Pope Nicholas V
|Papacy began||6 March 1447|
|Papacy ended||24 March 1455|
|Consecration||17 March 1447|
|Created Cardinal||16 December 1446|
|Birth name||Tomaso Parentucelli|
15 November 1397|
Sarzana, Republic of Genoa
|Died||24 March 1455
Rome, Papal States
|Other popes named Nicholas|
|Papal styles of
Pope Nicholas V
|Reference style||His Holiness|
|Spoken style||Your Holiness|
|Religious style||Holy Father|
Pope Nicholas V (Latin: Nicholaus V) (15 November 1397 – 24 March 1455), born Tommaso Parentucelli, was the head of the Catholic Church from 6 March 1447 until his death in 1455.1 The Pontificate of Nicholas saw the fall of Constantinople to the Ottoman Turks. He is the last pope to take the name "Nicholas" upon his election.
He was born at Sarzana, Liguria, where his father was a physician.2 His father died while he was young. Parentucelli later became a tutor, in Florence, to the families of the Strozzi and Albizzi, where he met the leading humanist scholars.
He studied at Bologna and Florence, gaining a degree in theology in 1422.3 Bishop Niccolò Albergati was so awe-struck with his capabilities that he took him into his service and gave him the chance to pursue his studies further by sending him on a tour through Germany, France and England. He was able to collect books, for which he had an intellectual's passion, wherever he went. Some of them survive with his marginal annotations.
He attended the Council of Florence4 and in 1444, when his patron died, he was appointed Bishop of Bologna in his place.5 Civic disorders at Bologna were prolonged, so Pope Eugene IV soon named him as one of the legates sent to Frankfurt. He was to assist in negotiating an understanding between the Papal States and the Holy Roman Empire, regarding undercutting or at least containing the reforming decrees of the Council of Basel (1431–1439).
His successful diplomacy gained him the reward, on his return to Rome, of the title Cardinal-Priest of Santa Susanna in December 1446. At the papal conclave of 1447 he was elected Pope in succession to Eugene IV on 6 March. He took the name Nicholas V in honour of his early benefactor, Niccolò Albergati.
The eight scant years of his pontificate were important in the political, scientific, and literary history of the world. Politically, he concluded the Concordat of Vienna, or Aschaffenburg (17 February 1448) with the German King, Frederick III, by which the decrees of the Council of Basel against papal annates and reservations were abrogated so far as Germany was concerned. In the following year he secured a still greater tactical triumph with the resignation of the Antipope Felix V on 7 April and his own recognition by the rump of the Council of Basel that assembled at Lausanne.
In 1450, Nicholas V held a Jubilee at Rome, and the offerings of the numerous pilgrims who thronged to Rome gave him the means of furthering the cause of culture in Italy, which he had so much at heart. In March 1452 he crowned Frederick III as Holy Roman Emperor in St. Peter's, the last occasion of the coronation of an Emperor at Rome. Within the city of Rome, Nicholas V introduced the fresh spirit of the Renaissance. His plans were of embellishing the city with new monuments worthy of the capital of the Christian world.
His first care was practical, to reinforce the city's fortifications,6 cleaning and even paving some main streets and restoring the water supply. The end of ancient Rome is sometimes dated from the destruction of its magnificent array of aqueducts by 6th-century invaders. In the Middle Ages Romans depended for water on wells and cisterns, and the poor dipped their water from the yellow Tiber. The Aqua Virgo aqueduct, originally constructed by Agrippa, was restored by Nicholas V and emptied into a simple basin that Leon Battista Alberti designed, the predecessor of the Trevi Fountain.
He got as far as pulling down part of the ancient basilica, made some alterations to the Lateran Palace (of which some frescos by Fra Angelico bear witness), and laid up 2,522 cartloads of marble from the dilapidated Colosseum for use in the later constructions.
Under the generous patronage of Nicholas V, humanism made rapid strides as well. The new humanist learning had been hitherto looked on with suspicion in Rome, a possible source of schism and heresy from an unhealthy interest in paganism. For Nicholas V, humanism became a tool for the cultural aggrandizement of the Christian capital, and he sent emissaries to the East to attract Greek scholars after the fall of Constantinople.7 The pope also employed Lorenzo Valla to translate Greek histories,8 pagan as well as Christian, into Latin. This industry, coming just before the dawn of printing, contributed enormously to the sudden expansion of the intellectual horizon.
Nicholas V, with assistance from Enoch of Ascoli and Giovanni Tortelli, founded a library of nine thousand volumes, including manuscripts rescued from the Turks after the fall of Constantinople. The Pope himself was a man of vast erudition, and his friend Aeneas Silvius Piccolomini, later Pope Pius II, said of him that "what he does not know is outside the range of human knowledge".
He was compelled, however, to add that the lustre of his pontificate would be forever dulled by the fall of Constantinople, which the Turks took in 1453. The Pope bitterly felt this catastrophe as a double blow to Christendom and to Greek letters. "It is a second death", wrote Aeneas Silvius, "to Homer and Plato."
Nicholas V preached a crusade and endeavoured to reconcile the mutual animosities of the Italian states, but without much success. He did not live long enough to see the effect of the Greek scholars armed with unimagined manuscripts who began to find their way to Italy.
