Nicholas V

Nicholas V

Pope, one of the ablest and most esteemed incumbents of the papal chair, distinguished alike for his scholarship, tolerant views, and his stern integrity, was originally called Tommaso Parentucelli, also Tommaso da Sarzana, and was born at Sarzana, near Genoa, in 1398. He was educated at the high schools in Bologna and Florence, and was noted there for his zeal as a student. He entered the priesthood at the age of twenty-five, and rapidly rose to positions of honor. He was employed by successive popes in several important diplomatic missions to different countries, and discharged his trust most creditably. He was made bishop of Bologna by pope Eugenius IV; in 1445 he was made archbishop of Bologna; at Dun, 1446, this same pontiff presented him the cardinal's hat; and in 1447, upon the death of Engenius IV, the ability and prudence which had marked his course as papal legate during the troubled period of the councils of Basle and Florence, and in the difficult negotiations with the German and other churches which arose therefrom, pointed him out as a proper person for the pontificate, and he was consequently chosen for this office on March 6 of that year. 'The Council of Basle was in session at the time. It readily recognized him as pope. There was, however, a schismatic party in the Western Church which supported at this time a rival pope, under the name of Felix V. He had been elevated to the pontificate by vote of the Council of Basle in 1439. The schismatics, it is true, had in the mean time been reduced to a small number. Yet Nicholas respected even his feeblest opponents, and by kindness finally won them over, as well as their head, the rival pope, and thus restored peace to the Church by the abdication of Felix V in 1449. When dethroned the antipope was treated by Nicholas, as before, with courtesy and respect. He was made a cardinal, next in honor to the pope, and was appointed perpetual legate of the Holy See to Germany. His cardinals were received into the Sacred College. and all his collations of benefices were confirmed. But not only was the reign of pope Nicholas V signalized by the abdication of this the last of the antipopes; every part of Christendom, with the exception of the still unsubdued Hussites of Bohemia, paid regard to Nicholas, and honored in him a worthy son of the Church, and a proper incumbent in the chair of St. Peter. Indeed his reign, though brief, was marked by events of great moment, which exerted a controlling influence upon the history of Europe for the next fifty years, and, notwithstanding his hasty temper, he restored once more, by the mildness and equity of his government, the glory of the papacy. Not only Rome, but all Italy enjoyed unwonted tranquillity during his reign. "As if influenced by the example of the head of the Church," says a contemporary, "the states and sovereigns of Italy seemed for a while to forget their feuds, and Italy enjoyed several years of internal peace: a rare occurrence in the history of the Middle Ages." In 1450 pope Nicholas V celebrated the year of jubilee at Rome with great brilliancy, and the papal treasury was much enriched by the prodigious number of strangers which the occasion drew to Rome. In the same year he succeeded in making peace between king Alphonso of Naples and the republic of Venice. One of the most important events, however, of his reign was the coronation of the emperor Frederick III in 1452, on which occasion the latter swore to uphold the pope and the Romish Church at all junctures. Nicholas V was less fortunate in his transactions with Austria, in which his interference profited neither him nor the emperor: the pope having taken the emperor's side, the Austrians and Hungarians appealed "ab eo parum instructo ad eundem instruendum informandumque magis," or to a general council, and even dared to denounce the election of the pope as having been irregular.

The most painful event that occurred during the reign of Nicholas V was the capture of Constantinople by the Turks in the year 1453. It produced a melancholy impression upon his mind, from which he was unable ever after to recover. Self-reproach and shame because of his failure to send forward the fleet and the land forces which he had prepared for the relief of the besieged city are said to have hastened his death. He delayed to succor the city, it is generally believed, in the hope that the Greeks, when pressed beyond measure, would ratify the union of the Council of Florence on the condition that he would come to their rescue. But he delayed too long; and during the three remaining years of his pontificate he earnestly endeavored to rally and unite the Christian princes in a league for the recovery of the captured city. He failed, notwithstanding the efforts of the eloquent John of Capistrano (q.v.). As a patron of learning, pope Nicholas V did invaluable service to literature. Indeed, in the judgment of the literary world, the great distinction of the pontificate of Nicholas V lies in the eminent service which he rendered to the revival of letters dating from his age. The comparative repose in which he found the world at his accession enabled him to employ, for the discovery and collection of the scattered masterpieces of ancient learning, measures which were practically beyond the resources of his predecessors. He dispatched agents to all the. great centers, both of the East and of the West, to purchase or to copy every important Greek and Latin MS. The number collected by him was above 5000. He enlarged and improved the Roman University. He remodeled, and may almost be said to have founded, the Vatican Library. He caused translations to be made into Latin of most of the important Greek classics, sacred and profane. He invited to Rome the most eminent scholars of the world, and extended his especial patronage to those Greeks whom the troubles of their native country drove to seek a new home in the West. Nicholas V, too, enriched Rome with many fine buildings, and restored the bridges, as well as the aqueduct of the Aqua Vergine; and yet in his dying hour, March 24, 1455, he could appeal for judgment to the personal knowledge of the cardinals, to the world, even to higher judgment, regarding his acquisition and his employment of the wealth of the pontificate: "All these and every other kind of treasure were not accumulated by avarice, not by simony, not by largesses not by parsimony, as ye know, but only through the grace of the most merciful Creator, the peace of. the Church, and the perpetual tranquillity of my pontificate" (comp. Blackswoods Magazine. Nov. 1871, p. 604 sq.). See Vespasian, Nicola V, and Manetti, Vita Nicolai V, both in Muratori, "Scriptores," vol.

25; Georgius, Vita Nicolai V (Rome, 1742, 4to); Wetzer u. Welte (R. C.), Kirchen Lexikon, 7:585-591; Milman, Hist. of Latin Christianity, 8:90 sq.; Butler, Eccles. Hist. 2:125 sq. Riddle, Hist. of the Papacy, 2:371 sq.; Bower, Hist. of the Popes, vol. 8:

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