The Warrior Pope —- Pope Julius II
Nicknamed the “warrior pope” and the “fearsome pope” Julius II was different from most popes throughout history in that he donned arms and armor, and personally went into battle.
Formerly named Giuliano della Rovere he was elected Pope in 1503 and took the name Julius II. One of his first actions as pope was to found the Swiss Guard, an elite corps of mercenaries whose duty was to guard the pope. He would need them, as he had big plans for Italy during his reign.
At the time Italy was divided into numerous kingdoms and city states. The papacy had control of the Papal States, which included the City of Rome and the surrounding territorry. Julius II resented the fact that the papacy was often influenced by the secular leadership of Italy, which included the Borgia’s, the Medici family of Florence, the Duke of Milan, and the most powerful Doge of Venice. Julius II sought to reunify Italy under his holy rule.
Julius II was not just an armchair general. An ambitious and charismatic leader, he led from the front, wearing battle armor and carrying a sword. It is often noted that during moments when a battle seemed lost, Julius II would personally rally his troops, entering the fray with sword in hand and leading his army to victory.
By 1506 he had succeeded in adding the cities of Perugia and Bologna to his domain, but the Most Serene Republic of Venice, the most powerful city state in Italy, would take much more than the Papal Army to conquer. He created an Alliance with King Louis XII of France, Maximilian I of Germany, and Ferdinand II of Spain. While the three kingdoms had drastically different goals, and could care less of Julius II conquests, they were threatened with excommunication if they did not join the alliance. The Venetians could not stand against the “League of Cambrai” and was crushed at the battle of Agnadello in 1509.
Next Julius II sought to remove the French from Italy. Turning against his former ally, Juilius II created “The Holy League” consisting of England, Spain, and Germany to regain territory occupied by France in Italy. He managed to drive the French out of Italy, but unexpectedly died from fever in 1513.
While especially known for his battlefield mentality, Julius II was also known as a patron of the arts. He commisioned the builing of St. Peters, the painting of the Sistine Chapel by Michelangelo, and was a patron of the artist Raphael.