The Patrimony of the Church

Julius had no time at all to settle in and enjoy the extraordinary turn that his fortunes had taken before he had to confront the problem that would dominate much of his pontificate. Even as he was planning to celebrate his coronation in lavish style, and to make the ceremonial journey to take possession of the ancient palace and basilica of the bishops of Rome, the Lateran, the Venetians were busy taking possession of as much of the papal province of the Romagna as they could grab.

To the world outside the lagoons, the Venetians presented their activities in the Romagna as a move against their enemy, the common enemy, Cesare Borgia. They had watched his campaigns in the Romagna with a jealous eye, fearing that he might turn his attention to the recovery of Ravenna and Cervia, papal towns they had taken more than half a century before. A debilitating and anxiety-provoking war against the Turks had prevented them from seriously considering using force to contain Cesare Borgia’s expansion, and they had limited their interference with his plans to giving refuge to members of the signorial families who had been fortunate enough to escape being captured or murdered by him. Within the walls of the senate, the real motives of the Venetians were clearly expressed. While some patricians, particularly the older ones, advised caution, others felt that the opportunity to realize long-held territorial ambitions in the Romagna and the Marche was too good to miss. By early September 1503 the powerful Committee of Ten had some negotiation afoot in ‘all the lands of the Romagna’.199

The first major prize was Rimini. Pandolfo Malatesta, who had been lord of the city and a Venetian client before Cesare had forced him out in 1500, was soliciting the protection of Venice in early October, even before he had recovered his stato. If the peasants in the country around Rimini felt some loyalty to the Malatesta, most people in the city were not very keen to have them back, and Pandolfo was a typical representative of the fag-ends of the Romagnol signorial dynasties in being a weak, ineffective and cruel man. The Venetians wasted little energy on supporting him, concentrating instead on persuading him to agree that Venice should take over Rimini for herself. The day after Julius’s election on 2 November, Pandolfo came in person to offer himself, his son and his stato for their service. By the middle of the month, he had agreed to surrender Rimini to them, in exchange for cash, a small condotta and an estate in Venetian territory; and by 22 November the Venetians had control of the city and its fortress, described by the new Venetian castellan as ‘very beautiful, and the key to the Romagna’.200

At about the same time as they were clinching the agreement for Rimini, the Venetians were achieving another major objective, the seizure of Faenza. This they accomplished, not by agreement, but by force. The fortress was obtained by negotiation with the castellan early in November, but the people not only wanted to keep their young lord Astorre Manfredi, they were looking to Florence, not Venice, for protection. In order to have their way, the Venetians brought troops to camp outside the city, and when the Faentini sent envoys to the camp to declare that they had no intention of abandoning Astorre, they were bluntly told that Venice did not want him to stay. If the citizens submitted without a fight, Venice would be kind; if they were obstinate, Faenza would be sacked. A few days after the agreement with Pandolfo Malatesta, the Faentini negotiated a rather less generous settlement in lands and cash for the Manfredi, as well as terms for themselves, and the Venetian commissioner entered the city, received, he claimed, with joy. Faenza, he reported, was a very large and populous city, a good acquisition.201

Before Faenza was bullied into submission, the Venetians had already gained the Val di Lamone, the valley of the upper reaches of the River Lamone, which flowed to Faenza from the mountains. Here the decisive factor was winning over some of the faction leaders, especially Dionigio Naldi, an infantry captain who had been in Cesare Borgia’s service. Not only did the acquisition of the valley block one route of Florentine penetration into the Romagna, it gave Venice control of several mountain passes and more fortresses, including one major one, Brisighella, and of a recruiting ground for the prized Romagnol infantry. Other valleys and fortresses were targeted too, such as Verrucchio and Montefiore, south of Rimini. Several of these smaller places sent to Venice to offer to surrender. Not all their offers were taken up. The rectors of Ravenna refused to accept the surrender of Savignano in early October, because they had been told to take only the larger places, and Savignano was small and had no fortress. The place was in Venetian control by early December, so presumably there was a change of heart.

Fano, which was considerably more important than Savignano, also volunteered to submit to Venice, in late October just before Julius was elected. There was some opposition in the senate to accepting Fano’s offer, because the town had been directly under the government of the papacy, not held in vicariate, before it had been given to Cesare, but after some debate, it was decided to agree to it. The envoys carrying this reply back to Fano, however, reached the city two hours after the news of Julius’s election had come making the people decide against raising the Venetian standard.

The Venetians were surprised when they heard the people of Fano had not raised the banner of San Marco; Julius, when he heard that it was the news of his election that had made them change their minds, was delighted. 202His view of what was happening in the Romagna was very different from that of the Venetians, as anyone who knew him and his reputation as a defender of ecclesiastical rights and property could easily have anticipated. Collective self-conceit seems to have blinded many of the senate to how he was likely to react, and their suspicion and indignation at his response looks genuine. 

As a cardinal, he had been friendly with Venice for many years, as both he and they recalled during the early days of his pontificate. The Pregadi decided that his election warranted a special letter of congratulation in Latin, because he had been so much the friend of Venice; and Julius, at his first meeting with the Venetian ambassador after his election, told him not to stand on ceremony, that he would be the same friend to Venice as before.203 Each side saw the implications of the long-standing friendship differently, however. The Venetians argued it should make the pope readier to accept that they should hold on to the lands that they had taken, while Julius argued it should make them readier to help him to maintain the honour of the Holy See.

Barely a month after his election, Julius had already made it clear that his duty as head of the Church took precedence over any earlier friendship. Displeased by reports of Venetian progress in the Romagna, he said he was sorry that he had cause to quarrel with Venice at the beginning of his pontificate, ‘but he could not, with honour nor in good conscience, let them take the lands of the Church.’204 He said it and he meant it, and against this resolution, to their surprise and indignation, none of the arguments that the Venetians put forward - that they were only taking the lands from Cesare Borgia; that they were preventing Florence from taking them; that they were taking only lands that had been held by others from the Church, not lands that the Church had ruled directly, and that they were willing to pay the due census for them - none of these prevailed. It was no excuse, Julius told Giustinian, to say that Venice had simply taken the lands from Cesare Borgia. It was no business of hers to do that, the papacy could see to it. When asked to grant Venice the vicariate of the lands she had occupied, he replied that the pope could not alienate the property of the Church without the consent of the cardinals; that he didn’t want to do it as pope; and that if he were a cardinal, he wouldn’t vote in favour either.205

The attitude of the Venetians was equally uncompromising. When Angelo Leonino, Bishop of Tivoli, the legate Julius sent to Venice, told them the pope wanted the lands back, the Doge told him bluntly that Venice had no intention of giving them up, no matter what the cost. This was not, he said, the behaviour they had expected of Julius.206 Such was the arrogance of the Venetians, so adamant their refusal to believe that Julius could not be willing to let them keep the territory that they had occupied, that they accused the legate of forging the briefs he brought before the government reiterating the pope’s demand for their return, and asked for him to be recalled to Rome. Convinced that the legate was unpopular just because he was pressing the papacy’s case so determinedly, Julius refused.207

Uncompromising his words might be, but, for the moment, they were the only means that he used to defend the Church’s lands from the encroachment of the Venetians. It was only his patent sincerity and concern for the loss of the Romagnol lands that convinced Cardinal Rouen and the Florentine representatives in Rome, Cardinal Soderini and Niccolò Machiavelli, that he was not secretly in collusion with Venice. The Florentines, who had sent some troops to the Romagna to support what resistance there was to Venice, were annoyed and frustrated that he was not doing more, and sent regular reports of the latest Venetian moves to try to stimulate him into reinforcing his words with action. 

Part of the reason for his delay in sending troops himself seems to have been a stubborn hope that words alone could convince the Venetians that he was not prepared to use the Church’s lands to buy their friendship. There were important practical reasons too: a shortage of money and men. Cesare Borgia’s campaigns had used up the papal revenues and exhausted the treasury. What was left on Alexander’s death, Cesare had appropriated for himself. He had been the papal commander, his troops the papal troops, and his men were all but dispersed. Those of them that were left were stripped of their weapons in Tuscany when he sent them north to try to save the remains of his disintegrating dominions. When Julius did, at last, send commissioners to the Romagna, they had difficulty in reaching it through the snow-blocked passes of the Apennines, in an exceptionally severe winter. His inability to respond effectively in this crisis was a lesson he did not forget. He would spend years building up the papal treasury to ensure that he would never be so helpless again.

The question of what was to become of Cesare Borgia was a major complicating factor in the whole Romagnol problem. He was no longer really a free agent, and to those who had known him in his prepotent days of glory, he sometimes seemed a confused and even pathetic figure. At other times, his old arrogance returned, but his threats and bluster were little more than posturing. His two remaining cards (apart from the remnants of his fearsome reputation) were the fortresses of Cesena, Forlì and Bertinoro in the Romagna, which were still held for him, and the continued loyalty of the group of Spanish cardinals who had bargained for him before the conclave. The first meant that he still had some potential to cause trouble; the second meant he could not simply be executed or quietly eliminated. 

