Birth Name: Alessandro Farnese
Regnal Name: Paul III
Regnal Life: 1534-1549
Born in Latium, Alessandro Farnese was educated at the University of Pisa and in Florence, where he spent some time in the household of Lorenzo de'Medici. He became a close associate of Rodrigo Cardinal Borgia; in fact, his sister, Giulia Farnese, was Cardinal Borgia's mistress. When Borgia became Alexander VI, the pope made Farnese a cardinal. His sister introduced him to Silvia Ruffini, who became Farnese's mistress. They would eventually have four children: Costanza, Pier Luigi, Paolo and Ranuccio. When Alexander died and, shortly afterward, Pius III died as well, Giuliano della Rovere became Julius II. Julius hated Alexander, and he began almost immediately to make an extensive house-cleaning to remove supporters of Alexander. Farnese, however, somehow managed to maintain good relations with the new pope, despite being very obviously associated with Alexander. This is an important aspect of Farnese's talents and career; he was emollient, the sort of man who is difficult to treat as enemy. Under Julius he was made administrator of Parma. This marks a significant change in his life; in Parma he began associating with reform-minded priests and bishops. He ended the relationship with Silvia (although he will always support their children) and threw himself into the work of ecclesiastical reform. He was very active with the Fifth Lateran Council and began energetically implementing its reforms in Parma almost immediately. When Giovanni di Lorenzo de'Medici became Leo X, Cardinal Farnese's position improved even further, because, of course, Leo was an old friend, Farnese having spent time in the Medici household. He continued to do well under Adrian VI and, despite having been a potential rival in the papal election, even better under Clement VII (who was, of course, a Medici as well).
However, they were troubled times for everyone, and one problem that Cardinal Farnese had -- and would always have -- was his son Pier Luigi. Pier Luigi was a wild young man. He supported Colonna and the Imperial faction, to the great irritation of Clement VII; Farnese, always smooth, managed to get an amnesty for Pier Luigi, but the ungrateful boy signed up for the Imperial army anyway, and perhaps also is the one who convinced his brother Ranuccio to join. So Pier Luigi Farnese fought against the Papal States. He in fact participated in the Sack of Rome while his father was fleeing with the pope to Castel Sant'Angelo. (Ranuccio, on the other hand, at some point joined a small group to serve as a guard protecting the pope.) In any even, Cardinal Farnese became one of Clement's closest associates, a major support during Clement's imprisonment and Clement's foremost diplomat after.
When Clement died, the situation in which the conclave was very peculiar. Given the hostilities in Europe, the conclave needed a candidate who was neither pro-Imperial nor pro-French; this narrowed the field considerably, and of all the possibilities, Farnese had been Clement's own preference for a successor. So he was elected quite quickly and easily, and took the name Paul III. The Romans were enthusiastic about him, and the celebrations over his election were extensive. However, given his age, he was not expected to live long.
Almost immediately after his election, Paul began shoring up his family, and if there's any criticism of Paul's tenure as pope that approaches being universal among observers and historians, it is nepotism. He made Pier Luigi's son, who was also named Alessandro Farnese, a cardinal, and would make another son of Pier Luigi, also known as Ranuccio, first the prior of the Venetian property of the Knights of Malta (he was twelve years old), then cardinal at the age of fifteen. Paul attempted to negotiate titles over the city of Novara for Pier Luigi himself, this took considerable negotiation, because Charles V was not particularly enthused over it, but he was eventually successful. He also made Pier Luigi Captain General of the Church and created the Duchy of Castro within the Papal States for his son. Later, he would make him Duke of Parma and Piacenza. Perhaps Paul hoped that Pier Luigi would be stabilized by the added responsibilities, but the man always remained wild and cruel; in 1537, for instance, there was a big scandal when he was accused of raping a twenty-four-year-old bishop, who died shortly afterward. Pier Luigi himself was murdered in 1547 by conspiracy led by the governor of Milan, probably with Charles's support, as Charles wanted to add the Duchy of Parma and Piacenza to Milanese territory. But the problems that Pier Luigi caused for Paul are generally seen as the primary blot on his papacy.
