Pope Paul II was born 22 February 1417 in Venice, Republic of Venice, Italy to Niccolò Barbo (bef1417) and Polixena Condulmer (bef1417) and died 26 July 1471 Rome, Papal States, Italy of unspecified causes.

Pope Paul II (23 February 1417 – 26 July 1471), born Pietro Barbo, was pope from 1464 until his death in 1471.

Early life

He was born in Venice, and was a nephew of Pope Eugene IV (1431–1447), through his mother. His adoption of the spiritual career, after having been trained as a merchant, was prompted by his uncle's election as pope. His consequent promotion was rapid; he became a cardinal in 1440 and gained popularity through his tender-hearted generosity.

He was elected pope by the accessus in the first ballot,[1] by a majority of fourteen of the nineteen cardinals in conclave on 30 August 1464, to succeed Pope Pius II (1458–1464). Beforehand, to secure to the cardinals a greater share of power than they had enjoyed under Pius II, a capitulation was subscribed by all except Ludovico Trevisan; it bound the future pope to continue the Turkish war, but he was not to journey outside Rome without the consent of a majority of the cardinals, nor to leave Italy without the consent of all. The maximum number of cardinals was limited to twenty-four, and any new pope was to be limited to only one cardinal-nephew. All creations of new cardinals and advancements to certain important benefices, were to be made only with the consent of the College of Cardinals.[2] Upon taking office, Paul II was to convene an ecumenical council within three years. But these terms of subscription were modified by Paul II at his own discretion, and this action lost him the confidence of the College of Cardinals. The justification for setting aside the capitulations, seen to be under way by the Duke of Milan's ambassador as early as 21 September, lay in connecting any abridgement of the pope's absolute monarchy in the Papal States with a consequent abridgement of his sole authority in spiritual matters.[3] Almost from his coronation, Paul withdrew and became inaccessible: audiences were only granted at night; even good friends waited a fortnight to see him; his suspiciousness was widely attested.

Paul II, cardinal-nephew of Eugene IV, who was cardinal-nephew of Gregory XII


A sore point was his abuse of the practice of creating cardinals in pectore, without publishing their names. Eager to raise new cardinals to increase the number who were devoted to his interests, but restricted by the terms of the capitulation, which gave the College a voice in the creation of new members, in the winter of 1464–65 Paul created two secret cardinals both of whom died before their names could be published. In his fourth year he created eight new cardinals (18 September 1467); five were candidates pressed by kings, placating respectively James II of Cyprus, Edward IV of England, Louis XI of France, Matthias Corvinus of Hungary and Ferdinand I of Naples; one was the able administrator of the Franciscans; the last two elevated his old tutor and a first cardinal-nephew.[4] Two further cardinal-nephews were added on 21 November 1468.[5] In a sign of his increasing secretiveness and paranoia, he added two more cardinals secretly at the same consistory, and four more at the beginning of 1471, expecting to reveal them only in his testament.

Tensions with the College of Cardinals came to the fore when in 1466, attempting to downsize redundant offices, Paul II proceeded to annul the college of abbreviators, whose function it was to formulate papal documents; a storm of indignation arose, inasmuch as rhetoricians and poets with humanist training, of which Paul deeply disapproved, had long been accustomed to benefiting from employment in such positions. Bartolomeo Platina, who was one of these, wrote a threatening letter to the Pope, and was imprisoned but later discharged. However, in 1467 Platina was again imprisoned on the charge of having participated in a conspiracy against the Pope, and was tortured along with other abbreviators, like Filip Callimachus who fled to Poland in 1478, all of whom had been accused of pagan views. Not unaccountably, Platina, in his Vitae pontificum, set forth an unfavorable delineation of the character of Paul II.

Final years

Pope Paul rejected King George of Podebrady of Bohemia because he upheld the conventions of Basel in favor of the Utraquists. In August 1465, Paul II summoned Podebrady before his Roman tribunal, and, when the King failed to come, allied himself with the insurgents in Bohemia, and released the King's subjects from their oath of allegiance. In December 1466, he pronounced the ban of excommunication and sentence of deposition against Podebrady. Podebrady's apologist, Gregory of Heimberg, subsequently accused Paul of immorality; a move that resulted in Gregory's own excommunication.