Besides, in order to smooth the way to his election as pope, Julius had made an agreement with him, promising, among other things, to make him captain of the papal troops. While Julius had no intention of fulfilling that particular promise, he did feel some compunction about breaking his word, and certainly did not want to be seen to break his word without a good pretext. He even toyed with the idea of using Cesare to stem the Venetians in the Romagna, for Cesare could still attract loyalty not only from the Spanish commanders of his fortresses but also, to some degree, from the people of the province, among those who did not relish the thought of being ruled either by Venice, or by their former lords or directly by the papacy. This notion did not attract the pope for long, especially with the Venetians claiming that all they were doing in the Romagna was taking the lands of their enemy, Cesare Borgia. Instead, Julius concentrated on forcing Cesare to hand over the fortresses being held for him, as the price of being allowed to leave Rome.

After Julius’s election, Cesare had surrendered the Castel Sant’ Angelo to him and come to live in the Vatican, but he did not feel safe there and wanted to depart. Julius was prepared to let him go, for this was the moment when he considered using him in the Romagna. If Cesare was to go to the Romagna with the connivance of the pope, there was a swift change of plan, for only a couple of days after he left Rome for Ostia on 19 November, Julius sent to him to ask for the countersigns of the fortresses that he held. Ten days later, he was brought back to Rome by the papal guard. Julius summoned a congregation of cardinals to explain, especially to the Spanish, why he had ordered this. Venice, he said, has claimed to be acting against Cesare, so in order to remove this pretext, he had asked Cesare to surrender the lands and castles that he held. After much debate, he had agreed to give up the countersigns, but in case he did not give the true ones, he would be kept in a safe place until it was clear that the fortresses would be yielded by his castellans.208

This proved to take several months. Either acting on secret instructions from their master, or hoping to raise their own price for surrendering the castles in their charge, or out of genuine concern for Cesare’s safety, the castellans took some convincing that he really intended them to leave. About the time he was brought back to Rome, the troops that he had sent north were surrounded and stripped of their weapons by Tuscan peasants and the soldiers of Gianpaolo Baglioni. Julius was particularly pleased by the capture of Michelotto, one of Cesare’s most notorious commanders, whom he thought could reveal all the crimes and extortions of the Borgia. Cesare, his position weakened even more by this blow, handed over the countersigns and received in return a brief dated 8 December saying that he could go where he liked, once the fortresses had been surrendered.209

His castellans, however, refused to surrender them while their master was being held against his will. In early February, Cesare was sent to Ostia, in the custody of one of the Spanish cardinals, Carvajal. The object was to prevent the castellans from saying that he was a prisoner in Rome, but, in fact, he was more closely guarded at Ostia. Negotiations with the castellans of Cesena and Bertinoro were making more progress than those with the commander at Forlì, who was demanding 15,000 ducats. It was agreed that Cesare could go once Cesena and Bertinoro had been handed over and he had deposited 15,000 ducats for Forlì. Carvajal stood by these terms, letting him leave on 19 April, as soon as news of the surrender of the two fortresses arrived.

Julius was not pleased: he was said to be in no hurry to free Cesare, thinking every day of new dangers that he could cause.210 He had already extracted a formal promise from him that he would not attack papal territory, but it is difficult to see what threat Cesare could pose, once the fortress at Forlì was out of his control. Carvajal, who seems to have felt a little sorry for Cesare, argued that he was no danger - he had no money, he was ill with syphilis and he would not get any help from the Spanish, with whom he had taken refuge.211 He had gone to Naples, where the viceroy Gonzalo had at first made him welcome; but he had begun to try to recruit troops, and when Ferdinand and Isabella heard of their unwelcome guest, they ordered their viceroy to arrest him. He was held in Naples until the castellan of Forlì was finally persuaded to yield, in August, and was then transferred to Spain, passing out of Italian history.212

As if Julius did not have enough to deal with, outmanoeuvring his former friends the Venetians and his old bête noir, Cesare Borgia, members of his own family had ambitions in the Romagna. Cardinal Riario, his cousins, the sons of Girolamo Riario, and their mother Caterina Sforza, had their sights on the recovery of Imola and Forlì, from which they had been expelled by Cesare. Mutual dislike between Caterina and the cardinal was too intense to be buried even in this common cause: Caterina backed the claims of her eldest son, Ottaviano, while the cardinal backed Galeazzo.

In the early months of his pontificate, Julius made much of Cardinal Riario, taking him into his confidence. Apparently, he did not wish to upset him by rejecting out of hand the idea of a restoration of the Riario, and initially the cardinal was quite optimistic. This optimism was probably ill-founded. Julius had no reason to love the sons of his old enemy, nor did the people of Imola and Forlì. The Forlivesi much preferred to have their former signori, the Ordelaffi, back, despite the fact that Antoniomaria Ordelaffi was sick and had no obvious heirs. At Imola, too, there was another family of former signori who wanted to return, the Alidosi. Their claim to Imola was weaker than that of the Ordelaffi to Forlì, because it was several decades since they had ruled there and their record as signori had been impressive only for its violence and incompetence. Their trump card was Francesco Alidosi, a favourite servant of Julius in the years of his exile and marked from the early days of the pontificate as one of the key figures at court.

Against this competition, no outstanding personal qualities strengthened the claims of the Riario. Very few people in Imola and Forlì had any desire to see Girolamo Riario’s widow, the virago Caterina Sforza, back; her eldest son, Ottaviano, was obese, stupid and reputed to be under his mother’s thumb; the middle son, Cesare, was a cleric, and out of the running; and there was little to recommend the youngest, Galeazzo - Julius himself thought that there wasn’t much to him.213 But when a match was arranged between Galeazzo and the sister of one of the pope’s favourite nephews, Galeotto della Rovere, the new Cardinal San Pietro ad Vincula, in January 1504, the Imolesi interpreted this as a sign of favour, decided that they had better make the best of it, and staged a demonstration in the streets asking for Galeazzo to be made vicar of Imola.

Over the next few months, the Imolesi continued to refer to Galeazzo and Cardinal Riario as though they expected Galeazzo to be given the vicariate under the cardinal’s supervision, but Julius gave no sign that this was his intention. Meanwhile, Imola was troubled by faction-fighting, with the Alidosi backing the Sassatelli and their followers, who gradually gained the upper hand. It began to be said that Francesco Alidosi would succeed in getting Imola for his brother; the papal governor of Imola was reckoned to be an Alidosi man. The governor, however, reported to Julius in August that the people really wanted to be under the direct rule of the Church. With this request, genuine or not, Julius was ready to comply.

He had already granted a bull to the people of Forlì in June, promising that their city would not be given to any other papal vicars.214 When Antoniomaria Ordelaffi had died, in February 1504, they had been prepared to consider accepting an illegitimate Ordelaffi, Lodovico, as signore, or possibly to turn to Venice, but had sent envoys to Julius to say they did not want the Riario back. Julius was not prepared to accept Lodovico, was certainly anxious not to drive the Forlivesi into the arms of the Venetians, and did not try to persuade them to change their minds about the Riario. He floated the idea of giving Forlì to his nephew Francesco Maria della Rovere, but the Forlivesi did not take to the suggestion, and he did not insist. Just as he was quite prepared to forgo any family ambitions in order to secure Forlì, so, perhaps, he had been biding his time with Imola, unwilling to give a direct repulse to either Cardinal Riario or Francesco Alidosi, but waiting until the Imolesi asked to be immediately subject to the papacy.

Initially, Cardinal Riario refused to agree to the bull for Forlì, saying that he could not sign away the rights of his nipoti, but soon, to his great discontent, he began to realize the game was lost. A month later, he signed the bull and also ceded his family’s rights in Imola, for a promise of compensation, including repayment of 6,000 ducats that he had given to Borgia’s castellan of Imola to get him out of the fortress. The Riario boys were not happy with this arrangement, but there was nothing they could do. All vicariates over the city, including that granted to their father, were definitively revoked by a bull promulgated in October, promising that Imola, like Forlì, would stay under the direct rule of the Church. Francesco Alidosi was promised compensation for his family’s claims too, but he did not give up hope that one day, perhaps after Julius’s death, the Alidosi would once again rule in Imola.

By the autumn of 1504, then, Cesare Borgia was out of the way, the last Ordelaffi had been forced out of Forlì and the Riario had been pushed aside. Of the major towns of the Romagna, Cesena, Imola and Forlì were back under papal rule. Faenza and Rimini, however, were still in the hands of the Venetians, as were many smaller places, including much of the territory of Cesena and Imola.

The Venetians were given a warning of what might be in store for them if they continued to brush off Julius’s protests. On 22 September 1504, as part of a series of agreements between Louis XII, Maximilian, King of the Romans, and his son, Philip, Duke of Burgundy, known as the Treaties of Blois, an alliance specifically directed against Venice was concluded. Its object was to recover from her, territories claimed by the pope and by Maximilian and Louis. Representatives of the pope were present at the conclusion of this alliance, and he was mentioned as its promoter, but he was not formally a party to it.215

Some cardinals were not sure it was wise for the pope to be associated with a treaty that was liable to upset the King of Spain, but Julius hoped for great things from it. He had been working since the beginning of his pontificate, soliciting the support of the major powers against the Venetians. From the first, he had declared himself ready to ‘arouse all the Christian princes against them’.216 The problem was that the leading Christian princes - Louis, Ferdinand and Maximilian - were preoccupied in trying to resolve a complex web of conflicting claims and grievances among themselves, and regarded Venice as a potentially useful counterweight.

