Rodolfo Pio da Carpi

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Rodolfo Pio da Carpi
Rodolfo Pio.jpg

Faenza (1528-1544)
Albano (1553)
Porto (1555-1562)

Ostia (1562-1564)
Consecration 28 December 1532
by Cardinal Bonifacio Ferrero
Created Cardinal 22 December 1536
by Pope Paul III
Personal details
Born 22 February 1500
Died 2 May 1564
Rome IT
Buried Santissima Trinità dei Monti
Nationality Italian
Parents Lionello Pio da Carpi
Maria Martinengo
Alma mater University of Padua, Ph.D.

Rodolfo Pio da Carpi (22 February 1500 – 2 May 1564) was an Italian Cardinal, humanist and patron of the arts. The nephew of a diplomat, he himself became a diplomat by the age of thirty, and came to know both Emperor Charles V and King Francis of France, and he negotiated with both on behalf of the pope. His uncle, Alberto Pio da Carpi, had been educated by Pico della Mirandola, and had become a noted humanist scholar. These associations formed Rodolfo's background and education. He formed a notable library and participated in the humanist studies of 16th-century Rome, even though he served on the Roman Inquisition.[1] He helped to establish the Inquisition at Milan.


The Family of Pio di Savoia da Carpi[edit]

The Lords of Carpi first made a position for themselves in the 14th century. From the house of Este they received the lordship of Carpi, and in 1518, through the influence of Pope Leo X they acquired the subsidiary fiefs of Meldola and Sassuolo, with which Rodolfo Pio da Carpi was invested. Many members of the family continued in the family tradition as condottieri: Alberto Pio obtained from the house of Savoy in 1450 the privilege of adding "di Savoia" to his name, as a reward for his military services. Others beside Cardinal Carpi made careers in diplomacy: the Alberto Pio (1475-1531) who was Imperial ambassador in Rome,[2] won fame as a man of learning. Ascanio Pio (d. 1649) was a dramatic poet. Spain conferred the title of prince on the family, and one branch of the family is to this day established in Spain.

Pio's education and early career[edit]

Rodolfo Pio da Carpi was born in Carpi near Modena, where his uncle Alberto (c. 1475-1531) was lord of Carpi. His father was Lionello da Carpi and his mother was Maria Martinengo.[3] In 1516 he was a Chevalier of the Knights of S. John of Jerusalem and Commendatory of the church of S. Lorenzo di Colorno in the diocese of Parma. Pope Leo X granted him the church of the Holy Trinity in Ferrara, clearly as a favor to his uncle rather than an acknowledgment of his own achievements.[4] Rodolfo was sent to study at the University of Padua, where he became Doctor of Philosophy,[5] and at Rome, where he took up an ecclesiastical career as a Papal Chamberlain under Pope Clement VII, who made him bishop of Faenza in 1528. There Carpi presided over a synod in 1533. He was absent, however, during most of the sixteen years of his episcopate, and therefore the duties of his office were performed by his brother Teodoro and by Segicellus of Faventia.[6]

Carpi's first mission to France took place between 26 July and 28 November 1530.[7] He was back in France as a special envoy in the summer of 1533, charged with arranging a personal meeting between Francis I and Pope Clement VII. He was received by Francis at Lyon on 11 June. The Pope wanted to meet at Nice, but eventually the meeting took place in Marseille, where the marriage of Henri II and Catherine de' Medici was solemnized, and where Pope Clement was able to engage in negotiations with both Francis I and Charles V.[8]

Carpi attracted further notice in papal diplomacy when he was established as papal Nuncio at the court of François I (1535 – 1537). His commission was dated 9 January 1535; he joined the Court at Saint-Germain on 17 February.[9] There he negotiated a peace between King Francis and the Emperor Charles V, who was pleased enough to appoint him "protector of the Holy Roman Empire". While Carpi was in France in 1533, there were rumors being spread around Rome, suggesting that Carpi was furnishing information to the Imperialists. Carpi was advised about these rumors by Pope Paul's secretary, Ambrogio Ricalcato, who also indicated that they were being circulated by agents of the Cardinal de Lorraine. Evidently King Francis heard about these rumors as well, since, in the middle of the night of 26 January 1536 he summoned Carpi to tell him that he deplored these rumors and considered Carpi a good servant. The King wrote to the Pope, asking for a red hat for Carpi; the Pope replied that it would be a subject for the next Consistory for the creation of cardinals.[10] Carpi also initiated discussions about having a general council of the Church to address the problems of heresy and church reform, though it became clear immediately that the King and the Emperor had entirely different views as to how, and where, and what.[11] He left France in July 1537, having already been appointed Cardinal.

