Pope Innocent VIII

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Innocent VIII
Bishop of Rome
Niccolo di forzore spinelli, medaglia di innocenzo viii 01.JPG
Papacy began29 August 1484
Papacy ended25 July 1492
Predecessor Sixtus IV
Successor Alexander VI
Ordinationc. 1450
Consecration28 January 1467
Created cardinal7 May 1473
by Sixtus IV
Personal details
Birth nameGiovanni Battista Cybo (or Cibo)
Genoa, Republic of Genoa
Died25 July 1492(1492-07-25) (aged 59–60)
Rome, Papal States
Previous post(s)
Other popes named Innocent

Pope Innocent VIII (Latin : Innocentius VIII; 1432 – 25 July 1492), born Giovanni Battista Cybo (or Cibo), was head of the Catholic Church and ruler of the Papal States from 29 August 1484 to his death. Son of the viceroy of Naples, Battista spent his early years at the Neapolitan court. He became a priest in the retinue of Cardinal Calandrini, half-brother to Pope Nicholas V (1447–55), Bishop of Savona under Pope Paul II, and with the support of Cardinal Giuliano Della Rovere. After intense politicking by Della Rovere, Cibo was elected pope in 1484. King Ferdinand I of Naples had supported Cybo's competitor, Rodrigo Borgia. The following year, Pope Innocent supported the barons in their failed revolt.


In March 1489, Cem, the captive brother of Bayezid II, the Sultan of the Ottoman Empire, came into Innocent's custody. Viewing his brother as a rival, the Sultan paid Pope Innocent not to set him free. The amount he paid to Pope Innocent was 120,000 crowns (an amount equal to all of the annual revenue to the Vatican) in addition to some holy relics and another sum of money to be paid annually. Any time the Sultan threatened war against the Christian Balkans, Innocent threatened to release his brother. In January 28, 1495 Cem was released by Innocent's successor Pope Alexander VI into the custody of King Charles's army, when some weeks later he died of possible poisoning but more likely pneumonia.

Early years

Giovanni Battista Cybo (or Cibo) was born in Genoa of Greek ancestry, [1] [2] [3] [4] the son of Arano Cybo or Cibo (c. 1375c. 1455) and his wife Teodorina de Mari (c. 1380?), of an old Genoese family. Arano Cybo was viceroy of Naples and then a senator in Rome under Pope Calixtus III (1455–58). Giovanni Battista's early years were spent at the Neapolitan court. While in Naples he was appointed a Canon of the Cathedral of Capua, and was given the Priory of S. Maria d'Arba in Genoa. [5] After the death of King Alfonso (1458), friction between Giovanni Battista and the Archbishop of Genoa induced him to resign his canonry, and to go to Padua and then to Rome for his education.

Early career

In Rome he became a priest in the retinue of Cardinal Calandrini, half-brother to Pope Nicholas V (1447–55). In 1467, he was made Bishop of Savona by Pope Paul II, but exchanged this see in 1472 for that of Molfetta in south-eastern Italy. In 1473, with the support of Giuliano Della Rovere, later Pope Julius II, he was made cardinal by Pope Sixtus IV, whom he succeeded on 29 August 1484 as Pope Innocent VIII. [6]

Papal election

The papal conclave of 1484 was rife with factions, while gangs rioted in the streets. In order to prevent the election of the Venetian Cardinal Barbo, Camerlengo of the Sacred College of Cardinals, on the evening before the election, after the cardinals had retired for the night, the Dean of the College of Cardinals, Cardinal Giuliano della Rovere, nephew of the late Pope, and Cardinal Borgia, the Vice-Chancellor, visited a number of cardinals and secured their votes with the promise of various benefices. [7]

It was claimed that Cardinal della Rovere met secretly with Cardinal Marco Barbo in order to secure him more votes to become pope if he was promised a residence, though Barbo refused in fear it would make the conclave invalid due to simony. Cardinal della Rovere then met with Borgia, who disliked Barbo and wished to block his election, with an offer to turn their votes over to Cibò, promising them benefits for doing so. [7]


