This is the essay for the 33rd week of the 9th Grade Tom Woods Homeschool. In this blog post, I will be answering one question.
The question is: What were some of the problems associated with the Renaissance papacy?
We will also be discussing three artists from the High Renaissance and their major works of art.
The Renaissance papacy was a period of the Roman Catholic church which started after the Western Schism ended in 1417. There are multiple accepted end dates for the Renaissance papacy. The earliest is 11 years before the Council of Trent and the latest is at the end of the Council of Trent. This means that the ending of the Renaissance papacy could be between 1534-1563. The popes included in this time period range from 14-19 depending on the ending date. The first pope in the Renaissance papacy is Martin V and the very last is Pius IV.
All of the popes in the Renaissance papacy before the council of Trent have one thing in common which is that they were not focused on church reform, instead, they were focused on other things. For example, Pope Nicholas V who was pope from 1447-1455 was obsessed with art. He wanted to make Rome the center of art and literature in Europe and started collecting literature, which became the Vatican library. Pope Paul II (1464-1471) was fixated on something different, humanism. He was concerned that humanism was going too far away from humanism. Because of this, he dismissed some of the humanists working in the Church. The pope after him was Sixtus IV(1471-1484). Sixtus engaged in a lot of nepotism, which was the practice of putting your family into influential positions. Sixtus gave fifteen nephews and nieces influential positions. Sixtus wasn’t the pope to do this, other popes such as Calixtus III (1455-1458) and Leo X(1513-1522) also participated in nepotism. Some popes even had their own children, while they should have been celibate. The popes who did this include Innocent VIII (1484-1492) and Alexander VI (1492-1503). Alexander VI was the worse offender as he paraded his children around and promoted them. Pope Julius II (1503-1513) was very focused on war and diplomacy. He thought of the pope as a head of a great civilization. He removed power from locals who had come to rule there and unified power under the Church. Problems started when Venice took the city of Ravenna from the Church. Julius’s response was to ally with the French to beat Venice and he succeeded in doing this in 1509.
This lack of focus on church reform and the corruption during the Renaissance papacy is what largely caused the Protestant revolution
There were three key artists in the High Renaissance that are particularly well known. These were Michelangelo, Raphael and Leonardo da Vinci. Michelangelo was an artist who made many great works of art. He thought of himself as a sculptor, which was warranted as he was very good at making statues. He made masterpieces like David and the Pietà. Michelangelo carved his statues out of marble. Even though he thought of himself as a sculptor, other people also found him a good painter. Michelangelo made many good paintings including the painting in the Sistine chapel.
Raphael was a painter and architect who lived from 1483 to 1520. His most famous work is the School of Athens, which he painted between 1509 and 1511. Raphael’s paintings were known for their incredibly detailed landscapes, but he also made other types of paintings such as portraits. One of the portraits is for pope Julius II, this is because he had good connections with popes in the Renaissance papacy. A lot of his regular paintings were also religious in nature, including frescoes he made for Pope Julius II’s private library. As an architect, Raphael was commissioned to make designs for the St. Peter’s Basilica. In his last few years, he wasn’t painting as many paintings himself, instead, he was first drawing the paintings to improve the way they would look. After that one of the students in his workshop would paint it.
Leonardo da Vinci is nowadays considered a polymath. A polymath is someone who knows a lot about a wide range of subjects and using that knowledge to solve very specific problems. Leonardo was definitely a polymath as he had extensive knowledge in science, engineering, architecture and anatomy. He also made very good paintings, sculptures and drawings. He used his knowledge of anatomy and botany to make his paintings look more realistic. Leonardo’s most famous work is Mona Lisa which is also the most famous portrait ever made. Another one of his famous paintings is The Last Supper, which is the most reproduced religious painting of all time.