The Cardinalate[edit]

Pope Paul III created Rodolfo Pio da Carpi a cardinal in the Consistory of 22 December 1536, and on 23 July 1537, he was given his cardinal's ring and the titulus of Santa Pudenziana.[12] He exchanged S. Pudenziana for Santa Prisca on 28 November 1537. On 19 December 1537 Cardinal Carpi was named Legatus a latere to King Francis I of France.[13] He travelled to France in the company of Cardinal Cristoforo Jacobazzi, who had been named Legate to the Imperial Court in Spain. Both cardinals had a personal interview with King Francis at Montpellier in mid-January 1538.[14] His purpose, and Jacobazzi's, was to bring together Francis I and Charles V in a meeting with Pope Paul III. The meeting duly took place in May, though at Nice rather than at Montpellier,[15] but Cardinal Carpi did not attend. He had been sent to Rome, to act as the Pope's prefect and Legate of the City in the Pope's absence.

On 21 April 1539,[16] Carpi was appointed Legate to the March of Ancona; he served until 1542.[17] The province was in disarray, due to the repeated campaigns of the French and Imperialists. After restoring order, Carpi's most important work in that office was the revision of the Aegidian Constitutions, by which the March had been governed since 1357. Carpi's work, into which he drew the assistance of fourteen experts, was finally given approval and authorization by Pope Paul III in September 1544.[18]

In 1543, Cardinal Carpi composed a Memorandum for the Emperor Charles V, entitled "Discorso del rev. card. di Carpi del 1543 a Carlo V Cesare del modo di dominare." The manuscript has never been published, but brief quotations have been published by Ludwig Pastor.[19] The subject was the Duchy of Milan, which the Emperor Charles had taken from Francis I, and the content was advice on how to retain it. On no account should it be returned to Francis I.

Cardinal Carpi, as he now was, made his presence felt in the Roman Curia as a member of the Roman Inquisition and a defender of the new orders, the Capuchins and the Jesuits.[20]

Cardinal Pio da Carpi became Cardinal Priest of San Clemente on 24 September 1543, which he exchanged for Santa Maria trans Tiberim on 17 October 1544.[21]

In 1544 he was offered the See of Agrigentum (Girgenti) in Sicily by Charles V, and he was approved as Administrator of Girgenti by Pope Paul III on 10 October 1544. He held the post until his death. He never went to Girgenti, of course, since the appointment was only a financial benefit.[22] In 1544, the Cardinal presided over the establishment of the Accademia degli Imperfetti in Meldola, the tiny principality of which his uncle Alberto Pio da Carpi had been the first ruler. This academy for the encouragement of cultured persons and the stimulation of culture itself was another of those multitudinous clubs that were formed in cities and towns throughout Italy for the pursuit of intellectual growth.[23]

Conclave of 1549-1550[edit]

Pope Paul III died on Sunday, 10 November 1549.[24] Cardinal Pio da Carpi was one of the fifty-one cardinals who participated at one point or another in the Conclave which began on 29 November 1549. There was much illness, coming and going, and one death in the Conclave. In the first Scrutiny, which did not take place until 4 December, at which forty-one cardinals were present, Cardinal Reginald Pole, the favorite candidate of the Emperor, received between 24 and 26 votes, only four (or two) votes short of a valid canonical election. The French Ambassador protested that if the election took place without the presence of the French cardinals, who were en route, he would declare the Election invalid. The French were promoting Giovanni Salviati (Bishop of Porto and cousin of Catherine de' Medici, Queen of France) and Ridolfo Pio de Carpi, and were commanded to prevent the election of Cardinal Pole at all costs. Cardinal Carpi received nine votes in the fourteenth Scrutiny on 17 December, just after the majority of the French cardinals had entered the Conclave.[25] But it was his high water mark. The French votes quickly redeployed, seeking a more viable candidate. The last of the French cardinals, the Cardinal de Bourbon, did not reach the Conclave until 14 January 1550, thereby raising the number of participants to 48. The voting had fallen into a stagnant pattern, 21 votes for Pole, 21 votes for Carafa of Naples. Forty-seven cardinals participated in the final vote, which took place on 7 February 1550 and elected Cardinal Giovanni Maria Ciocchi del Monte, a member of the Farnese faction.[26]

Pope Julius III (Ciocchi del Monte) promoted ('preferred') Cardinal Carpi to the See of Frascati(Tusculum) on 11 December 1553. Cardinal Carpi was 'preferred' to the See of Porto on 29 May 1555.[27]

In 1558, King Philip II of Spain bestowed an annual income of 10,000 scudi upon the diocese of Agrigento (which had been worth only 4,000), which was still being held by Rodolfo Pio da Carpi as a gift from the Emperor Charles V. The new grant was for services rendered, no doubt, and in anticipation of future services on the part of a most influential Cardinal.[28]

Conclave of 1559[edit]

