he fathered a child but it died.
Upon his return to Basel, Aeneas sided actively with the council in its conflict with the Pope, and, although still a layman, eventually obtained a share in the direction of its affairs. He supported the creation of the Antipope Felix V (Amadeus, Duke of Savoy) and participated in his coronation. Aeneas then was sent to Strasbourg where he sired a child with a Breton woman called Elizabeth. The baby died 14 months later. He then withdrew to the court of Holy Roman Emperor Emperor Frederick III in Vienna. He had been crowned imperial poet laureate in 1442, and he obtained the patronage of the emperor's chancellor, Kaspar Schlick. Some identify the love adventure at Siena that Aeneas related in his romance The Tale of the Two Lovers with an escapade of the chancellor.
Aeneas' character had hitherto been that of an easy and democratic-minded man of the world with no pretense to strictness in morals or consistency in politics. He now began to be more regular in the former respect, and in the latter adopted a decided line by making his peace between the Empire and Rome. Being sent on a mission to Rome in 1445, with the ostensible object of inducing Pope Eugene to convoke a new council, he was absolved from ecclesiastical censures and returned to Germany under an engagement to assist the Pope. This he did most effectually by the diplomatic dexterity with which he smoothed away differences between the papal court of Rome and the German imperial electors. He played a leading role in concluding a compromise in 1447 by which the dying Pope Eugene accepted the reconciliation tendered by the German princes. As a result, the council and the antipope were left without support. He had already taken orders, and one of the first acts of Pope Eugene's successor, Pope Nicholas V (1447–1455), was to make him Bishop of Trieste. He later served as Bishop of Siena.
In 1450 Aeneas was sent as ambassador by the Emperor Frederick III to negotiate his marriage with Princess Eleonore of Portugal. In 1451 he undertook a mission to Bohemia and concluded a satisfactory arrangement with the Hussite leader George of Poděbrady. In 1452 he accompanied Frederick III to Rome, where Frederick wedded Eleanor and was crowned emperor by the pope. In August 1455 Aeneas again arrived in Rome on an embassy to proffer the obedience of Germany to the new pope, Calixtus III. He brought strong recommendations from the emperor Frederick and Ladislaus V of Hungary (also King of Bohemia) for his nomination to the cardinalate, but delays arose from the Pope's resolution to promote his own nephews first, and he did not attain the object of his ambition until December of the following year. He did acquire temporarily the bishopric of Warmia (Ermeland).
Election to Papacy
|Papal styles of
Pope Pius II
|Reference style||His Holiness|
|Spoken style||Your Holiness|
|Religious style||Holy Father|
Calixtus III died on 6 August 1458. On 10 August, the cardinals entered into a papal conclave. According to Aeneas' account, the wealthy cardinal Guillaume d'Estouteville of Rouen, though a Frenchman and of apparently exceptionable character, seemed certain to be elected. In a passage of his own history of his times, long excerpted from that work and printed clandestinely in the Conclavi de' Pontifici Romani, Aeneas explained how he frustrated the ambitions of d'Estouteville. It seemed appropriate to Aeneas that the election should fall upon himself: although the sacred college included a few men of higher moral standards, he believed that his abilities made him most worthy of the papal tiara. It was the peculiar faculty of Aeneas to accommodate himself perfectly to whatever position he might be called upon to occupy, and he now believed that he could exploit this adaptability to assume the papacy with appropriate success and personal character. After a minimum of intrigue among the cardinals, he was able to secure enough votes for his candidacy after the second ballot to be elected unanimously. He was crowned Pope on 3 September 1458.
According to Michael de la Bédoyère, "The new Pope, Pius II, was expected to inaugurate an even more liberal and paganised era in the Vatican. He had led the dissipated life of a gentleman of the day and complained of the difficulty of practising continency, a difficulty he did not surmount. But he had reformed and his reign was noted for his interest in the Crusade and his insistence that the doctrine holding General Councils of the Church to be superior to the Pope was heretical."
Papal policies and initiatives
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After allying himself with Ferdinand, the Aragonese claimant to the throne of Naples, his next important act was to convene a congress of the representatives of Christian princes at Mantua for joint action against the Turks. On 26 September 1459 he called for a new crusade against the Ottomans and on 14 January 1460 he proclaimed the official crusade that was to last for three years. His long progress to the place of assembly resembled a triumphal procession, and the Council of Mantua of 1459, a complete failure as regards its ostensible object of mounting a crusade, at least showed that the impotence of Christendom was not owing to the Pope. The Pope did, however, influence Vlad III Dracula — whom the Pope held in high regard — in starting a war against Sultan Mehmed II of Turkey. This conflict at its peak involved the Wallachians trying to assassinate the Sultan (see The Night Attack).
