Pope Pius II

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Pope Pius II, born Enea Silvio Piccolomini (Latin Aeneas Sylvius; October 18, 1405 – August 14, 1464) was Pope from August 19, 1458 until his death in 1464. Pius II, "whose character reflects almost every tendency of the age in which he lived", was born at Corsignano in the Sienese territory of a noble but decayed family. His longest and most enduring work is the story of his life, Commentaries, which is the only autobiography ever written by a reigning Pope.


Early life

After studying at the universities of Siena and Florence, he settled in the former city as a teacher, but in 1431 accepted the post of secretary to Domenico Capranica, bishop of Fermo, then on his way to the Council of Basel (1431–39). Capranica was protesting against the new Pope Eugene IV's (1431–1447) refusing him the cardinalate for which he had been designated by Pope Martin V (1417–1431). Arriving at Basel after enduring a stormy voyage to Genoa and then a trip across the Alps, he successively served Capranica, who ran short of money, and then other masters.

In 1435 he was sent by Cardinal Albergati, Eugenius IV's legate at the council, on a secret mission to Scotland, the object of which is variously related even by himself. He visited England as well as Scotland, underwent many perils and vicissitudes in both countries, and has left a valuable account of each. The journey to Scotland proved so tempestuous that Piccolomini swore that he would walk barefoot to the nearest shrine of Our Lady from their landing port. This proved to be Dunbar, and the nearest shrine 10 miles distant at Whitekirk. The journey through the ice and snow left Aeneas afflicted with pain in his legs for the rest of his life. In Scotland he had his second natural child, the other one having been born in Strasburg.

Upon his return to Basel, Aeneas sided actively with the council in its conflict with the Pope, and, although still a layman, eventually obtained a share in the direction of its affairs. He supported the creation of the antipope Felix V (1439–1449), Amadeus, Duke of Savoy, participating in his coronation. Aeneas then withdrew to the Emperor Frederick III's (1440–1493) court at Vienna. He had been crowned imperial poet laureate in 1442, and he obtained the patronage of the Emperor's chancellor, Kaspar Schlick. Some identify the love adventure at Siena Aeneas related in his romance, The Tale of the Two Lovers with an escapade of the Chancellor.

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