Pius II: Humanist and Crusader

John B. Morrall describes how worldly learning and a reverence for Christian tradition were combined in the character of “one of the best of the Renaissance Popes.”

The conclave which assembled in the Roman August of 1458 to elect a new Pope suffered from tensions not wholly due to the weather. It was nine years since the collapse (which no one could be sure was final) of the movement to supersede Papal government of the Church by that of a General Council. It was five years since Constantinople had fallen to the Ottoman Turks. The two issues of reform of the Church and the protection of Christendom from the infidel were clearly crying for a solution.

The electing Cardinals were determined not to be left out of any future Papal decisions on these two huge subjects. Before the Conclave commenced each of them swore that if he were made Pope he would observe certain “Capitulations,” the effect of which would be to temper Papal monarchy with the oligarchical counter-balance of the Sacred College.

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