Shortly after his coronation, Innocent VIII addressed a fruitless summons to Christendom to unite in a crusade against the Turks. A protracted conflict with King Ferdinand I of Naples was the principal obstacle. Ferdinand's oppressive government led in 1485 to a rebellion of the aristocracy, known as the Conspiracy of the Barons, which included Francesco Coppola and Antonello Sanseverino of Salerno and was supported by Pope Innocent VIII. Innocent excommunicated Ferdinand in 1489 and invited King Charles VIII of France to come to Italy with an army and take possession of the Kingdom of Naples, a disastrous political event for the Italian peninsula as a whole. The immediate conflict was not ended until 1494, after Innocent VIII's death.

Relations with the Ottoman Empire

Bayezid II ruled as Sultan of the Ottoman Empire from 1481 to 1512. His rule was contested by his brother Cem, who sought the support of the Mamluks of Egypt. Defeated by his brother's armies, Cem sought protection from the Knights of St. John in Rhodes. Prince Cem offered perpetual peace between the Ottoman Empire and Christendom. However, the sultan paid the Knights a large amount to keep Cem captive. Cem was later sent to the castle of Pierre d'Aubusson in France. Sultan Bayezid sent a messenger to France and requested Cem to be kept there; he agreed to make an annual payment in gold for his brother's expenses.

In March 1489, Cem was transferred to the custody of Innocent VIII. Cem's presence in Rome was useful because whenever Bayezid intended to launch a military campaign against the Christian nations of the Balkans, the Pope would threaten to release his brother. In exchange for maintaining the custody of Cem, Bayezid paid Innocent VIII 120,000 crowns, a relic of the Holy Lance and an annual fee of 45,000 ducats. [8] Cem died in Capua on 25 February 1495 on a military expedition under the command of King Charles VIII of France to conquer Naples.

Relations with witchcraft

On the request of German inquisitor Heinrich Kramer, Innocent VIII issued the papal bull Summis desiderantes (5 December 1484), which supported Kramer's investigations against magicians and witches:

"It has recently come to our ears, not without great pain to us, that in some parts of upper Germany, [...] Mainz, Köln, Trier, Salzburg, and Bremen, many persons of both sexes, heedless of their own salvation and forsaking the catholic faith, give themselves over to devils male and female, and by their incantations, charms, and conjurings, and by other abominable superstitions and sortileges, offences, crimes, and misdeeds, ruin and cause to perish the offspring of women, the foal of animals, the products of the earth, the grapes of vines, and the fruits of trees, as well as men and women, cattle and flocks and herds and animals of every kind, vineyards also and orchards, meadows, pastures, harvests, grains and other fruits of the earth; [...]" [9]

The bull was written in response to the request of Dominican Heinrich Kramer for explicit authority to prosecute witchcraft in Germany, after he was refused assistance by the local ecclesiastical authorities, [10] who disputed his authority to work in their dioceses. Some scholars view the bull as "clearly political", motivated by jurisdictional disputes between the local German Catholic priests and clerics from the Office of the Inquisition who answered more directly to the pope. [11]

Malleus Maleficarum, 1520 edition Malleus maleficarum, Koln 1520, Titelseite.jpg
Malleus Maleficarum, 1520 edition

Nonetheless, the bull failed to ensure that Kramer obtained the support he had hoped for, causing him to retire and to compile his views on witchcraft into his book Malleus Maleficarum , which was published in 1487. Kramer would later claim that witchcraft was to blame for bad weather. Both the papal letter appended to the work and the supposed endorsement of Cologne University for it are problematic. The letter of Innocent VIII is not an approval of the book to which it was appended, but rather a charge to inquisitors to investigate diabolical sorcery and a warning to those who might impede them in their duty, that is, a papal letter in the by then conventional tradition established by John XXII and other popes through Eugenius IV and Nicholas V (1447–55). [12]

Other events

In 1487, Innocent confirmed Tomas de Torquemada as Grand Inquisitor of Spain. Also in 1487, Innocent issued a bull [13] denouncing the views of the Waldensians (Vaudois), offering plenary indulgence to all who should engage in a Crusade against them. Alberto de' Capitanei, archdeacon of Cremona, responded to the bull by organizing a crusade to fulfill its order and launched an offensive in the provinces of Dauphiné and Piedmont. Charles I, Duke of Savoy eventually interfered to save his territories from further confusion and promised the Vaudois peace, but not before the offensive had devastated the area and many of the Vaudois fled to Provence and south to Italy.

