Julius III

February 7, 1550 - March 23, 1555




Birth and Education

Pope Julius III was born Giovanni Maria Ciocchi del Monte in Rome in 1487.


Like his father, who was a well-known jurist, he studied law.  He attended the universities of Perugia and Siena.


Positions in the Church

Giovanni was appointed to a number of positions in the Church by the three popes who preceded him.


Archbishop of Siponto. Leo X appointed Giovanni to succeed his uncle Antonio as Archbishop of Siponto (Manfredonia).


Bishop of Pavia. Leo X named Giovanni as the Bishop of Pavia in 1520. 


Vice-legate of Perugia. Leo X appointed Giovanni to be vice-legate to Perugia.


Governor of Rome. Clement VII twice appointed Giovanni Governor of Rome. 


Vice-legate of Bologna. Paul III appointed Giovanni vice-legate of Bologna.


Cardinal-priest. In 1536 Paul III appointed Giovanni Cardinal-priest with the titular church of San Vitale. 


Bishop of Palestrina. Pope Paul named Cardinal del Monte Bishop of Palestrina in 1543. 


Co-President of Council of Trent. Paul III made Cardinal del Monte the first co-president of the Council of Trent, authorizing him to open the meeting in 1545.  In this position, he was instrumental in moving the meeting from Trent to Bologna in 1547.  This angered emperor Charles V who had hoped to expand the participants to include a Protestant faction.  These, however, could not be persuaded to travel into Italy. 


Being Held Hostage After Sack

After the Sack of Rome in 1527, Cardinal del Monte, who was Pope Clement's appointee as governor, was among the cardinals that the pope turned over to the enemy.  Had he not been rescued by Cardinal Colonna, Cardinal del Monte would have been among those executed.  After he became pope, he repaid the favor by restoring to the Colonna family the property that Paul III had seized.





Three Factions

Cardinal del Monte was elected pope as a compromise choice after ten weeks in conclave.  There were three factions.  The two main groups were made up of supporters of the Holy Roman emperor, Charles V, and supporters of the French king, Henri II (1519-59).


The third faction was made up of supporters of the previous pope, who were now led by his grandson Cardinal Alessandro Farnese.


Liaisons and Compromises

The Farnese faction joined with the emperor's supporters, but the two-thirds majority required for election could not be realized without the French.  Although several cardinals, including Reginald Pole of England, came close to election, a compromise was necessary, and in the end Cardinal del Monte was chosen.


Conditions Agreed Upon in Conclave

At the time of his election, pope-elect Julius III agreed to reconvene the Council of Trent and to restore Parma and Piacenza to Ottavio Farnese.


He initially kept both promises, but the matter of Piacenza became problematical.


Selection of Name

Cardinal del Monte chose the name "Julius" in honor of Julius II, who had named his uncle Archbishop of Siponto.


Reaction in Rome

The Roman people were overjoyed at seeing a native of their city elected pope.  Their joy increased when he abolished an unpopular tax on flour.






Julius has been called both a "typical" Renaissance pope and the "last" of the Renaissance popes on account of his pursuit of pleasure, his nepotism, and his relative indifference to reforming the Church.


Pursuit of Pleasure

Like many Renaissance popes, who lived like secular princes, Julius III pursued courtly pleasures like banquets, plays, hunts, and festivals.  Somewhat fittingly, his election coincided with a Jubilee year for the Church, which was a time of celebration.


Upon his election, Julius began work on a villa just outside Rome's northern entrance, the Porta del Popolo.


Discouraged by the outcome of his foreign policies, the pope withdrew to his villa in 1552 and thereafter spent little time attending to church business.



Like most Renaissance popes, Pope Julius III appointed his relatives to positions of influence in both the Church and the Papal States.


While in office, he raised five of his relatives to the position of cardinal.


Promotion of Innocenzo del Monte

The first of the cardinalates he awarded was to Innocenzo del Monte, who was then seventeen and had been his companion for years.  Julius had persuaded his brother Baldovino to adopt Innocenzo in 1548 after the death of Baldovino's own son, who had been the last male heir of the del Monte family.


