Pope Leo X

"God has given us the papacy.  Let us enjoy it."

Some doubt that Giovanni de' Medici, who became Pope Leo X in 1513, ever wrote those words, though they are credited to him. Authentic or not, they are perfectly characteristic of the papacy of Leo. Leo was short, fat and flabby and adorned on his hands were sparkling rings on nearly every finger. Contrasting the blood and wars of Julius II, Leo, in typical Medici fashion, turned everything, even the most trivial ceremony, into a lavish affair, including fireworks, cavalries of white horses and golden tapestries to record the occasion. His ruling principle was simple: avoid trouble as far as he could and then accept the inevitable only when he had to. Everyone, it seemed, except Leo, knew dissent was brewing in some form as soon as he took the position of Pope. In 1515, Italian historian Francesco Guicciardini wrote, "Reverence for the Papacy has been lost in the heart's of men." Leo's reign as pope was called the "Golden Age" not because of the great things done but because of the amount of golden coins that flooded in and out of Rome from indulgences and commissions. For example, Pope Leo once had a 120-mile road specially built to take marble to a chapel Michelangelo was working on that would hold the tomb of Leo after his passing. He was also fond of Raphael, who replaced Pope Julius IIs architect, Bramante. Rapheal's most important duty was to oversee the construction St. Peter's in Rome, a "true house of God," according to Julius. (At this time, Michelangelo was working on the sculptures, like Moses, that would be part of Julius' tomb and be placed in the nave of St. Peters, under the dome). In order to finance this massive project, Pope Leo initiated a huge indulgence-selling campaign in and around a particularly rebellious region, Germany. He broadened the scope of the indulgence to include not only the forgiveness of sins for those on Earth, but also for those who have already passed. Many were convinced they needed to buy indulgences to ensure that relatives that passed before them were not living a life of eternal damnation. It is estimated that during his term as Pope, Leo spent six (6) times the money collected. When he passed his legacy had caught up with him. At his funeral, one observer noted that the only candle that could be found to light the inside of Leo's coffin was a stub of wax leftover from the funeral of a cardinal a week before.