Pius II

Pius II

pope of Rome (from 1458 to 1464), whose original name was AEneas Sylvius Piccolomini, was a great theologian, diplomatist, canonist, historian and orator, and in fact a pontiff universally accomplished. He is especially noted as the inspirer of a crusade against the Saracens lie was born at Corsignano, in Siena, Oct. 18,1405. Early devoted to study he soon became noted for his scholarship, and found no difficulty in securing within the Church all the honors and distinctions he might seek. In 1431 he went as secretary of cardinal Dominicus Capranica to the Council of Basle, that celebrated ecclesiastical assembly which attempted earnestly, though with little success, the reformation of the Church, and of which cardinal Piccolomini wrote a history: Commentarius de Gestis Basil. Concilii, in two books — a very important work for the history of the Church of that period, which, because of its advocacy of Gallican principles, was put in the Index Librorum Prohibitorum. At that time Piccolomini was a strong advocate for the supremacy of the council, and its right to judge and depose even the pope, "who," he argued, "'ought to be considered as the vicar of the Church rather than as the vicar of Christ." These tenets, however, were condemned by pope Eugenius IV, though they caused the council to assert its authority by suspending the pope from his dignity. Then began a long struggle, which terminated in an open schism, the council deposing Eugenius and electing Felix V. Piccolomini was appointed secretary of the new pope or antipope, and was sent by him as his ambassador to the emperor Frederick III, who was so pleased with the envoy that he prevailed upon him to give up his precarious situation and accept the place of imperial secretary. Frederick afterwards sent him on several missions, and loaded him with favors. Piccolomini proved his gratitude to his imperial master, for he wrote several works in praise of his patron and in support of his imperial prerogative-De Origine et Actoritvite Romani Imperii itd Fridericum III Imperatoremn, Libe.:Urnuss: — Historia Rerum Friderici II: — De Itinere, uptiis, et Coronatione Friderici III Commentariols: — De his. qui Friderico III Imperante, in Germanium. et per totam Europam memorabiliter gesta sunt, usque ad annum 1458, Commentarius. At last Frederick sent Piccolomini as his ambassador to pope Eugenius. This was a delicate errand for one who had been a most avowed antagonist of that pontiff; but Piccolomini managed so well by his dexterity, his captivating address, and, above all his eloquence, that the pope not only forgave him, but became his friend; and Piccolomini had hardly returned to Germany from his mission when he received a papal brief appointing him apostolic secretary. He accepted an office congenial to his clerical profession, and also because it fixed his residence in Italy. From that time a marked change took place in the opinions, or at least in the professions, of Piccolomini, and he became a decided advocate for the claims of the see of Rome. Eugenius died in 1447, and his successor Nicholas V was recognized by the fathers of the Council of Basle, who. being forsaken by both the emperor and the French king, made their peace with Rome. Felix V also having abdicated in favor of Nicholas, the schism of the Church was healed. Nicholas made Piccolomini bishop of Trieste, and afterwards of Siena, and sent him as nuncio to Germany and Bohemia, where he had several conferences with the Hussites, which he relates in his Epistles (Epistola 130). He had, however, the merit— rare in that age— of recommending mild and conciliatory measures as the most likely to reclaim dissenters to the bosom of the Church. He wrote a work on the history of Bohemia and the Hussites, in which he states fairly and without any exaggeration the tenets of that sect, as well as those of the Waldenses, which he calls "impious," but which are mainly the same that have since been acknowledged by the Protestant and Reformed churches throughout Europe. He relates (in his Historia Boemica) the burning of John Huss and Jerome of Prague, and speaks of their fortitude, "which," he says, "exceeded that of any of the philosophers of antiquity," and he recapitulates literally their charges against the corruption of the clergy. In the year 1452 Piccolomini, being then in Italy, was present at the solemn coronation of Frederick III at Rome, and delivered an oration to the pope in the name of that sovereign, whom he afterwards accompanied to Naples. On their return to Rome he delivered another oration before the pope, the emperor, and other German and Italian princes, and the ambassadors of other European courts, for the purpose of exhorting them to form an effectual league against the Turks, who were then on the point of taking Constantinople. Piccolomini felt the great danger to Christian Europe from the rapid advance of the Ottoman conquerors and his paramount object through the remainder of his life was to form a strong bulwark to protect Italy and Germany; but at the same time he was too well acquainted with the politics of the various Christian courts, and their selfish and petty jealousies, to expect much union in their councils and he expresses his views and his doubts in a masterly manner in several of his "Epistles." In December 1456, Calixtus III, the successor of Nicholas V, made Piccolomini a cardinal; and in 1458, after the death of Calixtus, he was unanimously elected pope, and assumed the name of Pius II.