When he became Pope, Paul had to engage in a very delicate balancing act over the relations between the States of the Church and both France and the Empire. He tried to resolve this problem by a policy of very strict neutrality on all matters involving both. It is a sign of the times that this was very difficult to do, and took all of his diplomatic ingenuity. Nonetheless he was successful for a while, and in this way contributed as best he could to one of the main planks of Renaissance reform: peace among the Christian princes. The most important plank of Renaissance reform, however, was the summoning of a general council, and Paul was absolutely resolved to achieve this. The situation with France and the Empire, however, would continually derail his attempts. He began working toward a general council almost as soon as he was in office, but quickly found that the real issue was less the council itself and more where the council would be. The Emperor Charles was, after Pope Paul, the biggest supporter of council, but Charles wanted the council to take place in Germany, where he could keep an eye on it, and Paul did not want a council in Germany because there was so much disruption over Protestantism, and as events would unfold, this would clearly be seen to be a wise worry. Charles's brother Ferdinand was taking a bigger role in Imperial affairs, and he pushed for Trent. Trent was convenient as to location -- it was within the Empire but was also in a broad sense an Italian city. It was also a small place which at the time had no significant universities or libraries or housing, all things you would need for a general council. Charles was willing to compromise a bit more, and offered Mantua, a little farther south but still under Imperial control, and burgeoning under the governance of the Gonzaga family. Charles and Ferdinand were not the real obstacles, though. The Schmalkaldic League, France, and England actively opposed holding a general council. The League refused to recognize any council called by a pope, as well as any council that occurred outside of Germany. This was, despite what you might think, not representative of Protestants at the time, who by and large shared the general Renaissance that a general council was good thing for reform, but they were the major Protestant power on the continent, and their view was spreading. Francis I of France was afraid that a general council would give the advantage in the France-Empire power struggle to Charles, and was adamant that a council should not be called in Germany. And Henry VIII of England broke with Rome in 1534 with the Act of Supremacy and the Treasons Act, and did not want the problem of a general council perhaps unifying the continent against him. One might say, 'Well, why does it matter what the great powers wanted?' But a key problem with councils is that they are expensive. (This was always one of conciliarism's weak points, that implementing it thoroughly would be so expensive that no one had the revenue for it.) You have to pay for bishops to go; you have to pay for them be housed and fed; you have to pay for resources (like books); you have to pay for the communications between the council and the rest of the world. Eugene had gone nearly bankrupt maintaining the Council of Florence, which was only be completed because (due to some excellent persuasion by Eugene) Florence recognized that establishing Byzantine connnections and having the prestige of the council could be good for its bottom line and therefore was willing to foot the rest of the bill. Constance and Fifth Lateran basically worked by the great powers paying for their own bishops, thus dividing the costs. If France, or England, or the Empire did not like a location, they obviously wouldn't pay for bishops to go there, and would probably actively discourage most bishops from going. If their bishops were represented, though, the claim of the council to be a general council would become more contestable. It's all well and good to say, 'Let's have a council.' But then you have to organize and pay for it.
In any case, Paul issued a Bull of Convocation in 1536, summoning bishops to a council in Mantua, which was resource-wise a great city for it, and a very reasonable compromise between the emperor and the pope. He immediately created a Commission of Reform to prepare for it. However, they had not thought beforehand to sound out the Duke of Mantua, Federigo II Gonzaga. Gonzaga was willing to host the council -- but only if certain requirements were met, and the demands kept expanding. The result was the Paul had to prorogue the council before it had even opened. So where to go now? Paul's preferences were for Bologna or Piacenza, but Charles refused to accept a city within the Papal States, because, he argued, any attempt to get the German Protestants on board, even if only in principle, was dead if the council was seen to be too much in the control of the pope. So Paul went to Venice. After some persuasion, he got the Venetians to consent to holding the council in Vicenza. So he issue a new bull convoking the council in Vicenza, and turned to the next problem, which was creating some sort of reconciliation between France and the Empire that would at least be enough to get France to send its delegates. However, when his legates reached Vicenza, they discovered that, despite the opening day for the council being very close, nobody had arrived. And tensions between France and the Empire had suddenly surged (more of which below), so it was clear that neither would be sending delegates any time soon. So Paul postponed the council, indefinitely.
The difficulty of actual reform was quite pervasive. In 1534 he had created a commission for the moral reform of the clergy and another for auditing the offices of the Papal States, and in 1535, he began enforcing prior reform decrees, particularly those of the Fifth Lateran Council, more strictly. As perhaps was inevitable, the cardinals were not very pleased to have all of this meddling all at once, and he found that he was repeatedly resisted and undercut. So he did what popes had previously done to deal with this problem: he made more cardinals. These included his nephews, for which he was at the time and ever after sharply criticized, but he also gave the red hat to a number of exemplary people, like John Fisher. This made it easier to get stricter enforcement of reform policies already in place, although resistance was always there.
