Page:Cambridge Modern History Volume 1.djvu/708

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who thrust their kinsmen into it irrespective of fitness, or yielded to the pressure of monarchs and appointed their unworthy favourites in order to secure some temporary political advantage. Thus its decadence and secularisation were rapid through the second half of the fifteenth century; but a lower depth was reached when, in 1500, Alexander VI created twelve Cardinals from whose appointment Cesare Borgia secured the sum of 120,000 ducats, and whose character may readily be surmised. In 1503, with the same object, nine more were appointed and again Cesare obtained between 120,000 and 130,000 ducats. Even Julius II, in his creation of Cardinals in April, 1511, did not scruple to make some of them pay heavily for the promotion and in this he was imitated by Leo X in 1517, on the notorious occasion of the swamping of the Sacred College. It was only a step from this to the purchase of the papacy itself, and both Alexander VI and Julius II obtained the pontificate by bribery. So commonly known, indeed, was the venality of the Sacred College that, at the death of Innocent VIII, in 1492, Charles VIII was currently reported to have deposited 200,000 ducats and Genoa 100,000 in a Roman bank in order to secure the election of Giuliano della Rovere; but Rodrigo Borgia carried off the prize. Under a similar conviction, when, in 1511, Julius II was thought to be on his death-bed, and the Emperor Maximilian conceived the idea of securing his own election to the expected vacancy, his first step was to try to obtain a loan of 200,000 or 300,000 ducats from the Fuggers’ bank on the security of his jewels and insignia. That Maximilian should have entertained such a project is a significant illustration of the complete secularisation of the Holy See.

Under such influences it is no wonder that Rome had become a centre of corruption whence infection was radiated throughout Christendom. In the middle of the fourteenth century Petrarch exhausts his rhetoric in describing the abominations of the papal city of Avignon, where everything was vile; and the return of the Curia to Rome transferred to that city the supremacy in wickedness. In 1499 the Venetian ambassador describes it as the sewer of the world, and Machiavelli asserts that through its example all devotion and all religion had perished in Italy. In 1490 it numbered 6000 public women—an enormous proportion for a population not exceeding 100,000. The story is well known, how Cardinal Borgia who, as Vice-chancellor, openly sold pardons for crime, when reproved for this, replied, that God desires not the death of sinners but that they should pay and live. If the Diary of Infessura is suspect on account of his partizanship, that of Burchard is unimpeachable, and his placid recital of the events passing under his eyes presents to us a society too depraved to take shame at its own wickedness. The public marriage, he says, of the daughters of Innocent VIII and Alexander VI set the fashion for the clergy to have children, and they diligently followed it; for all, from the highest to the lowest, kept concubines, while the