The Cardinals of the Holy Roman Church - Biographical Dictionary - Consistory of May 30, 1550

The Cardinals of the Holy Roman Church

Biographical Dictionary
Pope Julius III (1550-1555)
Consistory of May 30, 1550 (I)

(1) 1. CIOCCHI DEL MONTE, Innocenzo (1532-1577)

Birth. 1532, Borgo San Donnino, now Fidenza. His mother was a beggar, and the identity of his father is not known (1). Adoptive son of Baldovino Ciocchi del Monte, duke of Camerino and count of Monte San Savino, and Giulia Mancini. Adoptive nephew of Pope Julius III, of whom he became a favorite. There is no record of when he took the name Innocenzo. He was called il Prevostino. Because of an incident in his youth with a pet ape of Cardinal Giovanni Maria del Monte, he was later called il Cardinale Scimmia, the Cardinal Monkey. He is also listed as Innocenzo del Monte.

Education. Msgr. Baldoino di Baldoino Barga was charged with educating Innocenzo both socially and intellectually. Bargas's task was hopeless; there were a few social graces and a few bits of knowledge, perhaps about the glories of the Classical world, and Innocenzo's formal education was over. Innocenzo's coarse social and uninformed intellectual skills reflected his poor birth (2).

Early life. He left his home at the youngest possible age to pursue a better life. By the time he was fourteen, in 1546, he was already gone from his birthplace to seek his fortune. He never returned to Borgo San Donnino. Went to Piacenza and there he found a home in the official family of the Cardinal Giovanni Maria del Monte, then the governor of that city, when he was hired to be a valero, a servile combination of footman and dogsbody (3). Cardinal del Monte appointed him provost of the cathedral chapter of Arezzo.

Sacred orders. (No information found).

Cardinalate. Created cardinal deacon in the consistory of May 30, 1550 (4); received the red hat, June 2 (5), 1550; and the title of S. Onofrio, September 1, 1550. Cardinal nipote. By November 1551, the pope ordered all the papal nuncios to address all their letters not to him but to Cardinal Innocenzo; thus, he became the papal chief diplomatic and political agent. By a papal bull of May 13, 1552, the pope legitimized Cardinal Innocenzo, thus eliminating the possibility that the other cardinals would challenge his elevation to the cardinalate based on the fact that he was not eligible for the office, because of his illegitimate birth. Legate in Bologna, June 3, 1552 until May 23, 1554. Abbot commendatario of the abbeys of Mont Saint-Michel in Normandy, S. Zeno in Verona, June 1552; later of the abbeys of S. Saba, Miramondo, and of Grottaferrata, Frascati. In a short time, Pope Julius III realized that the office of cardinal nipote was beyond Innocenzo's abilities; the pope quickly had to find a way for the young cardinal to retain the appearance of power without having any real responsibility; he created a new office, that of cardinal-secretary of state (6). Administrator of the diocese of Mirapoix, April 3 to September 16, 1553. His affair with his future sister-in-law, the noted poetess and favorite in the papal court, Ersilia Cortese, was particularly scandalous. The pope entertained the idea of degrading Innocenzo from the cardinalate. The young cardinal's behavior had so compromised Pope Julius III's credibility that he was prepared to reduce the cardinal again into the lay state. But in the end, nothing ever came of his idea as the pope could not bring himself to deny his favorite cardinal. Participated in the first conclave of 1555, which elected Pope Marcellus II. Participated in the second conclave of 1555, which elected Pope Paul IV. Killed two men, father and son, who had uttered ill words about him in Nocera, while traveling from Venice to Rome to attend the conclave of 1559 (7). Participated in the conclave of 1559, which elected Pope Pius IV. Incarcerated in Castelo Sant'Angelo, by order of Pope Pius IV, May 27, 1560, for the two murders committed in Nocera; on September 23, 1561, he was moved to the abbey of Montecassino, and placed in solitary confinement; because of the intervention of Cosimo de' Medici, duke of Florence, and of Cardinals Giovanni Ricci and Giovanni Battista Cicada, Innocenzo was released in the fall of 1561; in July 1561, he had been condemned by the pope to pay a fine of 100,000 scudi, and at the same time, he was forced by the pope to agree to resign his cardinalate at his next offense. After his release, the cardinal promised to reform his life, pay the fine, and give up many of his benefices. Innocenzo was then banished to Tivoli, where two Jesuit priests were sent by the pope to work for his reform; he arrived in Tivoli by early October, 1561; he behaved himself until the end of the pontificate of Pope Pius IV. Opted for the title of S. Callisto, May 4, 1562. Opted for the deaconry of S. Maria in Portico Octaviae, November 17, 1564. Participated in the conclave of 1565-1566, which elected Pope Pius V; because of his aura of mischief, the guards searched him and discovered a note hidden in his cloak which contained forbidden information; this discovery caused an incredible stir and from that moment until the end of the conclave, Innocenzo and his conclavists were guarded more closely than any other cardinal in the conclave. Early in December 1567, Cardinal Innocenzo was accused of committing the serious crime of rapine (8), at Brevia in the territory of Siena. The charge involved two women of humble condition. On January 28, 1568, charges were officially brought against Innocenzo, because, two days later, on January 30, Spanish Fr. Rodríhuez, S.J., was named by the pope to formally investigate the cardinal's crimes, and to gather information on the case. In spite of the new scandal, he opted for the deaconry of S. Maria in Via Lata, December 3, 1568. Cardinal protodeacon. Fifteen days later, on December 18, the pope Pius summoned the cardinal to Rome and installed him in the Vatican with two Theatine priests assigned to act as his companions or guards. By order of Pope Pius V, May 17, 1569, six cardinals were named to process his cause (9). On June 14, 1569, the commission issued its report to the pope: it decided that the cardinal's crimes, his various fornications, were not worthy of his degradation or execution. Despite the commission's findings, the pope could not, in good conscience, let the unrepentant Innocenzo go unpunished and on June 16, the pope banished him, once again, to the abbey of Montecassino; and on June 22, he ordered the abbot of Montecassino not to admit anyone to see the cardinal; for a month, he maintained his best behavior, and demonstrated the best qualities of a reformed cardinal; on July 30, the abbot reported a distinct improvement in the former's behavior to the pope. But the pope was not yet satisfied; and Innocenzo remained at Montecassino for another two years (10). On March 17, 1571, Pope Pius V allowed Innocenzo to be moved to a monastery at Bergamo; there he spent the next three years. Did not participate in the conclave of 1572, which elected Pope Gregory XIII. As cardinal protodeacon, he crowned Pope Gregory XIII. After Pope Pius V died, Innocenzo had immediately begun to plan his escape from the monastery at Bergamo; because of his twenty-two years as a cardinal, he had a number of advocates in the Sacred College; many cardinals still remembered, with fondness, the reign of Julius III, and many still owed debts of gratitude to the old pontiff for the preferment that he had offered them; Innocenzo asked many of his cardinal-aquaintances to petition the new pope to release him from the monastery. To strengthen the case for his release, and to demonstrate that his outlook and attitude had changed, he began to project the image of a reformed prelate. In a shrewd role-reversal, he asked to be put in the charge of a Jesuit priest, who would work with him for his further improvement, thus finding a way to make the hated Jesuits to work for him, instead of against him. Pope Gregory XIII restored the cardinal's freedom and allowed him to return to Rome. He thought that he could now reclaim his crown. "But his crown did not mean what it once did, because upon his return, Innocenzo was, once again, despised by all. Innocenzo became a spectacle, like an evolutionary throw-back from a bygone era, to be watched and studied." (11).