It was additionally very difficult to get anything done because the political situation was deteriorating badly. Suleiman the Magnificent had been building his fleet and in 1533 started a series of raids in the Mediterranean, culminating in seizing the important naval port of Tunis from the Spanish. Holding Tunis meant that the Ottoman Empire could raid and even invade any part of the southern coast of Europe, and any of the Mediterranean islands. Charles pulled together a large fleet, the Holy League of 1535, at great expense -- indeed, an expense so great that it could have caused him immense difficulties if it weren't for the fact that Spanish trade and conquest in the New World was beginning to bring in very large sums of money: Francisco Pizarro had ransomed the Incan king Atahualpa for a sum of gold sufficient to pay for it all. A number of other powers contributed, but France refused to do so, stating that it was under a temporary truce with the Ottomans due to an embassy by the Ottomans to France in 1533. That is true, and is what the French said, but what the French did not say was that they were at that very moment engaging in negotiations with the Ottoman Empire for joint military action against the Holy Roman Empire. But the fact that the French were still in negotiation over this meant that they were willing accept Paul's proposal of a truce among the European powers during the Holy League's campaign to retake Tunis. The Siege of Tunis was brutal and bloody but successful; indeed, resoundingly so. And Suleiman, no fool at all, took the lesson: the Holy Roman Empire was a potentially fatal threat when it could exert its full power. So the sultan agreed to a full and formal alliance with France. The Franco-Ottoman Alliance had begun. The French would be allowed to trade freely with Ottoman ports, they would not be harassed or bothered about their religion while in the Ottoman Empire, various religious sites were turned over to the French to oversee, coordinated military campaigns would be undertaken against Italy, the Ottoman Empire would help France finance its army, permanent embassies were established. Suleiman even sent a letter to the Schmalkaldic League, promising them support if they would ally with France. In 1536, the Italian War of 1536-1538 began as the French invaded Italy. It's not surprising that Pope Paul found himself with a Europe that suddenly had no interest in a general council. France's assault on Italy was ground to a halt by Genoa, partly because the French had moved somewhat too early -- the sultan was not yet ready to assault Naples and draw away Imperial forces. He landed forces in Otranto in 1537, but that the French were unable to seize Lombardy, so he withdrew them and attacked Venice instead, beginning the Third Ottoman-Venetian War. In the face of all this, Paul, using his diplomatic skills to the utmost, managed to negotiate a truce between Francis and Charles again, and then called for another Holy League. The Ottoman navy had grown immensely, however, and after intensive fighting, the Ottomans won resoundingly, seizing a significant portion of Venetian territory.
In the meantime, Denmark was engaged in a massive civil war of succession, which culminated in the victory of Christian III of Sweden, who imposed Lutheranism on the Danes, and then was able to use Denmark as a platform for invading Norway in 1537, imposing Lutheranism on the Norwegians, as well.
In all this flurry, it is not surprising that people were not paying attention to the proliferating numbers of Catholic religious orders and societies. In 1534, a Spanish nobleman and soldier named Ignatius of Loyola formed a small religious society with a number of his college friends: Francisco Xavier, Alfonso Salmeron, Diego Laynez, Nicolas Bobadilla, Pierre Favre, and Samao Rodrigues. They were from all over Europe, just having all ended up at the University of Paris for one reason or another around the same time. Ignatius had some unusual ideas for what the society should be. In 1537, the men traveled to Rome to get approval. After hearing them out, Pope Paul gave them his approval to be be ordained and become, as they wished to be, a society of priests. Their original intent was to travel to the Holy Land on missions, but all the wars prevented them. So they stayed in Europe, one domino in a chain of events that would change a great many other things. In 1540, Paul would give them full formal approval in the bull Regimini militantes ecclesiae to be a society of 'reformed priests' who were authorized to form schools and engage in missionary activities; since they were an experimental group, he limited their number to sixty (the limit was lifted in 1543). Thus began the Society of Jesus, a controversial group from the beginning; there were many people who thought that the Jesuits diverged too much from the standard models. But they were impressive from the beginning as well; they did extremely well in various preaching missions Paul set them. King John of Portugal would, not long after, request their assistance for Portuguese missions. Bobadilla and Rodrigues were the ones who were supposed to do that, but Bobadilla became ill at the last moment, and so St. Ignatius sent St. Francis Xavier instead, with Bobadilla going off to Germany when he grew better. St. Francis would go on to major missionary journeys in Mozambique, India, Sri Lanka, Malacca, and Japan. New things were moving, although the world hardly noticed.
