Page:Cambridge Modern History Volume 1.djvu/601

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things wholly modern. Thus the saints are divi; the papal tiara is infula Romulea. Not merely good taste, but reverence, was often sacrificed to this affectation. With regard to pagan themes, Bembo is a proof that they could now be treated in Latin verse, and by an ecclesiastic, with a frank paganism which no ancient could have outdone.

The central figure in this period is Pope Leo X (1513-21). He had an inborn zeal for the Classical Renaissance. At Rome, under his reign, the cult of the antique engaged a circle much larger, though far less rich in genius, than the group which had surrounded his father Lorenzo de' Medici at Florence. The position of humanism at the Vatican was now very different from what it had been in the preceding century. So far as the earlier humanists came into relations with the papal Curia, it was chiefly because they were required as writers of Latin. Poggio, Lionardo Bruni, and Lorenzo Valla, were employed as Apostolic secretaries; Valla's appointment marked, indeed, as we have seen, a new policy of the Vatican towards humanism: but all three remained laymen; and that was the general rule. In those days, humanists seldom rose to high ecclesiastical office. It was otherwise now. Distinction in scholarship had become one of the surest avenues to preferment in the Church. A youth gained some literary distinction, was brought to Rome by his patron, and attracted the notice of the Pope. Thus Bembo, Sadoleto, and Aleander attained to the sacred purple; Paulus Jovius, Vida, and Marcus Musuras became bishops. Such cases were frequent. Scholars were now in the high places of the Vatican. They gave the tone to the Court and to Roman society. It was a world pervaded by a sense of beauty in literature, in plastic art, in architecture, in painting; a world in which graceful accomplishments and courtly manners lent a charm to daily life. A scholar or artist, coming to Rome in Leo's reign, would have found there all, or more than all, that had fascinated Erasmus a few years before. To Leo and his contemporaries it might well have seemed that their age was the very flower and crown of the Renaissance. The aesthetic pleasures of their existence had been prepared by the labours of predecessors who had brought back the ancient culture. But the humanism of Leo's age had no longer within it the seeds of further growth. The classical revival in Italy had now wellnigh run its course. Its best and freshest forces were spent. It was rather in the literature of the Italian language that the original power of the Italian genius was now seeking expression.

Leo X should not, however, be identified merely with that phase of humanism, brilliant, indeed, yet already decadent, which was mirrored in his Court. He was also, beyond doubt, a man animated by a strong and genuine desire to promote intellectual culture, not only in the form of elegant accomplishment, but also in that of solid learning. Of this he gave several proofs. The Roman University (the "Sapienza") had hitherto been inferior, as a school of humanism, to