Pope Leo X

11 Dec 1475
1 Dec 1521
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Pope Leo X (11 December 1475 – 1 December 1521), born Giovanni di Lorenzo de’ Medici, was Pope from 9 March 1513 to his death in 1521.

The second son of Lorenzo the Magnificent, ruler of the Florentine Republic, he was elevated to the cardinalate in 1489.

Following the death of Pope Julius II, Giovanni was elected pope after securing the backing of the younger members of the Sacred College. Early on in his rule he oversaw the closing sessions of the Fifth Council of the Lateran, but failed sufficiently to implement the reforms agreed.

In 1517 he led a costly war that succeeded in securing his nephew as duke of Urbino, but which damaged the papal finances. He later only narrowly escaped a plot by some cardinals to poison him.

He is probably best remembered for granting indulgences for those who donated to reconstruct St. Peter’s Basilica, which practice was challenged by Martin Luther’s 95 Theses.

He seems not to have taken seriously the array of demands for church reform that would quickly grow into the Protestant Reformation. His Papal Bull of 1520, Exsurge Domine, simply condemned Luther on a number of areas and made ongoing engagement difficult.

He did, however, grant establishment to the Oratory of Divine Love.

He borrowed and spent heavily. A significant patron of the arts, upon election Leo is alleged to have said, “Since God has given us the papacy, let us enjoy it”. Under his reign, progress was made on the rebuilding of Saint Peter’s Basilica and artists such as Raphael decorated the Vatican rooms.

Leo also reorganised the Roman University, and promoted the study of literature, poetry and antiquities. He died in 1521 and is buried in Santa Maria sopra Minerva, Rome.

He is the last pope not to have been in priestly orders at the time of his election to the papacy.

Giovanni di Lorenzo de’ Medici was born in the Republic of Florence, the second son of Lorenzo the Magnificent, who was head of the Florentine Republic.

From an early age he was destined for an ecclesiastical career. He received the tonsure at the age of seven and was soon granted rich benefices and preferments.

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