Reconciling France and Spain had been Julius’s first aim in the early months of his pontificate, when he had argued that this would be to the advantage of everyone except Venice. Papal briefs asking for help might be couched in terms of ‘defending the Church’,217 but Julius knew that self-interest was the most powerful spur. Speaking to the Mantuan envoy, Gianluigi Cataneo, he told him, ‘If peace is made between them, as I hope, I would like to make use of them both, because if they don’t take steps, in time one of them will have trouble in Milan and the other in the kingdom [of Naples]’218; for wherever the Venetians went, ‘by sea or land, especially in Italy, they are too overbearing ... I know what’s in my interests’, he said, ‘and [those] of the Church and of my family, but it’s also in the interests of Italy and of the world.’219 He was sure that if peace were made, Venice would return Rimini and Faenza.

It was principally to the French that Julius looked for help, even if he thought ‘sometimes they don’t seem to care for anyone, and they can’t be relied on much.’220 Louis and Cardinal Rouen, his chief minister, took the line that Julius was legally in the right in demanding the return of the Romagnol territories, and that it would be desirable for Venice to comply, but made it clear France did not intend to attack Venice or even lose her alliance. Ferdinand of Spain took a similar view. He made a token offer to lend Julius some of his troops from Naples, while naming Venice as an ally in the truce with France concluded in February 1504, claiming to have done this before receiving the papal brief that asked him not to. So neither France nor Spain was prepared to go to war with Venice to get Julius’s lands back for him. After all his efforts and all his hopes, they did not even mention him in the truce they agreed, and he thought that neither side showed much respect for his concerns.

Nevertheless, he did not feel strong enough to act on his own, and continued to solicit support from the major European powers. Now it was on a prospective peace between Louis and Maximilian that he pinned his hopes. He found his position as a suppliant galling, complaining to the Duke of Urbino that ‘he had to be everyone’s slave.’ When the duke said that it was his own doing, Julius took the hint, replying that ‘to recover these lands, he had to make himself a slave to France, Spain, Germany and all the world.’ Urbino argued that if he came to some agreement with Venice, from being a slave he could become master of all. This was true, the pope responded, but he couldn’t do it with honour, and ‘did not want to do anything for which he could be blamed, and which would give his successor grounds to complain he lost the way to recovering the Church’s property’.221

Cultivating Maximilian proved as thankless and fruitless as asking for help from Louis and Ferdinand. Julius found the letters that Maximilian sent to Venice on his behalf far too weak and conciliatory, but purported to blame his advisers, and urged him to come to Italy. Perpetually hard-up, Maximilian wanted to use money that had been collected in Germany for a crusade. This was sacrosanct, Julius told him, and could only be used for the defence of Christianity or (pointedly) the recovery of the cities of the Church. 222Maximilian showed no signs of a serious intention to come to Italy, and even baulked at sending an envoy to Venice at the pope’s request. All that Julius accomplished was to make Ferdinand nervous. Afraid that a war against Venice would merely present Louis with an opportunity to extend his power in Italy, the king ordered his ambassadors in Rome and Venice to try to settle the quarrel over the Romagna peacefully, in such a way that Julius would abandon the idea of forming a league with France and Germany, and Venice would feel grateful to Spain.

The treaty of Blois concluded in September 1504, with its alliances specifically directed against Venice, seemed to be the realization of Julius’s hopes and efforts, but, once again, they were to be disappointed. Maximilian, though the terms agreed had been very favourable to him, delayed in ratifying them, and the pope’s optimism that, once he had ratified the treaty, he really would attack Venice with Louis began to fade. Something had been achieved, nonetheless, for the Venetians had been alarmed at the news of the alliance and were ready to listen when hints were dropped in Rome that some sort of compromise might be on the cards.

It was Francesco Alidosi who seems to have been the first to broach the subject with the Venetian ambassador, Giustinian. Assuring him that Maximilian was coming to Italy with a powerful army, Alidosi said that he personally would like there to be peace between the pope and Venice, because ‘he knew well that the pope only stood to lose if the barbarians came to Italy’, but, he said, necessity was driving Julius on, because he could not back out with honour. You Venetians, he remarked, laughing, ‘want to hold our lands and then you want us to keep quiet about it. Start by giving back the contado of Imola, and the other things you have no shade of justification at all for keeping - then, as for the rest, it will be as God wills.’223

Once the Venetians took the hint, it was only a matter of weeks before agreement was reached on the principle of a settlement. The details took a little longer, because the Venetians hoped to extract a formal grant of Rimini and Faenza from the pope. He made it clear this was out of the question, and refused to put anything in writing, refused even to send a friendly brief, until the Venetians had fulfilled their promises. While the Venetians discussed the matter in secret meetings behind closed doors, Julius was much less discreet, speaking openly about the negotiations that the Duke of Urbino was handling for him in Rome. Both sides were keen to settle the business, however, so in early March 1505 Venice agreed to hand over to the pope eleven fortresses and villages, including the territory belonging to Cesena and Imola that those towns had been clamouring to have back, in return for Julius ceasing to press for the return of Rimini and Faenza. This was not much of a concession by the pope, in truth, which is perhaps why the Venetians tried to put it about outside Italy that they had been granted the investiture of Rimini and Faenza, to his great annoyance.

Discord over this point somewhat marred the harmony of the grand embassy that the Venetians sent to Rome, with eight ambassadors, to swear obedience to Julius as the ‘new’ pope. At the ceremony, on 5 May, the Florentine ambassador reported, ‘Their oration was high-flown and full of flowers and curlicues, in commendation and praise of His Holiness the Pope and of their city.’ All that they got from Julius in return was a short, purely conventional response.224

Neither the pope nor the Venetians regarded this as the final settlement of the matter. The Venetians would continue to press for investiture with the two cities that they had hung on to, and Julius, if he ceased for the time-being to urge the ultramontane powers to attack Venice, was by no means reconciled to their loss. Lack of cash and lack of troops had hindered him from taking command of the situation in the Romagna in the first months of his pontificate. Appeals to the ultramontane powers for help had borne little real fruit. For the next two years, Julius concentrated on ensuring that in future he would have the resources to act when he wanted to, alone if need be.

Chafing at his inability to counter the loss of papal territory, as early as February 1504 he had clearly decided that he needed a long-term strategy. He described the papacy as ‘poverty-stricken and run-down’. For the honour of God, for his own honour, he could not rest until he had brought about some proper settlement. He knew that it would be difficult to do anything quickly, but the time would come when even the troubles with Venice might have an end.225 Soon it was noticed that he was gathering money from every possible, legitimate, source - ‘not by the sort of tricks Pope Alexander used to get up to’. He had been heard to say ‘that he wanted to accumulate 200,000 ducats, which appeared to him to be essential for any pope to face up to every adversity and problem which might confront him, by raising some troops’.226 Expenses were pruned to such an extent that his stinginess began to excite remark - he cut the papal guard by two-thirds, and had had more people in his personal household when he was a cardinal. 227Generous and free-spending then, now he began to be described as avaricious. Debts went unpaid or were paid in other ways than with cash. 

By the end of the year, he had already garnered over 100,000 ducats; by May 1505, his initial target of 200,000 ducats had been reached. Still he did not relax his purse-strings, and by late August, when he spent two days in the Castel Sant’ Angelo, doing nothing but look over his treasure, he had over 300,000 ducats and was planning to raise more by granting ‘expectatives’ (privileges giving the right to succeed to a benefice after the death of the existing incumbent). By the following January, according to Alidosi, he had 400,000 ducats between cash and plate, and was accumulating more every day. ‘Believe me’, Alidosi said, ‘he is holding this to undertake some fine expedition and not to give it to his nipoti, nor does he want other popes to have it.’228

Money and the troops that money could buy were not the whole solution to the problem of guarding the territorial integrity of the Papal States. They could help to combat threats and drive off intruders, but what was also needed was more effective government, to make it harder for other powers to turn papal subjects into political clients. Papal rhetoric might speak of the ‘mild’ and ‘sweet’ rule of the Church, but in Italy, ‘government by priests’ was synonymous with weakness and oppressive inefficiency, with a chronic instability and lack of control generating disorder that could spill over into neighbouring territories. Factions flourished, and, all too often, the response of papal officials was not to attempt the difficult task of pacification, but to allow one to prevail over its rivals. 

Dynasties of signori, some with their rule sanctioned by the grant of vicariates, others simply party bosses with no legal authority for their dominance, had become so rooted a feature of life in the north and east of the Papal States by the later fifteenth century that they regarded the cities they ruled as their own property. This was why Pandolfo Malatesta could ‘sell’ his ‘right’ over Rimini to Venice. Even the Riario, Julius’s own relatives, were ready to promise Venice the ‘reversion’ of Imola and Forlì if the Riario died out, when they were casting about for support for their attempt to return.229 Giovanni Bentivoglio, who had no legitimate sanction for his power over Bologna, and despite the fact that the city was the seat of papal government for the area, conducted an independent ‘foreign policy’, forming his own alliances with scant regard for whatever policy the pope might be pursuing at the time.

