Last Judgment

Above is Michelangelo's Last Judgment, a fresco in the Sistine Chapel built between 1475 and 1483, in the time of Pope Sixtus IV.

Pope Sixtus IV

Given Name Francesco della Rovere
Movement Reformation Happens
Born Abisola, 1414
Reign 1471-1484
Died Rome, 1484
Significance Pope Sixtus IV was the first of the renaissance popes.
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Francesco della Rovere was born into a poor family near Savona and was educated by Franciscans. He would soon join the order and after studying at Bologna and Padua began to lecture at Padua, Bologna, Pavia, Siena, and Florence. He was elected general of the Franciscans in 1464 and appointed Cardinal of San Pietro in Vincoli in 1467. After Pope Paul II’s sudden death he was elected as pope in 1471.

He began his papal reign with aspirations of conquering the Turks which required a great deal of funds, but without support from France and other European countries his success was limited. Another substantial drain on resources came from his attempt to transform Rome into a renaissance city. Sixtus repaved and widened streets, restored and built numerous churches (including the Sistine Chapel), and was the second founder of the Vatican library. He also attracted many painters and sculptors to Rome.

His reign was not without problems. The thirty four cardinals he appointed, six of whom were his own nephews, have been described as “men of little worth.” Papal nepotism reached new heights under Sixtus who lavished riches upon his family. The most notorious event of his papacy was the Pazzi Conspiracy in 1478. Sixtus’ two nephews, Pietro Riario and Guiliano della Rovere (who would later become pope Julius II) joined forces with the Pazzi family of Florence and the Archbishop of Pisa to overthrow the Medici family from power in Florence. They attempted to murder Lorenzo and Giuliano Medici in the Cathedral of Santa Maria del Fiore. Giuliano was killed, but Lorenzo survived and the citizens of Florence were outraged. While the extent of Sixtus’ participation in the event is in question, his knowledge of the plot is not.