The pope claimed to have first seen Innocenzo in Parma when he was a cardinal.  At that time, Innocenzo, who was still only a boy, impressed the cardinal with his spirit in fighting back against a monkey that was attacking him.


Because Innocenzo was rude, inept, and impulsive, and had no qualifications for becoming a cardinal, historians have concluded that Innocenzo was the pope's son or that the pope was infatuated with him as a lover.


After Julius' death, Innocenzo killed two people at a banquet, which led to his being imprisoned for a short time.





Opening of Council

Julius III reconvened the Council of Trent to satisfy the pledge made at his election and to appease Charles V, who still clung to the hope that the parties could resolve their differences through negotiation.


The eleventh session of the Council of Trent opened May 1st, 1551.



King Henri II ordered French bishops not to attend.


A decree was passed that guaranteed Protestants safe-passage to the council, and although they arrived late, several ambassadors from Protestant princes succeeded at making themselves heard at the council.


Defining Dogma

The council began by returning to the issue of defining official Church dogma.  They addressed the Sacraments of the Eucharist, Confession, and Extreme Unction.


Dissension and Dissolution

With the arrival of the Protestant delegation, little common ground could be found, and the council's progress came to a standstill.


The council, then in its sixteenth session, was dissolved in April of 1552, less than a year after it opened.  Part of the reason further progress could not be made was that Emperor Charles V was at war with King Henri of France over Parma.





Background to Land Ownership

At his death, Paul III ceded Parma and Piacenza to his grandson Ottavio Farnese.


The citizens of Piacenza asked Emperor Charles V for his protection, which he granted, sending Ferrante Gonzaga to govern there.


Fulfilling Pre-Election Promise

In exchange for his critical electoral support, Julius III promised Ottavio's brother Cardinal Alessandro Farnese that he would install Ottavio as the Duke of Parma and Piacenza.


Julius was able to give Ottavio control of Parma by recalling the papal legate appointed by Paul III.  Piacenza was another matter because the emperor's appointee as Governor, Ferrante Gonzaga, refused to leave and threatened to take Parma.


Ottavio's Allying Himself with the French

To fortify his position in Parma, Ottavio made an alliance with the French king, Henri II.


Julius' Allying Himself with the Emperor

Because the pope now wished to accommodate the emperor, he withdrew his support for Ottavio and sent papal forces to join Gonzaga's troops in the hope of capturing Parma for the emperor.  The French army came to guard Parma.


Loss to the French

Henri II, seeming to put territorial politics ahead of religion, allied himself with the Protestant princes in Germany, who wished to break free of imperial control.


As a result of having to fight the armies of both the French and the German rebel princes, Charles V's forces were weakened, and in 1552 he withdrew.  He returned Piacenza to Ottavio, who was married to his illegitimate daughter Margaret of Austria.


The emperor's capitulation forced Julius III to make a similarly disadvantageous truce with France in which he relinquished further claims on Parma and Piacenza and paid an indemnity.



FINAL YEARS, 1552-55


Withdrawal from Politics

Because the events involving Parma had gone badly for the pope and led to the dissolution of the Council of Trent, Julius III became discouraged with politics, and in 1552, he withdrew to his villa, which was still under construction.  For the remainder of his pontificate, he devoted himself almost exclusively to pleasure.


Illness and Death

Julius III was horribly troubled by gout, and when he died, he was emaciated due to his efforts to avoid foods that exacerbated his condition.  He died of a fever on March 23, 1555.





Gaining Momentum toward Reform

Although Julius III may not have personally been interested in reform, a certain amount of momentum had been put in motion by the reform movement begun by his predecessor.  Although his work did not see immediate results, he did attempt to reform conclave procedures and papal bodies such as the College of Cardinals.


Approving the Jesuit Constitution

In 1550, Julius III approved the constitution of the newly formed Jesuit order in Italy, which had been founded by the Spanish priest Ignatius Loyola and approved by Paul III in 1540.


Supporting Santissima Trinità

The pope supported the Santissima Trinità dei Pelegrini, a charitable institution providing short-term accommodation for convalescents from hospitals and for travelers on pilgrimages to Rome.