In 1541, the Imperial Diet was held at Regensburg, also known as Ratisbon. Charles was very eagerto find a way to pacify the Protestant Germans so that they would stop negotiating with the French and the Ottomans. Martin Bucer had worked up a set of articles that attempted to outline the broadest ground that the Protestants were willing to concede to the Catholics, if the Catholics were also willing to concede ground to the Protestants. Unsurprisingly the Catholics had some objections, but with the exception of a small number of articles, the two parties were able to come to a mutually unhappy agreement. The Lutherans were not willing to give way on those points; the Catholics insisted that the Emperor had no authority to decide religious questions. But Charles went ahead anyway, and enforced the articles, in what is known as the Regensburg Interim. In fact, however, Charles was not in the position that he was pretending to be; with France on one side and the Ottoman Empire on the other, he very shortly neutered his own policy by giving the Lutherans extensive concessions, having accomplished nothing but convincing the Catholics that the emperor could not be trusted. St. Pierre Favre (also known as Peter Faber) had been sent to the Colloquy of Ratisbon, as it is often called, as a theologian. He was utterly astounded both at how far Protestantism had spread and at the reported corruption of the German hierarchy, and came away with the conviction that negotiations would never solve this problem at all. Instead, he began to work on recruiting, and he was very good at spotting exceptional promise; a number of truly extraordinary men, like St. Peter Canisius, would enter the Jesuits because of him.
The events at Regensburg and its aftermath convinced Paul that the general council had been too long delayed, so he published another bull in June 1542 convoking a council that November at Trent. Unfortunately, in July France declared war against the Holy Roman Empire. Nobody would be going to Trent in November. Paul repeatedly tried to get it started again, but finally gave up and officially suspended the never-having-met council in September of 1543. The possibility of any general council, it seemed, was dead. But in the next year, Charles scored a series of massive victories against France, forcing the Treaty of Crepy, and one of his conditions was that France would support a general council. So Paul again convoked a council at Trent in March of 1545, and he sent his legates, Pole, Cervini, and Del Monte to Trent, giving them discretion and authorization to move or dissolve the council if they saw fit. They arrived just before the council was supposed to open, and only one other bishop (Tommaso Sanfelice) had even arrived yet. Slowly bishops trickled in, but so slowly that the council didn't officially open until December 3, and even then with a paltry thirty-four delegates, with Cardinal Del Monte as the council president. Even then, once the council was started, everyone began realizing that they had no viable agenda or plan of procedure for the council, because they had had to change plans so many times. It didn't help that they didn't really have many resources to work with. Paul, understandably impatient, sent a letter to the council, through his grandson Alessandro Cardinal Farnese, directing the council to begin with doctrinal issues (admonishing them, however, to stick to doctrine and not to condemnation of the Protestants themselves). The letter did not actually help, because there was an underlying argument already going on as to how independent the council should be. A heated debate began over whether they should begin with practical reform or doctrinal correction. Back and forth it went, until finally they came to a compromise. They would break things up into parts and do 'parallel decrees', one doctrinal decree paired with one reform decree. Nobody liked it, especially Paul, who was worried that the council was turning into a new Council of Basel, but the innovation is arguably one significant contributor to the Council of Trent's unusual effectiveness as a reform council -- every reform had to be tied specifically to doctrine, and the doctrinal affirmations had to be tied to specific reforms. The ties were often loose, but seem to have been enough to keep the council grounded on matters both of doctrine and reform. Things slowly began moving, and the pope and the emperor both sent theologians -- the pope's theologians being Laynez and Salmeron, from the new Society of Jesus.
