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The Tempietto (San Pietro in Montorio), an excelle

More important by far was the Pontificate of Sixtus IV, considered the first Pope-King of Rome. In order to favour his relative Girolamo Riario, he promoted the unsuccessful Congiura dei Pazzi against the Medici of Florence (26 April 1478) and in Rome fought the Colonna and the Orsini. The personal politics of intrigue and war required much money, but in spite of this Sixtus was a true patron of art in the manner of Nicholas V. He reopened the Academy and reorganised the Collegio degli Abbreviatori, and in 1471 began the construction of the Vatican Library, whose first curator was Platina. The Library was officially founded on 15 June 1475. He restored several churches, including Santa Maria del Popolo, the Aqua Virgo and the Hospital of the Holy Spirit; paved several streets and also built a famous bridge over the Tiber river, which still bears his name. His main building project was the Sistine Chapel in the Vatican Palace. Its decoration called on some of the most renowned artists of the age, including Mino da Fiesole, Sandro Botticelli, Domenico Ghirlandaio, Pietro Perugino, Luca Signorelli and Pinturicchio, and in the 16th century Michelangelo decorated the ceiling with his famous masterpiece, contributing to what became one of the most famous monuments of the world. Sixtus died on 12 August 1484.

Chaos, corruption and nepotism appeared in Rome under the reign of his successors, Innocent VIII and Pope Alexander VI (1492–1503). During the vacation period between the death of the former and the election of the latter there were 220 murders in the city. Alexander had to face Charles VIII of France, who invaded Italy in 1494 and entered Rome on 31 December of that year. The Pope could only barricade himself into Castel Sant'Angelo, which had been turned into a true fortress by Antonio da Sangallo the Younger. In the end, the skilful Alexander was able to gain the support of the king, assigning his son Cesare B

Chaos, corruption and nepotism appeared in Rome under the reign of his successors, Innocent VIII and Pope Alexander VI (1492–1503). During the vacation period between the death of the former and the election of the latter there were 220 murders in the city. Alexander had to face Charles VIII of France, who invaded Italy in 1494 and entered Rome on 31 December of that year. The Pope could only barricade himself into Castel Sant'Angelo, which had been turned into a true fortress by Antonio da Sangallo the Younger. In the end, the skilful Alexander was able to gain the support of the king, assigning his son Cesare Borgia as military counsellor for the subsequent invasion of the Kingdom of Naples. Rome was safe and, as the King directed himself southwards, the Pope again changed his position, joining the anti-French League of the Italian States which finally compelled Charles to flee to France.

The most nepotist Pope of all, Alexander, favoured his ruthless son Cesare, creating for him a personal Duchy out of territories of the Papal States, and banning from Rome Cesare's most relentless enemy, the Orsini family. In 1500 the city hosted a new Jubilee, but grew ever more unsafe as, especially at night, the streets were controlled by bands of lawless "bravi". Cesare himself assassinated Alfonso of Bisceglie; as well as, presumably, the Pope's son, Giovanni of Gandia.

The Renaissance had a great impact on Rome's appearance, with works like the Pietà by Michelangelo and the frescoes of the Borgia Apartment, all made during Innocent's reign. Rome reached the highest point of splendour under Pope Julius II (1503–1513) and his successors Leo X and Clement VII, both members of the Medici family. During this twenty-year period Rome became the greatest centre of art in the world. The old St. Peter's Basilica was demolished and a new one begun. The city hosted artists like Bramante, who built the Temple of San Pietro in Montorio and planned a great project to renovate the Vatican; Raphael, who in Rome became the most famous painter in Italy, creating frescos in the Cappella Niccolina, the Villa Farnesina, the Raphael's Rooms, and many other famous paintings. Michelangelo began the decoration of the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel and executed the famous statue of Moses for the tomb of Julius. Rome lost in part its religious character, becoming increasingly a true Renaissance city, with a great number of popular feasts, horse races, parties, intrigues and licentious episodes. Its economy was prosperous, with the presence of several Tuscan bankers, including Agostino Chigi, a friend of Raphael and a patron of the arts. Despite his premature death, and to his eternal credit, Raphael also promoted for the first time the preservation of the ancient ruins.

