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The ecclesiastical and political history of the popes of Rome during the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries (Volume 2) online

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sion of men's hearts.

* Explanation in Thuanus, lib. 97, p. 316 : " Sectarios dis-
solute imperio et singulis regni partibus a reliquo corpore divisis
potentiores fore."


The connexion subsisting between Rome and
Spain was now so intimate, that the opponents of
the claims of the church were also the adversaries
of the progress of Spanish power. They filled a
post which had become necessary to Europe, and
were therefore certain of co-operation and support.
Nations were united by a secret sympathy. This
national party of French catholics found determined
allies who had risen up uncalled and in unexpected
places ; — even in Italy itself, under the very eye of
the pope.

The first were the Venetians.

A few years previously (in 1 582) a change had
taken place in Venice, noiseless indeed, and al-
most overlooked in the history of the republic, but
not the less influential. Up to that period the
weightier part of public affairs had been in the hands
of a few aged patricians, chosen out of a small cir-
cle of families. At the time we speak of, a discon-
tented majority in the senate, consisting more espe-
cially of the younger members, who unquestionably
had, according to the constitution, a right to a
share in the government, were struggling for

The government hitherto subsisting had never
neglected to keep jealous guard over its indepen-
dence ; yet it had attached itself to the measures of
Spain and of the church, whenever it was practicable.
The new rulers no longer entertained these views ;
the mere spirit of contradiction would indeed have
sufficed to inspire them with an inclination to hold
those powers in check.


The Venetians had certainly a strong interest in
pursuing that course.

On the one side they observed with displeasure
that the doctrine of the jDope's omnipotence and of
bUnd obedience to his edicts, found apostles among
them ; on the other, they feared the complete de-
struction of the balance of power in Europe, if the
Spaniards should succeed in obtaining a preponde-
rant influence in France. The freedom of Europe
had hitherto appeared to rest on the mutual en-
mity of these two nations.

The course and issue of French affairs were thus
followed with a double intensity of interest. Writings
wliich advocated the rights of kings were caught
up with eagerness. There was a society exercising
remarkable influence, which assembled at the house
of Andrea Morosini, resorted to by Leonardo Do-
nate, Nicolo Contarini, both afterwards doges ;
Domenico Molino, in later times a leading chief of
the republic ; Fra Paolo Sarpi, and some other di-
stinguished men ; — all of an age at which men are
disposed not only to adopt new ideas, but to retain
and act upon them ; all declared adversaries of the
arrogant pretensions of the church, and of the over-
bearing power of Spain*. It will ever be very
important to the formation and the influence of a

* In the anonymous Vita di Fra Paolo Sarpi, p. 104, (by Fra
Fulgentio,) in Griselini's Memorabilia of Fra Paolo, pp.40, 78, and
in some passages of Foscarini, we find accounts of this " ridotto
Mauroceno." Besides those we have mentioned, Pietro andGiacopo
Contarini, Giacopo Morosini, Leonardo Mocenigo, (who however
did not attend so regularly as the others,) Antonio Quirini, Giacopo


system of political opinions, (even when they are
founded on facts,) that they are adopted by men of
talent who become their representatives and dis-
seminators ; it is doubly important in a republic.

Under these circumstances, men did not confine
themselves to thoughts and inclinations. From
the beginning of his career, the Venetians believed
in the ability of Henry IV. to resuscitate France,
and thus restore the balance of power. Although
bound by manifold obhgations to the pope who
had excommunicated Henry ; although encircled
both by land and sea by the Spaniards who aimed
at his destruction ; although possessed of no ex-
tensive and commanding power, yet had Venice, of
all the catholic states, first the courage to acknow-
ledge him. On the notification of their ambassa-
dor Mocenigo, they were the first to authorize him
to congratulate Henry IV. on his accession to the
throne of France*. Their example failed not to
animate others. Although the grand-duke Ferdi-
nand of Tuscany had not courage for an open re-
cognition of Henry's rights, he engaged in a friendly
personal correspondence with the new monarch f.
The Protestant king suddenly saw himself sur-
rounded with catholic allies, nay even taken under
their protection, against the supreme head of their
own church.

Marcello, Marino Zane, and Alessandro Malipiero, who, notwith-
standing his great age, always accomjianied Fra Paolo home, be-
longed to this society.

