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Useful Notes / Pope Julius II

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Drive out the Barbarians!
Pope Julius II's battle cry

Julius II (born Giuliano Della Rovere, 5 December 1443 – 21 February 1513) was Pope from 1503 to 1513. The last Pope before Martin Luther kickstarted the Reformation, one could say that like his predecessor (and hated rival), he contributed to the triggering of it, though in certainly different ways.

Most people believe the Vicar of Christ on Earth should never pick up a sword and never even get close to military affairs. Julius II wasn't most people, though. For one, he didn't choose his name in honor of Pope Julius I, but of Julius Caesar, and would later receive the nicknames of "The Warrior Pope" and "The Fearsome Pope".

Starting his career as a humble priest of an Impoverished Patrician family, he was mentored and aided by his uncle, Pope Sixtus IV, who gave him the position of Bishop and subsequently Cardinal. With the death of Pope Innocent VIII, he and his longtime rival Rodrigo Borgia were the two principal candidates for the Papal Chair, and they both fiercely attempted to sway the college of cardinals to their side in the subsequent conclave, by any means necessary (read: bribery). Della Rovere lost, and Rodrigo Borgia ascended to become Pope Alexander VI.

Della Rovere spent Alexander VI's entire papacy attempting to destroy or dethrone him (preferably both), going to such lengths as causing a war between Italy and France in an attempt to destroy the Borgia Pope, making himself the most dangerous and determined adversary of the Borgia Family. He was unsuccessful in all attempts, but in 1503, Lady Luck smiled to Giulliano Della Rovere: Alexander VI died of malaria.

But he bided his time. Pius III, elected Pope shortly after Alexander's demise, died less than a month after ascending to the Papal chair, leaving the Papal chair ripe for the taking. In the subsequent conclave, Giuliano made a truce with Alexander VI's son, Cesare Borgia, and became Julius II.

Upon becoming Pope, Julius II proceeded to smash apart all the political power the Borgias had achieved in Alexander VI's papacy. He made Alexander VI an Un-person, went back on everything he promised to Cesare Borgia, and even requested the Spanish Viceroy of Naples, legendary general Gonzalo Fernández de Córdoba, to revoke Cesare's protection in Italy and arrest him (Cesare managed to escape from his prison in Spain, but died in battle not long after).

But the career of Julius II would only get more dramatic: clad in armor and waving a sword, he took to the battlefield and led the Papal troops himself, warring against the Venetians with great success and later against the French also successfully; his only regret was that he couldn't convince Fernández de Córdoba, whom he admired, to join the fight. His victories completely changed the history of the Papal States, establishing a structure that would exist until the 19th century.

He was also a patron of the arts, responsible for ordering many of the greatest masterpieces of the Renaissance (most famously those of Michelangelo Buonarroti, though their relationship was by no means smooth.) and the main reason Rome became such a cultural capital.

He died of a fever in 1513, and was replaced by Giovanni di Lorenzo de' Medici, who took the name Leo X. A common point of speculation is what would have happened if Julius had lived long enough to react (probably not very well) to the Reformation.

Tropes as portrayed in fiction:

  • Hot-Blooded: In The Prince, Machiavelli notes that Julius II was incredibly quick-tempered, which was both his greatest asset and his greatest flaw.

Appears in the following works:

  • He's the Hero Antagonist (portrayed by Colm Feore) in The Borgias as well as in Borgia (portrayed by Tom Fontana).
  • Rex Harrison portrays him in The Agony and the Ecstasy.
  • Has a brief cameo in Assassin's Creed: Brotherhood, arresting Cesare Borgia for his numerous crimes. His role is expanded upon in supplementary material.
  • Cesare - Il Creatore che ha distrutto where Cesare Borgia is the main character, has the then-Cardinal Della Rovere as a more of an Anti-Villain than the manga source material (which tends to just show him as angry and scary). His sympathetic Villain Song mentions his rise from poverty, and his belief that no one else understands the meaning of divine salvation the way he does, and it ends with a projected vision of the Sistine Chapel frescoes that he would later commission. That said, it comes after he's spent the whole story ordering assassination attempts against the 16-year-old protagonist, and after he gets two of Cesare's teenage classmates killed while following his orders. It was par for the course in the politics of the time, but even so.
  • The French comic series "The Terrible Pope", by Alejandro Jodorowsky and Milo Manara gives a sensationalist version of his life, making him Manly Gay, killing dissident members of his family, creating his own elite bodyguard corps of former lovers (by executing those that don't follow his orders exactly), and charging into battle shielded by a metal statue of Jesus.
  • Portrayed by Massimo De Francovich in Sin, in which some of his famous interactions with Michelangelo, as well as his death, are reenacted.
  • F. Murray Abraham portrays Julius in three episodes of the television miniseries "A Season of Giants."