Category Archives: History of Rome

Two Popes with the name Julius

Rex Harrison suitable pious as Julius Ii (right) & Charlton Heston wooden as Michaelangelo (left) in a Hollywood extravaganza / m759.net

Rex Harrison suitable pious as Julius II (right) & Charlton Heston wooden as Michaelangelo (left) in a Hollywood extravaganza / m759.net

In this case I cannot do my usual playing with papal names and invented adjectives; some of my faithful followers might like to read about ‘Julian Popes’, as in ‘Innocent Popes’, but ‘Julian’ refers to anything connected with the Emperor Julian, who was, if not the anti-Christ, at least anti-Christian, which is why he was called ‘Julian the Apostate’. There is a splendid biography in the typical Gore Vidal style about Emperor Julian, very well worth reading. You can get it easily and cheaply on Amazon.

Julius II came from one of those distinguished Roman families – the Della Rovere; he was born in 1443 and was Pope from 1513 to 1513. He devoted most of these papal years to re-establishing the Pope’s sovereignty within the ancient territory of the Vatican. He also found time to try to remove any foreign domination from Italy herself, though the Vatican is of course a city/state within Italy. Julius II took part in the restoration of the Papal States through what was called ‘The League of Cambrai’. He was less successful in ‘The Holy League’ (Spain, England and Italy), moving in wae-like manner without intelligence, against French King Louis XII.

As a liberal patron of the arts, however, he did very well, exploying the architect and artist Bramante for a re-design of St. Peter’s. Work began in 1506, and by then Julius had commissioned work from Raphael and Michaelangelo no less. He died still full of hope for a super-powerful Vatican, in 1513. Continue reading

Further thoughts on Thomas Becket, martyr and saint

O'Toole & Burton (right) as the King and Thomas Becket in the famous movie / mrfalk.18.wordpress.com

O’Toole & Burton (right) as the King and Thomas Becket in the famous movie / mrfalk.18.wordpress.com

Thomas Becket, or Thomas à Becket as he was called by my teacher of History, was not a Saxon. He was a son of a wealthy Norman merchant (born 1118), and as Norman as his friend and king, Henry II. Thomas read Canon Law at the University of Bologna, where his teachers found him a first-class student, digesting books when he was not drinking or whoring. It may have been his ability to keep up glass by glass with the young Henry Plantagenet that cemented (he thought) his friendship, and caused Henry to make Thomas his Chancellor, the holder of the royal seal, and high on the list of very powerful men in England, an island he had chosen to make his home. Continue reading

Some Alexander Popes

Alexander VI / listverse.com

Alexander VI / listverse.com

These four Italians and one Spaniard made a contribution to the history of the Catholic Church, positive or negative according to your view and that of historians. Each chose the name, Alexander, by which they wished to be addressed, or remembered by. The original family name of one of them has stayed firmly etched in our mind, not necessarily for the best of reasons.

Alexander II (Anselm of Lucca) has an unknown birth date, but we do know he became pope in 1061 and died fourteen years later. He was Bishop of Lucca from 1057 and was a known reformer, campaigning strongly against corruption and immorality in the Church. He was one of the founders of the Paterine Party, whose principal aim was the stop priests marrying. One thousand years later they are still not marrying, though originally Protestant clergy who convert to Catholicism while married are permitted by the Vatican to keep their wives and children if they have any. This may seem unfair to priests baptised in the Catholic faith, but at least it provides employment for Anglican vicars unhappy within the Church of England and anxious to convert. Continue reading

Ptolemys, poisons and Cleopatra

The Furies pursue a Ptolemy for matricide, from a painting by W.A.Bougereau / en.wikipedia.org

The Furies pursue a Ptolemy for matricide, from a painting by W.A.Bougereau / en.wikipedia.org

There was a lady of Egypt, I’m told

The barge she sat in was of burnished gold;

Her moral code made the sphinx perspire,

Her Roman scandals set the Nile on fire!

They tried to make her marry

Her brother Ptolemy,

She said ‘I won’t ptolerate Ptolemy

To collar me!