* Andreae IVIauroceni Historiarum Yenetarum lib. xiii. p, 548.

t Galluzzi, IstoriadelGranducatodiToscaua,lib. V. (t.v.p. 78).

^ III.] siXTUS V. 205

In times when any great and momentous ques-
tion is to be decided, the pubUc opinion of Europe
invariably declares itself in favour of the one side
or the other, with a distinctness and energy that
leave no room for doubt. Fortunate is he in
whose favour it inclines ! whatever he undertakes
is accomplished with double facility. It now
espoused the cause of Henry IV. Tlie ideas asso-
ciated with his name, though scarcely expressed,
were already so powerful, that it appeared not im-
possible to lead the papacy itself to recognise their


We return once more to Sixtus V. After having
observed his internal administration, and the share
he took in the restoration of the church, we must
say a few words of his general policy.

It is most remarkable what a strange inclination
for fantastical political plans was combined with the
inexorable justice he executed, the severe financial
system he introduced, and the accurate and frugal
conduct of his domestic affairs.

How extravagant were the projects he conceived!
For a long time he flattered himself that he should
be able to annihilate the Turkish empire. He
entered into correspondences in the East, with the
Persians, and with the Druses, certain Arab chiefs ;
he fitted out galleys, and obtained from Spain and


Tuscany a promise of others. He also imagined
that he could render assistance to king Stephen
Bathory of Poland, who was to make the principal
attack on Turkey by land. The pope hoped to
unite all the forces of the north-east and the south-
west for this enterprise, and persuaded himself that
Russia would voluntarily become not only the ally
but the subject of Poland.

At another time he fancied he could conquer
Egypt, either single-handed or with the sole assist-
ance of Tuscany. On this project he built the most
remote and complicated schemes, — the opening
a passage between the Red Sea and the Mediterra-
nean*, the re-establishment of the commerce of
the ancient world, and the conquest of the holy se-
pulchre. But if so vast a design should appear not
immediately practicable, he imagined that at least
an incursion might be made into Syria, and by the
aid of skilful workmen, the tomb of the Saviour be
excavated from the rock and carefully transported
to Italy ! Already he indulged the hope of being
able to erect in Montalto this most sacred of shrines ;
then would his native province, the March, where
the sacred house of Loreto already stood, contain
within its narrow limits the birthplace and the tomb
of the Redeemer.

* Dispaccio Gritti, 23 Agosto 1587. " (II papa) entro a par-
lar della fossa che li re dell' Egitto non havevano fatta per passar
del mare rosso nel mar mediterraneo." He sometimes entertained
the project of attacking Egypt single-handed. " Scopri la causa
del desiderar danari per impiegarli in una armata che von-ia far
solo per r impresa dell' Egitto e pagar quelle galea che ajutassero
a far quella impresa."

§ III.] sixTus V. 207

There is another idea which I find ascribed to
him, surpassing all these in extravagance. After
the assassinE^tion of the Guises, it is asserted that
a proposition was made to Henry III. to acknow-
ledge a nephew of the pope as successor to the
throne of France. The legate, it is said, made this
proposal with the pope's- knowledge. If the adop-
tion took place with the requisite solemnities, his
holiness was persuaded that the king of Spain would
give the declared successor the Infanta in marriage ;
such a succession would be acknowledged by every
one, and all troubles would have an end. It is con-
fidently afiirmed that Henry III. was really allured
bp these projects for a moment, till it was repre-
sented to him what a reputation for cowardice and
pusillanimity he would acquire by yielding to
them* .

* This notice exists in a Memoire du S'' de Schomberg, M^ de
France sous Henry III., among the Hohenbaum MSS. in the
imperial library at Vienna, No. 114: " Quelque terns aprfes la mort
de M'' de Guise avenue en Blois il fut propose par le C^ de Mo-
resino de la part de Sa Saintete, que si S.M. vouloit declarer le
marquis de Pom [probably misspelt] son neveu heritier de la
couronne et le faire recevoir pour tel avec solemnitez requises,
que S.S. s'assuroit que le roy d'Espagne bailleroit en mariage
audit marquis I'infante et qu'en ce faisant tons les troubles de
France prendroient fin. A quoi le roy etant prest a se laisser
aller et ce par la persuasion de quelqu'uns qui pour lors etoient
pres de S.M., M"^ de Schomberg rompist ce coup par telles raisons,
que ce seroit I'invertir I'ordre de France, abolir les loix fonda-
mentales, laisser ä la posterite un argument certain de la lachete
et pusillanimite de S. M,"

It is true that Schomberg makes a merit of having prevented
the execution of this project, but I should not for that reason be
inclined to think it so entirely chimerical. The Memoire, which
asserts the rights of Henry IV., has a certain proof of authenti«


Such were the plans, or rather — for that word
seems to imply something far too definite — ^such
were the strange dreams, the castles in the air,
which passed through the mind of Sixtus. How
utterly inconsistent do they seem with that strenuous
practical activity, always pressing onwards to its end,
hy which he was distinguished !

