Pope Pius II, born Enea Silvio Piccolomini, was the 210th pope of the Catholic Church from 1458 to his death. Enea Silvio Piccolomini was born in Corsignano (today's Pienza), in the Sienese territory, on October 18, 1405, one of the eighteen sons of Silvio Piccolomini, a noble family, and of Vittoria Forteguerri. The family had chosen this name because of their ancestor named Giulius Piccolominis Amideis, who was related to the Amidei family of Florence. When they heard about the lineage of the Amidei from Gens Iulia, they decided to call the future Pius II Enea Silvio, in honor of Aeneas, son of Venus, who, as Gens Iulia claimed, was the first member of their family.
He had an education of the first order. In 1423 he was sent by his father to study at the University of Siena to study law, to whose lessons he assisted unwillingly, as he devoted his energies in the study of the Latin and Greek classics (Plato, Cicero, Seneca), in the stunts with friends and in the passion for women. In 1429, by paternal will he was sent to Florence to perfect his studies, a city where he was able to attend first-rate humanists such as Francesco Filelfo, Leonardo Bruni and Poggio Bracciolini.
After graduating, the young Piccolomini settled in Siena as a teacher, but in 1431 he accepted the position of secretary of Domenico Capranica, bishop of Fermo, then on the road that led him to the Council of Basel in polemics against the new Pope Eugene IV who did not want to recognize him as a cardinal. Arrived in Basel in 1432, the young Piccolomini showed his political ability and diplomacy by serving Capranica and several other gentlemen. In 1435 he was sent by Cardinal Albergati, a legate of Eugene to the council, on a secret mission in Scotland to James I, a mission during which he had two illegitimate sons. Piccolomini visited England in addition to Scotland, and was subject to various dangers and vicissitudes in both nations, of which he left a valuable account.
In the meantime, the Council of Basel began to manifest more violently those conciliarist tendencies developed during the Council of Constance. Pope Eugenio IV, worried about this turn, decided to transfer the official seat of the Council to Ferrara (1437), a city where he could more closely monitor the work of the Council Fathers as an Italian. A good part of the fathers rejected Eugene's decision, giving rise to the so-called "small schism of the West". Piccolomini, although still a layman, was appointed an official of the Council in 1436 and, after the open break in 1437, he passed to the side of the conciliarists. In the autumn of 1439 he supported the anti-pope election of the former Duke of Savoy, Amedeo VIII (Felix V), and in 1440 he wrote the Libellus dialogorum de generalis concilii authoritate, a real pamphlet in defense of the conciliar authority.
However, given the scarce following that Felice V managed to obtain, Piccolomini found an excuse to enter, in 1442, the court of Emperor Federico III. By virtue of his excellent rhetorical skills and his vast culture, he was crowned a poet in the Frankfurt diet of 1443, and obtained the patronage of the emperor's chancellor, Kaspar Schlick. In his three years at court Piccolomini wrote two of his most significant and important literary works: the comedy Chrisis in 1443 and the famous novel Historia de duobus amantibus in 1444, which had an important influence on the subsequent literary production.
In 1445, at the height of political and literary glory, Piccolomini contracted a serious illness that prompted him, once healed, to radically change his life. His character had until then been that of an easy man of the world, without claiming to be conscientious. in morals or consistency in politics. He began to be more regular in the first aspect, and in the second he adopted a definite line making peace with Rome. Having been sent on a mission to Rome in 1445 by Frederick III, with the apparent purpose of inducing Eugene to convoke a new council, he was acquitted of ecclesiastical censures and returned to Germany with the task of assisting the Pope.
This he did, very effectively, with the diplomatic dexterity with which he softened the differences between the papal court of Rome and the German imperial voters; and also had an important part in the compromise with which, in 1447, the dying Eugene accepted the reconciliation offered by the German princes, leaving the council and the antipope without support. Aeneas had already taken his vows for that time: consecrated subdeacon in 1446, he was ordained a presbyter on March 4, 1447.
The new, Pope Nicholas V, was a humanist and also a personal friend of Piccolomini. Entered in the graces of the new pontiff, Piccolomini pursued a rapid ecclesiastical career: he was bishop of Trieste from 19 April 1447 until 23 September 1450, when he was nominated bishop of Siena, bishopric seat that held until 19 August 1458 and not without tribulations. In fact, Piccolomini's affiliation to an ancient magnatitic family fallen into disgrace and Piccolomini's ambiguity in the negotiations with the city authorities made the settlement of this ambiguous fellow citizen open to the Sienese. open hostility when in 1456, after receiving the cardinal's hat, the cardinal was denied entry into his city.
In his dioceses, however, the bishop was able to live in very little time, as he was engaged in various diplomatic missions on behalf of the Holy See. Nicholas V, knowing of the good relations that existed between Piccolomini and Federico of Hapsburg (and his excellent knowledge of the German language), sent him, together with Cardinal Cusano, as ambassador to the imperial court to negotiate the marriage of these with the princess Eleonora d'Aviz (celebrated by proxy in 1450), which she managed to complete together with the stipulation of a concordat that re-established relations between the Church and the Empire. In 1451 he undertook a mission in Bohemia where he concluded a satisfactory agreement with the head of the Hussites, George of Podebrady; in 1452 he received Federico in Siena and accompanied him to Rome, where the emperor "officially" married Eleonora and was crowned King of the Romans (March 9) and then Holy Roman Emperor on March 19th. He was the last emperor to be crowned in Rome.
