Pope Julius II was the 216th leader of the Catholic Church and the second among those great men to guide by the papal name of “Julius.” This article seeks to distinguish him from his many papal forebears and successors by focusing on specifics and details of his life and papacy.

Life Before the Papacy.

Giuliano della Rovere was born to the impoverished royal della Rovere family run by Raffaelo della Rovere and Theodora Manerola, a Grecian woman. He was first educated by his Franciscan friar of an uncle, Francesco della Rovere, then sent to study science at the Perugian University.

Once his uncle became Pope Sixtus IV, Giuliano became Bishop of Carpentras in October of 1471. Two months later, he would be elevated to cardinal and assigned to San Pietro in Vincoli, a church formerly run by his uncle. He also enjoyed the position of archbishop of Avignon and at least eight bishropics. After serving as papal legate in campaigns against Todi, Spoleto, and Città di Castello, he returned with Duke Federigo of Urbino in a bid to unite parts of the Italian region. In Decemer of 1475, Sixtus IV established the Archdiocese of Avignon, appointing Giuliano as its archbishop; a position he would maintain until his election as pope.

Della Rovere would return to service as papal legate in 1480. This campaign entailed bringing peace between France and Austria, raised the war chest against the Turks and negotiate the release of Cardinal Jean Balue and Bishop Guillaume d’Harancourt from French imprisonment. This was quite successful and he would be made Bishop of Ostia and, later on, Bologna.

When Innocent VIII succeeded Sextus IV’s papacy, one of his first acts was to lead a war against Naples during the “Conspiracy of the Barons.” Cardinal Rovere’s personal fallout from this was a loss of familial influence and the disregard for Innocent VIII’s papacy. Beyond his work during the Conspiracy, he would also serve as papal legate against France’s Charles VIII and Louis XII under Pope Alexander VI.

Papal Legacy.

  • He used his influence to prevent the Borgias from ever rising to power again.
  • He allowed England’s Henry VIII to marry Catherine of Aragon.
  • While he amped up the papal military, he personally led two engagements: the expulsion of Giovanni Bentivoglio from Bologna between 1506 and 1507 and the campaign to return Ferrara to the Papal States from 1510 to 1512.

Quick Facts About Pope Julius II.

  • He was born December 5th, 1443 in the settlement of Albisola within the Republic of Genoa.
  • His given name was Giuliano della Rovere.
  • He died on February 23rd, 1553.
  • The months leading up to his death involved continually waning strength and illness. It was a fever that ultimately claimed his life.
  • His papacy began on November 1st, 1503.
  • His papacy ended with his life.
  • His papal successor Leo X.

Six Interesting Facts About Pope Julius II.

  1. He was known as “The Fearsome Pope” and “The Warrior Pope.”
  2. He commissioned Michaelangelo to paint the Sistine Chapel’s ceiling and also commissioned Raphael to make works of art throughout the Vatican.
  3. He was a rambunctious and crude young man whom had a fond regard for historic men of the military instead of the clergy.
  4. He sired Felice della Rovere, out of wedlock with Lucrezzia Normanni, in 1483.
  5. He is a prominent figure in Niccolo Machiavelli’s “The Prince.”
  6. He was the first pope to keep facial hair, favoring a beard out of mourning over the loss of Bologna.