Academic journal article
By Minnich, Nelson H.
The Catholic Historical Review , Vol. 86, No. 2
The Life of Cardinal Innocenzo del Monte: A Scandal in Scarlet, Together with Materials for a History of the House of Ciocchi del Monte San Savino. By Francis A. Buckle-Young and Michael Leopoldo Doerrer. [Renaissance Studies, Volume 2.) (Lewiston, NewYork: The Edwin Mellen Press. 1997. Pp. xii, 244. $89.95.)
This study is a remarkable collaboration between a freshman in an English composition class at George Washington University (Doerrer) and a scholar of Renaissance ecclesiastical history at the Library of Congress (Burkle-Young). While trying to reconstruct the life and career of Innocenzo del Monte (1532-1577), "the last of the unregenerated, unreformed cardinals" (p. vii), they have pieced together a history of the del Monte family especially of its clerical members, and have provided in appendices English translations of important documents. Their study tries to answer the question of whether Julius III (15501555) raised an illegitimate, adolescent beggar to the second highest office in the Church, that of principal cardinal-nephew and Chancellor, because he was his homosexual lover, as alleged by contemporaries and many historians, or because of high hopes later proven ill-founded.
To understand Julius III and his possible motivations, the authors examine his family background, training, and career prior to his becoming pope. The del Montes came from the obscure village of Monte San Savino near Arezzo in Tuscany and rose to prominence by leaving that place and distinguishing themselves for their legal expertise. Fabiano (1421-1498) attained the office of consistorial advocate in Rome and changed the family name from Giocchi (joksters) to del Monte. His son Antonio Maria (c. 1462-1533) embraced the clerical career and, because of his remarkable legal skills and dedicated service to whoever was in authority, was eventually promoted to the cardinalate in 1511 by Julius II. Antonio used his position to provide for his relatives, most notably his nephew Gian Maria (1487-1555). Although born in Rome, the son of a wellrespected consistorial advocate, Gian Maria retained the rustic ways of Monte San Savino and was known for his coarseness, racy if dry humor, nervousness, outbursts of anger, and melancholy. But he more than compensated for these by his skills in canon law, rhetoric, and administration and by his reputation for honesty The early assistance of his uncle and his own abilities helped him to attain the rank of cardinal in 1536 under Paul III. A known promoter of church reform, he distinguished himself as president of the Council of Trent during its first period (1545-1548). During his governorship of Piacenza, the sixty-yearold cardinal developed such a strong attachment to a beggar boy, Innocenzo, who had recently entered his household service as a valero, or footman, that he treated him as a grandson, saw to his training in manners and letters, and prevailed on his brother to adopt him. Doerrer and Burkle-Young speculate that the cardinal was attracted to the boy's intelligence, wit, and charm and that the statement of the Venetian ambassador that Innocenzo shared the cardinal's bedchamber and bed should be interpreted to mean the boy became his valet de chambre. The authors also suggest that despite the adolescent's failure to learn much from his tutors, Gian Maria on becoming pope named Innocenzo as his first cardinal, put him in charge of the Chancery, and conferred many rich benefices on him, because the pope admired his energy, spirit, and humor, "qualities that Julius wished to bring to the cardinals and to the Church" (p. 124). The four relatives Julius later raised to the cardinalate were all upright and talented, reform-minded clerics with administrative skills; yet Julius kept Innocenzo in his post even after it had become clear that the office was beyond his abilities and his interests were more in dinners, balls, and love affairs. Subsequent pontiffs were not so tolerant. Plus IV had him confined to Montecassino for sixteen months and heavily fined upon release after he had killed in 1559 an ostler and his son who he felt had insulted him. …