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Updated:  Aug 12, 2013
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Pope Innocent VIII

Reigned 1484-1492

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* Published by Encyclopedia Press, 1913.


Innocent VIII, POPE (GIOVANNI BATTISTA CIBO), b. at Genoa, 1432; elected August 29, 1484; d. at Rome, July 25, 1492. He was the son of the Roman senator, Aran Cibd, and Teodorina de' Mari. After a licentious youth, during which he had two illegitimate children, Franceschetto and Teodorina, he took orders and entered the service of Cardinal Calandrini. He was made Bishop of Savona in 1467, but exchanged this see in 1472 for that of Molfetta in southeastern Italy and was raised to the cardinalate the following year. At the conclave of 1484, he signed, like all the other cardinals present, the election capitulation which was to bind the future pope.

Its primary object was to safeguard the personal interests of the electors. The choice fell on Cibe himself who, in honor of his countryman, Innocent IV, assumed the name of Innocent VIII. His success in the conclave, as well as his promotion to the cardinalate, was largely due to Giuliano della Rovere. The chief concern of the new pope, whose kindliness is universally praised, was the promotion of peace among Christian princes, though he himself became involved in difficulties with King Ferrante of Naples. The protracted conflict with Naples was the principal obstacle to a crusade against the Turks. Innocent VIII earnestly endeavored to unite Christendom against the common enemy. The circumstances appeared particularly favorable, as Prince Djem, the Sultan's brother and pretender to the Turkish throne, was held prisoner at Rome and promised cooperation in war and withdrawal of the Turks from Europe in case of success. A congress of Christian princes met in 1490 at Rome, but led to no result. On the other hand, the pope had the satisfaction of witnessing the fall of Granada (1491) which crowned the reconquest of Spain from the Moors and earned for the King of Spain the title of "Catholic Majesty". In England he proclaimed the right of King Henry VII and his descendants to the English throne and also agreed to some modifications affecting the privilege of "sanctuary". The only canonization which he proclaimed was that of Margrave Leopold of Austria (January 6, 1485). He issued an appeal for a crusade against the Waldenses, actively opposed the Hussite heresy in Bohemia, and forbade (December, 1486) under penalty of excommunication the reading of the nine hundred theses which Pico della Mirandola had publicly posted in Rome. On December 5, 1484, he issued his much-abused Bull against Witchcraft (q.v.), and May 31, 1492, he solemnly received at Rome the Holy Lance which the Sultan surrendered to the Christians. Constantly confronted with a depleted treasury, he resorted to the objectionable expedient of creating new offices and granting them to the highest bidders. Insecurity reigned at Rome during his rule owing to insufficient punishment of crime. However, he dealt mercilessly with a band of unscrupulous officials who forged and sold papal Bulls; capital punishment was meted out to two of the culprits in 1489. Among these forgeries must be relegated the alleged permission granted the Norwegians to celebrate Mass without wine. See "Bullarium Romanum", III, iii (Rome, 1743), 190-225.

N. A. WEBER


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