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Five Interesting Historical Facts You Didn't Know About Pope Julius II

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    Most people who are familiar with Renaissance history are at least vaguely acquainted with the history surrounding Pope Julius II. His most notable accomplishments are his military campaigns to defend the Papal States and, more famously, his commissioning of the massive fresco painting on the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel by the noted artist and sculptor Michelangelo Buonarroti. However, his papacy was not defined exclusively by these two events. There are several interesting and much lesser known bits of historical trivia revolving around the warrior pope. Keep reading to learn the top five things you probably didn't already know about him.

Pope Juluis' Tomb

  The Tomb of Pope Julius II in the church of San Pietro is a large wall tomb consisting of elegant architecture and marble sculpture carved also by Michelangelo. Among the sculptures is the famous Moses, considered one of the artist's greatest works. However, despite the name, the remains of Julius contained within the tomb, nor even in the same building! This is because the tomb was not completed until 32 years after the pope's death, by which time his remains had been exhumed from their original resting place and nearly destroyed during the sacking of Rome by the Holy Roman Emperor Charles V in 1527. Later, the remains were reinterred underneath the floor of St. Peter's Basilica. Construction of the tomb was not completed until 1545, by which time it had been scaled down from its original design, which was to consist of 40 sculptures and be placed in the center of St. Peter's, to the final product, which contains only 7 pieces of statuary.

Tomb of Pope Julius
Credit: italian-renaissance-art.com

 The finished tomb of Pope Julius II, as seen today

Dispensation to Henry VIII

  Also among the list of notable historical facts regarding Pope Julius is his official dispensation to King Henry VIII of England, allowing him to marry his brother's widow Catherine of Aragon.  This dispensation was given in 1503, just one month after Julius had been elevated to the papacy. It was highly unusual, but given on the basis that Catherine claimed that her marriage to Henry's brother, Prince Arthur, had never been consumated. This may seem like a trifling matter in history, but it is, in its own way, of extreme significance. This is because 20 years later, when Henry wished to divorce Catherine, a second dispensation allowing him to do so was refused by pope Clement VII, leading directly to Henry's decision to break away from Rome and establish himself and his heirs as supreme head of the church in England.

Gift to the Honours of Scotland

   While not of major historical importance, another interesting fact about the papacy of Julius II is that a gift he made to King James IV became a lasting part of the Honours of Scotland, also known as the Scottish Crown Jewels. Resting with the Crown and Sceptre of Scotland is the sword sent as a gift to the Scottish royal family, known today as the Sword of State of Scotland. It was made in Italy and sent to Scotland in 1507 as recognition of James' support of the Church. It bears finely engraved images of two saints, as well as the name of Julius engraved on the blade. Today, it rests with the rest of the Honours in the Crown Room of Edinburgh Castle. As well as having been used for the Coronation of Scottish kings, the sword has been used in the Coronation ceremonies of four kings and queens of England.

Honours of Scotland
Credit: go2uttyler.blogspot.com

 The Crown Jewels of Scotland

A War Over an Artist?

      Perhaps the strangest episode in the long standing patronage Julius supplied to his favorite artist Michelangelo occurred in 1506, when Michelangelo left Rome without permission due to anger over a lack of funding for the completion of Julius' tomb. Returning to Florence, the artist did not intend to return to the employ of the pope. However, Julius, well known for his military accomplishments, determined that the matter could be resolved with force. He threatened to attack Florence unless Michelangelo returned to Rome. It should be noted that this may have been merely a front for an attack on Florence, as his conflicts with the Medici family earlier in his career had left his relationship with the city on poor terms. Michelangelo and the pope formally reconciled the following year in the city Bologna, and the war never took place.

Election to the Papal Throne

  The final tidbit of historical interest we will look at in this article is the conclave that actually elected Julius to his position as pope. He had already been a strong candidate in the previous three papal elections, but had been denied each time. The final of these three was the election of pope Pius III. Due to the ill health in which Pius came to the office, Julius was to have his chance again soon. A mere 26 days after his election, Pius died. The conclave that was to elect Julius was the shortest in the long history of the College of Cardinals. After only a few hours of debate, the cardinals voted Julius to be the new pope, a position he had coveted since the death of his uncle, Pope Sixtus. Despite votes to severely limit papal power with checks from the College of Cardinals, Julius almost immediately set about increasing the political power of his office and the church as a whole. He was to reign as pope for 10 years, serving from 1503 until his death in 1513.



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