Pio da Carpi was the favorite candidate of King Philip II of Spain in the Conclave of 5 September—26 December 1559, which followed the death of Pope Paul IV, along with Jacopo Puteo (President of the Inquisition in Rome), Giovanni Angelo de' Medici (brother of the Marchese di Marignano), and Clemente D'Olera (former head of the Observant Franciscans).[29] All of those candidates were rigorously orthodox, which was an essential criterion for Philip II's choice. It was said by the French Ambassador that Cardinals Carpi and Ricci were circulating a story in the Conclave to the effect that Cardinal de' Medici had Lutheran tendencies, and that he had said that it might be necessary to loosen the requirements on celibacy of the clergy and to allow the laity to receive both the bread and the wine in Holy Communion.[30] Carpi had been the leader of the Imperial faction in the Conclave of 1555. The intractable resistance of the leader of the French faction, cardinal Ippolito d'Este, however, prevented his being considered a serious candidate for the papacy.

On 18 May 1562, Cardinal Rodolfo Pio da Carpi was promoted Bishop of Ostia and Dean of the College of Cardinals, in succession to François de Tournon, who had died on 22 April 1562.[31]

Pio de Carpi's Artistic Interests[edit]

Roman marble bas-relief in the gardens of the Villa Carpi, drawn by the French visitor Pierre Jacques, ca. 1576 (Bibliothèque Nationale).

His broader modern interest for historians centers on his collection of classical sculpture and other antiquities, which formed one of the prominent museums of Rome (Roma nihil possidet magnificentius, nihil admirabilius one guidebook remarked: "Rome possesses nothing more magnificent, nor to be more admired") and the Greek and Latin library, dispersed after his death, that brought scholars and humanists, not invariably good Catholics, to his palazzo in the Campo Marzio— the Campus Martius of Antiquity— and his suburban villa, on the site of the gardens of Sallust, on the flank of the Quirinal Hill. In the 1550s the Flemish medallist and epigrapher Antoine Morillon studied the Latin inscriptions in the Cardinal's gallery. Even the dry inventories furnish materials for the historian of taste.[clarification needed][32] The semi-public collections of princes and cardinals made Rome a museum-city, memorialized by Ulisse Aldrovandi's guidebook Delle Statue antiche che per tutta Roma si veggono, 1556[33] Aldrovandi praised the delights of the Carpi antiquities in their rustic suburban setting. Even after Cardinal Carpi's death, the collections drew sculptors and artists.

Among the antiquities that belonged to Cardinal Carpi:

  • The bronze bust called the Capitoline Brutus that Pio da Carpi bequeathed to the City of Rome, now in the Capitoline Museums. (Haskell and Penny, cat. 14).
  • The ecstatic marble head called the Dying Alexander, in the Uffizi Gallery, Florence by 1579; often copied in plaster, bronze and marble. (Haskell and Penny, cat. 2)
  • Bronze and marbles bought from Duke Alfonso II d'Este some of which disappeared after they belonged to Rudolf II at Prague.
  • A 5th-century manuscript of the complete works of Virgil, called the Medici Virgil after it was purchased for the Laurentian Library, Florence.

Cardinal Carpi did not neglect the moderns; among his paintings:


Cardinal Carpi died in Rome on 2 May 1564, in his 65th year, at the Palazzo Pallavicini in the Campo Marzio, where he had a lease for life. He had long suffered from gout (podagra), by which he was so tormented in the last four months of his life that he could not eat, speak or sleep without great pain. On his death he left a considerable debt, which was criticized by Pope Pius IV.[34] He is interred in Rome at Santissima Trinità dei Monti, above the Spanish Steps, where there is a sepulchral monument erected to his memory by Pope Pius V in 1568.[35]


