Pope Clement VII
Portrait by Sebastiano del Piombo, c. 1531
|Papacy began||19 November 1523|
|Papacy ended||25 September 1534|
|Ordination||19 December 1517|
|Consecration||21 December 1517|
|Created Cardinal||23 September 1513
by Leo X
|Rank||Cardinal-Priest of S. Clemente (26 June 1517) and S. Lorenzo in Damaso (6 July 1517)|
|Birth name||Giulio di Giuliano de' Medici|
|Born||26 May 1478
Florence, Republic of Florence
|Died||25 September 1534 (aged 56)
Rome, Papal States
|Buried||Basilica of Santa Maria sopra Minerva, Rome|
|Parents||Giuliano de' Medici|
|Motto||Candor illæsus (unharmed candor)|
|Coat of arms|
|Other popes named Clement|
He was born in Florence one month after the assassination of his father, Giuliano de' Medici, following the Pazzi Conspiracy. Although his parents had not had a formal marriage, a canon law loophole allowing for the parents to have been betrothed per sponsalia de presenti meant that Giulio was considered legitimate. He was thus the nephew of Lorenzo the Magnificent, who educated him in his youth. Clement's mother, Fioretta Gorini, also died leaving him an orphan.
Giulio was made a Knight of Rhodes and Grand Prior of Capua, and, upon the election of his cousin Giovanni de' Medici to the pontificate as Leo X (1513–21), he soon became a powerful figure in Rome. Upon his cousin's accession to the papacy, Giulio became his principal minister and confidant, especially in the maintenance of the Medici interest at Florence as archbishop of that city.
On 23 September 1513, he was made cardinal. He had the credit of being the main director of papal policy during the whole of Leo X's pontificate, especially as cardinal protector of England. Between 1521 and 1522 he was Apostolic Administrator of the Diocese of Worcester.
At Leo X's death in 1521, Cardinal Medici was considered especially papabile in the protracted conclave. Although unable to gain the Papacy for himself or his ally Alessandro Farnese (both preferred candidates of Emperor Charles V (1519–56)), he took a leading part in determining the unexpected election of the short-lived Pope Adrian VI (1522–23), with whom he also wielded formidable influence. Following Adrian VI's death on 14 September 1523, Medici overcame the opposition of the French king and finally succeeded in being elected Pope Clement VII in the next conclave (19 November 1523).
He brought to the papal throne a high reputation for political ability and possessed in fact all the accomplishments of a wily diplomat. However, he was considered by his contemporaries as worldly and indifferent to the perceived dangers of the Protestant Reformation by the people of the papacy.
|Papal styles of
Pope Clement VII
|Reference style||His Holiness|
|Spoken style||Your Holiness|
|Religious style||Holy Father|
At his accession, Clement VII sent the Archbishop of Capua, Nikolaus von Schönberg, to the Kings of France, Spain, and England, in order to bring the Italian War to an end. An early report from a protonotary to the emperor records: "As the Turks threaten to conquer Christian states, it seems to him that it is his first duty as Pope to bring about a general peace of all Christian princes, and he begs him (the Emperor), as the firstborn son of the Church, to aid him in this pious work." But the pope's attempt failed.
Continental and Medici politics
Francis I of France's conquest of Milan in 1524, during his Italian campaign of 1524–1525, prompted the Pope to quit the Imperial–Spanish side and to ally himself with other Italian princes, including the Republic of Venice, and France in the January of 1525. This treaty granted the definitive acquisition of Parma and Piacenza for the Papal States, the rule of Medici over Florence and the free passage of the French troops to Naples. This policy in itself was sound and patriotic, but Clement VII's zeal soon cooled; by his want of foresight and unseasonable economy, he laid himself open to an attack from the turbulent Roman barons, which obliged him to invoke the mediation of the emperor, Charles V. One month later, however, Francis I was crushed and imprisoned in the Battle of Pavia, and Clement VII veered back to his former engagements with Charles V, signing an alliance with the viceroy of Naples.