Just when ultimately the King's good success disposed the Pope in favor of reconciliation, Paul died suddenly of cardiac arrest on 26 July 1471. Officially death was said to have been brought on following indigestion from eating melon; although a popular legend suggested that he had in fact died whilst being sodomized by a page boy.[6] As a result, a power vacuum was created in Central Europe, especially after Podebrady himself died later that same year.


Although Paul II was a committed opponent of humanist learning, he oversaw and approved the introduction of printing into the Papal State, first at Subiaco in 1464 by Arnold Pannartz and Konrad Sweynheim, and at Rome itself in 1467. The result was that books and other documents became far more numerous, and less expensive to procure than the previous handwritten manuscripts. Printing put the materials needed for an advanced education into the hands of more people than ever before, including an increasing number of laypeople. The output of printing presses at this period was, as a matter of course, subject to governmental scrutiny; during Paul II's reign, books produced in the Papal State were largely limited to Latin classical literature and ecclesiastical texts.

The chronicler Stefano Infessura's republican and anti-papal temper makes his diary a far from neutral though well-informed witness. But it is certain that though Paul II opposed the humanists, he was the best in providing for popular amusements: in 1466 he permitted the horse-race that was a feature of Carnival to be run along the main street, the Via Lata, which now became known from this annual event as the Via del Corso. He displayed an extravagant love of personal splendor that gratified his sense of self-importance.[7] After his death Sixtus IV and a selected group of cardinals inspected the treasure laid up against expenditures against the Turks: they found 54 silver shells filled with pearls, to a value of 300,000 ducats, jewels and gold intended for refashioning, worth another 300,000 ducats, and a magnificent diamond worth 7,000 ducats, which was sent to Cardinal d'Estouteville to cover monies he had advanced to the pontiff. The coin was not immediately found.[8] The story of Cardinal Ammanati that he meant to take the name Formosus II ("handsome"),[9] but was persuaded not to, is more often repeated than the story that he was dissuaded from Marcus, being Venetian and the Cardinal of San Marco, because it was also the war-cry of Venice.[10]

One of Paul's successors as pope suggested he should have been called Maria Pietissima, "Our Lady of Pity" as he broke into tears at times of crisis. Some historians have suggested the nickname was due either to Paul's propensity to enjoy dressing up in sumptuous ecclesiastical finery,[11] or his possible homosexuality.[12]

However, the Catholic Encyclopedia asserts, "justice requires notice of his strict sense of equity, his reforms in the municipal administration, and his fight against official bribery and traffic in posts of dignity."[13]

In statecraft, Paul II lacked eminence and achieved nothing of consequence for Italy. In the Papal States, however, in 1465 he eliminated the regime of the counts of Anguillara, a house that had played a consistent anti-papal role since the plot of Stefano Porcari and the unruly insurrection of Tiburzio di Maso in 1460.


  1. ^ "The populace assembled in front of the Vatican received the news with joy," Pastor duly notes (IV:ii); acclamation of a new bishop of Rome by the people was a custom of the early church long in abeyance.
  2. ^ Ref. Burkle-Young
  3. ^ Offered by Pastor IV 1894:21.
  4. ^ Francis A. Burkle-Young, "The election of Pope Sixtus IV (1471): Background"
  5. ^ "The great number of cardinal-nephews created in the reigns of Sixtus IV, Alexander VI, and Julius II were testimony to the effectiveness of Paul II in opening the floodgates", Francis A. Burkle-Young asserts.
  6. ^ Claudio Rendina, I Papi, Storia e Segreti, Newton Compton, Roma, 1983, p. 589
  7. ^ Pastor IV 1894:16, 20ff.
  8. ^ A cardinal's report to the Duke of Milan's ambassador, related in Pastor vol. IV 1894:211.
  9. ^ The chronicler N. della Tuccia says that for half a century no handsomer man had been seen in the Senate or the Church (Pastor IV 1894:16.
  10. ^ Pastor IV 1894:13 and note, 15.
  11. ^ He was described as "a collector of statuary, jewellery, and (it was said) handsome youths"
  12. ^ Karlen, Sexuality and homosexuality, New York, 1971.
  13. ^ Weber, N.A. The Catholic Encyclopedia, Volume XI. New York, Robert Appleton Company (1911). "Pope Paul II". Retrieved 11 July 2007 


  • Pastor, Ludwig (1894). The History of the Popes from the Close of the Middle Ages. IV. ISBN 084340650X. 

External links

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Preceded by
Pius II
Succeeded by
Sixtus IV

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Footnotes (including sources)


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