These conditions positively invited interference in the Papal States by other powers. Julius found it intolerable. His famous campaign against the Baglioni of Perugia and the Bentivoglio of Bologna in 1506 - the foundation of his reputation as the ‘warrior pope’ - was only the best-known manifestation of his desire to strengthen the hold of papal government over its territory and to focus the obedience and loyalty of its subjects on the pope, not on some local faction leader or external power. The campaign was just the climax of a concerted effort to pacify the Papal States, and to reform and stabilize the government of its cities, which had been under way since the first year of his pontificate.

The scale of the task that he was taking on can be gauged just by considering a list of towns in the Papal States where faction-fighting, boundary disputes or other quarrels seriously disturbed public order during the period from the summer of 1504 to the summer of 1506, before Julius launched his campaign against the Baglioni and Bentivoglio: Imola, Spoleto, Foligno, Ascoli, Ancona, Jesi, Forlì, Rieti, Fano, Terracina, Pesaro, Todi, Cesena, Rocca Antica, Civita Castellana, Viterbo, Trevi, Norcia, Gallese and Otricoli. In some cases, notably that of Forlì, there were several reported episodes of fighting. And these are just the towns for which reports of disorder survive; there may have been others too.

A closer look at three principal trouble spots in three different provinces of the Papal States - Rieti in Umbria, Forlì in the Romagna and Ascoli in the Marche - reveals the kind of problems that had to be tackled.

Rieti was traditionally one of the Ghibelline strongholds of Umbria, with ties to the Colonna family. The persecution of the Colonna in the later years of Alexander VI’s pontificate, during which their lands had been confiscated and given to members of the Borgia family, and the close association of the Orsini with Cesare Borgia until the final dramatic year of his father’s reign, had brought about a resurgence of the Guelfs in Rieti, and the exile of some leading Ghibellines. The nemesis of the Borgia permitted the return of a leading Ghibelline family, the Poiani, and the prospect of a revival of their party’s dominance. The Guelfs responded by introducing some troops of the Orsini party leader, Bartolomeo d’Alviano, into the town in January 1504, who killed about twenty Ghibellines. Fabrizio Colonna, when he heard of this, came swiftly, with many armed men. About forty Guelfs were killed, Bartolomeo d’Alviano’s troops thrown out and all the Colonna’s exiled friends readmitted.

A year later, the Guelfs entered Rieti by night and seized control of the main square. When morning came, the Ghibellines took arms, gathered 1,000 men and attacked the Guelfs, but were repulsed with heavy losses. For two days, the triumphant Guelfs rampaged through Rieti, killing, looting and burning, but on the third night, Ghibelline leaders from neighbouring Piediluco and Terni arrived; gathering their men and those who had fled Rieti, they attacked and defeated the Guelfs, who fled in their turn, leaving 100 dead. A few days later, Muzio Colonna arrived, and told the general council of the city that he had been sent by Fabrizio and Cardinal Giovanni Colonna to protect Rieti and offer troops and money. He was asked to stay until all danger had passed, and to guard Rocca Sinibalda in the city’s territory; fifty Colonna horse were put at the disposal of Rieti for its defence.230

In view of the scale of the forces involved (including professional soldiers), the savagery of the fighting, and the scale of the casualties, such conflicts between opposing factions in Umbria were not just a matter of street-fighting between rival gangs. They seemed more like a minor civil war, with the forces of the nominal government, the papacy, nowhere to be seen.

Where papal officials, even papal troops, were rather more in evidence, they sometimes failed to command the respect of factious papal subjects. Forlì was one of the towns in the Romagna that Julius was most anxious to secure under the direct rule of the Church, and months before Cesare Borgia’s castellan surrendered the fortress, a papal legate and commissioner had formally taken possession of the city, on 6 April 1504. The papal castellan who took charge of the fortress later that month, Giustiniano Moriconi, Bishop of Amelia, was well-behaved and well-liked in the city, and there were papal troops stationed in the province. This was not enough to secure public order. No Guelf and Ghibelline parties on the Umbrian model survived in the Romagna, and there was little cooperation between the faction leaders of the different towns. The faction-fighting here had more of the character of family feuds.

Much of the fighting involved members of the Morattini family. The entry of the legate had been facilitated by the calculation of the Morattini that they would benefit more by helping to turn Forlì over to the Church than by continuing to support the Ordelaffi, whose return they had backed. A Morattini was beside the legate as he made his formal entry, a Morattini handed over the keys of the city, and a Morattini placed the legate’s standard at the gate of the public palazzo. Only weeks before, they had assaulted and sacked the houses of a rival family, the Numai, for failing to support the Ordelaffi. The feud between them was rekindled the following year, and the fighting, said to involve thousands of men (and to have included the murder of one seventy-year-old Morattini canon in the cathedral itself), caused some citizens to abandon Forli in search of a more peaceful life. The following summer, the Morattini, some of whom had been exiled from the city, returned in strength, with 800 infantry and 200 horse, and sacked over fifty houses belonging to their rivals.231

Ascoli provides an example of another kind of problem - the citizen who aspired to become signore. Astolto Guiderocchi, a leader of the Ghibellines in Ascoli, had been driven from the city by returning Guelf exiles in 1498, his house burned, he himself escaping, half-dressed, with his wife and two small children. Not a man to be easily intimidated, he determined to return to the city as its signore. The Ascolani, however, after twenty years of self-government,232 which had been twenty years of fierce internal strife for power, decided that life might be easier if they returned to direct subjection to the papacy. A papal governor arrived early in 1502. Only Astolto was not prepared to accept the new situation.

In 1504 he made a surprise return to a city distracted by an epidemic. Cardinal Farnese, the legate, sent troops and siege weapons, but could not dislodge him and had to make a truce. Astolto lorded it over Ascoli, exiling his major Guelf opponents. But his family’s behaviour became intolerable. One of his older sons, Gian Tosto, killed four citizens in the communal palace and tossed their corpses into the piazza. Julius ordered the arrest of Astolto and his imprisonment in the fortress of Forlì. Astolto’s sons continued to conspire against the papal government, and it was not until after Julius’s death that the problem was resolved and Astolto and his sons returned to Ascoli.233

On top of such problems, for about a year a leading condottiere from a family of minor barons allied to the Orsini, Bartolomeo d’Alviano, who had a record of participation in faction-fighting (as at Rieti), caused Julius serious concern. He was ostensibly in the service of Spain, and had enhanced his reputation by playing a prominent part in the decisive victory of the Spanish over the French on the Garigliano in Naples in late 1503. At this point, he was at something of a loose end and came with his troops to the Papal States, lodging near his own lands and the Orsini territory to the north of the city.

Within months of his return to the Papal States, Bartolomeo had become involved in some skirmishing and stock-raiding against the Ghibelline-dominated town of Amelia, and was reported to be involved in a plot at Montone with his Vitelli relatives and to be planning to cause trouble in Perugia, so giving another relative, Gianpaolo Baglioni, the opportunity to strengthen his own position there. Julius became very annoyed, describing him as a ‘disturber of the peace of the Church’ and recalling the trouble Bartolomeo had caused in the Papal States in the past.234 When Bartolomeo complained about a scheme that the Colonna were hatching to return Carlo Baglioni, an exiled rival of Gianpaolo, to Perugia, Julius warned him not to involve himself in the affairs of the Papal States.235 Bartolomeo took no notice. He began preparing his men, declaring his readiness to defend the Orsini, Baglioni, Vitelli or any other relatives against anyone who might attack them, including papal forces.236 So seriously did Julius take him that he began spending some of his precious reserves to raise troops to deal with him if necessary.

In the event, there was no confrontation. Suspicions that Bartolomeo was involved in plots at Orvieto and Viterbo made Julius determined to make him leave the Papal States, but he was becoming less of a threat all the time. Having quarrelled with his Spanish employer (in large part because the Colonna were also in the service of Spain), he was running short of funds, and his men were drifting away, with those that remained in bad order. Nonetheless, he did have an ambitious scheme in mind - the restoration of the Medici to Florence. After only a few weeks of campaigning in Tuscany, he was routed by the Florentines in late August 1504, to Julius’s pleasure. But when he went to visit the pope at Viterbo in September, he was well received, and he was also summoned to Rome and welcomed there in December; he was even promised a condotta. How seriously either side took this offer is not clear. Bartolomeo really wanted to return to Venetian service, which he had left in 1503, and by the end of March negotiations were completed and he was back in Venice, and out of Julius’s hair.

If Julius’s worst fears about Bartolomeo d’Alviano’s intentions and capacity for creating disorder were not realized, the presence of this restless, talented and partisan condottiere in papal territory had raised the temperature - though there were those who thought Julius attributed too much importance to him. It helped to make Julius more anxious to quell the disorder so rife in the Papal States.