And yet, who will venture to assert that this was
not frequently engendered by the exuberance of
thoughts too vast for accomplishment ? The eleva-
tion of Rome to a regular metropolis of Christen-
dom, to which, after the lapse of a certain number
of years, the people of every country, even of Ame-
rica, were to resort; the transformation of the mo-
numents of antiquity into symbols and memorials
of the overthrow of paganism by the Christian re-
ligion ; the accumulation of money obtained on
loan and paying interest, into a fund on which the
temporal power of the states of the church should
repose ; — are all plans which appear to outstrip
the bounds of the practicable, which have their
origin in the ardour of a fancy inflamed by reli-
gion, yet which mainly stamped its character on
the active life of this pope.

From youth upwards the condition and conduct
of man are surrounded by hopes and wishes ; the
present is, so to speak, encompassed by the future ;
and the soul is never weary of abandoning herself to
the anticipations of personal felicity. The further
we advance in life, however, the more do these wishes

city, from the circumstance of its lying in obscurity amongst
other papers. It is only surjmsing that nothing should have been
said about it.

§ III.] siXTUs V. 209

and expectations assume the form of views for the
general interest, and attach themselves to some
grand object in science or pohtics ; — to some great
pubhc end. In our Franciscan the excitement and
impulse of personal hopes had ever been the more
powerful, inasmuch as he found himself embarked
on a course which opened to him the most splen-
did prospects ; they had accompanied him step by
step, and had cheered and fortified his soul in
days of indigence and obscurity ; he had eagerly
caught up every prophetic word, and had treasured
it in his inmost heart ; he had contemplated the
success of his lofty schemes with the enthusiasm of
a religious recluse. At length all his hopes were
fulfilled ; he had risen from a mean and hopeless
beginning, to the highest dignity of Christendom,
— a dignity of the significancy of which he enter-
tained an exorbitant conception ; he believed him-
self chosen by an immediate providence to realize
the ideas which floated before his imagination.

Nor, in the possession of supreme power, did the
habit leave him of descrying through all the com-
plexities of political affairs, any possibility of bril-
liant achievements, and of forming projects for their
accomplishment. In all of these an element of a very
personal nature is indeed discoverable ; he was sen-
sible to the charms of power and posthumous fame ;
he wished to shed his own lustre over all connect-
ed with him, — his family, his birth-place, his pro-
vince ; yet these desires were always subordinate
to an interest in the whole of catholic Christendom ;

VOL. II. p


and his mind was ever open to large and magnifi-
cent ideas. But the former he could carry through
himself, while he was compelled for the most part
to ahandon the execution of the latter to others.
The former therefore he embraced with that indefa-
tigable activity which is the offspring of conviction,
enthusiasm and ambition ; whereas in the latterj^^
either because he was by nature mistrustful, or be-
cause the most prominent part of the execution (and
thence of the fame) must be conceded to others,
he was not nearly so zealous. If, for example, we
inquire what he really did for the accomplishment
of the oriental schemes we have mentioned, we per-
ceive that it did not go beyond the forming alliances,
interchanging letters, disseminating notices, and
making arrangements : that he adopted any serious
measures calculated to effect the contemplated end,
we do not find. He caught at the plan with lively
and excitable fancy ; but as he could not directly
co-operate in it, — as its accomplishment was re-
mote, — his will was not really eftective ; the scheme
which had occupied him so much, he let drop
again, and another succeeded in its place.

