Pope Clement VII

Pope Clement VII
Portrait of Pope Clement VII by Sebastiano del Piombo. Public Domain

This profile of Pope Clement VII is part of
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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 & 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 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 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.

More Clement VII Resources:

Encyclopedia Article about Clement VII
Chronological List of Medieval Popes
The Tudor Dynasty: A History in Portraits

Clement VII in Print


edited by Kenneth Gouwens and Sheryl E. Reiss


by P. G. Maxwell-Stuart

Clement VII on the Web

Pope Clement VII (GIULIO DE’ MEDICI)
Substantive biography by Herbert Thurston at the Catholic Encyclopedia.

The Papacy
The Reformation


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