I only sell sell to the highest bid . . .

Now she’s hotting up the pharaohs

In the pyramid!

                                 (from Salad Days, a musical by Julian Slade and Dorothy Reynolds)

Ptolemy was a childhood friend, confidant, soldier and general of Alexander the Great. The Macedonian King conquered Egypt in the 4th century BC, and Ptolemy was made the first of a long line of Ptolemaic Pharaohs, ruling Egypt under 30 BC.

   Ptolemy I was a man of outstanding diplomatic, military and organisational abilities. He rose from minor Macedonian aristocracy to become king of Egypt because of the absolute faith Alexander had in him. Many, many Ptolemys followed him in the dynasty he created, but they were a thoroughly bad lot.

Historians, authors and playwrights have given Queen Cleopatra a drubbing for centuries. She stands accused of murdering her brothers (among them a Ptolemy) to remain in power. If she did, and it is most likely that she did – it was nothing new in the family founded by Alexander’s great friend. Cleopatra’s ancestors were a murderous bunch, and Cleopatra herself used to amuse herself (and her maids-in-waiting) by watching the effects of selected poisons on condemned criminals, lazy servants or unsatisfying lovers. Continue reading

Reformation in England and the Dissolution of the Monasteries

The Reformation in England was the process by which the English Church rejected the authority of the Roman Catholic Church and established a Litany and Doctrine of its own. The reformation in other 16th century European countries was doctrinal in principle and practice, but the English was not. It was precipitated by the monster king Henry VIII, second of the Tudor dynasty, after the Pope, his cardinals and archbishops and clergy had rejected his petition for divorce against his Queen, Katherine of Aragon. She had been unable to give him a male heir, and he wished to marry Anne Boleyn to try again.

The brute’s response was to use Parliament to pass acts separating the English Church from Rome. The English clergy were to be permitted to recognise Henry, rather than the Pope, as Supreme Head of the Church (1531). Three years later the Act of Supremacy ended the Pope’s authority in England. In the late 1530s all the monasteries in that country were to be dissolved and their properties and revenues were to be made forfeit to the Crown. Continue reading

Medieval and pre-medieval Ireland

The English Pope Hadrian started the troubles in Ireland with his bull Laudabiliter / historytoday.com

The English Pope Hadrian started the troubles in Ireland with his bull Laudabiliter / historytoday.com

Before the 5th century, Ireland was virtually unknown, except as a wilderness island too far away and consequently a dangerous target for ambitious figures during the last years of Roman Europe. But it was a fine refuge for storm-bound refugees, and the Norsemen could build a secure base here from which to sally in search of a bloody encounter with the Saxons of England. Both Dublin and Limerick were founded by the Vikings. Continue reading

Pope Pius the Twelfth

/ acatholiclife.blogspot.com

/ acatholiclife.blogspot.com

Eugenio Pacelli was born in 1876, and was elected Pope in 1939. He came from a familyprominent for its loyal service to the Vatican. He was ordained priest in 1899 at twenty-three. By 1901 he was already entrenched in the Vatican administration. Continue reading

Reginald Cardinal Pole

 Reginald Pole / bbc.co.uk

Reginald Pole / bbc.co.uk

Pole is one of those ancient English surnames that appear in various forms throughout the history of the British Isles. Reginald, born 1500 rose rapidly from being an ordained priest to Cardinal, and then Archbishop of Canterbury.

He could have been archbishop and/or King, as he had a strong Yorkist claim to the monarchy through his mother, who was Countess of Salisbury. It is very easy, by the way, to confuse de la Pole with Pole, as a close blood relationship exists between these two distinguished Plantagenet families. Continue reading

Count Cavour

Count Camilo Cavour / nndb.com

Count Camilo Cavour / nndb.com

Camilo Benso Cavour was born in 1810, a Piedmontese aristocrat whose name and mother language were French. It is interesting to note that both Cavour and Garibaldi (q.v.) spoke incorrect Italian. Trained in journalism, Cavour was editor of the newspaper Il Risorgimento by the time he was thirty-seven. Continue reading