In 1527 the ambiguous policy followed by the second Medici Pope, Pope Clement VII, resulted in the dramatic sack of the city by the unruly Imperial troops of Charles V, Holy Roman Emperor. After the execution of some 1,000 defenders, the pillage began.[75][76] The city was devastated for several days, many of the citizens were killed or took shelter outside the walls. Of 189 Swiss Guards on duty only 42 survived.[75][77] The Pope himself was imprisoned for months in Castel Sant'Angelo. The sack marked the end of one of the most splendid eras of modern Rome.[75][78]

The 1525's Jubilee resulted in a farce, as Martin Luther's claims had spread criticism and even despise against the Pope's greed of money throughout Europe. The prestige of Rome was then challenged by the defections of the churches of Germany and England. Pope Paul III (1534–1549) tried to recover the situation by summoning the Council of Trento, although being, at the same time, the most nepotist Pope of all. He even separated Parma and Piacenza from the Papal States to create an independent duchy for his son Pier Luigi.[75] He continued the patronage of art supporting the Michelangelo's Last Judgment, asking him to renovate the Campidoglio and the ongoing construction of St. Peter's. After the shock of the sack, he also called the brilliant architect Giuliano da Sangallo the Younger to strengthen the walls of the Leonine City.[75]

The need for renovation in

The 1525's Jubilee resulted in a farce, as Martin Luther's claims had spread criticism and even despise against the Pope's greed of money throughout Europe. The prestige of Rome was then challenged by the defections of the churches of Germany and England. Pope Paul III (1534–1549) tried to recover the situation by summoning the Council of Trento, although being, at the same time, the most nepotist Pope of all. He even separated Parma and Piacenza from the Papal States to create an independent duchy for his son Pier Luigi.[75] He continued the patronage of art supporting the Michelangelo's Last Judgment, asking him to renovate the Campidoglio and the ongoing construction of St. Peter's. After the shock of the sack, he also called the brilliant architect Giuliano da Sangallo the Younger to strengthen the walls of the Leonine City.[75]

The need for renovation in the religious customs became evident in the vacancy period after Paulus' death, when the streets of Rome became seat of masked carousels which satirised the Cardinals attending the conclave. His two immediate successors were feeble figures who did nothing to escape the actual Spanish suzerainty over Rome.[75]

Pope Paul IV, elected in 1555, was a member of the anti-Spanish party in the Italian War of 1551–59, but his policy resulted in the Neapolitan troops of the viceroy again besieging Rome in 1556. Paul sued for peace, but had to accept the supremacy of Philip II of Spain.[75] He was one of the most hated Popes of all, and, after his death the raging populace burned the Holy Inquisition's palace and destroyed his marble statue on the Campidoglio.[79][80]

Pope Paul's Counter-Reformation views are well shown by his order that a central area of Rome, around the Porticus Octaviae, be delimited, creating the famous Counter-Reformation views are well shown by his order that a central area of Rome, around the Porticus Octaviae, be delimited, creating the famous Roman Ghetto, the very constricted area in which the city's Jews were forced to live in seclusion. They had to remain in the rione Sant'Angelo and locked in at night. The Pope decreed that Jews should wear a distinctive sign, yellow hats for men[81] and veils or shawls for women. Jewish ghettos existed in Europe for the next 315 years.

The Counter-Reformation gained pace under his successors, the milder Pope Pius IV and the severe Saint Pius V. The former was a nepotist lover of court splendours, but more severe customs arrived anyway through the ideas of his advisor, the prelate Charles Borromeo, who was to become one of the most popular figures among the Rome's people. Pius V and Borromeo gave Rome a true Counter-Reformation character. All pomp was removed from the court, the jokers were expelled, and cardinals and bishops were obliged to live in the city. Blasphemy and concubinage were severely punished. Prostitutes were expelled or confined in a reserved district. The Inquisition's power in the city was reasserted, and its palace rebuilt with an increased space for prisons. During this period Michelangelo opened the Porta Pia and turned the Baths of Diocletian into the spectacular basilica of Santa Maria degli Angeli e dei Martiri, where Pius IV was buried.