He almost loved Luther

“I know of no one who loathes the ambition, the avarice, and the sensuality of the clergy more than I–both because each of these vices is hateful in itself and because each and all are hardly suited to those who profess to live a life dependent upon God.  Furthermore, they are such contradictory vices that they cannot coexist in a subject unless he be very unusual indeed.

In spite of all this, the positions I have held under several popes have forced me, for my own good, to further their interests.  Were it not for that, I should have loved Martin Luther as much as myself–not so that I might be free of the laws based on Christian religion as it is generally interpreted and understood; but to see this bunch of rascals get their just deserts, that is, to be either without vices or without authority.”  Francesco Guicciardini, “Selections from Maxims and Reflections,” in The Civilization of the Italian Renaissance, ed. Kenneth R. Bartlett, 2nd edition (Toronto 2011), p. 268.

Francesco Guicciardini (1483-1540) lived in Florence and received an education in the Renaissance humanist tradition.  He served as a papal governor in the Papal State under the two de’ Medici popes, Leo X and Clement VII.  In the 1530s he returned to Florence to advise the duke of Florence, Alessandro de’ Medici.  He also wrote a famous history of Italy that focused on the political events since Charles VIII’s French invasion of the peninsula in 1494.

This quote above comes from Guicciardini’s collection of maxims that examined a variety of subjects.  Here he expresses an unflattering opinion concerning his papal bosses.  The reference to Martin Luther also displays the importance the Lutheran Reformation played in international and ecclesiastical affairs.

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