September 30: Il Papa Terribile, Il Papa Artistico
2016/09/30 § Leave a comment
On this day in 1503 Giuliano della Rovere was ordained as Pope Julius II.
Julius II was one tough customer–you don’t get a nickname like Il Papa Terribile or Il Papa Guerriero by sitting around in incense-filled chapels or presiding over the opening of orphanages. He waged war against Italian cities and accompanied kings into battle and wheedled his way into the papacy through bribery–his election being one of the quickest in church history. The beautifully-plumed punctuation on Papa’s Guerrieroness is the Swiss Guard, which he founded, so as to have a standing army (one of Europe’s first).
Julius’ natural ferocity in matters of state was matched by a similarly vigorous campaign of art patronage. One of the great patrons, ever, he recognized and nurtured the talents of the era’s greatest talents. Through his encouragement and direction, not to mention access to the Vatican’s very very very deep pockets, the Triumvirate of Renaissance Awesomeness completed some of their most important and breathtaking work for Julius. For him, Bramante replanned St. Peter’s and began its construction, (and also, then, directed the demolition of Constantine’s basilica, an act that only someone like Julius [but there was no one else like Julius] dared to do). Bramante also designed the extensive Cortile del Belevdere to house the art collection that Julius inherited from his family (with little tchotchkes like this) and that he continued to enhance during his time in the papacy. It’s now, of course, the Vatican Museum. Dissatisfied with the literal offices in which he was to exercise his office, Julius also directed painters to fancify older parts of the Vatican, leading to projects like Michelangelo’s Sistine Chapel ceiling and Raphael’s Stanza della Segnatura (Raphael also completed this brilliant portrait). The best part of Raphael’s work at the Vatican is shown above: a collection of ancient and modern genius in a setting designed, probably, by Bramante; a fitting monument to Julius’ monumental achievements as a patron.
Image: “The School of Athens” by Raphael (from this source)