Pope Julius III in Palazzo Chigi-Saracini
The lobby of the Palazzo Chigi-Saracini appeared dark and somewhat eerie the first time I visited the Palazzo on a rainy afternoon in January. As I walked into the lobby, I initially focused my attention on the frescoes by Giorgio Giovanni and was almost frightened when I noticed a large figure out of the corner of my eye. The statue of Pope Julius III, made by Fulvio Signorini in 1609, immediately captivated me. He sits on the base of the statue with his right arm raised in blessing.
Pope Julius III was born in 1487 by the name Giovanni Maria Ciocchi del Monte in Rome. In 1523, he was appointed archbishop of Siponto in Apulia and proved to be a capable statesman and diplomat, demonstrating impressive knowledge of canon law. During the Sack of Rome by Pope Clement VII, Julius III was taken hostage but managed to escape execution. In 1536 he was appointed cardinal-bishop of Palestrina by Pope Paul III. Among other accomplishments during his time as cardinal-bishop, Julius III became the first president of the Council of Trent.
Julius III was elected Pope in 1550 after the death of Pope Paul III. During the election, there was a great division between the French and German factions of the cardinals over whether or not to reconvene the Council of Trent. Julius III was elected as a compromise between these two factions. During his papacy, Pope Julius III failed to demonstrate the same capabilities he had demonstrated earlier in his life. Two of his few accomplishments included the founding of the Collegium Germanicum, which was a german-speaking seminary for Roman-Catholic priests, as well as expanding the Vatican Library. He talked of reconvening the Council of Trent, but never did. Most of his time was spent on entertainments at the Villa Giula, which was created for him by Vignola. He gave patronage to artists including Giovanni Pierluigi da Palestrra (a Renaissance composer), Giorgio Vasari (a writer, painter and architect) and Michelangelo.
Pope Julius III may be most known for his scandal involving a teenage beggar-boy, Innocenzo Ciocchi Del Monte. It was widely rumored that Julius III had a romantic relationship with Innocenzo. Julius III encouraged his brother to adopt Innocenzo, allowing Julius III to appoint him cardinal-nephew, a position of great power. In addition, Julius III gave Innocenzo a large amount of gifts an benefices, including the abbeys of Mont Saint-Michel and S. Zeno. As a result, Pope Julius III was disliked for raising unworthy beggars to positions of power because of his personal preference for them. His reputation cast a stigma against the Catholic Church.
Fortunately for Pope Julius III, his interest in promoting the arts makes him more popular today among artists than among Catholics. The Palazzo Chigi-Saracini, which houses the monument to Pope Julius II, has been the place for the Chigian Musical Academy since 1932. Also within the medieval palace is an art museum. The museum was started by Galgano Saracini in the 17th and 18th centuries with his own personal collection of artwork such as statues, paintings and ceramics. Today, the public is sometimes able to walk into the lobby and courtyard of the Palazzo Chigi-Saracini and admire the monument to Pope Julius III. However, the Palazzo Chigi-Saracini is primarily closed to the public.