On his return from the congress, Pius II spent a considerable time in his native district of Siena, where he was joined by his erstwhile host in Mantua Ludovico Gonzaga. Pius described his delight with country life in very pleasing language. He was recalled to Rome by the disturbances occasioned by Tiburzio di Maso, who was ultimately seized and executed. In the struggle for the Kingdom of Naples between the supporters of the House of Aragon and the House of Anjou, the Papal States were at this time troubled by rebellious barons and marauding condottieri, whom he gradually, though momentarily, quelled. The Neapolitan War was also concluded by the success of the Pope's ally the Aragonese Ferdinand. In particular, the Pope engaged for most of his reign in what looked like a personal war against Sigismondo Pandolfo Malatesta, Lord of Rimini, with the result of the almost complete submission of that condottiero. Pius II also tried mediation in the Thirteen Years' War of 1454–66 between Poland and the Teutonic Knights, but, when he failed to achieve success, cast an anathema over Polish and Prussians both. Pius II was also engaged in a series of disputes with the Bohemian King George of Poděbrady and the Sigismund of Austria (who was excommunicated for having arrested Nicholas of Cusa, Bishop of Brixen).
In July 1461, Pius II canonized Saint Catherine of Siena, and in October of the same year he gained at first what appeared to be a brilliant success by inducing the new King of France, Louis XI, to abolish the Pragmatic Sanction of Bourges, by which the Pope's authority in France had been grievously impaired. But Louis XI had expected that Pius II would in return espouse the French cause in Naples, and when he found himself disappointed he virtually re-established the Pragmatic Sanction by royal ordinances. Pius II built a fortress in Tivoli called Rocca Pia in 1461. In September 1462, he confirmed the Diocese of Laibach, established in December 1462 by Frederick III, Holy Roman Emperor.
The crusade for which the Congress of Mantua had been convoked made no progress. The Pope did his best: he addressed an eloquent letter to the Sultan of Turkey urging him to become a Christian, a letter that probably never was sent. Not surprisingly, if it was delivered, this invitation was not successful. A public ceremony was staged to receive the relics of the head of Saint Andrew when it was brought from the East to Rome. Pius II succeeded in reconciling the Emperor and the King of Hungary, and derived great encouragement as well as pecuniary advantage from the discovery of mines of alum in the papal territory at Tolfa. But France was estranged; the Duke of Burgundy broke his positive promises; Milan was engrossed with the attempt to seize Genoa; Florence cynically advised the Pope to let the Turks and the Venetians wear each other out. Pius II was unaware he was nearing his end, and his malady probably prompted the feverish impatience with which on 18 June 1464 he assumed the cross and departed for Ancona to conduct the crusade in person.
Pius condemned slavery of newly baptised Christians as a "great crime" in an address of 1462 to the local ruler of the Canary Islands. Pius instructed bishops to impose penalties on transgressors. Pius did not condemn the concept of trading in slaves, only the enslavement of the recently baptised, who represented a very small minority of those captured and taken to Portugal. Pope Urban VIII, in his bull dated 22 April 1639, described these grave warnings of Pius (7 October 1462, Apud Raynaldum in Annalibus Ecclesiasticis ad ann n.42) as relating to "neophytes". According to British diplomatic papers, Pius' letter was addressed to Bishop Rubeira and confirms Urban's observation that the condemnation relates to new converts being enslaved.
Illness and death
In spite of suffering from a fever, Pope Pius II left Rome for Ancona in the hope of increasing the morale of the crusading army. However, the crusading army melted away at Ancona for want of transport, and when at last the Venetian fleet arrived, the dying Pope could only view it from a window. He expired two days afterwards, on 14 August 1464, and was succeeded by Pope Paul II. Pius II's body was buried in the church of Sant'Andrea della Valle, while an empty cenotaph was built in St. Peter's Basilica. Later, the cenotaph was moved to Sant'Andrea as well.
Reputation and legacy
Pius II was one of the most prominent authors of his period. His most important and longest work is his autobiography Commentaries in 13 books, first published in 1584 by Cardinal Francesco Bandini Piccolomini, a distant relative. Piccolomini altered it to some extent, removing words, phrases and whole passages that were unflattering to his relative. Piccolomini published it under the name of scribe Gobellinus, who was then misattributed as the author, a natural mistake because Pius II chose to write Commentaries from the third-person perspective.
Pius II was greatly admired as a poet by his contemporaries, but his reputation in belles lettres rests principally upon his The Tale of the Two Lovers, which continues to be read to this day, partly from its truth to nature, and partly from the singularity of an erotic novel being written by a Pope. He also composed some comedies, one of which (titled Chrysis) alone is extant. All of these works are in Latin. Pius II was the author of numerous erotic poems. However, such scandalous material was written before his election and a deep personal change.
His Epistles, which were collected by himself, are also an important source of historical information. The most valuable of his minor historical writings are his histories of Bohemia and of the Emperor Frederick III, the latter partly autobiographical. He sketched biographical treatises on Europe and Asia, and in early and middle life produced numerous tracts on the political and theological controversies of his day, as well as on ethical subjects. The pontiff even wrote an exhaustive refutation of Islam.
Pope Pius II inaugurated an unusual urban project, perhaps the first city planning exercise in modern Europe. He refurbished his home town of Corsignano (province of Siena, Tuscany) and renamed it Pienza, after himself. A cathedral and palaces were built in the best style of the day to decorate the city. They survive to this day.
