In This Article Expand or collapse the "in this article" section Leo X

  • Introduction
  • General Overviews
  • Life and Career Prior to Pontificate
  • Iconography
  • Legacy and Reputation

Renaissance and Reformation Leo X
Nelson H. Minnich
  • LAST REVIEWED: 28 August 2019
  • LAST MODIFIED: 28 August 2019
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780195399301-0061


The reign of Pope Leo X (Giovanni Damaso Romolo de’ Medici, b. 1475–d. 1521, pope 1512–1521) was conspicuously important for two main reasons. First, under his patronage, Rome became the center of the High Renaissance, attracting some of the most famous artists and writers of the period. Second, it was during his reign that the Protestant Reformation began, which was to split Western Christendom for the next five centuries.

General Overviews

Of the two modern lives (Fabroni 1797 and Roscoe 1805), Roscoe 1805 is the most important, being translated into German, French, and Italian and augmented by comments and additional documents. In their histories of the papacy, Mandell Creighton (Creighton 1882–1894) and Ludwig von Pastor (Pastor 1923–1953) included significant sections on the pontificate of Leo X, with both authors treating him as a political, cultural, and religious figure and giving particular attention to his role in the condemnation of Martin Luther. The latest serious biography is Falconi 1987, which agrees with the contemporaneous assessment of Giovio. Cantatore, et al. 2016 is a two-volume collection of papers given at a conference in Rome in 2015 dedicated to Leo X and his world.

  • Cantatore, Flavia, C. Casetti Brach, Anna Esposito, et al., eds. Leone X: Finanza, mecenatismo, cultura: Atti del convegno internazionalae, Roma, 2-4 novembre 2015. Roma nel Rinascimento, inedita saggi, 69. Rome: Roma nel Rinascimento, 2016.

    A collection of thirty-nine studies grouped under the themes: “The New Age of Gold” ; “International Equilibria”; “Ceremonies, Music, Spectacle”; “Cultural Patronage”; “The Arts, the Court, the City”; “Literature and Entertainment”; and “Gold and Money between the Curia and City.”

  • Creighton, Mandell. A History of the Papacy from the Great Schism to the Sack of Rome. Vols. 5 and 6. London: Longman, Green, 1882–1894.

    Treats Leo X as a political, cultural, and religious figure, with special attention to the causes of the Protestant Reformation during his pontificate.

  • Fabroni, Angelo. Leonis X: Pontificis maximi vita. Pisa, Italy: Alexander Landi, 1797.

    While praising the elegance and fullness of Giovio’s life, Fabroni goes beyond it by providing eighty-five pages of notes that transcribe letters and other documents. He is a great admirer of Leo and tries to justify the pope’s seeming faults, such as his excessive generosity in the service of arts and letters, his banquets—at which there was serious and erudite conversation on sacred topics; the chase, which he used to invigorate his mind and body; and the dissimulation that was forced on him by the similar behavior of other princes.

  • Falconi, Carlo. Leone X, Giovanni de’ Medici. Milan: Rusconi Libri, 1987.

    Sees Leo X as primarily a cultural and political figure who hid a private life of moral irregularity behind a mask of urbanity.

  • Pastor, Ludwig von. The History of the Popes from the Close of the Middle Ages. 5th ed. 40 vols. Edited by Frederick Ignatius Antrobus, Ralph Francis Kerr, Ernest Graf, and E. F. Peeler. St. Louis, MO: B. Herder, 1923–1953.

    The relevant volumes on Leo X were translated into English by Amabel and Ralph Francis Kerr and appeared in 1908 as Volumes 7 and 8. Dedicated to the pontificate of Leo X, Pastor treated him as leader both of the Papal States and of the Roman Catholic Church. The volumes on Leo X originally appeared as Geschichte der Päpste seit dem Ausgang des Mittelalters, Vol. 4, Part 1 (Freiburg im Breisgau, Germany: Herder, 1906).

  • Roscoe, William. The Life and Pontificate of Leo the Tenth. 4 vols. Liverpool, UK: J. McCreevy, 1805.

    The third edition, published in 1827, included revisions in response to comments made by Heinrich Philipp Konrad Henke, who annotated the German translation of Andreas Friedrich Gottlob Glaser (Leipzig, 1806–1808), found in the French translation (Paris, 1808, 1813) by Pierre F. Henry, and inserted into the Italian translation (Milan, 1816–1817) by Luigi Bossi. Roscoe was highly favorable to Leo X, seeing him as the restorer of letters.

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