From Worst To Best.... Who Was The Best Pope?
Some to consider?
ROME: 10 TOP POPES
St Gregory I ('the Great'; 590-604)
The son of a wealthy family in Rome, with two former popes in his
ancestry, Gregory took a life of monastic austerity after periods of
time studying law and as prefect of Rome. This combination proved
invaluable to the emperor and people of Rome, resulting in Gregory being
forcibly removed from cloister life to be elected Pope. Despite his
reservations, he was an energetic and practical pope, becoming heavily
involved in the civil ruling of Italy, and defining Papal supremacy in
both the east and western empires.
Julius II (Giuliano della Rovere; 1503-13)
Born to a humble family in 1443, the ruthless and energetic Giuliano
della Rovere has gone down in history as the warrior pope, a man who led
his armies into battle dressed in full armour, and who was satirized by
Erasmus as the pontiff whom St Peter balked at admitting to Paradise.
When the grandiose funerary monument planned for him by Michelangelo
came to nothing, Julius was buried simply beneath the pavement of St
Leo X (Giovanni de' Medici; 1513-21)
The second son of Lorenzo the Magnificent, Giovanni de' Medici was
created cardinal when only thirteen. The celebrated portrait by Raphael
(of whom Leo was an enthusiastic patron) shows him to have been rather
corpulent. He perspired a good deal and during ecclesiastical functions
was always wiping his face and hands, to the distress of bystanders. Leo
was a celebrated bon viveur and passionate hunter, said to have
exclaimed 'Since God has granted us the Papacy, let us enjoy it!'. His
bull Exsurge Domine of 1520 condemned 41 errors of Martin Luther. His
tomb is in Santa Maria sopra Minerva.
Clement VII (Giulio de' Medici; 1523-34)
The bastard nephew of Lorenzo the Magnificent, Giulio de' Medici was
declared legitimate and created cardinal in 1513. He had dark brown
eyes, the left one squinting. According to Benvenuto Cellini he had
excellent taste-the beautiful but faded portrait by Sebastiano del
Piombo (Capodimonte, Naples) makes him look vain and supercilious.
Clement's bitter relations with the Emperor Charles V led to the
disastrous Sack of Rome in 1527. Trapped for seven months in Castel
Sant'Angelo, he grew a beard as a sign of mourning. He refused to allow
Henry VIII to divorce Catherine of Aragon. He is buried in Santa Maria
Paul III (Alessandro Farnese; 1534-49)
As cardinal, Alessandro Farnese fathered four children, but he put
away his mistress in 1514. His secular interests were not entirely
abandoned, however. He loved masked balls, fireworks, clowns and dwarfs,
and in 1536 he revived the carnival, when enormous floats were dragged
through the streets of Rome by teams of buffalo. Yet he was a great
reformer, and as well as his human children he fathered a number of
religious orders, most importantly the Jesuits, in 1540. Paul also
established the Congregation of the Roman Inquisition, to extirpate
heresy. When he was elected, he claimed he had waited 30 years for
Michelangelo-and promptly commissioned the Last Judgement and the new
layout of the Campidoglio. He is buried in St Peter's in a beautiful
tomb by Guglielmo della Porta.
Paul V (Camillo Borghese; 1605-21)
From a Sienese family, but a self-proclaimed proud Roman, Paul V
amassed great power and fortune for himself (and his relatives) whilst
pope, and oversaw a number of substantial projects in Rome: the
completion of St Peter's, the rebuilding of a Trajan aqueduct which
supplied fresh water to fountains in the city, and the enrichment of the
Vatican library. His nephew, Cardinal Scipione Borghese, was one of the
great art collectors of the time. Paul is buried in the Borghese chapel
in Santa Maria Maggiore.
Urban VIII (Maffeo Barberini; 1623-44)
Authoritarian, highly conscious of his own position, and a shameless
nepotist, Urban was also learned and artistic. He wrote Latin verses
(and indeed spoilt many hymns in the Breviary by rewriting them). Though
an unpopular pope (there was unseemly rejoicing when he died), he gave
Rome the art and architecture of Bernini, the young sculptor whom he
made architect of the new St Peter's. The basilica was consecrated in
1626. Urban lies buried there, commemorated by a funeral monument
designed by his brilliant protégé.
Innocent X (Giovan Battista Pamphilj; 1644-55)
Innocent was elected in 1644, after a stormy conclave (he was opposed
by France), and consecrated on 4th October at a particularly splendid
ceremony, when for the first time the sanpietrini lit up the dome of the
basilica with flaming torches. His ugliness was noted by
contemporaries, and Velázquez's famous portrait in the Palazzo Doria
Pamphilj-which inspired several modern versions by Francis Bacon-has
caught his disturbing, implacable gaze. His life was blameless, but he
was irresolute and suspicious. Innocent died in January 1655 after a
long agony; no one wanted to pay for his burial. Later a funerary
monument was set up in the church of Sant'Agnese, which has a façade by
his favourite architect, Borromini.
Pius VII (Luigi Barnaba Chiaramonti; 1800-23)
Elected in March 1800, Pius was constrained by political and military
events to sign a concordat with Bonaparte in 1801. In 1804 he went to
Paris to officiate at the emperor's coronation; he was rudely treated,
and Napoleon placed the crown on his own head. In 1809 Pius was arrested
by the French and interned. In 1814, after Bonaparte's fall, he
returned to Rome amidst general rejoicing. Pius was magnanimous towards
Napoleon's family. He died in 1823, after falling and breaking a leg.
His funerary monument in St Peter's is by (the Protestant) Bertel
Pius IX (Giovanni Maria Mastai-Ferretti; 1846-78)
Pius was politically maladroit, and to many his name is a byword for
intransigence and arch-conservatism. Garibaldi despised him and named
his horse 'Papa Mastai'; in Italian his regnal number (Pio Nono) sounds
like a double negative, as though he were always saying 'No, no' to the
radical reforms that were proposed to him-unsurprising, perhaps, since
the radicals wanted his territories. Nationalist armies seized the Papal
States in 1860 and Rome in 1870, confining papal authority to the
Vatican. Pius was the last pope to hold temporal power. On the
ecclesiastical level he was a very great pope, and even his enemies
acknowledged his charm. In 1856 he defined the dogma of the Immaculate
Conception; in 1870 he proclaimed the dogma of Papal Infallibility.
After the longest reign in papal history he died in 1878, and lies
buried in a simple tomb in San Lorenzo fuori le Mura.