Christianity Knowledge Base

Leo X
Bishop of Rome
Detail from Raphael's Portrait of Leo X
ChurchCatholic Church
Papacy began9 March 1513
Papacy ended1 December 1521
PredecessorJulius II
SuccessorAdrian VI
Ordination15 March 1513
by Raffaele Sansone Riario
Consecration17 March 1513
by Raffaele Sansone Riario
Created cardinal
  • 9 March 1489 (in pectore)
  • 26 March 1492 (revealed)

by Innocent VIII
Personal details
Birth nameGiovanni di Lorenzo de' Medici
Born11 December 1475
Florence, Republic of Florence
Died1 December 1521(1521-12-01) (aged 45)
Rome, Papal States
BuriedSanta Maria sopra Minerva, Rome
Previous post(s)
SignatureLeo X's signature
Coat of armsLeo X's coat of arms
Other popes named Leo
Ordination history of
Pope Leo X
Priestly ordination
Date15 March 1513
Episcopal consecration
Consecrated byRaffaele Sansone Riario
Date17 March 1513
Elevated byInnocent VIII
Date9 March 1489 in pectore (revealed: 26 March 1492)
Episcopal succession
Bishops consecrated by Pope Leo X as principal consecrator
Lorenzo Pucci13 December 1513
Baltasar del Río22 October 1515
Pedro de Urieta29 October 1516
Giulio di Giuliano de' Medici21 December 1517
Ferdinando Ponzetti21 December 1517

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Pope Leo X, born Giovanni di Lorenzo de' Medici (11 December 14751 December 1521) was Pope from 1513 to his death. He is known primarily for his failure to stem the Protestant Reformation, which began during his reign when Martin Luther (1483–1546) first accused the Roman Catholic Church of corruption.

Leo X is considered the only Pope who has bestowed his own name upon his age, and one of the few whose original extraction has corresponded in some measure with the splendour of the pontifical dignity. He was the second son of Lorenzo de' Medici. His cousin Giulio di Giuliano de' Medici, would become Pope Clement VII (1523–34).

The quote "How well we know what a profitable superstition this fable of Christ has been for us" is commonly but nonetheless falsely attributed to him. In actuality, the quote is derived from The Pageant of the Popes, a parodical play of the Protestant satirist John Bale.


Early career[]

Giovanni de' Medici was born in Florence.

On March 26 1492, the 16-year-old Giovanni became a cardinal and moved to Rome, receiving a letter of advice[1] from his parents which rank among the wisest and weightiest compositions of its class. Within a few months his prospects were clouded by the nearly simultaneous deaths of his father and the Pope, a double bereavement closing the era of peace which Lorenzo's prudent policy had given to Italy, and inaugurating a period of foreign invasion and domestic strife.

One of the first consequences of the French irruption into Italy which shortly ensued was the expulsion of the Medici family from Florence (November 1494). Having resisted to the best of his ability, the Cardinal de' Medici found a refuge at Bologna and, being obnoxious to Innocent VIII's successor, Pope Alexander VI (1492–1503) as well as seeing himself deprived of political importance for the time being, he journeyed to several foreign countries with a party of friends. Upon his return he settled in Rome, withdrawing himself from public life as much as possible, and disarming the jealousy of Alexander VI by displaying an unaffected devotion to literary pursuits.

Election to Papacy[]

When he became Pope on March 9, 1513, Leo X rejoiced; he is reported to have said to his brother Giuliano, "Since God has given us the papacy, let us enjoy it." The Venetian ambassador who related this of him was not unbiased, nor was he in Rome at the time, nevertheless the phrase illustrates fairly the Pope's pleasure-loving nature and the lack of seriousness that characterized him. And enjoy he did, traveling around Rome at the head of a lavish parade featuring panthers, jesters, and Hanno, a white elephant. "Under his pontificate, Christianity assumed a pagan character, which, passing from art into manners, gives to this epoch a strange complexion. Crimes for the moment disappeared, to give place to vices; but to charming vices, vices in good taste, such as those indulged in by Alcibiades and sung by Catullus." (Alexandre Dumas pére).[2]

Leo X was also lavish in works of charity: hospitals, convents, discharged soldiers, pilgrims, poor students, exiles, cripples, the sick, the unfortunate of every description were generously remembered, and more than 6,000 ducats were annually distributed in alms.

His extravagance offended even some Cardinals, who, led by Alfonso Petrucci of Siena, allegedly plotted an assassination attempt (which was foiled); the plan was to inject poison into the Pope's formidable hemorrhoids. Some people argue that Leo X and his followers simply concocted the assassination charges in a moneymaking scheme to collect fines from the various wealthy Cardinals Leo X detested.

The Reformation[]

Leo X was noted for his projects, including St. Peter's Basilica, and personal extravagances.

On June 15, 1520 Pope Leo X issued the papal bull "Exsurge Domine" and on January 3, 1521 excommunicated Martin Luther. This bull was widely ignored (and was publicly burned by Luther). The bull said the statement "That heretics be burned is against the will of the Spirit" was an error, thereby endorsing the burning of heretics [3]. Soon after this, the Pope fell ill with Malaria.

He died in Rome in 1521, and was buried in Santa Maria sopra Minerva.


  • Ludwig von Pastor, History of the Popes from the Close of the Middle Ages; Drawn from the Secret Archives of the Vatican and other original sources, 40 vols. St. Louis, B.Herder 1898
  • Luther Martin. Luther's Correspondence and Other Contemporary Letters, 2 vols., tr.and ed. by Preserved Smith, Charles Michael Jacobs, The Lutheran Publication Society, Philadelphia, Pa. 1913, 1918. vol.I (1507-1521) and vol.2 (1521-1530) from Google Books. Reprint of Vol.1, Wipf & Stock Publishers (March 2006). ISBN 1-59752-601-0

External links[]

Pope Leo X
House of Medici
Born: 11 December 1475 Died: 1 December 1521
Catholic Church titles
Preceded by
Pope Julius II
9 March 1513 – 1 December 1521

Succeeded by
Pope Adrian VI

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