Pope Julius III (10 September 1487 – 23 March 1555), born Giovanni Maria Ciocchi del Monte, was Pope from 7 February 1550 to 1555.
In his early career in the Church Julius established a reputation as an effective and trustworthy diplomat, and was elected to the Papacy as a compromise candidate when the Papal Conclave found itself deadlocked between the rival French and German factions. As Pope he lost, or failed to show, any of the qualities which had distinguished his previous career, devoting himself instead to a life of personal pleasure and indolence, and the achievements of his incumbency were very few. His lasting fame, or notoriety, rests rather on his relationship with the 17 year old boy whom he raised to the position of Cardinal-Nephew, and, it was said at the time, with whom he shared his bed: the resulting scandal did great harm to the reputation of the Church.
The last of the High Renaissance Popes, Julius III was born Giovanni Maria Ciocchi del Monte in Rome in 1487. His father was a famous jurist; and he himself studied law at Perugia and Siena, as well as theology under the direction of the Dominican, Ambrosius Catharinus.
In 1523 he succeeded his uncle as archbishop of Siponto (Manfredonia) in Apulia, adding the diocese of Pavia in 1520. At the Sack of Rome (1527) he was one of the hostages given by Pope Clement VII to the Emperor's forces, and might have been killed in the Campo de' Fiori as others were, had he not been secretly liberated by Cardinal Pompeo Colonna.
In 1536 he was created cardinal-bishop of Palestrina by Pope Paul III, by whom he was employed on several important legations; he was the first president of the Council of Trent, opening its first session at Trent, 13 December 1545, with a brief oration. At the council, he was the leader of the papal party against Emperor Charles V, with whom he came into conflict on various occasions, especially when, on 26 March 1547, he transferred the Council to Bologna.
Paul III died on 10 November 1549, and in the ensuing conclave the forty-eight cardinals were divided into three factions: the Imperials, the French, and the adherents of Paul III's grandson, Cardinal Ottavio Farnese. The primary division was between the French and the Imperials (the followers of the Holy Roman Emperor), the Imperials wishing to see the Council of Trent reconvened, the French wishing to see it dropped; a further bone of contention was the Duchy of Parma, for which both the Emperor and the Farnese had claimants.
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