Founding Collegium Germanicum

Pope Julius approved and supported the Collegium Germanicum, which the Jesuits founded to train young German and Austrian priests to promulgate Catholicism in their homelands.  The Jesuits provided instruction.


Restricting Brothers Being Cardinals

Julius issued a bull against brothers being cardinals at the same time.


Limiting Bishoprics to One

Julius III took a step against pluralism, the holding of multiple offices.  This practice often resulted in work being passed on to unqualified, poorly paid officials, instead of the individual assigned to a region, city, or church.  He required cardinals with more than one bishopric to relinquish all except one within six months.


Attempting to Return England to Church

After the death of Edward VI (1538-1553), Henry VIII's only son, his Catholic daughter, Mary (1516-1558), succeeded to the English throne.  Mary's mother was Henry's first wife, Catherine of Aragon.


Julius made Cardinal Reginald Pole his legate to England and authorized him to lift the interdict from the country and to negotiate renewal of English ties with the Roman Catholic Church.  This interval in which England returned to Catholicism ended with the ascension of Elizabeth I to the English throne in 1558.





Appointment of the Composer Palestrina

Julius III, who was especially fond of music, appointed the Italian composer Palestrina (1526-94) choirmaster of the Cappella Giulia.  Julius first encountered the composer in the city of Palestrina when he was Bishop there (1543-50).  The pope was criticized for this appointment because Palestrina was not a member of the clergy.


Architectural Commissions in Rome

Julius III would have liked to have commissioned more projects, but he could not afford to do so because of the massive debts left by Paul III.


Villa Giulia, Rome, 1550-55. Pope Julius III built the Villa Giulia, a magnificent villa suburbana on the site of a modest villa left to him by his uncle, Archbishop Antonio del Monte.  Giorgio Vasari claimed authorship of the design, with the input of Michelangelo himself.  Construction was carried out by Bartolommeo Ammannati and Jacopo Vignola, who was Julius' official architect for all other projects besides St. Peter's.  Vignola was responsible for the main building, the entrance vestibule, and a semicircular loggia that forms the rounded end of a long court.  Ammannati designed the other end of the courtyard, which led to the nymphaeum.  From a ground-level loggia serving as a vestibule, visitors could see the semicircular sunken nymphaeum.  


Sant' Andrea in Via Flaminia, Rome, 1550-53. To commemorate his escape after being held hostage following the Sack of Rome, Pope Julius III commissioned Vignola to design and build Sant' Andrea in the Via Flaminia.  This church was important as the first one to have an oval dome, a form that would become prevalent in Baroque church planning.  Vignola's design was an elongation of the domed square, which had been derived from ancient Roman mausoleums.  


Chapel and Tombs in San Pietro in Montorio. To honor the bequest for tombs left by his uncle Archbishop Antonio del Monte, Julius III commissioned a family chapel in San Pietro in Montorio.  Marble tombs were built for Julius' uncles Antonio del Monte and Fabiano del Monte.  This project involved Giorgio Vasari, who designed the space, and Bartolommeo Ammannati, who executed the sculptures. 


Architectural Commissions at the Vatican


Re-appointing Michelangelo at St. Peter's. Pope Julius affirmed Michelangelo as the architect of St. Peter's.  Like Paul III, he had to step in between Michelangelo and the Fabbrica (Vatican  building committee) and insist that the latter respect the architect's wishes.  


Expanding Villa Belvedere. Julius commissioned an expansion of the Villa Belvedere behind the wall designed by Bramante.


Building new staircase, upper Belvedere Court. Julius III commissioned Michelangelo to design a double-ramp staircase to replace Bramante's circular staircase, which had to be removed to make room for a passage to connect the existing part of the Villa Belvedere with his new addition.


Building Fountain on outer wall of Belvedere Court. Julius added a fountain to the outer wall near the Scala Bramante's exterior entrance.


Extending fourth story of east wing of Belvedere Court. Julius also extended the fourth story of the Belvedere courtyard.













Renaissance Popes 14 of 20