The Medicis were a powerful and influential Florentine family from the 13th to 17th centuries. There were four popes who were related to the Medicis and each other.
- Pope Leo X (December 11, 1475 – December 1, 1521), born Giovanni de’ Medici, was pope from 1513 to his death.
- Pope Clement VII (May 26, 1478 – September 25, 1534), born Giulio di Giuliano de’ Medici, was a cardinal from 1513 to 1523 and was pope from 1523 to 1534. He was a first cousin of Leo X.
- Pope Pius IV (31 March 1499 – December 9, 1565), born Giovanni Angelo Medici, was pope from 1559 to 1565. However, he was only distantly related to the other Medici Popes.
- Pope Leo XI (June 2, 1535 – April 27, 1605), born Alessandro Ottaviano de’ Medici, was pope from April 1, 1605, to April 27 of the same year.
Giovanni de Medici was the first one to become pope, taking the name Leo X. He is known for the indulgence controversy, which ultimately lead to the Lutheran Reformation.
Leo X’s cousin, Giulio de Medici became Pope Clement VII in 1523.
The third pope, Pius IV, was born in Milan, not related to the Medici’s from Florence. He is known for presiding over the final session of the Council of Trent.
The fourth Medici had a pontificate 27 days long due to an illness that took his life. Leo XI has a painting of him in bed, being asked by his confessor to name his nephew a cardinal. He extends his arm, clearly saying “no” right before his death.
Papal Bulla from the Pontificate of Leo X
This particular bulla is an extremely rare and valuable artifact to have in the Collection, not only because of its age, but also because it was issued by the Medici Pope, Leo X, during an era that presaged the Protestant Reformation. In fact, this document was issued in 1517, the same year that Martin Luther drifted into open rebellion with the Catholic church and posted his 95 Theses on the door of the Wittenberg Cathedral on October 31st of that year.
The actual bulla on this document, displaying Leo PAPA X, on one side, has the traditional image of Saints Peter & Paul on the other side with a variation on bullae: this one has the addition of the Medici symbol of five balls, which figure heavily in architecture in both Rome and in Florence, seat of the Medici family. Pope Leo X’s coat of arms also has that image and immediately identifies him as a Medici.
Document of Pope Clement VII, Signed as Cardinal de’ Medici
A document signed prior to his pontificate as Cardinal de’Medici. It is dated 1520 and is an untranslated letter.
King Henry VIII broke off relations with Pope Clement VII when he wouldn’t give Henry permission to marry Ann Boleyn.
Autograph of Pope Pius IV, Signed as Cardinal, November 23rd, 1555
An autograph signed as Cardinal Angelo De Medici on November 23rd, 1555. It concerns an appointment of the Church of Cassano with the previous approval of the Duke of Florence and the King of England.
It is known as an Als, an autographed letter signed which means that a calligrapher signed for him and then he signed on the bottom as Cardinal De Medici.
Document Signed by Pope Leo XI as Cardinal
The artifact is a document signed by Cardinal Alessandro de’ Medici, the future Pope Leo XI, while he was the cardinal-archbishop of Florence.
A deeply religious man whose body of work and holiness is known mostly prior to his pontificate, Pope Leo XI’s mark on the Catholic Church will remain particularly because of his influence in implementing Tridentine reform and in restoring Church discipline in a France ravaged by civil war.
This is a particularly valuable addition to the Collection given the incredibly short duration of his papacy: it began on April 1st, 1605 and ended on April 27th of that month, a mere 27 days later. His pontificate is one of the briefest in history.