Julius II

Pope from 1503. Born Giuliano Della Rovere at Albisola, near Savona, Giuliano was influenced by his uncle, Francesco, to enter the Franciscan Order where he studied with them in Perugia and was ordained. When his uncle became Pope Sixtus IV, Giuliano became a cardinal in 1471 and served as a legate to the French king Louis XI in 1480-82. He exerted some control over the papacy when Sixtus ruled, but in 1484 when his uncle died, Giuliano secured the election of Innocent VIII and determined papal policy until Innocent’s death in 1492. When Rodrigo Borgia (Alexander VI) was elected pope, Giuliano was forced to flee from Rome due to the animosity between the two powerful churchmen. Although a brief reconciliation was effected for political reasons, it was not until 1503, the year of Alexander’s death, that Giuliano was able to return to Rome without fear. After the one-month pontificate of Pius III, Giuliano was able to secure his own election through means of bribery and extensive promises.

He had promised not to make war to recapture the losses which the papacy had suffered under the Borgias, but nevertheless demanded that Cesare Borgia return the dukedom of Romagna in the Papal States. Julius incurred the enmity of the Venetians with his thrust to strengthen the landholdings of the Papal States, and entered into alliances with the great European powers, including the Holy Roman Empire and France, to gain the desired territories from Venice. When this was accomplished, he strove to drive the French out of Italy and formed new alliances, keeping European statecraft in a constant turmoil. The emperor and Louis XII of France encouraged the calling of an antipapal council at Pisa, and Julius retaliated by calling the Fifth Lateran Council in 1511. Julius also entered into the Holy League with Spain, Venice, and later England, against France and finally succeeded in expelling French forces from Italy.

Julius brought about administrative reforms in the Curia and was an avid patron of the arts (notably Michelangelo), but his reputation is that of the warrior-pope.