Credited with strengthening the temporal authority of the church in Italy, as well as launching some of the principal artistic commissions of his time, Julius II presided over one of the most militaristic and culturally ambitious periods of the Renaissance papacy. He was born Giuliano della Rovere at Albissola, near Savona, and received his education and holy orders from the Franciscans at Perugia. When he was twenty-seven, his uncle Pope Sixtus IV made him a cardinal, and for many of the next thirty years he was a politically prominent member of the Sacred College. His enmity with Rodrigo Borgia led to his self-imposed exile from Rome between 1493 and 1503 when the latter became Pope Alexander VI. During this time he aligned himself with France and supported Charles VIII's invasion of Naples (1494), but his hopes of using the French to engineer Alexander's deposition failed to coalesce. After the death of Pius III in 1503, he advanced his papal candidacy for the third time and secured the election through an unprecedentedly swift campaign that did not shrink from open bribery, a practice he proscribed during his own pontificate.
The new pope immediately took steps to reinforce papal authority over the compromised territorial integrity of the Holy See. Julius began by subduing Cesare Borgia, the son of his old enemy Alexander VI, dispossessing him of his lands and imprisoning him for a time. In 1506 he scandalized Christendom by donning armor and successfully leading papal forces against the tyrants of Perugia and Bologna. Julius, however, recognized Venice as his principal ad­versary and vigorously opposed its annexation of significant portions of the Romagna in 1503. An alliance with France and Germany to counter the Venetian threat eventually matured with the formation of the League of Cambrai, which the pope formally joined in 1509. The league, backed by a papal bull of excom­munication and interdict, obliged Venice to surrender the last of its appropriated holdings in 1510. The war, however, left France firmly ensconced in northern Italy, and thereafter Julius dedicated himself to ridding the peninsula of foreign encroachment. In 1511 he formed the Holy League with Venice, Spain, and England to expel the French and succeeded after entering an alliance with the Swiss the following year. He then went on to lead his troops against France's Italian allies, but the effort consumed his remaining vitality. After a series of illnesses, Julius died in February 1513, both praised and criticized for his single-minded determination to strengthen and expand the Papal States by any means necessary.
Intractable, easily enraged, and delighted by military activity, Julius's per­sonality lent itself well to his temporal ambitions, but was less suited to serious ecclesiastical reform. His primary endeavor in this regard was the convocation of the Fifth Lateran Council (1512), but its activities were mostly concerned with countering the schismatic, French-sponsored Council of Pisa. He was far more successful in advancing the dignity and grandeur of the papacy through his extensive patronage of the arts; it is in this capacity that he made his most enduring achievements. He appointed Donato Bramante to oversee reconstruc­tion of St. Peter's, partially financing the massive endeavor through indulgence sales, an issue that would haunt his successor, Leo X.* Julius also employed Raphael,* who brilliantly decorated in fresco the Vatican stanze. His most dra­matic and tumultuous artistic affiliation, however, was with Michelangelo,* whom he commissioned to paint the Sistine Chapel ceiling. In spite of his dif­ficult personality and the scope of his military and artistic undertakings, Julius's administration left the papacy temporally powerful, financially solvent, and aes­thetically enriched, if decidedly poorer in spiritual clout.
C. Shaw, Julius II: The Warrior Pope, 1993.
Michael J. Medwick

Renaissance and Reformation 1500-1620: A Biographical Dictionary. . 2001.

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