Pope Leo X

Pope Leo X

Pope Leo X was born Giovanni de’ Medici in Florence on December 11, 1475, and died in Rome on December 1, 1521. He was the second son of Lorenzo the Magnificent. He became abbot of Font Douce in France in 1483, at the age of eight. Under political pressure by Lorenzo Giovanni, he was made a cardinal at age 13 by Pope Innocent VIII.

His family’s political dealings caused friction in late 15th century Italy, and Giovanni fled to France at the election of Pope Alexander VI. He was captured by the French army at the defeat of the combined papal and Spanish armies in 1512 at Ravenna, probably for purposes of ransom.

Giovanni was elected pope on February 21, 1513, at age 38, again because of the political pressures of his family on the college of cardinals. He lived a lavish life and expended the papal treasury within two years of his election; he also sold offices within the church to raise money to support the papacy.

This practice, known as simony, led in part to the Reformation in Germany and other parts of Europe. The reformers argued against the selling of church offices and indulgences, practices taken up by Leo X and other popes and bishops. Leo never recognized the gravity of the Reformation, and the Counter-Reformation did not come about until after his death.

He was a great patron of the arts and prepared a critical edition of the works of Dante. His greatest contribution was his support of the collection of historical Christian manuscripts and the merging of the Medici family library with the papal library.