In undertaking these works, Nicholas V was moved "to strengthen the weak faith of the populace by the greatness of that which it sees". The Roman populace, however, appreciated neither his motives nor their results, and in 1452 a formidable conspiracy for the overthrow of the papal government under the leadership of Stefano Porcaro was discovered and crushed. This revelation of disaffection, together with the fall of Constantinople in 1453, darkened the last years of Pope Nicholas V. "As Thomas of Sarzana", he said, "I had more happiness in a day than now in a whole year".
Nicholas issued the bull "Dum Diversas" (18 June 1452) for King Alfonso V of Portugal to give him the right to "attack, conquer, and subjugate Saracens, Pagans and other enemies of Christ wherever they may be found." The geographical area of the concession given in the bull is not explicit, but Canadian historian Richard Raiswell argues that the use of the terms "pagans" and "other enemies of Christ" indicates the scope of the bull was applicable to the newly discovered lands along the west coast of Africa and that the ambiguity of the text was such that it encouraged the Portuguese to extend their explorations further afield. He further argues that the use of crusading language in the bull served to make the Christian-Muslim relationship the model for Africa.9
The ownership of the Canary Islands continued to be a source of dispute between Spain and Portugal and Nicholas was asked to settle the matter, ultimately in favor of the Portuguese.10 The bull issued by Nicholas Romanus Pontifex (8 January 1455), reaffirmed Dum Diversas and also sanctioned the purchase of black slaves from "the infidel".11 The bull also conferred exclusive trading rights to the Portuguese between Morocco and the Indies with the rights to conquer and convert the inhabitants.12 A significant concession given by Nicholas in a brief issued to King Alfonso in 1454 extended the rights granted to existing territories to all those that might be taken in the future.13
It is argued that collectively the two bulls issued by Nicholas gave the Portuguese the rights to acquire slaves along the African coast by force or trade. The concessions given in them were confirmed by bulls issued by Pope Callixtus III (Inter Caetera quae in 1456), Sixtus IV (Aeterni regis in 1481), and Leo X (1514), and they became the models for subsequent bulls issued by Pope Alexander VI : Eximiae devotionis (3 May 1493), Inter Caetera (4 May 1493) and Dudum Siquidem (23 September 1493), in which he conferred similar rights to Spain relating to the newly discovered lands in the Americas.14
- Filelfo & Robin (2009), p. 370.
- Gregorovius & Hamilton (1900), p. 106.
- Hay (1995), p. 164.
- Hollingsworth (1995), p. 238.
- Terpstra (1995), p. 34.
- Cheetham (1983), p. 180.
- Duffy (1997), p. 181.
- Sider (2005), p. 147.
- "The Historical encyclopedia of world slavery", Richard Raiswell, p. 469
- Stogre (1992), p. 65.
- Earle, T. F.; Lowe, K. J. P. (2005). Black Africans in Renaissance Europe. New York: Cambridge University Press. p. 281. ISBN 0521815827.
- The Historical Encyclopedia of world slavery", Richard Raiswell, p. 469
- "Slavery and the Catholic Church", John Francis Maxwell, p. 55, Barry Rose Publishers, 1975
- "The Historical Encyclopedia of world slavery", Richard Raiswell, p. 469, "Black Africans in Renaissance Europe", P. 281, Luis N. Rivera, 1992, p. 25
- Cheetham, Nicolas (1983). Keeper of the Keys: A History of the Popes from St. Peter to John Paul II. Charles Scribner's Sons. ISBN 068417863X.
- Duffy, Eamon (1997). Saints and Sinners: A History of the Popes (2nd ed.). Yale University Press. ISBN 0300073321.
- Filelfo, Francesco; Robin, Diana (2009). Odes. Harvard University Press. p. 370. ISBN 9780674035638.
- Gregorovius, Ferdinand; Hamilton, Annie (1900). History of the City of Rome in the Middle Ages. Cambridge University Press.
- Hay, Denys (1995). The Italian Renaissance in its historical background. Cambridge University Press. ISBN 0521291046.
- Hollingsworth, Mary (1995). Patronage in Renaissance Italy: From 1400 to the Early Sixteenth Century. Johns Hopkins University Press. ISBN 0801852870.
- Sider, Sandra (2005). Handbook to Life in Renaissance Europe. Oxford University Press. ISBN 0816056188.
- Stogre, Michael (1992). That the World may Believe: The Development of Papal Social Thought on Aboriginal Rights. Médiaspaul. ISBN 2-89039-549-9.
- Terpstra, Gregory (1995). Lay Confraternities and Civic Religion in Renaissance Bologna. Cambridge University Press. ISBN 0521480922.
- "The Historical Encyclopedia of World slavery", Editor Junius P. Rodriguez, ABC-CLIO, 1997, ISBN 0-87436-885-5
- "A violent evangelism", Luis N. Rivera, Luis Rivera Pagán , Westminster John Knox Press, 1992, ISBN 0-664-25367-9
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Nicolaus V.|
- Catholic Encyclopedia 1908: Nicholas V.
- Full text of his Papal Bull Pontifex Romanus in English translation :
|Catholic Church titles|
6 March 1447 – 24 March 1455