Chapter 11

Church Principalities Icon

September 25, 2021

All of the difficulties with church principalities occur prior to getting possession. This is because they:

  • are acquired either by capacity or good fortune
  • can be held without either since they are sustained by the ancient laws of religion.

These laws are so powerful. The principalities may be held no matter how their princes behave.

These princes:

  • have states and do not defend them, yet they are not taken away
  • have subjects and do not rule them, yet do not rebel

So only such principalities are secure and happy, being supported by powers which the human mind cannot reach.

They are created and maintained by God. It would be foolish to discuss them.

How could the Church gain such earthly power?

Up to Pope Alexander 6th’s time, Italian leaders have not placed much value on the Church’s earthly power. Yet now a king of France trembles before it and was able to drive him from Italy, and to ruin the Venetians.

Before Charles, King of France, came into Italy, it was under the control of:

  • the Pope
  • the Venetians
  • the King of Naples
  • the Duke of Milan
  • the Florentines.

These leaders had two principal anxieties:

  1. No foreign army should enter Italy
  2. No one among them should seize the lands of the others

The Pope and the Venetians had the most anxiety.

  • To restrain the Venetians, the union of all the others was necessary as it was for the defence of Ferrara.
  • To keep down the Pope, they used the barons of Rome consisting of two groups, the Orsini and Colonnesi, who always had a reason for disorder. They kept kept the Pope weak and powerless.

The short life of a Pope is also a cause of weakness, because in the 10 years which is the average life of a Pope, he can with difficulty reduce the power of only one of the groups. If, for example, the Colonnesi were almost destroyed, another group would arise hostile to the Orsini, who would support the Colonnesi, but they would not have time to ruin the Orsini.

This was why the Church’s earthly powers were not highly regarded in Italy.

Pope Alexander 6th

This changed in the time of Pope Alexander 6th. He used his money and military power to succeed.

With the help of his son, Cesare Borgia, and by reason of the entry of the French into Italy, he brought about all those things which I have discussed above in the actions of Cesare.

His intention was not to benefit the Church. Nevertheless, what Pope Alexander did contributed to the greatness of the Church, which, after his death and the ruin of Cesare, gained the benefit of all his labours.

Pope Julius came soon after Pope Alexander and found the Church strong, possessing all the Romagna, the barons of Rome made powerless. Through the efforts of Alexander, the Colonessi and Orsini groups weakened.

He also found the way open to accumulate money in a manner such as had never been practised before Alexander’s time. Such things Julius not only followed, but improved upon.

He also intended to gain Bologna, to ruin the Venetians, and to drive the French out of Italy. He achieved all of these goals, and, even more to his credit , he did everything to strengthen the Church and not any private individual. He kept also the Orsini and Colonnesi groups within the bounds in which he found them.

Although some among them wanted to make trouble, nevertheless he held two things firm - first, the greatness of the Church, with which he frightened them and the other, not allowing them to have their own cardinals, who could cause disorder among them. Whenever these groups have their own cardinals they do not remain quiet for long. Cardinals encourage the groups like the Orsini in Rome and the barons are forced to support them.

Thus from the ambitions of cardinals arise disorders and rebellion among the barons. For these reasons his Holiness Pope Leo was most powerful, and it is to be hoped that, if others made the Church great in arms, he will make it still greater and more respected by his goodness and infinite other virtues.