Pope Leo X – 217th Pope

Pope Leo

Pope Leo X was the 217th leader of the Catholic Church and the 10th among that lot to take the name “Leo.”

Born Giovanni de’ Medici, Pope Leo X’s papacy took place during the Renaissance. His rise from the renowned Medici clan of Florence to the papal seat in 1513 began a period that reshaped European Christianity.

Leo X’s love for opulence and art matched his religious fervor, exemplifying High Renaissance ideals. His rule saw generous support for artists and intellectuals, making Rome a hub of cultural excellence. Yet, his time as pope coincided with the beginnings of the Protestant Reformation, which led to a major split in Christian faith.

The story of Leo X is full of opposing traits: a religious leader who embraced princely comforts, an art patron grappling with faith matters, and a pope whose choices unintentionally sparked religious upheaval. His time offers an intriguing look at a crucial historical moment when Renaissance splendor clashed with rising church dissatisfaction.

Our exploration of Pope Leo X’s life will cover his navigation of 1500s political challenges, his influence on art and culture, and the long-term effects of his papal reign still felt today. We invite you to join this historical journey as we examine the man behind the famous words, “Since God has given us the papacy, let us enjoy it.”

Life Before the Papacy.

Giovanni was the second son of Lorenzo the Magnificent, leader of the Florentine Republic. He was born with the path of the clergy already set before him. His father managed to convince Innocent VIII, a relative, to make Giovanni Cardinal-Deacon of Santa Maria in Domnica when he was only 13 years old; Giovanni would not wear any clerical insignia nor participate in college deliberations until he turned 16.

He received education in humanities by Lorenzeo’s court of influence, then moved on to studying for degrees in theology and canon law from 1489 to 1491.

March 1492 would see him formally join the Sacred College of Cardinals. It was not long after this time that he would join in the papal conclave of 1492 to choose Innocent VIII‘s papal successor, but not before his father’s died. During the French invasion by King Charles VIII, Giovanni fled Florence for Germany, the Netherlands and even France while his brother Piero went further into Venice and Urbino. Giovanni would not return to Rome until May of 1500, where Pope Alexander VI would greet him and he would call a home full of artwork and literature.

After Julius II donned the papal crown in 1503, Giovanni was happy for the man; his brother’s death in the same year left Giovanni as head of the de’ Medici clan. On October 1st, 1511, Giovanni became the papal legate for Bologna and the Romagna. When the Florentines favored the Pisans, Julius II dispatched Giovanni with the papal army to fight the French; this ended with a French victory and Giovanni being held captive for years. In time, Giovanni’s younger brother, Giuliano, became head of Florence while Giovanni governed the region.

Papal Legacy.

  • After a snarled attempt at carving out central Italy into a kingdom, due to Giuliano’s death, he joined forced with Spain and England to war with the French. This would leave Giovanni’s nephew Lorenzo as the duke or Urbino, anarchy within the Papal States and a severe loss to the papal coffers.

  • He appointed a record-setting 31 cardinals, of whom several hailed from influential Roman families. Giovanni believed some sought to poison him and did what he could to foster loyalty, including hold some executions.

Quick Facts About Pope Leo X.

  • He was born on December 11th, 1475 within Florence, when Florence was its own Republic.
  • His full given name was Giovanni di Lorenzo de’ Medici.
  • He died on December 1st, 1521, less than a month from turning 46 years of age.
  • The circumstances surrounding his death were suffocation as a result of pneumonia.
  • His papacy began on March 9th, 1513.
  • His papacy ended with his life.
  • His papal successor was Adrian VI.

Events In The Life of Pope Leo X (Giovanni de’ Medici)

DateAgeEventTitle
11 Dec 1475Born
9 Mar 148913.2Elevated to CardinalIn Pectore
23 Mar 148913.2AppointedCardinal-Deacon of Santa Maria in Domnica
26 Mar 149216.2Elevated to Cardinal
9 Dec 151034.9AppointedAdministrator of Amalfi, Italy
9 Mar 151337.2ElectedPope (Roma, Italy)
15 Mar 151337.2Ordained PriestPriest
17 Mar 151337.2Ordained BishopPope (Roma, Italy)
19 Mar 151337.2InstalledPope (Roma, Italy)
1 Dec 152145.9DiedPope (Roma, Italy)

Six Interesting Facts About Pope Leo X.

  1. He was the last pope to not be serving within a religious order, i.e. a non-priest, at the time of his election to the position.

  2. He received the tonsure at age 7.

  3. He was he pope when Martin Luther published his 95 Theses.

  4. He was quoted as finding the monetary merits of Christ to be agreeable.

  5. He was keenly interested in music, especially in regard to choirs singing to him.

  6. He had a pet white elephant named Hanno.

See the full list of Popes