The Tudor Society

March 11 – Giovanni di Lorenzo de’ Medici becomes Pope Leo X

Raphael's Portrait of Leo XOn this day in Tudor history, 11th March 1513, Giovanni di Lorenzo de' Medici was proclaimed Pope Leo X after being elected on 9th March. He was crowned pope on 19th March and held the office until his death by pneumonia on 1st December 1521. He was one of the leading Renaissance popes.

Giovanni was the second son of Lorenzo de’ Medici, or Lorenzo the Magnificent, a member of the prominent political banking and political Medici family, and ruler of the Republic of Florence.

Of his papacy, the Encyclopaedia Britannica writes “He made Rome a cultural centre and a political power, but he depleted the papal treasury, and, by failing to take the developing Reformation seriously, he contributed to the dissolution of the Western church. Leo excommunicated Martin Luther in 1521.”

Here are a few pieces of trivia about Pope Leo X:

  • It was Pope Leo X who granted the title Defender of the Faith to Henry VIII in 1521 after the English king had published a treatise against Martin Luther.
  • He was a patron of Raphael
  • Leo was head of the church as pope, ruler of the papal states and head of the ruling family of Florence, a powerful man.
  • He practised nepotism to secure his power.
  • He was succeeded by Pope Adrian VI who was only pope from January 1522 to September 1523, and then Leo’s cousin, Giulio di Giuliano de' Medici, was elected as pope, becoming Pope Clement VII.
  • He acted as patron to painter and architect Raphael, as well as a number of scholars and poets.
  • Scottish philosopher David Hume wrote of him described Leo as “one of the most illustrious princes that ever sat on the papal throne. Humane, beneficent, generous, affable; the patron of every art, and friend of every virtue”.
  • The Jewish Encyclopaedia notes that Leo was “very favorable for the Jews in general and for the Jews of Rome in particular”, and that in a bull issued in 1514 he “expressed his desire that the rights of the Jews should be respected” and he repealed an edict making Jews of certain places wear a special badge. In 1518, he allowed a Hebrew printing press to be established in Rome, and in 1519, he remitted certain taxes, granted an amnesty for crimes committed by Jews and ruled that Jews should only be condemned then on by evidence given by trustworthy witnesses.

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Image: Detail from Raphael's portrait of Pope Leo X.

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March 11 – Giovanni di Lorenzo de’ Medici becomes Pope Leo X