The noted Franciscan theologian Angelo Carletti di Chivasso, whom Innocent in 1491 appointed as Apostolic Nuncio and Commissary, conjointly with the Bishop of Mauriana, was involved in reaching the peaceful agreement between Catholics and Waldensians. [14]

In 1486, Innocent VIII was persuaded that at least thirteen of the 900 theses of Giovanni Pico della Mirandola were heretical, and the book containing the theses was interdicted. [15]

In Rome, he ordered the Belvedere of the Vatican to be built, intended for summer use, on an unarticulated slope above the Vatican Palace. His successor would later turn the building into the Cortile del Belvedere. In season, he hunted at Castello della Magliana, which he enlarged. Constantly confronted with a depleted treasury, he resorted to the objectionable expedient of creating new offices and granting them to the highest bidders. [6] The fall of Granada in January 1492, was celebrated in the Vatican and Innocent granted Ferdinand II of Aragon the epithet "Catholic Majesty."


Minnich (2005) notes that the attitude of Renaissance popes towards slavery, a common institution in contemporary cultures, varied. Minnich states that those who allowed the slave trade did so in the hope of gaining converts to Christianity. [16] In the case of Innocent he permitted trade with Barbary merchants in which foodstuffs would be given in exchange for slaves who could then be converted to Christianity. [16]

King Ferdinand of Aragon gave Innocent 100 Moorish slaves, who were shared out with favoured Cardinals. [17] The slaves of Innocent were called "moro", meaning "dark-skinned man", in contrast to negro slaves who were called "moro nero". [18]


The pope named two saints during his pontificate: Catherine of Vadstena (1484) and Leopold III (1485).


Innocent VIII named eight cardinals in one consistory which was held on 9 March 1489; the pope named three of those cardinals in pectore (one of whom being a successor in Giovanni de' Medici who became Pope Leo X) with two of them having their names released after the pope died to ensure that they could vote in the 1492 conclave.


By July 1492, Innocent had become very skinny. To Valori,[ who? ] he had become 'an inert mass of flesh, incapable of assimiliating any nourishment but a few drops of milk from a young woman's breast'. [19]

He then developed a fever. What happened between then and his death on the 25th of that July is unknown, although anti-Semites accused his physician Giacomo di San Genesio of having performed a pseudo blood transfusion that contributed to his death. [20] [21] [22] [23]


Monument to Innocentius VIII in Saint Peter's Basilica Monument to Innocentius VIII in Saint Peter's Basilica.jpg
Monument to Innocentius VIII in Saint Peter's Basilica

Innocent was first buried in the Oratory of Our Lady in Old St. Peter's Basilica. The tomb was crafted by Antonio del Pollaiuolo, who completed the work shortly before his own death in February 1498. [24] Around 1507 it was moved to the "Shroud" aisle adjacent to the Chapel of the Holy Lance.

