Page:Cambridge Modern History Volume 1.djvu/258

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to his Genoese origin and his episcopate over the city of Savona, Sixtus's birthplace. The same circumstances recommended him to the nephew of Sixtus, the able and powerful Cardinal della Rovere, who naturally wished to see one of his uncle's creatures seated on the papal throne; and when two such potent Cardinals as he and the Vice-Chancellor Borgia had agreed, there was but little need for illegitimate modes of action beyond the bestowal of legations and palaces,—almost indispensable concomitants of a papal election in that age. The arrangements thus made, which are enumerated in the despatches of the Florentine envoy Vespucci, were mostly regulated directly or indirectly by Cardinal della Rovere, who found his account in becoming Papa et plusquam Papa. The new Pope, indeed, as described by Vespucci, hardly appeared the man to stand by himself. "He has little experience in affairs of State, and little learning, but is not wholly ignorant." As Cardinal he had been distinguished by his affability, and was thought to have let down the dignity of the office. His morals had not been irreproachable, but the attacks of the epigrammatists are gross exaggerations, and, save for a too public manifestation of his affection for his daughter, more criticised by posterity than by contemporaries, his conduct as Pope appears to have been perfectly decorous.

Innocent's part in the evolution which made the Bishop of Rome a powerful temporal sovereign was not conspicuous or glorious, but it was important. It consisted in the demonstration of the absolute necessity of a great extension and fortification of the papal authority, if the Pope was to enjoy the respect of Christendom, or was even to continue at Rome. Never was anarchy more prevalent, or contempt for justice more universal; and the cause was the number of independent jurisdictions, from principalities like Forli or Faenza down to petty barons established at the gates of Rome,—none of them too petty not to be able to set the Pope at defiance. The general confusion reacted upon the finances, and chronic insolvency accredited the accusations, in all probability calumnious, brought against the Pope "of conniving at the flight of malefactors who paid him money, and granting licenses for sins before their commission." The Pope himself was conscious of his discreditable position, and in a remarkable speech to the Florentine ambassador pronounced by anticipation the apology of his vigorous and unscrupulous successors. "If," he said, "none would aid him against the violence of the King of Naples, he would betake himself abroad, where he would be received with open arms, and where he would be assisted to recover his own, to the shame and scathe of the disloyal princes and peoples of Italy. He could not remain in Italy, if deprived of the dignity befitting a Pope; but neither was he able, if abandoned by the otfier Italian States, to resist the King, by reason both of the slender military resources of the Church and on account of the unruly Roman barons, who would rejoice to see him in distress. He should therefore deem himself