The Cardinals of the Holy Roman Church

Papal elections in the Fifteenth Century
The election of Pope Paul II (1464)

By Francis A. Burkle-Young
Author of Passing the Keys

I. Background.

During the first year of Pius II's reign no cardinals died, so the pontiff did not think it necessary to hold a cardinalitial consistory, yet Pius also thought that the Apostolic Senate was not giving him and his policies its full support. (1) The deaths of two cardinals in the late summer of 1459-Jaime of Portugal on August 27 and Antonio de La Cerda on September 12-gave Pius the excuse to add to the College, which was now reduced by four from the number it had been when Calixtus III died. (2) There was strong opposition from the cardinals to the addition of any more to their number, but this was overcome by March, 1460, when Pius created six new cardinals, only five of whom were, however, published at that time. (3) The five new cardinals whose names were published were all Italians-Angelo Capranica, brother of Domenico; Berardo Eruli; Alessandro Oliva, general of the Augustinians; Niccolo Forteguerri; and Francesco di Nanni Todeschini de' Piccolomini-and all received the red hat for largely non-political reasons; although two of them were relatives of the pontiff, Niccolo Forteguerri, a maternal cousin, and Francesco di Nanni Todeschini de' Piccolomini, son of one of the pope's sisters, Laudomia, and the future Pius III. (4) The cardinal in pectore was Burchard von Weisbriach, bishop of Salzburg, whose name was kept secret so as not to offend those monarchs and princes whose importunities for the creation of crown cardinals had been ignored. Pius showed considerable steadfastness in turning down a vast number of such requests with which he had been deluged from the outset of his reign. He spurned the pressures of Italians and non-Italians alike. In the month preceding the first creation, the Republic of Florence, for example, wrote three times, at the behest of Cosimo de' Medici Pater Patri', to advance the cause of Filippo de' Medici, bishop of Arezzo, all to no avail. (5) While Pius was not insensitive to the fact that failure to accede to some of the nominations of the princes would only exacerbate difficulties with both transalpine and cisalpine rulers, the College voiced strong opposition to the addition of any more to their number, even though membership was further reduced by the death of yet another creation of Calixtus III in 1460-Giovanni Castiglione on April 14. (6)

The leader of the intransigent cardinals was Giorgio Fieschi, now cardinal-bishop of Ostia and acting dean of the College. Fieschi's death on October 8, 1461, weakened the opposition sufficiently that the pope could begin to plan seriously to augment the College. (7) On December 13, Pius secured the approval of the cardinals in Rome for a new creation. Five days later, December 18, 1461, Pius elevated Jean Jouffroy, bishop of Arras, a nominee of Louis XI of France; Louis d'Albret, also a nominee of Louis XI; Jaime Cardona, bishop of Urgel, a nominee of Juan II of Aragon; Giacomo Ammanati-Piccolomini, a childhood friend of Pius' who was adopted into the Piccolomini family; Bartolommeo Roverella, archbishop of Ravenna and legate to Naples; and Francesco Gonzaga.

Significantly, two of the six were nominations of Louis XI of France who was thus doubly gratified. This creation also saw the elevation of the first scion of a north Italian princely house. Francesco Gonzaga, son of Luigi III Gonzaga, marchese of Mantua, obtained the cardinalate with the diplomatic assistance of Friedrich II, elector of Brandenburg, and his brother, Albrecht-Achilles. Their sister, Barbara, was the mother of the Mantuan prelate. The creation of Francesco was documented for posterity by the Gonzaga family in a most unusual way. The Marchese Luigi III (1444-1478), father of the cardinal, commissioned Andrea Mantegna (1431-1506) to decorate the walls of one of the rooms in the family apartments, now called the Camera degli Sposi, in the Castello di San Giorgio (Castello di Corte), adjacent to the ducal palace in Mantua, with a series of frescoes, completed in 1474 and running completely around the room, showing the family on this auspicious occasion. Among the most notable of these paintings is that in which the marchese receives his son upon the latter's return to Mantua, following his creation, and that in which the marchese and his wife receive news by courier of the nomination of their son to the College.