  1. ^ Pio, Giovanni Michele (1615). Della Nobile et generosa progenie del P. S. Domenico in Italia libri due (in Italian). Bologna: B. Cochi. p. 280.  His colleagues as supremi giudici nel Tribunale del Sancto Officio were: Cardinals Giovanni Pietro Carafa (Pope Paul IV, 1555-1559), Marcello Cervini (Pope Marcellus II, 1555), and F. Giovanni of Toledo.
  2. ^ He had taken refuge in France after the Sack of Rome, but from 1527 to 1529 was the major intermediary between the French Court and the Papal Court: Lestocquoy, "Introduction," p. xxxiii.
  3. ^ Christiane Hoffmann (1989). Kardinal Rodolfo Pio da Carpi und seine Reform der Aegidianischen Konstitutionen. Berlin: Duncker & Humblot. p. 11. ISBN 978-3-428-46708-2. 
  4. ^ Andrea Strocchi (1841). Serie cronologica storico-critica de' vescovi faentini compilata dal canonico Andrea Strocchi faentino. Faenza: Tip. Montanari e Marabini. p. 191. 
  5. ^ Lestocquoy, "Introduction," p. xxxiii.
  6. ^ Ferdinando Ughelli (1717). Nicolaus Colet, ed. Italia sacra sive de Episcopis Italiae, et insularum adjacentium, rebusque ab iis praeclare gestis ... opus singulare, provinciis XX distinctum ... auctore D.F. Ughello (in Latin). Tomus secundus (editio secunda, aucta et emendata ed.). Venice: Apud Sebastianum Coleti. p. 506.  Giovanni Battista Sighiselli was Bishop Teodoro Pio da Carpi's successor as Bishop of Faenza: Gulik and Eubel, p. 194.
  7. ^ Lestocquoy, "Introduction," p. xxxiii, points out that under Paul III there were at least 26 extraordinary envoys to France.
  8. ^ Lestocquoy, "Introduction," p. xxxiii-xxxiv.
  9. ^ Lestocquoy, "Introduction," p. xxxiv.
  10. ^ Lestocquoy, "Introduction," p. xxxv.
  11. ^ Lorenzo Cardella (1793). Memorie storiche de' cardinali della santa Romana Chiesa (in Italian). Tomo quarto. Roma: Pagliarini. p. 174.  Lestocquoy, "Introduction", pp. xix-xx.
  12. ^ Wilelmus Gulik and Conradus Eubel, Hierarchia catholica medii et recentioris aevi Tomus III, editio altera (Monasterii 1923) p. 25.
  13. ^ Hoffmann, p. 18.
  14. ^ Hoffmann, p. 19.
  15. ^ De Leva, III, pp. 237-241.
  16. ^ Hoffmann, p. 22, with note 76a. Gulik and Eubel, p. 27, note 11.
  17. ^ He was still in office on 30 October 1542: Hoffmann, pp. 24-25.
  18. ^ Filippo Ermini (1893). Gli ordinamenti politici e amministrativi nelle "Constitutiones Aegidianae" (in Italian). Torino: Fratelli Bocca. p. 13. 
  19. ^ Hoffmann, pp. 25-26.
  20. ^ J. Wicki, "Rodolfo Pio da Carpi, erster und einziger Kardinalprotektor der Gesellschaft Jesu," Miscellanea Historiae Pontificiae (1959), pp. 243–267.
  21. ^ Gulik and Eubel, pp. 62 and 66.
  22. ^ Gulik and Eubel, p. 99. Cardella, p. 174.
  23. ^ L' Accademia degli Imperfetti, Meldola. There was a more famous academy of the same title in Venice.
  24. ^ Gulik and Eubel, p. 20 n. 2.
  25. ^ August von Druffel (1873). Beiträge zur Reichsgeschichte, 1546-55 (in German and Latin). München: Reiger'sche Universitäts-Buchhandlung (Gustav Himmer). pp. 327–328. 
  26. ^ J. P. Adams, Sede Vacante of 1549-1550. Retrieved: 2016-04-19.
  27. ^ Gulik and Eubel, p. 57.
  28. ^ Hoffmann, p. 28.
  29. ^ Ricardo de Hinojosa (1889). Felipe II y el conclave de 1559 (in Spanish and Latin). Madrid: Tip. de Manuel Ginés Hernández. pp. 30–31. 
  30. ^ Letter of Philibert Babou, Bishop of Angoulême, to Cardinal de Lorraine-Guise, Prime Minister of François II.
  31. ^ Gulik and Eubel, pp. 21 and 56.
  32. ^ e.g. C. Franzoni et al., Gli inventari dell'eredità del cardinale Rodolfo Pio da Carpi Pisa, 2002, for the Musei Civici, Comune di Carpi.
  33. ^ in French, Les Antiquités de la cité de Rome, 1576.
  34. ^ Wilelmus Gulik and Conradus Eubel, p. 25, note 5.
  35. ^ Vincenzo Forcella (1873). Iscrizioni delle chiese e d'altri edificii di Roma dal secolo XI fino ai giorni nostri. Volume III. Roma: Fratelli Bencini. pp. 125, no. 394.  He lived 64 years, 2 months, and 8 days, according to the inscription; from this is calculated the day of his birth.

Further reading[edit]

External links[edit]

Catholic Church titles
Preceded by
Pier Andrea Gambari
Bishop of Faenza
Succeeded by
Teodoro Pio da Carpi
Preceded by
Pietro Tagliavia d'Aragonia
Administrator of Agrigento
Succeeded by
Luigi Suppa
Preceded by
Jean du Bellay
Cardinal-bishop of Albano
Succeeded by
Juan Álvarez de Toledo
Preceded by
Jean du Bellay
Cardinal-bishop of Frascati
Succeeded by
Juan Álvarez de Toledo
Preceded by
Jean du Bellay
Cardinal-bishop of Porto
Succeeded by
Francesco Pisani
Preceded by
François de Tournon
Cardinal-bishop of Ostia
Succeeded by
Francesco Pisani