Pope Paul II
(served 1464-1471)

"I'm too sexy for my chasuble, I'm too sexy for my chasuble…"

Much of what we know of Paul's racy life comes from the work of papal biographer and humanist Bartolomeo Sacchi, who wrote under the pen name "Plantina". Sacchi was an enemy of Pope Paul II, who had Sacchi imprisoned twice. So just keep that in mind when you read this, m'kay?

Born Pietro Barbo in 1417 to a rich Venetian merchant family, he studied for a career in the family business, but when his uncle became Pope Eugene IV, young Barbo, no dummy, switched vocations and entered the priesthood. In short order, he became in succession Archdeacon of Bologna, Bishop of Cervia, Bishop of Vicenza, and a cardinal deacon at the young age of 23. He held much influence under his uncle and his uncle's successors, Nicolas V and Calixtus III, but it waned under Pius II. But at age 45, Barbo became Paul II because many cardinals were unhappy with Pius II and his policies.

During his reign, he granted the privilege of wearing the red biretta to all the cardinals, suppressed assorted heretics, and sent financial aid to Hungary and the Albanian warlord Skanderbeg to fight off the Turks. He also encouraged universities and printing, installing Rome's first printing shop, and collected ancient art. Perhaps his most controversial move was his 1466 suppression of the college of abbreviators. This gained Paul many enemies, including Sacchi, an Apostolic Abbreviator appointed by Pio II, whose snippy letter to the Pope prompted his first four month prison term. The second time was for his participation in the Roman Academy's conspiracy against Paul. The Academy was also suppressed by the Pope.

Handsome and vain, Paul II wanted to be named Pope Formosus (Latin for "beautiful" or "handsome"), but he was persuaded to adopt the more humble name of Paul. He took to wearing the jeweled papal tiara in public and private. He spent freely and extravagantly, putting levies on Jews when he needed cash. He put on lavish carnivals and plays and bought countless clothes, jewels, and furniture. No doubt he was Martin Luther's favorite Pope.

Paul also enjoyed the company of handsome young boys, and he easily wept when slighted by one of them, so much so that his cardinals took to calling him "Our Lady of Pity," but presumably not to his face. Officially, he died of a stroke after eating too many melons (?!) but Sacchi's account claimed that Paul had a heart attack while being sodomized by his favorite companion.

Sources: The Catholic Encyclopedia (http://www.newadvent.org); Charles Panati, Sexy Origins and Intimate Things; Archaeological Civic Museum - Antiquarium Platina (http://www.museo-piadena.net)

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