Death. November 2 (12), 1577, All Souls day, Rome. Buried, within a few hours of his death, in complete anonymity, beneath an unmarked slab, in the Del Monte Chapel at the church of S. Pietro in Montorio, Rome, after a private funeral. "His burial was unattended. There was no commemoration of his cardinalate, and no prayers for the repose of his soul. Shunned and ignored in life, he was forgotten in death." (13)

Bibliography. Burkle-Young, Francis A. and Michael Leopoldo Doerrer. The life of Cardinal Innocenzo del Monte : a scandal in scarlet ; together with materials for a history of the House of Ciocchi del Monte San Savino. Lewiston, NY : E. Mellen Press, 1997. (Renaissance studies, v. 2); Cardella, Lorenzo. Memorie storiche de' cardinali della Santa Romana Chiesa. Rome : Stamperia Pagliarini, 1793, IV, 297-301; Chacón, Alfonso. Vitæ, et res gestæ Pontificvm Romanorum et S. R. E. Cardinalivm ab initio nascentis Ecclesiæ vsque ad Vrbanvm VIII. Pont. Max. 2 volumes. Romae : Typis Vaticanis, 1630, II, col. 1588; Eubel, Conradus and Gulik, Guglielmus van. Hierarchia Catholica Medii et Recentioris Aevi, Münich : Sumptibus et Typis Librariae Regensbergianae, 1935; reprint, Padua : Il Messagero di S. Antonio, 1960, III, 31-32, 61, 75, 76 and 246, "Mirapicen.", n. 5; Weber, Christoph. Legati e governatori dello Stato Pontificio : 1550-1809. Roma : Ministero per i beni culturali e ambientali, Ufficio centrale per i beni archivistici, 1994. (Pubblicazioni degli archivi di Stato. Sussidi; 7) pp. 149 and 630.

Links. Biography by Pietro Messina, in Italian, Dizionario Biografico degli Italiani - Volume 38 (1990), Treccani; biography, in English, Wikipedia; biography, in Norwegian, Annas Roima Guide; another biography, also in Norwegian, Annas Rom Guide; his arms, Araldica Vaticana.

