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Nicholas V

1397-1455. Pope from 1447. Born Tommaso Parentucelli, son of a physician, he studied at Bologna and Florence. He became bishop of Bologna and negotiator to the Holy Roman Empire to secure the enforcement of the reforming decrees of the Council of Basle.* In 1447, on the death of Eugenius IV, he was elected pope. Nicholas then proceeded to secure the dissolution of the Council of Basle and the abdication of the antipope, Felix V (1449). In 1450 he proclaimed a Jubilee which attracted many pilgrims to Rome, thus strengthening papal prestige and finances. The pope's chief claim to fame is the encouragement he gave to the Renaissance in Rome. The city which had been neglected for over a century during the period of the Avignon* papacy and the Great Schism* was now made the center of a magnificent building program. Bridges, roads, palaces, churches, and fortresses were built. To decorate the buildings artists were brought in, including Fra Angelico.*

Nicholas's principal interest, however, was in books. Papal agents searched for rare manuscripts throughout Europe, copyists were employed to reproduce these finds, and many outstanding humanists were employed to translate them. Many of the ancient Greek authors-such as Herodotus, Thucydides, Homer, Polybius, and Strabo-and several of the Greek Fathers were translated into Latin in this effort. The pope left a large collection of manuscripts to be the foundation of the Vatican Library. The year 1453 which featured the twin blows of a plot on the pontiff's life and the fall of Constantinople led to his death. He claimed on his deathbed that the papal patronage of the Renaissance was necessary to increase Rome's reputation and thus insure its religious leadership.

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