The words “Pope” and “warrior” don’t go together in one sentence: Popes are seen by Catholics as the human representative of God on Earth and the head of the Catholic Church to show Christ’s love and concern for every single human being. On the other hand, warriors are soldiers, men of violence. Putting two together is a juxtaposition unless, of course, you’re Pope Julius II, who was known as the “Warrior Pope.”

Off To A Great Start

Born as Giuliano della Rovere in 1443, he was a member of a poor but noble family, but when his uncle Sixtus IV became a Pope on August  10, 1471, he was immediately appointed as Bishop of Carpentras in an act of seeming nepotism. He was just 13 years old at the time, If that was not enough, he was quickly elevated to the cardinalate just two months later, to the same church his uncle was assigned before. Far from being honest, he did not shy away from committing simony, or the act of selling sacred things from the church… or should I say churches because he was also guilty of holding multiple church benefice, too, like in Lausanne, Switzerland, and Coutances, France. He was not off with a shining example of piety, to say the least.

Leading A War

Pope Julius II (detail of Raphael’s The Mass at Bolsena), by Fujishima Takeji, University Art Museum, Tokyo University of the Arts, Japan. (Fujishima Takeji (1867-1943), Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons)

In 1474, he raised some 3,500 troops and led an invasion into Todi, Spoleto, and Città di Castello as a representative of the Pope. At first, the tides were against him as he lost some of his men as they headed to the towns, and their weapons didn’t do much against the walls and he called for reinforcements from Rome. The requested support came, and he led 2,000 infantry and 28 cavalry squadrons. Expectedly, he succeeded in conquering them.

When his uncle died in 1484, he helped elect the next pope, Pope Innocent VIII, and he became his advisor, obtaining whatever he liked from him. And so he continued to grow his church power, working as a Papal Legate as he stood by and waited for his turn to be a Pope.