But he was to change sides again when Francis I was freed after the Treaty of Madrid (1526): the Pope entered into the League of Cognac together with France, Venice, and Francesco II Sforza of Milan. Clement VII issued an invective against Charles V, who in reply defined him a "wolf" instead of a "shepherd", menacing the summoning of a council about the Lutheran question.
Like his cousin Pope Leo X, Clement was considered too generous to his Medici relatives, draining the Vatican treasuries. This included the assignment of positions all the way up to Cardinal, lands, titles, and money. These actions prompted reform measures after Clement's death to help prevent such excessive nepotism.
In his bull "Intra Arcana" Clement VII gave a grant of permissions and privileges to Charles V and the Spanish Empire, which included patronage power over their colonies in the Americas and used language which seem to contrast with the more peaceful admonitions of his successor Paul III in his bull "Sublimus Dei". 
Sack of Rome
The Pope's wavering politics also caused the rise of the Imperial party inside the Curia: Cardinal Pompeo Colonna's soldiers pillaged Vatican Hill and gained control of the whole of Rome in his name. The humiliated Pope promised therefore to bring the Papal States to the Imperial side again. But soon after, Colonna left the siege and went to Naples, not keeping his promises and dismissing the Cardinal from his charge. From this point on, Clement VII could do nothing but follow the fate of the French party to the end.
Soon he found himself alone in Italy too, as Alfonso d'Este, duke of Ferrara, had sided with the Imperial army, allowing the horde of Landsknechts led by Charles III, Duke of Bourbon and Georg von Frundsberg to reach Rome without harm.
Charles of Bourbon died while mounting a ladder during the short siege and his starving troops, unpaid and left without a guide, felt free to ravage Rome from 6 May 1527. The many incidents of murder, rape, and vandalism that followed ended the splendours of Renaissance Rome forever. Clement VII, who had displayed no more resolution in his military than in his political conduct, was shortly afterwards (6 June) obliged to surrender himself together with the Castel Sant'Angelo, where he had taken refuge. He agreed to pay a ransom of 400,000 ducati in exchange for his life; conditions included the cession of Parma, Piacenza, Civitavecchia, and Modena to the Holy Roman Empire. (Only the last could be occupied in fact.) At the same time, Venice took advantage of his situation to capture Cervia and Ravenna while Sigismondo Malatesta returned in Rimini.
Clement was kept as a prisoner in Castel Sant'Angelo for six months. After having bought off some Imperial officers, he escaped disguised as a peddler and took shelter in Orvieto and then in Viterbo. He came back to a depopulated and devastated Rome only in October 1528.
Meanwhile, in Florence, Republican enemies of the Medici took advantage of the chaos to again expel the Pope's family from the city.
In June of the next year the warring parties signed the Peace of Barcelona. The Papal States regained some cities, and Charles V agreed to restore the Medici to power in Florence. In 1530, after an eleven-month siege, the Tuscan city capitulated, and Clement VII installed his illegitimate nephew Alessandro as duke. Subsequently the Pope followed a policy of subservience to the emperor, endeavouring on the one hand to induce him to act with severity against the Lutherans in Germany and on the other to avoid his demands for a general council.
By the late 1520s, King Henry VIII wanted to have his marriage to Charles's aunt Catherine of Aragon annulled. The couple's sons died in infancy, threatening the future of the Tudor dynasty, although Henry did have a daughter, Mary Tudor. Henry claimed that this lack of a male heir was because his marriage was "blighted in the eyes of God". Catherine had been his brother's widow, but the marriage had been childless, thus the marriage was not against Old Testament law, which forbids only such unions if the brother had children. Moreover, a special dispensation from Pope Julius II had been given to allow the wedding. Henry argued that this had been wrong and that his marriage had never been valid. In 1527 Henry asked Pope Clement to annul the marriage, but the Pope refused. According to Catholic teaching, a validly contracted marriage is indivisible until death, and thus the pope cannot annul a marriage on the basis of a canonical impediment previously dispensed. Many people close to Henry wished simply to ignore the Pope; but in October 1530 a meeting of clergy and lawyers advised that the English Parliament could not empower the Archbishop of Canterbury to act against the Pope's prohibition. In Parliament, Bishop John Fisher was the Pope's champion.
