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Joseph Cox
Joseph Cox

A Complete History Of The Popes Of Rome

The Renaissance Papacy is known for its artistic and architectural patronage, forays into European power politics, and theological challenges to papal authority. After the start of the Protestant Reformation, the Reformation Papacy and Baroque Papacy led the Catholic Church through the Counter-Reformation. The popes during the Age of Revolution witnessed the largest expropriation of wealth in the church's history, during the French Revolution and those that followed throughout Europe. The Roman Question, arising from Italian unification, resulted in the loss of the Papal States and the creation of Vatican City.

A Complete History of the Popes of Rome


His face is emblazoned on stamps in Cameroon, Cuban cigars, commemorative plates in Iowa and teacups in Canada. With close to 1 billion followers around the world"the single largest affiliated body on the planet"the pope's influence on the shape of global culture is hard to quantify. His directives circulate in the most public arenas of international diplomacy and reach the most personal issues of premarital sex and birth control. His work influences the global status of women and homosexuals and the plight of the disenfranchised and impoverished. Today, Catholics are led by Pope John Paul II. But the position transcends the individual; this pope is a passing ocupant of a seat with nearly 2,000 years of history. According to Catholic tradition, Jesus founded the papacy in the first century, when he chose St. Peter, the leader of the apostles, to be his earthly representative. Thou art Peter and upon this rock I will build my church, he states in chapter 16 of Matthew. I will give to thee the keys of the kingdom of heaven. Those words, which now circle the dome of St. Peter's Basilica in Rome, serve as the biblical mandate for the papacy. All popes are considered symbolic descendants of Peter and are thought to hold Peter's Chair

Since then, there have been more than 260 occupants of the papal office. The institution has endured through the defining moments of European history, including the split of the Roman Empire, the bloodbath of the crusades and the rise of the Italian Renaissance. More recently, popes have struggled to reconcile the strict traditions of doctrinaire Catholicism with the realities of modern life, including defending firm stances against abortion and the death penalty. Here, a short history of some of the most notable occupants of St. Peter's Chair.

But papal history is rarely simple. One of the popes deposed at the Synod of Sutri, Silvester III, had been forced out of Rome earlier in the year, so he is sometimes considered to have resigned. Another deposed at Sutri was Silvester's enemy, Benedict IX. He had in fact earlier in the year resigned in favor of a man who took the name Gregory VI. But Benedict again in 1047 claimed the throne, seemingly successfully. He died a year later.

As these instances of papal resignations, voluntary and forced, make clear, the history of the papacy is both complicated and fascinating. The way popes conceive their duties today is strikingly different from the way they conceived them earlier, and their relationship to secular and even ecclesiastical institutions has also changed.

Early Developments Two great Renaissance Old Masters are particularly associated with the history of papal patronage, Raphael and Michelangelo. (See also Renaissance Sculptors.) During their life-times, thirteen popes were elected - three of them members of the Medici family. Despite differences of character and personal style, virtually all of the popes were motivated by one dominant concern: the strengthening of the papacy through the exercise of personal power. Through wisdom, diplomacy, and deception, they created an authority to be reckoned with, and Rome became once more the spiritual and cultural centre of the Christian world. In the arts, this involved Renaissance-style use of Greek art forms, especially classical Greek sculpture, as well as Roman art and architecture. Among the great Renaissance popes, Aeneas Sylvius Piccolomini (1458-64), who took the name of Pius II, was one of the first to recognize the importance of preserving and disseminating ancient learning. A fresco painted by Bernardino Pinturicchio (c.1454-1513) at the beginning of the sixteenth century commemorates the life and humanistic achievements of Pius II, whom he idealized as a kneeling young man about to be crowned with a poet's wreath of laurels. Nowhere in this completely secularized High Renaissance work is there even a reference to the pontiff's religious or ecclesiastical identity. The successor of Pius II was Francesco della Rovere, who reigned as Sixtus IV (1471-84). This shrewd and ruthless man had given his blessing to the Pazzi conspiracy to murder the Medici brothers in the early years of his reign as Pope. He was, however, a vigorous and intelligent patron of the arts, who inaugurated a significant building program in the Vatican, the administrative and residential headquarters of the Papacy. Perhaps the most famous single structure commissioned by Sixtus IV was the Sistine Chapel.

The Vatican Museums are Christian art museums in the Vatican City. The museums houses a large collection of art, most of which has been gathered by popes throughout history. About 20,000 of the museums' 70,000-piece collection is on display at any given time. The Vatican Museums date back to the 1500s when they were created by Pope Julius II. These museums are among the most visited in the world. The Sistine Chapel is part of the Vatican Museums. Artists housed in the museum include the best in history, ranging from Leonardo da Vinci to Raphael to Caravaggio to Giovanni Bellini.

The Pantheon is an Ancient Roman building, considered to be one of the best preserved examples of early Roman architecture in the world. The Pantheon of Agrippa is thought to have been completed in 126 AD by Emperor Hadrian. The Pantheon has been in use throughout much of its history; it has served as a church since at least the seventh century. More than six million people visit the Pantheon annually.

The history of the St. Peter's Basilica begins in the 4th century when the Emperor Constantine decides to build a basilica where the apostle had been buried. In 329 the construction of the basilica was completed. The church was used for the celebration of the cult, as a covered cemetery and as a funeral banquet room. During the High Middle Ages it was the main pilgrimage site in the West. The archaeological excavations carried out under the present basilica, the descriptions, drawings and ancient paintings give us an idea of what the first Vatican basilica was like. 041b061a72


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