Pope Clement VII

Pope Clement VII

Pope Clement VII was born in 1478 as Giulio de Medici and died on September 22, 1534, in Rome. He was a member of the powerful Florentine de’ Medici family. In his youth he was educated by his uncle, the powerful Lorenzo the Magnificent.

Another uncle, Pope Leo X (Giovanni de’ Medici), made him cardinal on September 28, 1513. Because of his family’s control over much of the politics of northern Italy, he was one of the favorite candidates for pope in the next conclave, but he was not elected to the papacy until November 18, 1523.

During his reign as pope, Clement was heavily involved in the conflict between French king Francis I and Holy Roman Emperor Charles V. Clement took the side of the French and organized the League of Cognac of France, Venice, and Florence on May 22, 1526.

On Italian soil Clement was thrown into an ongoing territorial conflict with the city-state of Colonna, which had for years been invading the Papal States. On September 20, 1526, Clement was shut up in the Castle of Sant’ Angelo while the Vatican was plundered by Colonna soldiers. German Lutheran soldiers also sacked Rome during his pontificate, possibly with the blessings of the Holy Roman Emperor.

A treaty with Charles V in February 1530 brought peace once again to Italy, a peace that did not last long. Clement VII is best known as the pope who denied the divorce of Henry VIII, king of England, and Queen Catherine of Aragon and denied the validity of the marriage of Henry to Anne Boleyn.

Clement eventually excommunicated the king and the English Reformation ensued. Clement helped support the Capuchin reform of the Order of St. Francis of Assisi and continued the patronage of the great artists Michelangelo and Raphael Santi. Clement was the pope who ordered the painting of the great fresco of the Last Judgment in the Sistine Chapel.