1453 was a traumatic year for the entire Christian West: on May 29, Constantinople, the last bulwark of Christianity before the Turkish threat and heir of the ancient Roman empire, fell into the hands of Muhammad II. The trauma was particularly felt in the humanistic circles, and therefore also in the bishop Piccolomini who, driven by emotion, wrote the Dialogus, a dialogic treatise that reflects both on the moral authority of the papacy and on the need for a crusade aimed at curbing the Ottoman advancement.
In August 1455 Enea Piccolomini returned to Rome with an embassy to utter the obedience of Germany to the new Pope, Callistus III. He gave the pontiff the recommendations of the emperor and king of Hungary Ladislaus V for his election to the cardinalate. The appointment was not made because of the Pope's determination to first promote his nephew, so he had to wait until December of the following year. He temporarily obtained the bishopric of Warmia (in Poland).
Between 1455 and 1458 Piccolomini reached the peak of notoriety: he was finally named cardinal on December 17, 1456, he completed the Historia Federci III imperatoris (1452-1458) and he drafted some treaties with an international flavor such as De Europa and Cosmographia .
Callisto III died on 6 August 1458; on August 10th the cardinals entered the conclave. The cardinal of Rouen, Guillaume d'Estouteville, seemed certain to be elected. Piccolomini effectively countered it through his art, energy and eloquence. He frustrated the rival's hopes, recalling the risks of the appointment of a French cardinal to the papal throne, since he would bring the papal seat back to Avignon and subjugate it to the interests of the other side of the Alps.
Thanks to this test of courage and by virtue of his political abilities demonstrated over the years, very intense, which occurred between 1450 and the date of the conclave, Enea Silvio Piccolomini was elected Pope on August 19, 1458. Cardinal Colonna and his two cardinals nephews of Callistus III. Crowned September 3, the new Pope chose as a pontifical name "Pio" as a tribute not so much to San Pio I, as to the much-loved Aeneas Virgilian, whose name was '' Pius ''. Pinturicchio, Pio II blessing, detail taken from the fresco cycle of the Piccolomini Library of the Cathedral of Siena.
Despite only 53 years of age, the health of the humanist pope was not good: suffering from gout and other ailments, Pio was aware of his precarious state of health, and for this reason he threw himself body and soul to realize the vast reform plan and the creation of the great European coalition aimed at driving the Turks out of Constantinople.
After recognizing Ferdinand of Aragon (son of Alfonso V of Aragon) as heir to the Neapolitan throne, in October 1458, Pius gathered a congress of representatives of Christian princes in Mantua  with the bull Vocavit nos, to undertake a 'common action against the Ottoman Turks who had finally conquered Constantinople and were about to take possession of the whole Byzantine Empire under the leadership of Muhammad II. To this end, on 19 January 1459 the Pope instituted a new knightly religious order, the Order of Saint Mary of Bethlehem.
The congress, however, failed the objectives for which it was designed: Milan was absorbed by the attempt to take Genoa; Florence cynically advised the Pope to let the Turks and Venetians wear off each other; the kingdoms of France and England were engaged in the mortal struggle with the Duchy of Burgundy, the other in the civil war (called the war of the two roses). Moreover, Louis XI of France, resenting the fact that Pius II preferred Ferdinand of Aragon to the French candidate Renato I d'Angiò for the throne of Naples, continued in his anti-Roman politics by banning the pragmatic sanction of Bourges of 1438, extreme poster of French Gallicanism. Finally, Germany, from the Tyrol to the Pomeranian, was agitated by antipapist and anti-imperial conspiracies. Pius II was involved in spite of himself in a series of disputes with the king of Bohemia and the summit of the Hussite movement, Giorgio Podiebrady, who aspired to become king of the Romans in place of Frederick of Hapsburg. The pontiff also had to face Sigismondo, Count of Tyrol, who opposed the reformatory line advocated by Niccolò Cusano.
Faced with the unwillingness of Western powers to participate in a new crusade against the Ottomans, Pius II circulated in Europe, for polemical purposes, a letter to the Sultan, Muhammad II, in which he offered the Turkish lord - once converted to Roman Christianity - the title of Roman emperor, for whom in the West no one was more worthy in the eyes of Pius II.
Pius was unconsciously close to his end, and his malaise probably led to the feverish impatience with which, on June 18, 1464, he left for Ancona in order to lead the crusade in person. Pius suffered from fever when he left Rome, the crusading army broke up in Ancona in search of a transport, and when the Venetian fleet finally arrived, the dying Pope could only see it from the window of his room. He died two days later, on 14 August 1464. He was succeeded by Pope Paul II. His body was buried in the Chapel of San Gregorio Magno in San Pietro and then translated, together with the body of his nephew Pius III, by Pope Paul V in the Basilica of Sant'Andrea della Valle. The funeral monument and the sarcophagus remain, but the body was lost during a restoration during the eighteenth century.
"Convinced that the decline of papal influence was due to the increased prestige of the Councils," Pius II renounced his conciliarist past in a series of official documents aimed at strengthening the pontiff's spiritual absolutism. bubble Execrabilis, published on January 18, 1460, with which Pius II condemned the invocation of the Councils against the authority of the Pope himself.I did not pay for this official retraction, Pius II issued a second bull on April 26, 1463, called Bulla retractationis, in which the Pope prayed to his old adversaries of "rejecting Aeneas and listening to Pius".