How did he set about this?237

The most straightforward method was by reminding the officials and legates responsible for areas of the Papal States of their duty to keep the peace, and making clear his personal interest - telling Cardinal Farnese, legate for the Marche, that he wanted that province cleared of troublemakers, for example, ordering the local signori not to give refuge to malefactors on their lands, or urging Cardinal Sanseverino to take effective steps to pacify Viterbo. He was aware of the causes of fighting and would issue direct orders to deal with them. Thus he ordered Farnese to enquire into an apparently mundane complaint about stock-raiding. He did not want this sort of trouble between papal subjects, he said, because it could lead to greater problems. Concerned by reports of the many private feuds and quarrels in the Romagna, he told the governor of the province that he must try to pacify them, punishing the intransigent. On several occasions, he sent out commissioners with special powers to tackle specific problems. When he heard that no effort had been made to find the murderers of two men in Terracina, for instance, he ordered Giovanni Ruffo to go there, make enquiries and punish the guilty parties, and also to settle the differences dividing the citizens, to help keep the peace in future.

The Romagna merited special attention, for its persistent violence and its political sensitivity. Julius sent his relative Costantino Arniti there as lieutenant-general in July 1504, and then Giovanni da Sassatello to back him up in January 1505. In August 1505 he appointed the astute nuncio to Venice, Angelo Leonino, Bishop of Tivoli, as commissioner, with instructions to settle trouble in Fano, Forlì, Cesena, Bertinoro (and all other places in the province), giving him powers to pardon and to restore the property of those who had left those four cities during the recent turmoil, but also to exile any of their citizens he thought fit. A few months later, having learned that the worst malefactors were often in ecclesiastical orders, Leonino was given powers to punish their crimes according to their severity, disregarding the privileges of the clergy.

The initial instructions Julius gave to Leonino highlighted one of the most tricky and recurrent dilemmas that his attempts at pacification of the Papal States involved - what to do with the internal political exiles. Exiles, particularly if they had left the city en masse following fighting, often banded together, watching for an opportunity to get back at their enemies or force their way back home, and constituted a perpetual threat to public order. Bringing them back without provoking further bloodshed required a difficult combination of diplomacy and a firm hand.

In the past, popes and their agents had often not been impartial in their handling of political factions: Julius himself, as a cardinal, in his campaign against Spoleto and Città di Castello, had clearly been favouring the Ghibellines against the Guelfs. Bartolomeo d’Alviano, for one, evidently expected him to discriminate against the Guelfs as pope, but Julius did not want to rely on an alliance with either faction to uphold the authority of the papacy in its own territory.

Instead, he seems to have tried to deal with each group of exiles on its merits. Those who gathered together, threatening the peace, were to be dispersed and discouraged. He rebuked his condottiere Giovanni da Sassatello for taking exiles from Pesaro into his service and then bringing them near the city; he ordered that they should be dismissed. Disruptive as exiles could be, some papal subjects could be even more disruptive if allowed to stay at home, and Julius was ready to order them into exile himself, as he did with Astolto d’Ascoli and his sons, and the citizens of Narni whom he heard had been plotting to disturb the peace. 

His preferred solution was the return and reintegration of exiles, at least of those who had not been ringleaders, but this could be very difficult to achieve. Threats of drastic penalties were needed to bring the community of Norcia to accept the return of their exiles in the summer of 1505. Julius told the envoys they sent to ask him not to insist on this that he wanted all those exiled for political reasons to return; but he ordered a commissioner to investigate who, of those inside and outside the city, really merited punishment. Despite solemn pledges of peace and exchanges of hostages, within a few months of their return some of the exiles had been murdered by poison.

One measure of Julius’s personal interest in bringing good order to his dominions is the frequency with which he summoned troublemakers to come to see him in person. Men from at least a dozen cities, including Acquasparta, Fermo, Narni, Norcia, Spoleto, Benevento and Forlì, were called to Rome between the summers of 1504 and 1506. Sometimes they were ordered to stay in Rome until they were given permission to leave. Unfortunately, no account of the reception that he gave to the small town bully- boys who appeared before him has come to light, but it can easily be imagined that the full force of one of his famous rages would be enough to take the edge off the most swaggering bravado. 

Failure to obey a summons would not bring escape. The pope would write to remind the men or the official responsible for seeing that they came, and the penalties threatened would increase in severity. When only two of the citizens of Terracina whom he wanted to come to see him turned up, the governor of the city, Tommaso Feo, received a blistering brief in which Julius’s anger glows through the conventional formulae of his secretary. The appearance of just two men was not sufficient to enable Julius to settle the peace of the city. He wanted Feo to send at least two others from both of the parties, on pain of their incurring the penalties of rebellion for non-compliance, and warned him that ‘If you don’t use the necessary prudence and diligence in this matter, we will judge you to be unfit to govern such a city.’238

Well aware that, where there was a degree of self-government, the administration of the public revenues could be a fertile ground for political squabbles, Julius sometimes took some or all of their financial control from the communal councils. Fano was one place where he thought that money was at the root of the discord between the citizens, and he approved Leonino’s measure to bring the communal revenue under the control of the Apostolic Chamber. Cesena and Orte also lost control of their revenues because of civic strife, though the citizens of Cesena were given back some degree of control over their finances, on condition that they stayed peaceful and united.

Another aspect of civic government that Julius was concerned about in Cesena was the distribution of offices. Nominations to the council had been carried out inequitably, he wrote to Leonino: some families had several representatives, some loyal citizens had been excluded. Leonino must reform the council, bringing on to it those who loved peace and were loyal to the Church, and there must be only one member from any family. In other cities, such as Città di Castello and Viterbo, he intervened even more directly, sending lists of the officials that he wanted to be appointed, or approving the list of names from which appointments were to be drawn by lot.

Only limited use was made of force to back up these measures to re-establish order and papal authority in the Papal States. Costantino Arniti and Leonino had some troops at their command in the Romagna, but Julius, intent on garnering his war chest, was not keen to spend very much on them. In February 1505 he ordered Cardinal Riario, the head of the Apostolic Chamber, to reduce the garrisons of papal fortresses so that no more men were retained than were needed for security and the Chamber was not burdened by unnecessary expense. ‘Diligent enquiries’ had been made, and the numbers to be retained in each fortress in future had been settled: a list of nearly fifty papal fortresses was attached, with the size of the garrison specified for each one.239 Economy was not the only motive for Julius’s reluctance to order large-scale military activity to bring the provinces to order. He wanted to make the rule of the papal government acceptable and attractive to his subjects, above all in areas where Venice constituted a rival pole of attraction.

Two cities, Perugia and Bologna, demanded special attention.

Perugia was the largest city in Umbria, a centre of papal administration and a base for one of the major provincial treasuries. Within the city, power was shared between the local papal officials and the members of the Baglioni family and their allies. The Baglioni had never managed to set themselves up as signori of Perugia, partly because there were many of them and they were riven by endemic family quarrels. An oligarchy of about thirty families had a monopoly of the more important posts in Perugia, and although the Baglioni’s main opponents, the Oddi and Ranieri, were under-represented, they were not completely excluded. Indeed, the papal officials exercised more influence on appointments to the offices in Perugia than the Baglioni did. 

This was a state of affairs that Julius might well have been able to tolerate, but there was a complication. The Baglioni were a family of condottieri, and the paymasters of the leading members of the family often expected to benefit from the resources of Perugia, as a recruiting ground, a billet for their troops and a source of supplies. In the fifteenth century other Italian powers would make separate agreements with Perugia, of friendship, even alliance, through the Baglioni, treating the city as quasi-independent and hoping that if they were at war with the pope, they could use Perugia against him. This was a state of affairs that Julius could not tolerate. The Baglioni had to be put in their place.

Bologna, too, despite the fact it was the seat of the most important legation within the Papal States, was treated as a quasi-independent city by other Italian powers. Just as the communal church, San Petronio, far surpassed the cathedral of Bologna in size and magnificence, so the papal legates and their lieutenants were outshone by the Bentivoglio. Giovanni Bentivoglio was accounted one of the most fortunate men in Italy, because he had effectively dominated Bologna, while only being a private citizen, for forty years, without ever showing any outstanding qualities of intelligence, or political or military skill, or personality. 240He had enjoyed a series of condotte and pensions from neighbouring states eager to establish an interest in the city. 

Then as now, Bologna was situated on major communications routes of immense strategic importance, standing on the road running from the Adriatic to Milan and at the head of the most frequently travelled pass through the Apennines between northern and central Italy. For Giovanni Bentivoglio to pursue an independent ‘foreign policy’ under the eyes of the papal legate was not just an affront to the papal government. It was, in the uncertain political climate of early sixteenth-century Italy, a danger to the integrity of the Papal States — one that Julius could not afford to ignore. For the rest of his pontificate, securing control of Bologna would be one of his constant cares.

