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[[File: Julius II One.jpg |
300px|thumb|left|Portrait of Julius II by Raphael]]
Pope Julius II was a towering figure in Italian and European politics. He was known as the ‘Warrior-Pope’ because of his proclivity towards war. He was also a shrewd diplomat and capable politician. Julius II changed the history of Italy with his policies and had a dramatic impact on the Renaissance. He was a great patron of the arts and personally commissioned many great masterpieces. During his time as pope, Julius II contained the Venice's, ended the role of the Borgias in Rome, but failed to drive the French from Italy. Julius II's policies and actions delayed foreign domination of Italy and prolonged the Renaissance.
Julius was a restless and ambitious man. He was eager to extend the power of the Papacy after years of decline. In recent years, Venice had extended its power in Northern Italy at the expense of the Papal States. This decline was exacerbated by the fall of the Sforza dynasty in Milan. Venice was slowly becoming one of the greatest powers in the Mediterranean. Venice accomplished by leveraging its massive navy and trading networks into a formidable empire. Julius sought to maintain the balance of power in Italy and saw Venice as the chief threat to the Papal States. Furthermore, the Venetians had encouraged vassals of the Pope to revolt in the Papal States and occupied several cities in the Papal States.<ref> John Julius Norwich. <i>[https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/0679721975/ref=as_li_tl?ie=UTF8&camp=1789&creative=9325&creativeASIN=0679721975&linkCode=as2&tag=dailyh0c-20&linkId=c355b583109e2af36c61232ad83d9fc7 A History of Venice]</i> (New York: Vintage Books, 1989, p. 345)</ref>
Julius built a large Papal army and formed a military and diplomatic alliance called the League of Cambrai. It included many major Italian states and France. The French king’s army allowed Julius to recapture some key cities such as Bologna and Rimini from Venice. The League of Cambrai army met the Venetian army at Agnadello. (1509)<ref> Norwich, p. 356</ref> At this battle, the Venetians were decisively defeated and to retreat in Northern Italy. At one point, it appeared that Venice would even be captured. Venice was only saved after a desperate defense of Venice that was aided Venice’s navy. Julius, actually was not interested in Venice's complete defeat. Instead, he wanted a weakened Venice and once that was achieved persuaded the other members of the League to end the war. A few years later in 1510, Julius was able to reconcile with the Venice.<ref> Norwich, p. 377</ref> Julius successfully restored the balance of power with the help of the League of Cambrai. Furthermore, for the first time in many years, a Pope had full control of the Papal States. However, while this made it easier to govern the Papal States, Julius lacked the powerful enough city-state to challenge the French after the defeat of Venice. Essentially, defeating Venice Julius was forced to work with the French monarch and Emperor Charles V because they lacked a military that could challenge him directly.<ref> Norwich, p. 415</ref>
In order to curb the growing power of the French he formed a new alliance, that became known as the Holy League. Julius negotiated a settlement with Venice in 1510 because he wanted to use them to control France. That same year he created the Holy League which was composed of the Swiss Cantons, Spain, several Italian City-States and Venice.<ref> Shaw, p. 134</ref> Later that year, Julius personally led an attack on the French held town of Mirandola, which he captured. The French were left very exposed in Italy. They were also defeated by the Swiss at the Battle of Novarra in 1513. Julius was too ill to savor his victory and in the end, the victory of the Holy Alliance was not as decisive as he had hoped.
Pope Julius died soon after the Battle of Novarra and without him the Holy League fell apart. He alone was capable of holding such a disparate collation and the League dissolved. Without the League the French were once again able to regain their control of Northern Italy after the defeat of the Swiss at Marignano in 1515.<ref> Mallet and Shaw, p. 113</ref> The French were not driven from Northern Italy until the 1550s by the Spanish armies commanded by Phillip II. The Holy League had initially been very successful and had greatly limited French power in Italy, if Julius had not died, it is quite possible that the League could have expelled Francis I entirely from Italian territory. <ref> Guicciardini, Francesco.<i>The History of Italy</i>. Translated by Sydney Alexander. (Princeton, Princeton University Press, 1984), p. 117</ref> After the dissolution of the League, the future of Italy was to be decided by two foreign powers, the Valois dynasty in France and the Habsburg (the emperors of Germany and kings of Spain). Some historians have blamed Julius for allowing the Hapsburg dynasty to become entrenched in Italy. This criticism is probably unfair because had Julius lived, he would have been more effective at limiting their power. He was always guided by the principle of the balance-of-power in Italy and would have surely formed an anti-Hapsburg League.<ref> Mallet and Shaw, p. 113</ref>
===Pope Julius II===
Julian was one of the most powerful secular rulers in Italy and Europe. Julius did not neglect the Papacy and the Church. He proved to be an able administrator and helped to reform the government of the Papal States. Julius, unlike his predecessors and many of his successors, was committed to reforming the Church. He was well aware that the Church was corrupt and sought to dramatically reform it. Julius issued bulls (orders) that forbade simony (the selling of Church offices) and reformed many monastic orders.<ref> Shaw, p. 118</ref> Pope Julius II was also a capable administrator and he reformed the curia, the Papal bureaucracy. Perhaps his greatest achievement was the Fifth Lateran Council. This was convened to eradicate corruption in the Church and to end the many abuses in the Papal government. This Council despite its good intentions did not manage to achieve much because behind it Julius II died before many of the intended reforms could be implemented. If Julius II had managed to reform the Church this could have changed history as only four years after his death, Martin Luther nailed his theses to a Church Door. If Julius II had been able to carry out his reforms he could have prevented a schism in the Church.
Still many of Julius IIs plans were thwarted or never came to fruition. Perhaps his most concrete achievements and successes were in the arts. He was one of the greatest patrons of the arts in Renaissance Italy. Julius was able to secure the services of Michelangelo, by paying him (or threatening him) into working in Rome. He commissioned the great Florentine, who preferred sculpting to painting - to paint the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel. This is commonly regarded as one of the greatest masterpieces of the Renaissance.<ref> Shaw, p. 118</ref> Julius also paid Raphael to paint four rooms in the Vatican, that are widely considered to be his masterpieces. Perhaps his most ambitious project was the rebuilding of the Basilica of St Peter’s, which had become dilapidated over the course of the centuries. He hired Bramante, the great architect to design a new Basilica. Julius’ project was completed by Pope Leo X.
While the Holy League under Julius served as a counterweight to the French, they failed to expel them from Italy. This was because Julius the architect and the driving force behind the League and when he died the French were able to retrieve their position in Italy. Had Julius lived it is highly likely that he would have driven out the French and then turned his attention towards the Hapsburgs. It is possible that if he had lived longer he could have prolonged the Renaissance, which was ended by the Hapsburg domination of Italy.
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