The inscription below his tomb in Saint Peter's states: “Nel tempo del suo Pontificato, la gloria della scoperta di un nuovo mondo” (transl. "During his Pontificate, the glory of the discovery of a new world."). Writer Ruggero Marino, in his book Cristoforo Colombo e il Papa tradito (transl. Christopher Columbus and the betrayed Pope) argues that since Innocent died shortly before the departure of Christopher Columbus on his presumedly first voyage over the Atlantic, this suggests that Columbus actually traveled before the known date and re-discovered the Americas for the Europeans before the supposed date of 12 October 1492. [25]

At some point the pope's coat of arms was replaced with an inscription, and the position of the two images of Innocent switched. After completion of the nave of the new basilica, in 1621 the monument was dismantled and relocated courtesy of Innocent's great nephew, Alberico Cybo Malaspina, prince of Massa, duke of Ferentillo, and marquis of Carrara. [26]

"The monument does have some historical inaccuracies, as already widely noted by the critics...": [26] "Ciibo" instead of "Cibo", "vixit" instead of "sedit", the date of death as "1497" instead of "1492", a reference to the "Crucis Ssancro Santi; in addition, a reference to Bayezid as Imper(atore) scratched out and replaced with "Tyrant", any of which could have taken place during the reconstruction. [27] [26]


Innocent had two illegitimate children born before he entered the clergy [6] "towards whom his nepotism had been as lavish as it was shameless". [28] In 1487 he married his elder son Franceschetto Cybo (d. 1519) to Maddalena de' Medici (1473–1528), the daughter of Lorenzo de' Medici, who in return obtained the cardinal's hat for his thirteen-year-old son Giovanni, later Pope Leo X. His daughter Teodorina Cybo married Gerardo Usodimare and had a daughter. Savonarola chastised him[ who? ] for his worldly ambitions. [29]

His grandnephew was Bindo Altoviti, one of the most influential bankers of his time and patron of the arts, being friends with Raphael and Michelangelo.

