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Italian Renaissance (1330-1550)

Rome: Papal Control and Early Resurrection (1400-1484)

Finally, in 1420, the first glimmer of hope appeared for Rome to catch up to its northern rivals. The Papacy returned to Rome and brought with it the wealth and prestige Rome needed to ascend once again to great heights. The pope came to power in a situation far different from that of any other monarch. The papacy was responsible not only for the international Catholic Church, whose components were inextricably bound to politics all over Europe, but also headed the government of the turbulent Papal States in Italy. This was often cause for conflicts of interest that the pope had to address in such a manner as to accommodate the needs of as many of his constituents as possible. Further, the pope had to make these frequent tough decisions without the backing of a royal family, a strong support system upon which every other monarch in Europe depended. Having no official direct heirs, the pope often turned to Papal nephews, who, while claimed to be the children of his brothers and sisters, were more often the illegitimate children of the pope himself. During the Renaissance, the importance of the nephew (nipote) as an aid and confidant grew greatly, and the Papal nephew was often the recipient of the pope's good will, receiving influential positions and large salaries. While nepotism was common practice among the Renaissance popes, most popes did little harm by it. Others, however, like Sixtus IV, substantially weakened the moral authority of the Papacy and turned many of his advisors and cardinals against him.

Perhaps even more important than the return of the Papacy to Rome was the connection established with Florence by appointing Cosimo de Medici Papal banker. If Florence benefited from its role in the handling of Roman gold, Rome benefited even more from the infusion of Florentine ideas, and eventually immigrants. In this way, Rome rode the tide of the Renaissance that had grown strong in Florence, absorbing the principles of humanism and the new intellectualism flowing from the north along the pipeline of communications established for financial purposes. By the latter fifteenth century Rome could finally be said to have become a peer of the northern city-states, and its power showed no sign of fading.