Pope Clement VII Profile

Pope Clement VII

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  • Pope Clement VII was also known as: Giulio de' Medici
  • Pope Clement VII is noted for: Failing to recognize and deal with the significant changes of the Reformation. Indecisive and in over his head, Clement's inability to stand strong against the powers of France and the Holy Roman Empire made an unstable situation worse. He was the pope whose refusal to give England's King Henry VIII a divorce touched off the English Reformation.
  • Occupation and Role in Society: Pope
  • Places of Residence and Influence: Italy

Important Dates

  • Born: May 26, 1478, Florence
  • Elected pope: Nov. 18, 1523
  • Imprisoned by the Emperor's troops: May 1527
  • Died: Sept. 25, 1534

About Clement VII

Giulio de' Medici was the illegitimate son of Giuliano de' Medici, and he was raised by Giuliano's brother, Lorenzo the Magnificent. In 1513 his cousin, Pope Leo X, made him archbishop of Florence and cardinal. Giuliano influenced Leo's policies, and also planned some impressive works of art to honor his family.

As pope, Clement wasn't up to the challenge of the Reformation. He failed to understand the significance of the Lutheran movement and allowed his involvement in Europe's political sphere to reduce his effectiveness in spiritual matters.

Emperor Charles V had supported Clement's candidacy for the pope, and he saw the Empire and the Papacy as a partnership. However, Clement allied himself with Charles' longtime enemy, Francis I of France, in the League of Cognac. This rift eventually resulted in imperial armies sacking Rome and imprisoning Clement in the castle of Sant'Angelo.

Even after his confinement ended several months later, Clement remained under the imperial influence. His compromised position interfered with his ability to deal with Henry VIII's request for an annulment, and he was never able to make any viable decisions regarding the upheaval that the Reformation had become.