While Julius took a personal interest in the settlement of all the Papal States, to Perugia and Bologna he devoted particular care. Monitory briefs and special commissioners would not be enough. Even sending a few hundred papal troops would not be enough - the cities were too big to be overawed by a small force. If military action were to be needed to put Giovanni Bentivoglio in his place, a full-scale campaign would be required. The value that Julius put on securing Bologna was shown not only by the size of the forces he was prepared to commit to the task, but, above all, by his decision to lead them personally.

For a cardinal to lead or accompany a military expedition was commonplace, virtually normal practice. For a pope to do so, was unheard of. Julius’s martial behaviour was one of the features of his pontificate that most upset his critics. In his satire Julius Exclusus, Erasmus portrayed the pope arriving at the gates of heaven at the head of an army, demanding to be admitted, only to be turned away by St Peter.241 Yet when Julius announced his decision to go to Bologna, none of the cardinals is reported to have tried to dissuade him on the grounds that this was unseemly behaviour for a pope. Perhaps the military aspect of his expedition was masked by his decision that all the cardinals fit to travel, and the whole of the papal court, officials and all, should come too. The Bentivoglio and Bologna were to be confronted by the full authority of the Holy See, made as visible as it could be.

Such an expedition would not have been mounted for Perugia alone. Steadily increasing pressure had been applied to Gianpaolo Baglioni and Perugia for the past few years, as Julius sought to diminish his standing in the city and bring it more firmly under the rule of the papacy. His first scheme had been to restore the Perugian exiles to counterbalance Gianpaolo. There was some opposition from his own family to this idea. They were afraid that the return of the exiles, who were linked to the Colonna faction, might strengthen Fabrizio Colonna’s hand if he decided to challenge Francesco Maria della Rovere for the succession to the duchy of Urbino. The Duke of Urbino himself was a friend of Gianpaolo, and acted as a mediator for him with the pope. It was thought that Urbino might hold back if Julius ordered him to attack Perugia, which may have discouraged Julius from using force when he appeared to be considering doing so in the autumn and winter of 1504.

In February 1505 Gianpaolo came to Rome and made an agreement with Julius. He promised to be a good ‘vassal’, to be obedient to the pope and to accept the appointment of a new papal governor ‘who would have the authority ... which befits a governor of His Beatitude in one of his subject territories’.242 Exiles who had been involved in violence, and who could not return to Perugia without danger of further bloodshed, were to remain outside the city. The others were to be permitted to return - Urbino and Gianpaolo were to decide who should be allowed back. One condition on which Julius insisted was that Gianpaolo was on no account to accept any contract with Venice, and he protested vigorously about reports that Gianpaolo had offered Venice his own services and to put Perugia under her protection. 

An effort was made the following year to make clear that it was the papal government that was in charge. The Perugians were ordered to await the arrival of the new legate, Cardinal Antonio Ferreri, before they renewed the list of names of those eligible for office. In June, Ferreri, on orders from Julius, dismissed the members of one of the main governing councils, the Dieci dell’ Arbitrio, and selected their replacements himself. Gianpaolo, who had enjoyed great influence over this council, did not protest. He was behaving like the obedient subject he had promised to be. Julius’s expedition merely provided an opportunity to set the seal on the new situation in Perugia; it did not create it.

Bologna was, in fact, the only declared goal of the campaign. As Bishop of Bologna for nearly twenty years, from 1483 to 1502 (and legate for some months, from December 1483 to September 1484), Julius had had ample opportunity to learn about the workings of Bolognese politics. Judging from his surviving correspondence with the communal government, his relations with it as the city’s bishop were fairly formal but reasonably affable, in spite of a persistent problem with two territories of the bishopric, Cento and La Pieve, which had a running feud with their neighbours in the Bolognese contado.

Unfortunately, there is very little evidence concerning his relations with the Bentivoglio while he was a cardinal. In April 1485 he had lodged Giovanni Bentivoglio in his own palace at Santi Apostoli when he came to Rome, and he had acted as Innocent’s representative in drawing up the condotta that Giovanni was given. In December 1500, while he had been staying at Cento for some months during his wanderings around northern Italy in the final years of his exile, there had been a confused report that Francesco Alidosi had been held in Bologna on suspicion of planning to poison Giovanni. According to Guicciardini, he had had to flee from Cento at night, having heard that Giovanni was about to imprison him at the request of Alexander; but the contemporary report when he left Cento in January 1501 was that he did so because Cesare Borgia’s troops were to be billeted there.243 On his return to Rome in September 1503, he was accompanied by a force of Bolognese crossbowmen.

Julius’s election as pope was greeted with apparent pleasure by those in the governing council of Bologna, the Sedici Riformatori (Sixteen), who wrote to their ambassador in Rome about what a wonderful pope he was going to be, and how they had no doubt that his pontificate would bring Bologna profit and repose.244 No serious cause for quarrel arose between the Bolognese and the pope during the next few years. There were, however, clear signs of dissatisfaction on the part of Julius with Giovanni Bentivoglio. 

If there was a legacy of personal hostility between them from Julius’s years as a cardinal, it was not thought significant at the time. The problem was, rather, that Julius was determined to assert his authority over Bologna and its leading family, and that Giovanni did not like this. Told by Julius in June 1504 that he and his sons should not accept condotte from anyone, but should stay at the disposition of the pope, Giovanni replied that his sons, young and practised in arms, could not remain without some sort of provision and that he could not prevent them from trying to get something. A few months later, the pope was reported to have spoken angrily to Giovanni’s chancellor about his master.245 Giovanni then made the mistake of looking to Venice for support. This could have been his fatal error.

The Bolognese had got wind in July 1506 of reports that Julius was planning to expel Giovanni Bentivoglio and take Bologna. Protests by their envoy in Rome met the response from Julius that he would not be doing wrong in recovering the lands of the Church. But he also wrote to Giovanni, saying that he should either come personally to Rome, with some of the Sedici Riformatori, so that Julius could arrange with them how Bologna was to be governed in future and what would become of him; or he should send his four legitimate sons to Rome, and Julius would go to Bologna without troops. Julius would promise Giovanni that he would not be expelled from Bologna, and that any accusations brought against him would be pardoned, but ‘he did not want him to be greater than the others whom His Holiness would appoint to that government.’ 

Plans for the expedition were not suspended while Giovanni’s reply to these proposals was awaited. Julius was not only planning to use his own troops, and to hire 3,000-4,000 of the formidable Swiss infantry mercenaries, with perhaps twice as many Italian infantry, but was also confident that he would have the support of French, Florentine and Ferrarese troops as well. Louis, he said, had promised to ensure his Venetian allies would not try to interfere with the pope’s plans.246 Giovanni told the Venetians that he had sent to say that the pope would be welcome if he came with the curia alone; if he came in arms, the Bolognese had arms too, to defend themselves.247

On 17 August the pope announced to the cardinals assembled in consistory his intention of personally leading an expedition to Bologna. Speaking of all the misdeeds of Giovanni and the other Bentivoglio, he told them that he was ‘compelled to go to save his people’. 248Now he dismissed the idea of leaving Giovanni in Bologna as out of the question, telling Machiavelli249 that Giovanni ‘would be mad to stay there as a private citizen’, and that he didn’t want him there on any other terms. When Giovanni had gone, Julius would so settle matters that he would not return to Bologna, at least while Julius was alive.250

The cardinals had been warned that Julius expected them to accompany him. Caraffa and da Costa were excused because they were too old; three others were excused because they were ill, and one, Sangiorgio, was to be left in Rome as legate. At first, all the curial officials were to come too, but it was soon decided that some would stay behind. With twenty-six cardinals and their households, and a crowd of officials and their servants – about 3,000 horses were required for the curiali alone - and the papal household, including the chapel staff and singers, all having only a matter of days in which to prepare for an absence of several months, the confusion in Rome for the next week can only be imagined. Julius gave the cardinals permission to go before him, to ease the problems of finding provisions along the road.251

Leaving Rome on 26 August, Julius kept up such a swift pace as he made his way north through the Patrimony that those travelling on foot, including the groom leading the horse carrying the sacrament, found it difficult to keep up with him. Some cardinals’ grooms died, because they were having to run all the time in the heat of late summer. If it was not much fun for the people accompanying him, Julius was enjoying himself. He always loved travelling, and often went on pleasure trips in the Patrimony.

One of his favourite activities was inspecting his fortresses, and he had the chance to see a number of them along the way. At Civita Castellana, which he reached on 28 August, he spent a day admiring the beauty of the fortress and ordering repairs and new works. He inspected a derelict fortress at Montefiascone (which the local people avoided, believing it to be inhabited by evil spirits), and ordered it to be repaired at a cost of 3,000 ducats. When he reached Lake Trasimene, he took the opportunity to indulge another favourite pastime, fishing - sailing in five boats with some cardinals and prelates and members of his household, as well as fifty Swiss infantry with their trumpets and drums.