His pontificate lasted only six years but during this period he distinguished himself by promoting learning, by inculcating peace and concord among the Christian princes, and exhorting them to unite their efforts against their common enemy, the barbarous Turks. The year after his election he convoked a congress of the ambassadors of all the Christian sovereigns to arrange the plan of a general war against the Ottomans. The pope himself repaired to Mantua, accompanied by the learned Philelphus, who spoke eloquently in favor of the proposed league. Most of the Italian states were willing to join in it, but Germany and France stood aloof, and nothing was decided. Pius also took the pains to write a long letter to sultan Mohammed II, to convince him of the errors of Islamism, and to induce him to turn Christian. In the year 1464 an armament intended against the Turks was directed to assemble at Ancona, and soldiers began to repair thither from various parts. Matthias, king of Hungary, and Charles, duke of Burgundy, had promised to accompany the expedition. The Venetians also had promised the use of their fleet to forward the troops across the Adriatic into Albania. Pius II set off from Rome for Ancona, but on arriving there he found that the soldiers were in want of arms, clothes, and provisions; the foreign princes did not come; and instead of the Venetian fleet, only a few galleys made their appearance. The aged and disappointed pontiff fell ill, and on Aug. 14 he expired, after having taken leave of his cardinals, and begged forgiveness if he had erred in the government of the Church. He was generally regretted, especially throughout Italy. He was succeeded by Paul II. Pius II, before his death, raised his native town, Corsignano, to the rank of a bishop's see, and gave it the name of Pienza, by which it is now known. Pius assisted Ferdinand, king of Naples, in his war against the duke of Anjou, the pretender to that crown. At the same time he was obliged to make war in his own states against Sigismondo Malatesta, lord of Rimini, and against the Savelli and other feudal barons, in all of which undertakings he was successful. By a bull addressed to the universities of Paris and of Cologne, Pius condemned his own writings in defence of the Council of Basle, concluding with these words: "Believe what I, an old man, now say to you, and not what I wrote when I was young; believe the pontiff rather than the private individual; reject Eneas Sylvius, and accept Pius II." In several of his letters to his friends also, and especially to Pietro di Noceto, he expresses sorrow for his juvenile weaknesses, for he had once been too fond of the fair sex, and had even written accounts of some of his amorous adventures, and of those of other persons which are found among his "Epistles." Some writers assert that Eeneas Sylvius had refused the priestly office until his fortieth year because of his fondness for the fair sex; and they quote his own confessions in proof. But whatever his previous life, as pontiff he was devoted to the Church, and sought the accomplishment of great things.

A vacancy having occurred in the archiepiscopal see of Mentz, two candidates appeared for it-Adolph, count of Nassau, and Dietrich of Isenburg. The latter had the majority of votes, but Pius, who by the concordat had the right of deciding in cases of contested elections, refused to confirm the choice of Dietrich unless he engaged not to assert the supremacy of a general council, not to convoke of his own authority an imperial diet, and further to pay to Rome double the sum fixed for the annates, or first-fruits. Dietrich demurred to the first two conditions, and positively refused to accede to the last; and as proceedings were instituted against him in the apostolic court, he appealed to the next general council. Pius declared such appeals to be heretical, and excommunicated and deposed him, appointing Adolph of Nassau in his place. The emperor acknowledged Adolph, but Dietrich being supported by the count palatine and the elector of Bavaria, a war ensued, which, after much mischief, ended in the submission of Dietrich. Those who remembered the sentiments of Piccolomini when imperial secretary, and especially his letter (Epistola 25) to the papal nuncio, John Carvajal, concerning the supremacy of the council, were inclined to think that change of station had, in him as it but too often does in men, produced a corresponding change of opinions.

As a learned man and a writer, Pius II is best known under the name of Aneas Sylvius, the most important part of his career being passed before he was elected pope. He was one of the first historians of his age, a geographer, a scholar, a statesman, and a divine. He was also a great traveler by sea and by land; he lived many years in Germany; he repeatedly visited France, went to Great Britain and as far as Scotland, and to Hungary. His biographer Campanus, bishop of Arezzo, speaks at length of his peregrinations, and his diligence in informing himself of everything worth noticing in the countries which he visited. His principal works, besides those already mentioned, are, Cosmographia, 6 de Mundo Universo Historiarum, libri 1 (a second book treats especially of Europe and its contemporary history): — In Antonii Panormitae de Dictis et Factis Alphonlsi Arragonzum Regis, libris quatuor, Commentaria Epitome supra Decades Flavii Blondi Forliviensis, etb inclinatione Imperii usque ad tempora Johannmis 23 Ponf. Max. (in 10 books): — Historia Gothica (published first at Leipsic in 1730): — A Treatise on the Education of Children, with Rules of Grammar and Rhetoric: lastly, his numerous Epistles, which contain much varied information. A collection of his works was published at Basle, Enece Sylvii Piccolomini Senensis Opera quoe extant (1551, fol.), but this edition does not include all. Domenico de Rosetti has published a catalogue of all his woks and their various editions, and also of his biographers and commentators, Serie di Edizioni delle Opere di Pio II, o da lui intitolate (Trieste, 1830). Biographies of Pius II by Platina and Campanus are annexed to the Basle edition of his works, but a much more ample biography is found in the Commentaries published (Frankfort, 1614) under the name of John Gobellinus, his secretary, but which are known to have been written by himself or under his dictation, Pii II Pont. Max., Commentarii Rerum Memorabilium quce Temporibus suis contigerunt, libri 12: with a continuation by his intimate friend, James Ammanato, cardinal of Pavia, who had at his desire assumed the name of Piccolomini. See, besides these. Milman, Hist. of Latin Christianity, 8:120- 122; Riddle, Hist. of the Papacy, 2, 377 sq.; Bower, Hist. of the Popes (see Index); Hagenbach, Rückerinnerungen an Aeneas Sylvius (Basle, 1840); Verdiere, Sur AEneas Sylv. Piccolomini (Paris, 1843); Pfizer, Aeneas Sylv. Piccol., etc. (Stuttg. 1844); Helwing, De Pii II Pontificis maximi Rebus gestis et moribus commentatio (Berol. 1825); Voigt, Aeneas Sylv. Piccol. (Berlin, 1856-9); Düx, Kardinal Nicolaus 5. Cusa u. die Kirche seiner Zeit (Regensburg, 1847, 2 vols. 8vo).

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