Henry subsequently underwent a marriage ceremony with Anne Boleyn, in either late 1532 or early 1533. The marriage was made easier by the death of the Archbishop of Canterbury William Warham, a stalwart friend of the Pope, after which Henry persuaded Clement to appoint Thomas Cranmer, a friend of the Boleyn family, as his successor. The Pope granted the papal bulls necessary for Cranmer’s promotion to Canterbury, as he also demanded that Cranmer take an oath of allegiance to the pope before his consecration. Laws made under Henry already declared that bishops would be consecrated even without papal approval. Cranmer was consecrated, while declaring that he did not agree with the oath he would take. Cranmer was prepared to grant the annulment of the marriage to Catherine as Henry required. The Pope responded to the marriage by excommunicating both Henry and Cranmer from the Catholic Church.
Consequently, in England, in the same year, the Act of First Fruits and Tenths transferred the taxes on ecclesiastical income from the Pope to the English Crown. The Peter's Pence Act outlawed the annual payment by landowners of one penny to the Pope. This act also reiterated that England had "no superior under God, but only your Grace" and that Henry's "imperial crown" had been diminished by "the unreasonable and uncharitable usurpations and exactions" of the Pope. Ultimately Henry led the English Parliament to pass the Act of Supremacy (1534) that established the independent Church of England and breaking from the Catholic Church.
During his half-year imprisonment in 1527, Clement VII grew a full beard as a sign of mourning for the sack of Rome. This was a violation of Catholic canon law, which required priests to be clean-shaven; however, it had the precedent of the beard which Pope Julius II had worn for nine months in 1511–12 as a similar sign of mourning for the loss of the papal city of Bologna.
Unlike Julius II, however, Clement VII kept his beard until his death in 1534. His example in wearing a beard was followed by his successor, Paul III, and indeed by twenty-four popes who followed him, down to Innocent XII, who died in 1700. Clement VII was thus the unintentional originator of a fashion that lasted well over a century.
Death and Character
In 1533, Johann Widmanstetter (alternately spelled John Widmanstad), a secretary of Pope Clement VII, explained the Copernican system to the Pope and two cardinals. The Pope was so pleased that he gave Widmanstetter a valuable gift.
Towards the end of his life, Clement VII once more gave indications of a leaning towards a French alliance, which was averted by his death in September 1534 in Rome. It has been said that he died from eating poisonous mushrooms, but the symptoms and length of illness do not fit this theory. In the words of his biographer Emmanuel Rodocanachi, "In accordance with the custom of those times, people attributed his death to poison." His body was interred in Santa Maria sopra Minerva.
- Republic of Florence
- Sack of Rome (1527)
- Italian Wars
- Medici family
- List of popes from the Medici family
- Cardinals created by Clement VII
|Catholic Church titles|
Cosimo de' Pazzi
|Archbishop of Florence
Cardinal Nicolò Ridolfi
Cardinal Guillaume Briçonnet
|Archbishop of Narbonne
Cardinal Jean de Lorraine
Giovanni Battista Orsini
|Apostolic Administrator of Bitonto
8 February – November 1517
Cardinal Achille Grassi
|Bishop of Bologna
8 January – 3 March 1518
Cardinal Lorenzo Campeggi
Cardinal Niccolò Fieschi
|Apostolic Administrator of Embrun
5–30 July 1518
François de Tournon
|Apostolic Administrator of Ascoli Piceno
30 July – 3 September 1518
Cardinal Ippolito d'Este
|Bishop of Eger
Silvestro de' Gigli
|Apostolic Administrator of Worcester
Cardinal Girolamo Ghinucci
19 November 1523 – 25 September 1534
- "List of Popes," Catholic Encyclopedia (2009); retrieved 2011-11-16.