The creation of four new crown cardinals in 1461 made it possible to publish the name of Burchard von Weisbriach without embarrassment, which was done in the following spring. (8) During the last seventeen months of Pius's reign, which ended at Ancona on August 14, 1464, four more cardinals died-Prospero Colonna, the archdeacon and a forty-year veteran of the College, on March 24, 1463; Isidore of Salonika on April 27, 1463; Alessandro Oliva on August 20, 1463; and Nicolaus Krebs von Cues, who died August 12, 1464, just two days before Pius himself. (9)

As soon as the pope breathed his last the cardinals who were with him began to make preparations for a speedy return to Rome and the holding of the conclave. At this moment, the College consisted of twenty nine members, the greatest number of possible papal electors since the close of the Great Schism nearly half a century before. The membership of the College included twelve Italians, seven French, six Spanish, two Germans, one Greek, and one Hungarian. One cardinal still survived from among those created by John XXIII, Pierre de Foix l'Ancien, but none survived from the creations of Martin V. Eight of the living cardinals had been named by Eugenius IV: Joannes Bessarion, Petrus de Schaumberg, Dionysius Szechy, Guillaume d'Estouteville, Juan de Torquemada, Ludovico Trevisan, Pietro Barbo, and Juan de Carvajal. Four of those elevated by Nicholas V were still living: Latino Orsini, Alain de Coëtivy, Jean Rolin, and Filippo Calandrini. Five remained of the creations of Calixtus III: Luis Juan del Mila y Borja, Rodrigo de Lançol y Borgia, Juan de Mella, Giacomo Tebaldi, and Richard Olivier de Longueil. The remaining eleven cardinals were all creations of Pius II: Angelo Capranica, Berardo Eruli, Niccolo Forteguerri, Francesco di Nanni Todeschini de' Piccolomini, Burchard von Weisbriach, Jean Jouffroy, Jaime Cardona, Louis d'Albret, Giacomo Ammanati-Piccolomini, Bartolommeo Roverella, and Francesco Gonzaga. Ten of the cardinals did not attend the conclave, however. They were Foix, Schaumberg, Szechy, Rolin, del Mila y Borja, Jouffroy, von Weisbriach, Cardona, Eruli and Forteguerri. Only the last two were Italians.

II. Conclave and Election.

On the morning of August 25, 1464, the nineteen cardinal-electors reunited in the palace of Cardinal Ludovico Trevisan, to make plans for the coming conclave. It was finally decided to hold the electoral proceedings in the Vatican. On the evening of August 28, the cardinals entered the conclave, with the exception of the gravely ill Juan de Torquemada, who was carried into the meeting on the following day. (10)

In order to ensure a greater share of power and influence to the cardinals in the next pontificate the electors had recourse to a very strong election capitulation, to which all the cardinals except Trevisan subscribed. The capitulation of 1464 was a far advance on similar documents in 1431 and 1458. It transformed the pope from an omnipotent figure into that of a president of the College of Cardinals. The capitulation bound the future pope to continue the Turkish war, but the ability of the pope to travel was circumscribed and he was not to journey to any city outside Rome without the consent of a majority of the cardinals, nor was he to leave Italy without the consent of all the cardinals. The number of cardinals living at any one time was limited to twenty four, and the new pope was to be limited to only one cardinal-nephew. All creations of new cardinals, as well as all advancements to important benefices, were to be made only with the consent of the College. Such were the major disabilities to be placed on the power of the next pope. (11)

On the first scrutiny, Barbo, the cardinal-nephew of Eugenius IV, received eleven votes. The remaining eight went to Trevisan and to d'Estouteville, the perennial candidate. (12) On the following accessus, Barbo received three more votes and was accordingly elected. He took the name Paul II. The oft-repeated anecdote that Barbo wished to be called Formosus II, but was dissuaded by the cardinals because they feared the popular disfavor that would be engendered by an obvious reference to his handsomeness is probably not true. (13)


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(1) For a discussion of Pius' feelings in this regard, see Pastor, 3:293.

(2) Eubel, 2:10.

(3) Eubel, 2:13.

(4) "Essai" (1933):132-35.

(5) Eubel, 2:94.

(6) Eubel, 2:12.

(7) Pastor, 3:297n. 4; Eubel, 2:13-14. For details, see the letter of B. Bonatto, ambassador of Mantua in Rome, to Barbara von Brandenburg, marchesa of Mantua, referring to the creation of her son, Francesco, in Pastor, 3:298 n. 2.

(8) "Essai" (1932):135.

(9) Eubel, 2:1-19.

(10) Pastor, 4:5-13.

(11) Pastor, 4:10-11.

(12) Pastor, 4:11.

(13) For one version of the old legend, see Valerie Pirie, The Triple Crown (London: Spring Books, 1965) 23.

Eugenius IV (1431) Nicholas V (1447) Calixtus III (1455) Pius II (1458) Sixtus IV (1472) Innocent VIII (1484) Alexander VI (1492)
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