The serious business of the expedition can never have been far from his mind. Even if he had been inclined to forget it, a stream of envoys and messages that reached him on the road acted as a constant reminder. It was at Civita Castellana that he received the first of a series of envoys whom Giovanni Bentivoglio, trying to bargain his way out of trouble, was to send to him. Julius offered some conditions, which were rejected; the pope complained that Giovanni ‘does not want to accept terms from us, but to impose them on us and give us orders’.252 The next day, Julius sent Antonio Ciocchi, one of the auditors of the Apostolic Chamber, to announce to the Bolognese that if they did not receive the pope and drive the Bentivoglio out, they should expect ruin. Giovanni’s position was weaker than he realized, as he prepared to defend himself in Bologna. Forced to choose between supporting him and offending the pope, those to whom he looked for aid and protection were promising to help the pope against him. Machiavelli joined Julius at Civita Castellana to tell him that Florence would make available the troops that he wanted. The pope had already heard on the road that Louis had also agreed to his request for troops, and soon sent his majordomo, Pierre Le Filleul, to Milan to bring 600-800 French horse to Bologna, giving him money to raise 4,000 Swiss infantry.

Meanwhile, there was other business to be dealt with along the way.

First, on reaching Viterbo, Julius set out to reinforce earlier efforts that he had made to reconcile the warring factions of the town. In 1504 he had sent one of the younger and more forceful cardinals, Sanseverino, to Viterbo as legate to enforce order, but even he had found it a tough nut to crack. Julius had taken over the negotiations with the head of the factions himself, and in January 1505 had issued a decree that everyone was to observe a true and perpetual peace and to forgive all injuries. Property seized during faction-fighting was to be returned, as far as possible, to its rightful owners, and all weapons were to be surrendered. Those who contravened the decree would be guilty of lèse-majesté, all their property confiscate, their houses razed to the ground. They and those who helped them would be excommunicate.253

Julius had come to Viterbo in person in September 1505, entering the city in full pontifical robes, with the sacrament borne before him. Having listened to many citizens and settled some feuds between individuals, he had held a solemn ceremony in San Francesco, at which he had made many of the faction leaders swear peace. Another decree had been read out, repeating and reinforcing the earlier one, and some men had been sentenced to exile.254

As he returned to Viterbo in September 1506, Julius knew that the provisions of this decree had not been fully observed. He changed all the officials, appointing one of his nipoti, Cardinal Leonardo Grosso della Rovere, as legate. To try to cement the peace between the factions, he arranged two marriages between members of the leading families, attending the weddings himself when they were held in the fortress.

The second piece of business was to settle what would happen to Perugia and Gianpaolo Baglioni. This was easily solved, because envoys from Perugia came to see the pope at Viterbo to urge him to visit their city. Gianpaolo himself came to meet Julius soon after, at Orvieto, to offer his submission. He was to help in the campaign against Bologna, and to surrender to the pope all the fortresses in the jurisdiction of Perugia. According to Machiavelli, Julius had decided that either Gianpaolo should leave Perugia, or he could stay there only as a private citizen, and without soldiers. Machiavelli considered that necessity would force Julius to realize that it would be better not to try to take Perugia by force, if he could get Gianpaolo’s assistance in the major goal of driving the Bentivoglio from Bologna, and he noted that Gianpaolo had many friends in the papal court.255 Just before Gianpaolo arrived in Orvieto, the Duke of Urbino, who had helped him before, came there with the papal legate of Perugia, Cardinal Ferreri, and they both interceded for him with the pope. When he left to see to arrangements for Julius’s arrival at Perugia, they went with him.

The pope made his solemn entry into Perugia on 13 September, with the ceremonies and paraphenalia usual on such occasions. He was met at the gates by the priors of the city government, dressed in new rose-coloured robes, who handed him the keys to the city. They and other officials, together with a crowd of doctors from the university, accompanied him as he was carried to the cathedral in his papal chair. Their progress was slowed by the performances of various Latin songs (Julius began to chafe at the delays), and the dispute over precedence that was almost as much a part of the routine of such formal entries as the interminable songs and mimes - the dispute on this occasion being between the Dominicans and canons regular. (Another customary diversion that Julius might happily have done without was the seizure of his mule, when he dismounted near the gates, by a group of youths who had met him outside the city: it cost him fifty ducats to ransom it.) On reaching the cathedral, he prayed and heard a Te Deum sung by his own choir, and was then carried to the palace of the priors.

Julius’s entry into Perugia was the occasion for Machiavelli’s famous - and, it has to be said, fatuous - comment that Gianpaolo Baglioni missed the opportunity to win eternal fame, or infamy, by seizing Julius and all his cardinals. In his Discorsi, in a chapter headed ‘It is very rare for men to be either all bad or all good’, he describes this episode, saying that Julius ‘with his guard alone put himself into the hands of the enemy’. ‘Prudent men who were with the pope’, he wrote, meaning himself, ‘noted the rashness of the pope and the cowardice of Gianpaolo, and could not imagine how it happened that, to his perpetual fame, he had not at one stroke abased his enemy and enriched himself with booty, as all the cardinals with all their finery were with the pope.’ Gianpaolo had not scrupled to kill his own relatives to win power, and his incestuous relationship with his sister was common knowledge, so it could not be fear for his reputation that had stopped him from seizing this ‘chance to be remembered forever’, as ‘the first who had shown the prelates how little those who lived and governed as they do are to be esteemed’.256

In his original despatch from Perugia on 13 September, Machiavelli had described the pope and cardinals as ‘being at the discretion of Gianpaolo’, and had remarked that if Gianpaolo did no harm to the man who had come to take his power from him, it would be because of his own good nature. Gianpaolo himself, he went on, had said that he knew two ways to save his position - by force, or by humility and trusting the advice of his friends - and that he had chosen the second alternative, and had followed the guidance of the Duke of Urbino.257 This surely is the point. The advice and intercession of the Duke of Urbino had stood him in good stead so far. He had already been to meet Julius at least twice, making the show of obedience that the pope desired, and had accepted a more assertive attitude on the part of the papal officials in Perugia. If he continued to play his cards right, there was a good chance that he and his family could stay in Perugia and hold on to their property and at least some of their authority, and hope that easier days would return.

Machiavelli thought that Julius and his cardinals were at the mercy of Gianpaolo because most of the papal troops were stationed at the gates to the city, while Gianpaolo’s troops were a little outside it; in the Discorsi, he describes Julius as entering ‘unarmed’. Another eyewitness, who described the scene in a letter to the Marquis of Mantua, tells why Gianpaolo’s troops were outside the city - because, four hours before Julius’s entry, the legate had ordered him to send them out of Perugia and they had left without any fuss. This eyewitness describes Julius as entering ‘with all his men at arms in order, and 150 light horsemen, and 300 crossbowmen and handgunners etc.’258 According to the usual detailed account by Paride de’ Grassi, the papal master of ceremonies, Julius was surrounded by his Swiss guard and his military commanders, including the Duke of Urbino and Costantino Arniti. Among the nobles riding with them was Gianpaolo Baglioni.259 Had there been any attempt to capture the pope, Gianpaolo was in a very dangerous position - unless one assumes that all Julius’s commanders would have been privy to the plot.

There was a problem with Gianpaolo before Julius left Perugia, but one of a rather more mundane order than a suicidal attempt to capture the pope. He was just making difficulties about the return of the exiles. A number of Perugian exiles had come with Julius, expecting to return to the city with him. But two days before his entry, he told them that he would leave them behind, and send for them when he had been in Perugia for a few days. They were not to worry, he told them, because he wanted to humble Gianpaolo and make it safe for them to come home; he would take Gianpaolo’s troops with him. He had no intention of executing him for any past crimes, but if he erred even a little in the future, he would be hanged. For the present, he wanted him to stay with the Duke of Urbino. Far from reassured by the pope’s words, the exiles believed that Gianpaolo’s friends were, step by step, winning him over, and that they would be left in the cold.260

While not openly opposing the return of the exiles, Gianpaolo dropped some very unsubtle hints that if they came, there might well be trouble. Let them come back, he said, but he could not be held responsible if they were cut to pieces. Perhaps as a compromise, only the ‘old’ exiles, those who had been driven out before 1500, were allowed in; those involved in an attempt to massacre Gianpaolo and his family in that year had to stay out. With the return of the ‘old’ exiles, Gianpaolo might have to disgorge much property that had been confiscated from them, though he tried hard to avoid having to do this. He also made it difficult for the exiles to find guarantors for their future good behaviour, by asking their friends to stand surety for him. As for assurances that the exiles would be safe, he again stressed that while he could make promises on behalf of himself and his family, he could make none on behalf of other citizens or any outsiders.261 Eventually, however, these hitches were straightened out, and there was a ceremony of public reconciliation, orchestrated by Julius.

He gave orders for a solemn mass to be said on Sunday 20 September. This was to be held in the church of San Francesco because, he said, that was where he had been initiated into letters and had begun his life in the Church, of which he was now, by the grace of God and Saint Francis, the head. A famous preacher, Fra Egidio da Viterbo, was asked to give a sermon exhorting the congregation to keep the peace; to Julius’s annoyance, he preached instead in praise of the pope. Then followed the ritual of peacemaking, along the lines of the one that Julius had presided over in Viterbo the year before. Two hosts were consecrated, and one kept back after the mass. The leading members of the rival factions came before the pope, and a papal notary read an injunction ordering them not to offend each other. After exchanging kisses of peace, they went, two by two - each pair comprising men from either faction - and, joining hands over the reserved host, took an oath, and then kissed the pope’s foot. At the end, Julius gave a blessing.262 But he obviously did not place complete faith in the efficacy of this ceremony to hold the factions in check. When he left Perugia the following day, he took hostages from both sides with him, as well as Gianpaolo and his men-at-arms.

