Renaissance and Reformation Julius II
Nelson H. Minnich
  • LAST REVIEWED: 25 May 2011
  • LAST MODIFIED: 25 May 2011
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780195399301-0060


Julius II (Giuliano della Rovere, b. 1443–d. 1513, pope 1503–1513) is best known as the “warrior pope” who used warfare to accomplish his ends of gaining control of the Papal States after the alienation of sections to Cesare Borgia, the incursions and confiscation of the Venetians, and the rebellion of local lords. His reversal of alliances in the War of the League of Cambrai (also called the War of the Holy League in its later phases [NB: once the alliances were reversed in 1509, the new papal alliance was called the Holy League and the war continued]) earned him the hatred of his former allies, the calling of a Church council to distract him, and, in the end, the reward of an expansion of the Papal States to include Reggio-Modena and Parma-Piacenza. He is thus hailed as the second founder of the Papal States. While he temporarily succeeded in driving the French from Italy, that achievement came at the price of entrenching the Spanish. While he supported Church reform in some areas, he devoted most of his attention to political issues. He also hired the leading artists of his day to glorify papal authority in Rome.

General Overviews

Historians such as Ivan Cloulas and Christine Shaw see Julius II as primarily the “papa terribile” who used warfare to accomplish his goals (Cloulas 1990 and Shaw 1993). Their accounts, based on archives full of diplomatic correspondence, emphasize Julius as political figure. Shaw 1993 shows that as a cardinal he did not have the overwhelming influence on his uncle, Sixtus IV, or his ally Innocent VIII that other historians assert. Rodocanachi 1928 is more interested in Julius II as a cultural figure, while Pastor 1891–1953 tries to examine all aspects of his pontificate.

  • Cloulas, Ivan. Jules II: Le Pape terrible. Paris: Librairie Arthème Fayard, 1990.

    An archivally based study of Julius II’s relation to his uncle, Sixtus IV, his influence over Innocent VIII, his rivalry with Alexander VI, and his three illegitimate daughters. Cloulas sees Julius II as a man who frequently used force to achieve his ends of controlling the Papal States and freeing Italy of foreign powers. He also gives attention to Julius’s private life, administration, renovation of Rome, and patronage of artists and architects. Translated into Italian as Giulio II by Anna Rosa Gumina (Rome: Salerno Editrice, 1993).

  • Pastor, Ludwig von. The History of the Popes from the Close of the Middle Ages. 40 vols. Translated by Frederick Ignatius Antrobus, et al. London: B. Herder, 1891–1953.

    Volume 6 is dedicated in good part to the pontificate of Julius II, treating him primarily as the warrior ruler of the Papal States and patron of Michelangelo and Raphael, but also as an ecclesiastical administrator. Volume 6 was originally published as Geschichte der Päpste seit dem Ausgang des Mittelalters, Vol. 3, part 2 (Freiburg im Breisgau, Germany: Herder, 1895).

  • Rodocanachi, Emmanuel. Histoire de Rome: Le pontificat de Jules II, 1503–1513. Paris: Librairie Hachette, 1928.

    A study of the pontificate, covering Julius II’s restoration of papal authority in the Papal States, his life in Rome, his court, the rival councils of Pisa and Lateran V, and his work as a legislator and patron of the arts.

  • Shaw, Christine. Julius II: The Warrior Pope. Oxford: Blackwell, 1993.

    A detailed study of the career of Giuliano della Rovere (Julius II), with a fresh evaluation of his role as cardinal adviser to his uncle, Sixtus IV, and ally Innocent VIII, as an enemy of Alexander VI, and as a supporter of Pius III. Shaw concentrates on him as a political figure who used force to defend papal prerogatives and forward his efforts to free Italy of foreign control. There is little here on Julius II as head of the Church.

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