Power Made Visible: Pope Sixtus IV as Urbis Restaurator in Quattrocento Rome

By Blondin, Jill E. | The Catholic Historical Review, January 2005 | Go to article overview

Power Made Visible: Pope Sixtus IV as Urbis Restaurator in Quattrocento Rome


Blondin, Jill E., The Catholic Historical Review


A single medal, commemorating the completion of the bridge, the Ponte Sisto, captures the duality of Pope Sixtus IV's (Francesco della Rovere, 1471-1484) official role as spiritual leader and his chosen role as urban renovator. The medal features a profile portrait of Sixtus surrounded by the words "SEXTVS IIII PONT MAX SACRICVLTOR," while on the back a three-line inscription above a small image of the Ponte Sisto (fig. 1) proclaims "CVRA / RERVM / PVBLICARVM." The obverse depicts Sixtus as the high priest of Christendom, while the reverse shows the pontiff as the caretaker of urban projects. This article explores what the medal makes visible: within his extensive patronage of art, Sixtus commissioned public works that advertised his refurbishment of Rome while communicating the message of his secular and sacred authority to observers throughout the Eternal City. The Capitoline Museum, Aqua Vergine, Ponte Sisto, the Vatican Library, and newly paved streets not only built upon and recalled ancient power and history, but they also publicly proclaimed the success of Sixtus' papacy. By extending his vision to all of Rome (see map, fig. 2) and not just particular areas of the city, as his papal predecessors had, the pope exhibited a new supremacy.1 In restoring the grandeur of ancient Rome, Sixtus claimed both temporal and spiritual importance.

Fifteen hundred years before Sixtus became pope, the emperor Augustus restored temples, built a new forum in the Campus Martius, founded Latin and Greek libraries in a wing of his imperial residence on the Palatine Hill, and paved several major roads. By fashioning himself as Urbis Restaurator, Sixtus aligned himself more with this tradition than with the example of his papal predecessors.2 Sixtus commissioned projects similar to those completed by Augustus: he built churches, established the Latin and Greek libraries in the Vatican Palace, paved major streets and piazzas, constructed the Ponte Sisto, and reconstructed the Aqua Vergine. Contemporary eulogists drew parallels between Sixtus and the illustrious emperor, sometimes praising the pope as being the reincarnation of Augustus himself.5 The humanist Ludovico Lazzarelli extolled the pope's achievements in relation to ancient leaders, "For you repair churches once deformed in ugly ruins. You stretch out new bridges, and even pave streets, that Agrippa took up, which Augustus had from this time encouraged! You [Sixtus] repair the waters of the Fountain Vergine."4 The urbanism of Sixtus recalled the classical city, wrote Raffaelo Maffei, since the pontiff "made Rome from a city of brick into stone just as Augustus of old had turned the stone city into marble."5 The poet Aurelio Brandolini echoed this sentiment, and congratulated Sixtus for surpassing the ancient Rome rulers:

But Sixtus dared this and he alone ordered old Rome to rise up again; no, actually he himself founded a new Rome!

This man returned beauty to the city and he removed the old ruins and he laid out in all directions a road of baked brick.

He built a famous work of a bridge and he restored churches, many to be sure, but he built still more new ones.

He collected books of the ancients, he collected books of recent writers.

He himself brought back the Aqua Vergine to the Campus Martius.

And what those and others did in 1500 years, this man himself accomplished in ten years.

Father Romulus, yield! All ancients, yield!6

Just two days into his reign, Sixtus began his civic renovation program when he attempted to protect the public property of Rome by proclaiming that no type of column or marble statuary could be moved for other uses.7 Early in his papacy, the pontiff repaired several ancient temples that long ago had been turned into churches, cleaned the Cloaca Maxima in the Foro Boario, issued new conservation laws, and commissioned the restoration of the statue of Marcus Aurelius (161-180 A.D.), thought to be of Constantine, in front of the Lateran. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • A full archive of books and articles related to this one
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

Power Made Visible: Pope Sixtus IV as Urbis Restaurator in Quattrocento Rome
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Help
Full screen

matching results for page

    Questia reader help

    How to highlight and cite specific passages

    1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
    2. Click or tap the last word you want to select, and you’ll see everything in between get selected.
    3. You’ll then get a menu of options like creating a highlight or a citation from that passage of text.

    OK, got it!

    Cited passage

    Style
    Citations are available only to our active members.
    Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

    1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

    Cited passage

    Thanks for trying Questia!

    Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

    Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

    For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

    Already a member? Log in now.