Raffaele Riario

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Raffaele Riario; detail of Raphael's Mass at Bolsena (1512–14), Stanza di Eliodoro, Apostolic Palace

Raffaele Sansoni Galeoti Riario (May 3, 1461 – July 9, 1521) was an Italian Cardinal of the Renaissance, mainly known as the constructor of the Palazzo della Cancelleria and the one who invited Michelangelo to Rome. He was a patron of the arts. He was also the first adolescent to be elevated in the College of Cardinals in the history of the Holy See.[citation needed]

Early career and Pazzi Conspiracy[edit]

Born in poverty in Savona, Riario was the son of Antonio Sansoni and Violante Riario, a nephew of Francesco della Rovere, who became Pope Sixtus IV in 1471.

Being the relative of a Pope Sixtus IV, he was created Cardinal of San Giorgio in Velabro on 10 December 1477 and received several dioceses (diocese of Cuenca, diocese of Pisa, diocese of Salamanca, diocese of Treguier, diocese of Osma). He was then only sixteen years old and a student of canon law at the University of Pisa. While returning to Rome in the spring of 1478, Riario halted in Florence, where he became a witness to the Pazzi Conspiracy against the Medici. Despite his innocence, Rafaelle was arrested by the Florentine authorities because he was a relation of the conspirators Girolamo Riario, his mother’s brother and the head of the plot, and the Archbishop Francesco Salviati. His release a few weeks later was arranged by Lorenzo de' Medici. On 22 June 1478 he was received formally as a cardinal by the Pope in Siena and four days later he was sent as legate to Perugia.

It was not until 1480 that Raffaele was ordained priest and received the entitlement of San Lorenzo in Damaso.

Riario in the Papal Court[edit]

In 1484, Riario was engaged in the war which broke out between the Orsini and the Colonna family, trying to secure in vain the life of his friend Lorenzo Oddone Colonna, who was charged of having murdered an Orsini and was executed by Sixtus IV. In 1488, Pope Innocent VIII sent Cardinal Riario as a legate to his maternal uncle Girolamo Riario, at the time governor of Forlì and Imola, who was revolting against the Holy See. Meanwhile, the Cardinal had already commissioned the erection of his palace beside the church of San Lorenzo in Damaso (1486).

It is said that Franceschetto Cybo, the infamous son of Innocent VIII, lost in one single night 15,000 ducats at a card game which took place in Raffaele’s residence. When the Pope asked from the Cardinal to return his son’s money, the latter answered that he was sorry, but he had already used them to finance the construction of his palace.

As cardinal Camerlengo, Riario is usually praised for insuring the order in Rome after the death of Innocent VIII. He was a candidate for the papal tiara in the Conclave of 1492 but he was excluded from the first ballots due to his young age. He finally voted for Rodrigo Borgia (Pope Alexander VI), receiving the lucrative bishopric of Cartagena as a reward for his support.

During Alexander VI’s reign (1492–1503), Riario gained distinction as diplomat and councillor of the papal throne. In 1493, he was sent as legate to Caterina Sforza, Girolamo Riario’s widow, to prevent her from allowing the French troops to pass through Forlì and Imola. Pope Julius II (1503–1513), Riario’s relative but not always his ally, raised him at the Bishopric of Ostia e Veletri, meaning the first hierarchically see in the Papal States.

Engagement in the plot against Leo X and death[edit]

In the June 1517, Cardinal Petrucci and others conspired against Pope Leo X (Giovanni dei Medici). Cardinal Riario refused to participate in the plot but was at least aware of Petrucci’s intentions to murder the Pope and did nothing to prevent it. Leo was notified about the plot, arrested the conspirators and ordered their execution. Riario, whose entanglement in the Pazzi conspiracy had not been forgotten by the Medici Pope, secured his head only by surrendering his palace beside San Lorenzo in Damaso to the Pope. Leo transferred it to his cousin Giulio de' Medici, Vice-Chancellor of the Holy See, who rendered it the seat of the Apostolic Chancery. Thus the Palazzo Riario is henceforward known as Palazzo della Cancelleria.

Riario died in Naples, at the age of sixty. His tomb is located in the church of Basilica dei Santi Apostoli.

Art patronage and reputation[edit]

A lover of fine arts and especially sculpture, Cardinal Riario’s artistic choices foreshadow the arrival of High Renaissance in Rome. His gigantic residence, influenced by the Florentine architecture, is the first building of the new monumental style which prevailed in the Holy City under Julius II. Riario is also credited for noticing the talent of the young Michelangelo. In 1496, the Sleeping Cupid was treacherously sold to him as an ancient piece: the aesthetic prelate discovered the cheat, but was so impressed by the quality of the sculpture that he invited the artist to Rome, where Michelangelo worked on the three major commissions of his career.

Raffaele Riario is generally considered a prelate typical of his era: indifferent in religious matters, rather a statesman than a priest, rather a Maecenas than a theologian.[who?].

References[edit]

External links[edit]

Catholic Church titles
Preceded by
Giacopo Venier
Bishop of Cuenca
1479–1482
Succeeded by
Alonso de Burgos
Preceded by
Francesco Salviati
Archbishop of Pisa
1493–1521
Succeeded by
Onofrio Bartolini de' Medici
Preceded by
Christophe du Châtel
Bishop of Tréguier
1480–1483
Succeeded by
Robert Guibé
Preceded by
Gonzalo de Vivero
Bishop of Salamanca
1482–1493
Succeeded by
Diego de Deza
Preceded by
Pedro González de Mendoza
Bishop of Osma
1483–1493
Succeeded by
Antonio De Caro
Preceded by
Alonso Fonseca
Bishop of Cuenca
1493–1518
Succeeded by
Diego Ramírez de Fuenleal
Preceded by
Matteo Cybo
Bishop of Viterbo
1498–1506
Succeeded by
Ottaviano Visconti Riario
Preceded by
Lorenzo Cybo de Mari
Cardinal-bishop of Albano
1503–1507
Succeeded by
Bernardino López de Carvajal
Preceded by
Girolamo Basso della Rovere
Cardinal-bishop of Sabina
1507–1508
Succeeded by
Giovanni Antonio Sangiorgio
Preceded by
?
Bishop of Savona
1508–1516
Succeeded by
?
Preceded by
Cosimo dei Pazzi
Bishop of Arezzo
1508–1511
Succeeded by
Girolamo Sansoni
Preceded by
Jorge da Costa
Cardinal-bishop of Porto
1508–1511
Succeeded by
Domenico Grimani
Preceded by
Oliverio Carafa
Cardinal-bishop of Ostia
1511–1521
Succeeded by
Bernardino López de Carvajal
Preceded by
Oliverio Carafa
Dean of the College of Cardinals
1511–1521
Succeeded by
Bernardino López de Carvajal
Preceded by
Leonardo Grassi-Della Rovere
Bishop of Lucca
1517
Succeeded by
Francesco Riario-Sforza
Preceded by
Diego Ramírez de Villaescusa de Haro
Bishop of Málaga
1518-?
Succeeded by
César Riario