At the moment we are now contemplating, the
pope was filled with the grandest anticipations con-
nected with the enterprises against Henry IV. ; —
anticipations of a complete victory of strict Catho-
licism, and of a revival of the universal supremacy
of the papacy. In these he was wholly absorbed.
Nor did he doubt that all the catholic states would
agree to turn their united energy and force against

§ III.] SIXTUS V. 211

the Protestant who laid claim to the crown of

Such was the temper of his mind, such the
ardour of his zeal, when he learned that Venice,
a catholic power with which he thought himself
on a peculiarly good footing, had sent its congra-
tulations to this very protestant. He was deeply
mortified at the intelligence. He sought to re-
strain the republic for a moment from taking any
further step ; he begged for delay ; time, he said,
brought forth wondrous fruits ; he himself had
learned from the good and venerable senators, to
allow them to come to maturity*. But, notwith-
stanjding all his entreaties, Venice recognised De
Maisse, (the ambassador who had for some time
been resident there in that capacity,) after he re-
ceived his new credentials, as the plenipotentiary of
Henry IV. Upon this the pope proceeded from
remonstrances to threats. He exclaimed that he
would ascertain what he ought to do ; he caused
the old monitoria which were published against the
Venetians in the time of Julius H., to be searched
out, and the formula of a new one to be drawn up.

Nevertheless it was not without pain and inward
struggles that he took this step. Let us hear for a
minute how he expressed himself to the ambassador
whom the Venetians sent to him. " To fall out
with those one does not love," said the pope, " is
no such great misfortune ; but with those one loves

* 9 Sett. 1589 : " Che per amor di Dio non si vada tanto avanti
con questo Navarra, che si stia a veder," &c.



— that is indeed painful. Yes, it will grieve us
(laying his hand on his breast) to break with

*' But Venice has offended us. Navarre is a
heretic excommunicated by the holy see ; never-
theless Venice, spite of all our remonstrances, has
acknowledged him.

" Is the signory then the greatest sovereign on
earth, entitled to set an example to others ? There
is still a king of Spain, — there is still an emperor.

" Does the republic fear anything from Navarre ?
We will defend her, if needful, with all our might ;
we have nerve enough.

" Or does the republic meditate any attempt to
injure us ? God himself would be our defender.

" The republic ought to value our friendship
more highly than that of Navarre. We could do
more for its support.

" I entreat you recall one step ! The catholic
king has withdrawn many, because we wished it ;
not out of fear of us, for our power is, as compared
to his, like a fly compared to an elephant ; but
from love ; because it was the pope who asked it,
the vicegerent of Christ, who prescribes the rules of
faith to him and to all others. Let the signory do
likewise ; they can hit upon some pretext for re-
tracting ; it cannot be hard to them, for they have
wise and venerable men enow, every one of whom
is competent to govern a world*."

* Dispaccio Donato, 25 Nov^'''^ 1589. The pope made so long
a speech that the ambassadors said, if the)' had written all down,
it would take several hours to read in the senate. Amongst other

^ III.] sixTus V. 213

But no one continues to speak without receiving
an answer. The envoy extraordinary of the Vene-
tians was Leonardo Donato, a member of the society
of Andrea Morosini which we have mentioned ;
completely devoted to the spirit of the ecclesias-
tico-political opposition ; a man of what we should
now call the greatest diplomatic address, who had
already conducted many difficult negotiations to
a successful close.

Donato could not explain in Rome all the mo-
tives which actuated the Venetians ; he brought
forward those which were likely to find acceptance
with the pope, — which the ruler of the ecclesiastical
states had in fact in common with Venice.

For was it not obvious that the ascendency of
Spain in the south of Europe yearly became more
powerful and more dangerous ? The pope felt this
as strongly as any other of the Italian princes ;
already indeed things were come to such a pass
that he could not take a step in Italy without the
approbation of the Spaniards. What then would be
the case if they should become masters of France ?
This, therefore, — the expediency of maintaining the
balance of power in Europe, — was the consideration

things, he frequently insists on the effects of excommunication,
and threatens them with it. " Tre sono stati scommunicati, il re
passato, il principe di Conde, il re di Navarra. Due sono malamente
morti, il terzo ci travaglia e Dio per nostro esercitio lo mantiene ;
ma finira anche esso e terminara male : dubitiamo punto di lui.
— 2 Dec. II papa publica un solennissimo giubileo per invitar
ogn' uno a dover pregar S. Divina iVP per la quiete et augumento
della fede cattolica." During this jubilee he would see no one,
" per viver a se stesso et a sue divotioni."


upon which Donato mainly insisted. He sought
to prove that not only the Repuhlic had entertained
no thought of offending the pope, but that its in-
tention was to promote and defend the best in-
terests of the Roman see.