Full discussion of Trent is impossible here, but it's worth looking at the first topic considered to get a sense of how Trent worked and also some peculiarities of the reform that would grow out of it. The first topic, of course, was Scripture. Delegates did not quite know what to do about this, but they eventually agreed on the simplest plan, which was just to reaffirm the canon that had been recognized by the Council of Florence. The problem was with the apocryphal or deuterocanonical books, which were rejected by the Protestants. And a lot of bishops were sympathetic with the Protestant criticisms, regarding them as extreme but also as making a genuine point. Therefore, the council decided to recognize the Florentine canon formally and officially, but to take no stand at all on the relative authority of the protocanonical and deuterocanonical books. This discussion was paired on the reform side with discussion of vernacular translations and publishing. The translation debate became very heated. One reason why is that in some places, like France, Spain, and England, vernacular translations were illegal because they were associated with seditious groups, whereas in others, like Germany, Poland, and Italy, they were allowed, and sometimes even encouraged, for reasons of scholarship and devotion. The result was that any specific decision would anger some of the major powers. Therefore the council decided to take no stand at all on the matter. They issued a decree recognizing the Vulgate as authoritative for teaching and preaching and authorizing an official edition for it. Anything about translations, like anything about relative authority in the canon, was deliberately avoided. But here's the thing. This silence over any matter on which the Council Fathers could not agree, which will be the recurring pattern in Trent, will be read as rejection. The Tridentine Fathers deliberately avoided saying that, say, the Book of Judith was equally authoritative with the Book of Esther; they could not agree on the question, so they just didn't talk about it. But it was afterward read by Protestants and Catholics alike as making them all on the same level. The Tridentine Fathers deliberately avoided saying that vernacular translations were forbidden; the only thing they could agree on was that the Vulgate was accepted by the Church for the purpose of teaching and preaching, so that's all they said on the subject. But afterward Protestants and Catholics alike would read the decree as restricting the Church to the Vulgate. So it would be for many other things; the texts would often be read with a different implicature than they were intended. This sort of problem is not uncommon, and is certainly not exclusive to Trent (it is yet another reason why conciliarism is immensely naive), but it would be a significant shaping force on reform in the centuries to come. One of the results is that people lost all sense of just how sympathetic to Protestant positions many of the Tridentine Fathers were. Not all to be sure, but many of the bishops thought that Lutheran criticisms were right if the Lutherans would just restrain themselves a bit; there's a reason why in the sessions on justification a fistfight broke out over whether Lutheran terminology admitted of a Catholic interpretation or not.
In 1546, the Schmalkaldic League attempted to take over the Catholic city of Fussen by force. Charles assaulted them and won a conclusive victory. As a result, Charles would feel enough certain of himself to promulgate the Augsburg Interim to begin reintegrating the Lutherans into the Church. Protestants were ordered to accept the sacraments, but the clergy were granted the right to marry and allowed communion in both kinds. The Lutherans, naturally, were vehemently opposed, but Bobadilla, who was still in Germany, also vehemently opposed it. Nonetheless, Charles was not to be deterred. Paul advised the Catholic bishops to honor the conditions of the Interim, but still insisted that Charles had no authority to decide religious questions. Some Lutherans, like Melanchthon, were willing to compromise, if only to hold out for the possiblity of negotiating a more favorable Interim, but others, like Bucer fled. In Germany itself, the Lutherans will split over Melanchthon's exhortations to patience. Charles's attempt to cut the Gordian knot will ultimately fail; indeed, it is one of the things responsible for the spread of Protestantism, as the fleeing Lutherans took their Protestantism with them wherever they went.
In the meantime, problems were accumulating with the council. While the Schmalkaldic War was going on, Trent was hit by the plague. After heated debate, the council moved to Bologna, where it attempted to continue work. But some bishops refused to leave Trent, and the emperor and the pope got into a huge row over the move, because Bologna was in the Papal States, and the major thing that Charles had been insisting was that the council should not take place in the Papal States. The pope's son, Pier Luigi, was murdered about this time, and Paul suspected that Charles was behind it. Charles denied it, but Paul had been at the Sack of Rome, and Charles had denied responsibility for that, too, and he did not believe him. This derailed everything again, and finally in September 1549, Paul, attempting to do something that would end the argument, gave the bishops at Bologna permission to go home. Importantly, he did not declare the council at end or even adjourned; he was hoping to start it again at some point.
He never had a chance to do so. He died of heart attack in November 1549. Any pontificate after that of Clement VII necessarily would be one of transition, and as a pontificate of transition, Paul's tenure has a sometimes contradictory character, with older Renaissance approaches being overlaid, sometimes discordantly, with the first beginnings of something new. Paul was not as cunning as Alexander, not as much a forceful organizer as Julius, not as self-disciplined as Adrian, but he was a very good diplomat, and he was, despite his flaws, very serious about reform. Europe was breaking into fragments, and negotiating those fragments was not at all easy. But by combining his diplomatic skills with a focus on reform that at times approached singlemindedness, he accomplished a number of things that his predecessors had not been able to do. But he benefited as well from the fact that things were moving in new directions, and he was willing to move with them. Neither he nor anyone else could have imagined that the Jesuits would become the force that they eventually did; but Paul was willing to gamble on their rather radical ideas about how to approach reform. The Council of Trent began in the the most inauspicious way possible for a council, with endless false starts, an initial slow crawl due to the fact that everyone was caught off guard when it actually started, and then an apparent failure by the end of his papal administration. But Paul had never stopped trying, and this extremely unlucky council would take the Renaissance reform movement and change it in ways that neither he nor anyone else at the time could ever have imagined.
But at the end of Paul's reign, none of this was known yet. The council seemed in shambles and Europe seemed worse. The big question was now over how well his successor would handle the situation. The answer would be: Not particularly well.