CONCERNING ECCLESIASTICAL PRINCIPALITIES
It only remains now to speak of ecclesiastical principalities,
touching which all difficulties are prior to getting possession,
because they are acquired either by capacity or good fortune, and they
can be held without either; for they are sustained by the ancient
ordinances of religion, which are so all-powerful, and of such a
character that the principalities may be held no matter how their
princes behave and live. These princes alone have states and do not
defend them; and they have subjects and do not rule them; and the
states, although unguarded, are not taken from them, and the subjects,
although not ruled, do not care, and they have neither the desire nor
the ability to alienate themselves. Such principalities only are
secure and happy. But being upheld by powers, to which the human mind
cannot reach, I shall speak no more of them, because, being exalted
and maintained by God, it would be the act of a presumptuous and rash
man to discuss them.
Nevertheless, if any one should ask of me how comes it that the Church
has attained such greatness in temporal power, seeing that from
Alexander backwards the Italian potentates (not only those who have
been called potentates, but every baron and lord, though the smallest)
have valued the temporal power very slightly--yet now a king of France
trembles before it, and it has been able to drive him from Italy, and
to ruin the Venetians--although this may be very manifest, it does not
appear to me superfluous to recall it in some measure to memory.
Before Charles, King of France, passed into Italy,[*] this country was
under the dominion of the Pope, the Venetians, the King of Naples, the
Duke of Milan, and the Florentines. These potentates had two principal
anxieties: the one, that no foreigner should enter Italy under arms;
the other, that none of themselves should seize more territory. Those
about whom there was the most anxiety were the Pope and the Venetians.
To restrain the Venetians the union of all the others was necessary,
as it was for the defence of Ferrara; and to keep down the Pope they
made use of the barons of Rome, who, being divided into two factions,
Orsini and Colonnesi, had always a pretext for disorder, and, standing
with arms in their hands under the eyes of the Pontiff, kept the
pontificate weak and powerless. And although there might arise
sometimes a courageous pope, such as Sixtus, yet neither fortune nor
wisdom could rid him of these annoyances. And the short life of a pope
is also a cause of weakness; for in the ten years, which is the
average life of a pope, he can with difficulty lower one of the
factions; and if, so to speak, one people should almost destroy the
Colonnesi, another would arise hostile to the Orsini, who would
support their opponents, and yet would not have time to ruin the
Orsini. This was the reason why the temporal powers of the pope were
little esteemed in Italy.
[*] Charles VIII invaded Italy in 1494.
Alexander the Sixth arose afterwards, who of all the pontiffs that
have ever been showed how a pope with both money and arms was able to
prevail; and through the instrumentality of the Duke Valentino, and by
reason of the entry of the French, he brought about all those things
which I have discussed above in the actions of the duke. And although
his intention was not to aggrandize the Church, but the duke,
nevertheless, what he did contributed to the greatness of the Church,
which, after his death and the ruin of the duke, became the heir to
all his labours.
Pope Julius came afterwards and found the Church strong, possessing
all the Romagna, the barons of Rome reduced to impotence, and, through
the chastisements of Alexander, the factions wiped out; 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, and he intended to gain Bologna, to ruin
the Venetians, and to drive the French out of Italy. All of these
enterprises prospered with him, and so much the more to his credit,
inasmuch as he did everything to strengthen the Church and not any
private person. He kept also the Orsini and Colonnesi factions within
the bounds in which he found them; and although there was among them
some mind to make disturbance, nevertheless he held two things firm:
the one, the greatness of the Church, with which he terrified them;
and the other, not allowing them to have their own cardinals, who
caused the disorders among them. For whenever these factions have
their cardinals they do not remain quiet for long, because cardinals
foster the factions in Rome and out of it, and the barons are
compelled to support them, and thus from the ambitions of prelates
arise disorders and tumults among the barons. For these reasons his
Holiness Pope Leo[*] found the pontificate most powerful, and it is to
be hoped that, if others made it great in arms, he will make it still
greater and more venerated by his goodness and infinite other virtues.
[*] Pope Leo X was the Cardinal de' Medici.
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