- Cawthorne, Nigel (1996). Sex Lives of the Popes. London: Prion. p. 151. ISBN 185375207X.
- In his Commentaries, he briefly mentions that that he was sent to Scotland "to help a prelate come back into the King's favour" and later mentions that once in the presence of the King (James I) he was granted everything he had come to Scotland for. Mémoires d'un Pape de la Renaissance, Les Commentarii de Pie II, Ivan Cloutas and Vito Castiglione Minischetti, ed., Tallandier, 2001, pp. 49-50.
- Mémoires, p. 53.
- Michael de la Bedoyere, The Meddlesome Friar and the Wayward Pope, p. 59-60
- Dracula: Prince of many faces – His life and his times p. 129
- "The Historical encyclopedia of world slavery", Juan Manuel de le Serna, p. 153.
- "Black Africans in Renaissance Europe", P. 281
- "The Slave Trade: The History of the Atlantic Slave Trade 1440–1870", Hugh Thomas, p. 72, Picador, 1997, ISBN 0-330-35437-X, see also "Slavery and the Catholic Church", John Francis Maxwell, p. 52, Barry Rose Publishers, 1975
- "The Catholic Tradition of the Law of Nations", p. 425
- "British and foreign state papers", p. 494
- John Julius Norwich, Absolute Monarchs, p. 254. Quote: "For the next three years he worked in the royal chancery in Vienna, turning out in his spare time not only a quantity of mildly pornographic poetry but also a novel in much the same vein, Lucretia and Euryalus, celebrating the amorous adventures of his friend, the Chancellor Caspar Schlick."
- John Julius Norwich, Absolute Monarchs, p. 254. Quote: "But such an existence could not continue indefinitely, and in 1445 Aeneas's life underwent a dramatic change. First he broke with the antipope and was formally reconciled with Eugenius IV; then, in March 1446, he was ordained priest. Thereafter he was a genuinely reformed character.."
- Charles A. Coulombe, Vicars of Christ, p. 324. Quote: "Whenever chided with his past immoral life and writings, he would reply, 'Ignore Aeneas, but listen to Pius.'"
- John Julius Norwich, Absolute Monarchs, p. 255. Quote: "If he could not defeat Sultan Mehmet in battle, perhaps he could persuade him by force of reason to see the error of his ways. In 1461 he drafted an extraordinary letter to the sultan in which he included a detailed refutation of the teachings of the Koran, an equally thorough exposition of the Christian faith, and a final appeal to renounce Islam and submit to baptism. It seems that the letter may never have been sent; if it was, it not surprisingly received no reply."
- Charles A. Coulombe, Vicars of Christ, p. 324. Quote: "One rumor stated that the Sultan himself had lost faith in Islam. Pius sent an eloquent letter setting forth the Catholic faith, urging him to convert. Instead of converting, the Sultan assuaged his opposition to Islamic law by drinking."
- John Julius Norwich, Absolute Monarchs, p. 255-256. Quote: "In just five years between 1449 [1459?] and 1464 he transformed his birthplace, the little village of Corsignano, redesigning it on classical lines according to all the latest theories of urban planning, giving it a cathedral and a magnificent palazzo for the use of his family, and renaming it after himself: Pienza."
- Text from the 9th edition (1885) of the Encyclopædia Britannica. Original article author was Richard Garnett, LLD.
- Meserve, Margaret; Marcello Simonetta (2003, 2007). Pius II: Commentaries. The I Tatti Renaissance Library. ISBN 0-674-01164-3. .
- Creighton, Mandell (1934). History of the Papacy. Vols I and II. Moscow: SWB Publications.
- Izbicki, Thomas; Gerald Christianson and Philip Krey (2006). Reject Aeneas, Accept Pius: Selected Letters of Aeneas Sylvius Piccolomini, Pope Pius II. Catholic University of America Press. ISBN 0-8132-1442-4. .
- "The Historical Encyclopedia of World slavery", Editor Junius P. Rodriguez, ABC-CLIO, 1997, ISBN 0-87436-885-5
- "Black Africans in Renaissance Europe", Thomas Foster Earle, K. J. P. Lowe, Cambridge University Press, 2005, ISBN 0-521-81582-7
- "The Catholic Tradition of the Law of Nations", John Eppstein, The Lawbook Exchange, 2008, ISBN 1-58477-822-9
- "British and Foreign State Papers", Foreign and Commonwealth Office, H.M.S.O., 1857 
- John Julius Norwich, Absolute Monarchs: A History of the Papacy, Random House, 2011, ISBN 978-1-4000-6715-2
- Charles A. Coulombe, Vicars of Christ: A History of the Popes, Citadel Press, 2003, ISBN 0-8065-2370-0
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Pope Pius II
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- Commentarii rerum memorabilium (1584 edition) at Google Books
- Works by Pius II on Internet Archive.
|Catholic Church titles|
Antonio Cerdà i Lloscos
|Camerlengo of the Sacred College of Cardinals
19 August 1458 – 14 August 1464
|Catholic Church titles|
|Prince-Bishop of Warmia (Ermland)
Paul von Legendorf