- "Pope Clement VII," Catholic Encyclopedia; retrieved 2013-10-21.
- Society for the Diffusion of Useful Knowledge. (1837). "Clement VII," Penny cyclopaedia, Vol. 7, p. 250.
- British History Online. Quote: "The King of France declared himself openly against the election of the Cardinal de Medicis." (19 November 1523 entry)
- Corkery, James and Thomas Worcester, The Papacy Since 1500: From Italian Prince to Universal Pastor, (Cambridge University Press, 2010), 29.
- British History Online. (30 November 1523 entry)
- Tomas, Natalie R. (2003). The Medici Women: Gender and Power in Renaissance Florence. Aldershot: Ashgate. pp. 126–127. ISBN 0754607771.
- Stogre, Michael (1992). That the world may believe: The development of papal social thought on aboriginal rights. Sherbrooke: Éditions Paulines. p. 116. ISBN 978-2-89039-549-7.
- Hanke, Lewis (1937-04-01). "Pope Paul III and the American Indians". The Harvard Theological Review 30 (2): 76–77. doi:10.1017/s0017816000022161.
- Phillips, Roderick (28 June 1991). Untying the Knot: A Short History of Divorce. Cambridge; New York; Melbourne: Cambridge University Press. p. 20. doi:10.2277/0521423708. ISBN 978-0-521-42370-0.
- See: Leviticus 20:21 and exception Deuteronomy 25:5
- Lacey, Robert (January 1972). Antonia Fraser, ed. The Life and Times of Henry VIII. London: Weidenfeld & Nicolson. p. 17. ISBN 978-0-297-83163-1.
- For the dates and details of Henry VIII's controversial second marriage, see Ives, Eric William (20 August 2004). The Life and Death of Anne Boleyn: 'The Most Happy'. Malden, Massachusetts; Oxford; Carlton, Victoria: Blackwell Publishing. pp. 160–171. ISBN 978-0-631-23479-1.
- Thomas Cranmer: Churchman and Scholar. By Paul Ayris and David Selwyn. Boydell & Brewer Ltd, 1 jan. 1999 (pp. 119-121)
- Cranmer, in a letter, describes it as a divorce, but it was clearly not a dissolution of a marriage in the modern sense but the annulment of a marriage which was said to be defective on the grounds of affinity—Catherine was his deceased brother's widow.
- Lehmberg, Stanford E. (2 April 1970). The Reformation Parliament 1529–1536. London and New York: Cambridge University Press. ISBN 978-0-521-07655-5.
- Repcheck, Jack (4 December 2007). Copernicus' Secret: How the Scientific Revolution Began. New York: Simon & Schuster. pp. 79, 78, 184, 186. ISBN 978-0-7432-8951-1.
- Wasson, Robert Gordon (1972). "The death of Claudius, or mushrooms for murderers". Botanical Museum Leaflets, Harvard University 23 (3): 101–128. ISSN 0006-8098.
Wilkie, William E. (26 July 1974). The Cardinal Protectors of England: Rome and the Tudors Before the Reformation. New York and London: Cambridge University Press. doi:10.2307/3165218. ISBN 978-0-521-20332-6.
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Clemens VII.|
|Wikisource has original works written by or about:
- "Pope Clement VII". Catholic Encyclopedia. New York: Robert Appleton Company. 1913.
- "Clement VII (Pope)," Encyclopædia Britannica, 1911
- Catholic Hierarchy, Popes Clement VII
- Cardinals of the Holy Roman Church, Cardinal Medici
- His son Alessandro de Medici
- Paradoxplace Medici Popes' Page