(1) His father, perhaps named Angelino Santino, was a soldier who may have served under Boldovino del Monte at the Rock of Forli, and also may have served Cardinal Giovanni Maria Ciocchi del Monte when the latter was legate in Parma and Piacenza. In any case, Innocenzo certainly was illegitimate and this can be inferred from the fact that on May 13, 1552, Pope Julius III issued a bull legitimizing him, Burkle-Young, The life of Cardinal Innocenzo del Monte, pp. 77-78.
(2) Burkle-Young, The life of Cardinal Innocenzo del Monte, pp. 81-82.
(3) "How, then, could Innocenzo, the disreputable young man from Borgo San Donnino, find work in the household of a cardinal? Some visible spark of intelligence, wit, humor, and charm separated the boy from the other, more reserved and well-mannered young men in Piacenza and brought him nearer to the grim, sixty-year-old cardinal whose own life was at the center of the often turbulent and sometimes violent Catholic Reformation." Burkle-Young, The life of Cardinal Innocenzo del Monte, p. 80.
(4) According to Burkle-Young, The life of Cardinal Innocenzo del Monte, pp. 122-124, Pope Julius III hoped "that Innocenzo would bring the same freshness to the pontificate as he had to the del Monte household. The pope wanted to enliven both the Church and the Counter-Reformation with new energy. Innocenzo may not have been well-mannered or well-educated, but he had energy, he had spirit, and he had humor. He possessed all of the qualities that Julius wished to bring to the cardinalate and to the Church." But "the creation produced tremendous outrage and controversy in the College of Cardinals. Many impassioned cardinals spoke out against Innocenzo, because they believed that the boy was not virtuous enough to be named one of them. Cardinal Reginald Pole tried to no avail to persuade the Pope to reconsider Innocenzo's elevation, stressing the reform-minded gravity of the times. Pole believed that, given the Church's tenuous position of authority in Europe, it would be unwise, and, indeed, dangerous, to elevate such an obviously unworthy and impious young rogue. Cardinal Giovanni Pietro Carafa, another vigorous reformer, angrily opposed the appointment, saying in no uncertain terms that it represented an appalling prostitution of the ecclesiastical dignity of the Sacred College, and was, as well, an extreme example of papal favoritism. Unfortunately for Julius, and for Innocenzo, the concerns of the College would later be proved warranted."
(5) This is according to Eubel, Hierarchia Catholica Medii et Recentioris Aevi, III, 31, n. 6; Burkle-Young, The life of Cardinal Innocenzo del Monte, p. 124, indicates that he received the red hat on July 2, 1550.
(6) "For the first time since the brief pontificate of Adrian VI, thirty years before, someone other than the cardinal-nephew was put in charge of the pope's diplomatic and political activities. Cardinal Innocenzo's general incompetence had required a new structure of the Vatican offices-one that became permanent. The first man to fill the newly created position of cardinal-secretary of state, and, therefore, the man who was to manage Innocenzo, was the newly created Cardinal Girolamo Dandini", Burkle-Young, The life of Cardinal Innocenzo del Monte, pp. 128-129.
(7) Burkle-Young, The life of Cardinal Innocenzo del Monte, pp. 149-150.
(8) According to Burkle-Young, The life of Cardinal Innocenzo del Monte, p. 172, "Rapine can be understood to mean that the cardinal had either raped or pillaged. Obviously, either act is more fitting for a Viking than it is for a cardinal of the Catholic Reformation. The cardinal-murderer had become the cardinal-rapist."
(9) They were Cardinals Giangirolamo Morone, Otto Truchess von Waldburg, Philibert Babou de la Bourdaisière, Francisco Pacheco, Francesco Alciati, and Gianpaolo della Chiesa.
(10) While Innocenzo was confined at Montecassino, his adoptive brother, Fabiano del Monte, was killed in early 1570 in a skirmish while commanding a small force of Tuscan troops. Since Fabiano was the last surviving male descendant of Boldovino, his patrimony and his title of count of Montesansavino should have passed to Cardinal Innocenzo but the latter's political condition was as bad as his ecclesiastical one, and Duke Cosimo I declared the family to be legally extinct and reattached the del Monte patrimony to the lands of the grand duchy of Tuscany.
(11) Burkle-Young, The life of Cardinal Innocenzo del Monte, pp. 179-180.
(12) This is according to Burkle-Young, The life of Cardinal Innocenzo del Monte, p. 180; Eubel, Hierarchia Catholica Medii et Recentioris Aevi, III, 32; and Chacón, Vitæ, et res gestæ Pontificvm Romanorum et S. R. E. Cardinalivm, say that he died on November 3, 1577; his biographies in Norwegian, linked above, says that he died on September 3, 1577 or November 2, 1577.
(13) Burkle-Young, The life of Cardinal Innocenzo del Monte, pp. 180-181.

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