, Subjects & Themes
, Basilica Di San Pietro in Vaticano - History
, Vatican City - Buildings; Structures; Etc
, Vatican City - History
and a skilled craftsman brought home on average about 50 ducats. On the other end of the social scale, lifestyles were so lush that a nobleman with an income of 1,000 ducats was just making ends meet. Two thousand ducats relieved financial headaches.
Depending on how you liked to spend your money, for 2,000 ducats you could buy twenty translations of Homer, hand-lettered; muster your own army for a couple of months; hire an artist to fresco your house; or buy your way into the Curia, the main governing body of the Church.
In 1507, building expenditures more than doubled from the first year, and Julius saw no end in sight. The new St. Peterâs would be an enormous expense for the Church for years to come. Much as nonprofit institutions do today, he appealed to the conscience of wealthy donors, in effect launching a capital campaign to underwrite construction. In a papal bull, signed on February 13, 1507, he asked the crowned heads of Europe for donations.
âThe New Basilica, which is to take the place of one teeming with venerable memories, will embody the greatness of the present and the future. In proportions and splendor we believe it will surpass all other Churches of the Universe,â he wrote.
Henry VII of England sent tin for the Basilica roof and was rewarded with wheels of Parmesan cheese, globes of provolone, and barrels of wine. In spite of the generous response, much more was needed. Operating costs were soaring, and in April, Julius imposed a tribute on all apostolic properties, with 10 percent of the revenue earmarked for the Basilica.
If the monies flowing into the Vatican treasury were enormous, so too were the outlays. The Church was a religious institution, a charitable and humanitarian enterprise, a civil authority, an educator, and a patron. It operated in many countries, had a large payroll, administered the city of Rome, maintained an army, ran numerous charities, social services, and universities, and funded the arts and sciences.
Total annual expenses were always substantial, but the popeâs military campaigns, lavish patronage, and ambitious building projects made 1507 especially costly. Over time, the revenue returning from the Papal States, the increased income from the alum monopoly, and a lucrative new sourceâgold and silver from the New Worldâwould ensure the financial stability of the Church. But Julius faced an immediate cash-flow problem, and so his operating budget was strained.
With expenditures on the Basilica escalating from 12,500 ducats in 1506 to 27,200 in 1507 and facing years of building, he looked for a way to underwrite future construction, and he called on Agostino Chigi for advice. Among the many bankers who attended to the Church business, only Chigi was the popeâs confidant and friend as well as his financier.
At a time when 2,000 ducats was a comfortable annual income for a noble, Chigi had paid 3,000 to purchase the coveted position of apostolic secretary, which assured him full access to Julius. Apostolic secretaries numbered only thirty and worked directly for the pope. Chigi continued to improve his portfolio, buying a position as notary of the Apostolic Chamber in 1507, and later, gilding his venal offices with the purchase of a noble title, court palatine.
The Apostolic Chamber was the finance department of the Curia. A classical Roman term referring to the Senate, the Curia of the early 1500s was small and informalâmuch different than it is today. Governance was divided among an administrative arm called the Apostolic Chancellery, a judiciary called the Rota, or wheel, and the Apostolic Chamber, the finance department, which was headed by a cardinal-chamberlain.
The popeâs cousin Raffaele Riario served as cardinal-chamberlain. It was a position of substantial power. He hired the papal bankers, let out contracts, and oversaw a network of notaries, scribes, and clerks. Since Chigiâs tax concessions and alum monopoly came
Brian Keene, Brian James Freeman