The pope Ustened to him, but appeared immov-
able and unconvinceable. Donato despaired of
producing any effect upon him, and requested an
audience of leave. On the 16tli of Dec, 1589,'he
obtained it, and the pope appeared disposed to re-
fuse him his blessing*. But Sixtus V. was not so
blinded by prejudice, that arguments of real weight,
though opposed to his own opinions, did not make an
impression upon him. He was self-willed, domineer-
ing, opinionated, stubborn; yet he was not inaccessi-
ble to inward doubts, or to new views of things, and
at bottom was good-natured. Even while he kept up
the contest and obstinately defended his principles,
he felt himself, in his heart, shaken and even con-
vinced. In the midst of this audience he suddenly
became mild and complying! . " He who has a
comrade," exclaimed he, "has a master; I will
speak to the congregation ; I will tell them that I
was angry with you, but that I have been conquered
by you." They waited a few days longer; the
pope then declared that though he could not ap-
prove what the Republic had done, nevertheless he

* Diep. Donato, 16 Dec. : "Dope si lungo negotio rcstando
quasi privi d' ogni spcranza."

■\ Ibid. " Finalmente inspirata dal S'" Dio .... disse di con-
tentarscne (to give them his blessing) e di essersi lasciato vincer
da noi."

§ III.] sixTUS V. 215

would not adopt the measures against her which
he had had in contemplation. He gave Donato
his blessing and kissed him.

This was a scarcely perceptible change in the
dispositions and thoughts of an individual, yet it
involved the most important results. The pope
himself abated of the severity with which he had
persecuted the protestant king ; nor would he ab-
solutely condemn the catholic party which at-
tached itself to Henry and opposed the policy he
himself had hitherto adopted. A first step is of
vast importance as determining a whole course
of opinion and conduct. This was felt in a mo-
ment by the other party, which originally had
only sought to excuse its own conduct, but now
made an immediate attempt to win over the pope
to its side.

Monsieur de Luxemburg now appeared in Italy,
commissioned by the princes of the blood and the
catholic peers attached to Henry IV. In defiance
of the warnings and representations of the Spa-
niards, Sixtus V. allowed him to come to Rome
and gave him audience. The envoy placed the
personal qualities of Henry IV., his valour, his
magnanimity and kindness of heart, in the most
brilliant light. The pope was carried away by his
description. "Truly," exclaimed he, "I repent
that I have excommunicated him." Luxemburg
said that his king and master would now render
himself deserving of absolution, and would return
to the feet of his holiness, and to the bosom of the
catholic church.


" In that case," rejoined the pope, " 1 will em-
brace and console him."

His imagination was already strongly excited,
and in an instant these advances on Henry's part
gave birth to the most sanguine hopes. He gave
it to be understood that it was rather a political
aversion to Spain, than religious opinions hostile
to the see of Rome, which deterred the protestants
from returning to the bosom of the ancient church,
and that he did not think himself justified in doing
anything to disgust them*. There was already an
English delegate in Rome, and one from Saxony
was announced. Sixtus was quite ready to listen
to them. " Would to God," said he," that they
would all come to our feet ! " His behaviour to his
legate in France, cardinal Morosini, was a sufficient
proof of the greatness of the change his own senti-
ments had undergone. Formerly Morosini's con-
cessions to Henry HI. had been treated as a crime,
and he had returned to Italy under all the weight of
the pope's displeasure ; now he was introduced into
the consistory by cardinal Montalto, and the pope

* Dispaccio Donato, 13 Genn. 1590. " II papa biasiraa 1' opi-
nione de' cardinali e d' altri prelati che lo stimulano a dover li-
centiar esso S'' de Lucenburg, e li accusa che vogliano farsi siio
pedante (his prompter, as we should say,) in quello che ha £tu-
diato tutto il tempo della vita sua. Soggiunse che haveria caro
che la regina d' Inghilterra, il duca di Sassonia e tutti gli altri
andassero a suoi piedi con bona dispositione. Che dispiacera a
S. S^ che andassero ad altri principi, (catholics, of course,) et
havessero communicatione con loro, ma si consolava quando va-
dino a suoi piedi a dimandar perdono." He repeats these senti-

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