See also


  1. Smith, Philip (2009). The History of the Christian Church. General Books LLC. pp. 219–220. ISBN   9781150722455. CHARACTER OF INNOCENT VIII... Cardinal John Baptist Cibo,' who was elected as Innocent VIII. (1484–1492)...His family was of Greek origin, but had been long settled at Genoa and Naples by the name of Tomacelli that to which Boniface IX. belonged. The name of Cibo was taken from the chess-board pattern (itii/30s) in their arms. The father of Innocent had been Viceroy of Naples under King Rene, and Senator of Rome under Calixtus III.
  2. Thomas, Joseph (2010). The Universal Dictionary of Biography and Mythology. Cosimo, Inc. p. 704. ISBN   9781616400712. Cybo or Cibo, che-bo', (Arano or Aaron,) the ancestor of a noble Genoese family, was born of Greek origin at Rhodes in 1377. He was Viceroy of Naples about 1442, and died in 1457, leaving a son, who became Pope Innocent VIII. in 1485.
  3. Munsell, Joel (1858). The every day book of history and chronology: embracing the anniversaries of memorable persons and events in every period and state of the world, from the creation to the present time. Appleton. p.  295. OCLC   1305369. INNOCENT VIII (John Baptist Cibo), pope, died. He was a Genoese nobleman of Greek descent; employed his influence to reconcile the quarrels of the Christian princes with one another, and left behind him the character of a high minded and benevolent man.
  4. Monstrelet, Enguerrand de ; Dacier, Baron Joseph Bonaventure, Johnes, Thomas (1810). The chronicles of Enguerrand de Monstrelet. London, Printed for Longman, Hurst, Rees, Orme, and Brown. p.  366. OCLC   2286229. + Innocent VIII.—John Baptista Cibo, a noble Genoese, but originally of Greek extraction. He was called, prior to his elevation to the papacy, the cardinal of Melfe. He had several children before he entered holy orders, and did not neglect them during his reign.)CS1 maint: multiple names: authors list (link)
  5. Francesco Serdonati (1829). Vita e fatti d'Innocenzo VIII., papa CCXVI. Milan: Tip. di V. Ferrario. p. 10.
  6. 1 2 3 Weber, Nicholas (1910). "Pope Innocent VIII"  . In Herbermann, Charles (ed.). Catholic Encyclopedia . 8. New York: Robert Appleton Company.
  7. 1 2 John Paul Adams, "Sede Vacante August 12, 1484 – August 29, 1484", California State University, Northridge, retrieved: 3 August 2016.
  8. Duffy, Eamon (2006). Saints & Sinners – A History of the Popes. Yale University Press. ISBN   978-0-300-11597-0, p.196
  9. Wikisource:Summis desiderantes
  10. Kors, Alan Charles; Peters, Edward (2000). Witchcraft in Europe, 400–1700: A Documentary History. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press. ISBN   0-8122-1751-9, p.177
  11. Darst, David H. (15 October 1979). "Witchcraft in Spain: The Testimony of Martín de Castañega's Treatise on Superstition and Witchcraft (1529)". Proceedings of the American Philosophical Society 123 (5): p. 298
  12. cf., Joyy et al., Witchcraft and Magic In Europe, p. 239 (2002).
  13. Innocent VIII (1669). Id nostri cordis. Histoire générale des Eglises Evangeliques des Vallées du Piemont ou Vaudoises. 2. p. 8.
  14. Donovan, Stephen (1907). "Bl. Angelo Carletti di Chivasso"  . In Herbermann, Charles (ed.). Catholic Encyclopedia . 1. New York: Robert Appleton Company.
  15. Lejay, Paul (1911). "Giovanni Pico della Mirandola"  . In Herbermann, Charles (ed.). Catholic Encyclopedia . 10. New York: Robert Appleton Company.
  16. 1 2 Minnich, p. 281
  17. "For the glory of God", Rodney Stark, p. 330, Princeton University Press, 2003, ISBN   0-691-11436-6)
  18. David Brion Davis, p. 101 fn. 21
  19. Valori, quoted in Pirie, The Triple Crown, Spring 1935, p.29
  20. Burg, G. (2012). "History of sexually transmitted infections (STI)". Giornale Italiano di Dermatologia e Venereologia. 147 (4): 329–40. PMID   23007208.
  21. Lindeboom, G.A. (1954). "The Story of blood transfusion to a pope". Journal of the History of Medicine. 9 (4): 455–459. doi:10.1093/jhmas/ix.4.455. JSTOR   24619486. PMID   13212030.
  22. Gottlieb, A. Matthew (1991). "History of the First Blood Transfusion but a Fable Agreed Upon: The Transfusion of Blood to a Pope". Transfusion Medicine Reviews. 5 (3): 228–235. doi:10.1016/S0887-7963(91)70211-3. PMID   1821180.
  23. Duffin, Jacalyn History of Medicine: A scandalously short introduction University of Toronto Press, 1999, p. 171
  24. Wikisource-logo.svg One or more of the preceding sentences incorporates text from a publication now in the public domain : Chisholm, Hugh, ed. (1911). "Pollaiuolo s.v. Antonio". Encyclopædia Britannica . 22 (11th ed.). Cambridge University Press. p. 1.
  25. Carnimeo, Nicolò (19 May 2014). "Haiti, i dubbi sul ritrovamento della Santa Maria di Colombo (Doubts over the finding of the Santa Maria of Colombo)". ilfattoquotidiano.it2014. Retrieved 21 May 2013.
  26. 1 2 3 "St. Peter's Basilica - A Virtual Tour", Our Sunday Visitor, 1999
  27. De Jong, Jan L., "Responding to Monuments: Aernout Buchel in Rome (1587-1588)", The Authority of the Word: Reflecting on Image and Text in Northern Europe, 1400-1700, (Celeste Brusati, Karl A. E.. Enenkel, Walter Melion, eds.), BRILL, 2011, p.541, notes 16-18 ISBN   9789004226432
  28. Chisholm, Hugh, ed. (1911). "Innocent/Innocent VIII"  . Encyclopædia Britannica . 14 (11th ed.). Cambridge University Press. pp. 581–582. (sub-section within article "innocent", pp. 577–583)
  29. The Life of Girolamo Savonarola (1959) by Roberto Ridolfi

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  1. "The Problem of Slavery in Western Culture – Paperback – David Brion Davis – Oxford University Press". Oup.com. 20 October 1988. Archived from the original on 4 February 2013. Retrieved 23 June 2013.