As Julius was making his way from Gubbio to Urbino, two envoys from Bologna came to ask for safe-conducts for an embassy of six - two sons of Giovanni Bentivoglio, two members of the Sixteen, and two other leading citizens. Refusing to give any written safe-conduct, on the grounds that he did not regard them as his enemies, he said he would give them an audience if they went to Urbino to meet him there.

At Urbino, where Julius was delighted by the beauty of the ducal palace, and the curia revelled in an abundance of supplies, there was no sign of the Bolognese envoys, but he was joined by the man whom he had sent to Bologna in the early stages of the journey, Antonio Ciocchi. He was more optimistic than Julius that the envoys would appear, although he had not had much success in his mission. The Venetian ambassador with the pope wrote that he had been sent to ask for three things: the troops that the Bolognese were obliged to give whenever the pope requested; the communal palace as a residence for the cardinal legate; and that Giovanni Bentivoglio should come to Julius. The Sixteen had replied that they wanted their palace for themselves and the troops for the security of Bologna; Giovanni would not come himself, but would send a son. When Antonio came to report to Julius in Urbino, he said the Bolognese were ready to defend themselves if Julius was intending to alter their government, and that Giovanni was making great preparations for defence.263

These preparations, Machiavelli heard, were perhaps causing discontent among the citizens, who were being made to arm themselves at their own expense.264 And there was confirmation at the time that they would not be faced just by the papal troops: letters from France saying that Louis offered to send 700 lances,265 and word from Lombardy that even more troops were on the move. A papal chamberlain was despatched northwards to tell the French that 700 lances and 5,000 infantry would be quite enough.

Leaving Urbino on 29 September, Julius pressed on through roads made treacherous by the autumn rains. As his wretched train struggled through the mud, ‘Some cursed Giovanni Bentivoglio, others the pope, or God and Heaven.’ Julius heard them, but did not take offence.266 News came to him at San Marino that the six Bolognese envoys, and the two who had been with him and had gone to meet them, had been warned by Giovanni Bentivoglio to flee, because Bernardino Gozzadini, the father of the papal datary, had been murdered in Bologna. Three had been captured as they fled, the others had reached Rimini. Julius sent to reassure them that they had nothing to fear; he did not want the Church’s supporters in Bologna to be put in any more danger. At Cesena, which he reached on 2 October, the envoys finally had an audience with him.

They spoke of the loyalty of the Bolognese to the Church, and of how peaceful and God-fearing they were, and reminded him that he had confirmed the form of their government that had been agreed with several of his predecessors. The vehemence of his reply stunned them. If the Bolognese were devoted to the Church, so they should be, because it was their duty to be so. He was coming in person to free them from tyranny, and he did not care what arrangements other popes had agreed with them, nor what he had himself confirmed, because they had all been forced to make such agreements by necessity, not of their own free will. Now the time had come when he could correct these provisions, and he could not find any excuse before God if he failed to do this. If, when he came, he liked the way in which the city was run, he would confirm it; if he didn’t, he would change it. In case he could not accomplish what he wanted by peaceful means, forces had been prepared that could make all Italy tremble, let alone Bologna.267

Julius was not relying on military force alone to frighten the Bolognese. The day before he left Cesena on 8 October, the consistory considered a bull threatening them with an interdict. A few days later, at Forlì, a new, more severe, draft of the bull was approved by the cardinals, whose indignation had been aroused by hearing the terms that the Bolognese envoys had put to the pope. These included the stipulation that if he were to come in person to Bologna, he should be accompanied only by his personal guard of Swiss infantry, and he should tell them how long he wanted to stay. A fierce bull excommunicating Giovanni Bentivoglio and laying down harsh penalties for those who followed him or helped him was also approved. 

Bentivoglio’s secretary was sent packing by Julius, who accused him of being a troublemaker, of inciting resistance. Only his status as envoy saved him from condign punishment, he was told, and he was warned to leave the Papal States. All the Bolognese ambassadors had asked permission to leave, as they saw the storm clouds thickening, but Julius told them he did not advise them to go. They took the hint, but had to endure a public scolding from the pope in front of a large crowd, as he told them that they should be ashamed of themselves for defending Giovanni.268

Already, papal troops were moving through the contado of Bologna, and some villages were declaring their allegiance to the pope. At this time, little news was coming through from the city, but there were hints of growing disquiet, and that Giovanni was reluctant to spend enough to organize effective defences. A letter from Louis, written on 11 September, had probably reached the Sixteen by now, telling them that he was willing to act as a peacemaker - in so far as he could do so without contravening his obligations to the Holy See.269 Mediation, not the active protection that they had hoped for, was the best they could expect from the French, and the approach of the French troops was a ground for apprehension, not reassurance.

Julius had his own apprehensions about the French. He did not want to be upstaged by them, and he was eager to press on with his journey through the Romagna. Nevertheless, he stayed in Forlì for a few days, inspecting the fortifications, ordering repairs, and trying to promote peace between the factions in the city. His tour of the fortifications made him weary - perhaps the strain of travelling was beginning to tell on him - and he had pains in his knee, possibly gout, possibly a recurrence of syphilis. This did not prevent him from choosing to take a circuitous route to Imola through the mountains in Florentine territory, rather than to travel the straight route along the Roman road in the plain, which would lead through Faenza, held by the Venetians. He would not be beholden to the Venetians for hospitality in his own lands. 

Machiavelli warned him that provisions and shelter might be sparse and hard to find, because the Florentines would have little time to prepare for him, but he said that he would be satisfied with whatever was available. 270Still, he took heed of the warnings, and decided to take with him only his personal attendants, the cardinals - who were told to bring only two servants each - and some bodyguards. The rest he sent to Imola by way of Faenza. Julius took his mitre and precious vestments with him, in case, he told de’ Grassi with a laugh, they should fall into the hands of the Venetians. He preserved his good humour on the trek through the mountains, even when he had to walk because the track was too difficult for him to ride or be carried in his litter, quoting Virgil to keep up the spirits of his attendants.271

He enjoyed his entry into Imola, too, when he reached it on 20 October, praising a mime and songs that execrated the Bentivoglio. He even was amused, rather than annoyed, by the pretensions of Giovanni da Sassatello, who had had his own coat of arms stuck up with those of the pope all over the city. The scandalized Paride de’ Grassi, with the support of Cardinal Alidosi, sent men to tear them down before the pope saw them, but there was not enough time to remove them all before his entry. Julius noticed some of them, but just smiled.

He had also smiled when he had heard the latest terms proposed by Giovanni Bentivoglio a day or two before, but that had been a mark of speechless anger rather than amusement. Proposed through Francesco Gonzaga, Marquis of Mantua, who was one of Julius’s commanders, these ‘unworthy and iniquitous’ terms were considered more appropriate to a victor triumphing over his enemy.272 Gonzaga, who was related to Giovanni by marriage, kept coming to see the pope to speak for him, and when Julius rebuffed him, asked permission to leave for Mantua, which was refused. A request from the Bolognese envoys to allow the people time to think an agreement over was dismissed with contempt. 

Instead, Julius sought to increase the psychological pressure on Bologna by ordering all the Bolognese in the curia to write to their relatives and friends exhorting them to fulfil the terms of the interdict, and either bring Giovanni as a captive to the pope, or expel him from the city. If they failed to do this within four days, the French troops who were now near would be unleashed on them. The envoys were ordered to send this message to Bologna, but they only pretended to do so, and also tried to prevent the letters written from the curia from being sent.273

But the threat of a French attack had been communicated directly to the Bolognese, who were sent a warning by Chaumont, the French commander, that if they did not obey Julius within two days, all Louis’s obligations to protect the city and the Bentivoglio would be nullified, and he would treat them as enemies. The Bolognese sent to Julius promising obedience, but still hesitated to do what he most desired of them, drive out the Bentivoglio. Chaumont represented the gravest threat to Giovanni, but also his best hope of safety for himself and his family. When he was finally convinced that the game was up, he turned to Chaumont for a safe-conduct from the city.

On 2 November, as Julius, in the fortress of Imola, was preparing to go to mass, he received three messages. The first was that, the night before, Giovanni Bentivoglio and his sons had fled from Bologna. The second was that four of the Sixteen were coming to commend Bologna to him, and to ask that the French troops be kept out of the city and the interdict be lifted. The third message, from Chaumont, was that the Bentivoglio had come to him, and that he had promised them that they would be safe. Bonfires were lit in the streets of Imola, and cannon fired from the fortress, to celebrate the liberation of Bologna from the tyranny of the Bentivoglio.274

But Julius’s problems with Bologna, with the Bentivoglio, and, above all, with the French, were just beginning.


This is a web preview of the "Julius II: The Warrior Pope" app. Many features only work on your mobile device. If you like what you see, we hope you will consider buying. Get the App