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Italian Renaissance Learning Resources

In collaboration with the National Gallery of Art

Paul III, Pope

[Alessandro Farnese]

(b Canino, nr Viterbo, 29 Feb 1468; elected 1534; d Rome, 10 Nov 1549). He received a humanist education at the University of Pisa and at the court of Lorenzo de’ Medici (the Magnificent), where he came into contact with such leading scholars as Angelo Poliziano, Marsilio Ficino, Pico della Mirandola, Cristoforo Landino and probably with the young Michelangelo. In 1491 he entered the curia in Rome as an apostolic notary and in 1493 was made a cardinal by the Borgia pope, Alexander VI, who was said to have had Alessandro’s sister, Giulia Farnese, as one of his mistresses. Cardinal Farnese’s career prospered; he accumulated 16 bishoprics and finally realized his ambition to become pope in 1534. Despite a licentious past, which had produced at least four illegitimate children, he worked devotedly and with the skill of a consummate politician to repair the devastations of the Sack of Rome (1527) and to overcome problems caused by the Reformation.

Till R. Verellen