Page:Cambridge Modern History Volume 1.djvu/702

From Wikisource
Jump to navigation Jump to search
This page has been proofread, but needs to be validated.


a bankrupt trader, he was without credit. This distrust of the papacy with regard to its financial devices for the prosecution of the war with the Turk was universally entertained, and it lent a sharper edge to the dissatisfaction of those called upon to contribute. At the Diet of Frankfort in 1454 and at the Congress of Mantua in 1459, the overwhelming danger to Europe from the Turkish advance failed to stimulate the princes to action; for they asserted that the papal purpose was to get their money, and not to fight the infidel. In this some injustice was done to Calixtus III and Pius II who at heart were earnest in the crusading spirit, but it was justified in the case of their successors. Men saw large sums raised ostensibly for that object by tithes on ecclesiastical revenues, and by the innumerable crusading indulgences which were preached wherever the secular authorities would permit, while no effective measures were adopted to oppose the Turk. It is true that in 1480 the capture of Otranto caused a panic throughout Italy which forced the Italian States to unite for its recovery; but scarce was this accomplished, in 1481, when Sixtus IV, in alliance with Venice, plunged into a war with Naples, and, after he had been forced to make peace, turned his arms against his ally and gave 50,000 ducats to equip a fleet against the Republic—ducats probably supplied by the crusading indulgence which he had just published.

Such had in fact been the papal practice, since in the thirteenth century Gregory IX had proclaimed that the home interests of the Holy See were more important than the defence of the Holy Land and that crusading money could be more advantageously expended in Italy than in Palestine. There was no scruple about applying to the needs of the moment money derived from any source whatever and, in spite of the large amounts raised under the pretext of crusades which never started, the extravagance of the papal Court and its military enterprises left it almost always poor. Popes and Cardinals rivalled each other in the sumptuousness of their buildings. Never were religious solemnities and public functions performed with such profuse magnificence, nor was greater liberality exercised in the encouragement of art and literature. Paul II had a sedia gestatoria built for the Christmas ceremonies of 1466 which was an artistic wonder, costing, according to popular report, more than a palace. Yet this Pope so managed his finances that on his death, in 1471, he left behind him an enormous treasure in money and jewels and costly works of antique art; we hear of pearls inventoried at 300,000 ducats, the gold and jewels of two tiaras appraised at 300,000 more, and other precious stones and ornaments at 1,000,000. All this was wasted by Sixtus IV on his worthless kindred and on the wars in which he was involved for their benefit; and he left the treasury deeply in debt. His successor, Innocent VIII, was equally reckless and was always in straits for money, though his son, Franceschetto Cibò, could coolly lose in a single night 14,000 ducats to Cardinal Riario, and in another 8000 to