from :

"Pope Leo X (ruled 1513-21)

Although he is not usually counted one of the "few bad Popes," Leo was a thoroughly vicious and unscrupulous man, and, in view of the position of the Church on the eve of the Reformation, one of the most scandalous Popes of the series. Son of Lorenzo de Medici, and profanely destined by that prince for a clerical career (whatever his character might prove to be), he became a cleric at the age of seven and a cardinal at the age of fourteen. Abnormally fat and unhealthy, and gravely ill with fistula, in the election-chamber he bribed his way to the Papal chair through friends, and settled down to a life of vulgar display and sensuous enjoyment. His health compelled him to be temperate at table, but he had about him a crowd of unscrupulous adventurers and professional buffoons. He loved to sit at indecent comedies in the Vatican, some of which were composed by his favourite, Cardinal Bibiena, the most immoral man of the Papal Court. Catholics boast that he was at least chaste, unlike his predecessors and successors, but they are untruthful about the evidence. Guicciardini, the greatest historian of the Middle Ages and a Catholic, says that Leo was not accused of vice before his election, but "he was afterwards found to be excessively devoted to pleasures which cannot be called decent" (Storia d'Italia, lib. XVI, C. V, p. 254, in the 1832 edition), and the Pope's friend and biographer, Bishop Giovio, discusses at length (Vita Leonis X, lib. IV, pp. 96-9, in the 1551 edition) the charge that he was addicted to sodomy, and lamely concludes — he obviously believes it — that it is difficult to be sure on such secret matters, and that in any case the Pope was no worse than other Italian princes."

J. McCabe, Rationalists Encyclopaedia
(J. McCabe, Rationalists Encyclopaedia)



Sex & Simony

Alexander VI (left)

Borgia had 10 known illegitimate children, including Cesare and Lucrezia by Vanozza. When he was 58, he was infatuated by a 15-year old beauty, Giulia Farnese, who had recently married one Orsini. She soon became known as the Pope’s Whore. The Pope openly acknowledged his children by her - Laura, Juan and Rodrigo. He made Guilia’s brother cardinal - the future Paul III. His son Cesare became Archbishop of Valencia and a cardinal a year later. Alexander did not hesitate to appoint cardinals for a hefty fee and later have them poisoned, expropriating their property and making appointments afresh. His favoured poison was cantarella, a concoction laced with arsenic.



Leo X’s Lifestyle

Yet another Pope backs colonial exploits

Portugal had landed in India in 1498 and seized Goa in 1510 (see page 17). Pope Leo X, in approval of King Manuel’s expeditions presented him with a sword in 1515 with the words:

Receive this warlike  sword in your victorious hands. With this, you will wage wars under the most happy auspices…

“May you use your force and power against the fury of the infidels…having received through this gift the help of heaven, you may bring back abundant spoils and triumphs.”

The next pope, Leo X, (right) born of aristocratic parents lived in the lavish style he was used to. He kept 683 courtiers. There were 50-course dinners and all sorts of delicacies and surprises, such as nightingales emerging out of pies and nude little boys out of puddings. Bullfights were followed by banquets and masked balls. There was a permanent theatre, an orchestra, jesters, wild animals. A parade through Rome in 1514

 presided by Leo included Indian peacocks, Persian horses, a panther, two leopards and an elephant.


Pope Leo had to be inventive to pay for his expensive pursuits. The brothels did not fetch enough - despite 7000 registered prostitutes, about 14% of the population. He created and auctioned over 2000 clerical posts. A cardinal’s hat fetched about 30,000 ducats. The sale of indulgences was common.



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