Sack of Rome

   The sack of Rome resulted from the rivalry between France and Spain over Northern Italy. In 1524, Pope Clement VII took sides on the issue by allying himself with Francis I of France and Venice. In 1525, however, Francis was captured in Pavia, leaving the pope with no choice but to seek the protection of Charles V of Spain. In 1526, in an effort to limit Charles' power, the pope again changed sides, joining the League of Cognac with France, Milan, Florence, and Venice. In retaliation, Charles' imperial troops invaded Rome in 1527, brutally ransacking it. Clement took refuge in the Castel Sant' Angelo, was eventually taken prisoner, and forced to pay 400,000 ducats for his release. He fled to Orvieto and later Viterbo, remaining in exile for the next two years. Clement eventually negotiated a truce with Charles and crowned him Holy Roman Emperor in Bologna in 1530. Many scholars believe that the sack of Rome marked the end of the High Renaissance era and contributed to the advance of Protestantism because papal power was diminished by the event. In 1533, Henry VIII of England requested from Clement an annulment of his marriage to Catherine of Aragon, Charles V's aunt. The pope rejected the petition, leading Henry to establish the Church of England, for which he was excommunicated. Had the sack of Rome not taken place and the pope been forced to bow to Charles, Clement might have simply acceded to the annulment and England would not have been lost to Protestantism.

Historical dictionary of Renaissance art. . 2008.

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