Giuliano della Rovere, known as Pope Julius II, was born on 5 December 1443 in Albisola. Educated among the Franciscans under the protection of his paternal uncle (who will become Pope Sixtus IV), he devoted himself to the study of the sciences in a convent of La Pérouse. In 1471 he was appointed bishop of Carpentras, in France, just as his uncle was elected pontiff.
Promoted cardinal of San Pietro in Vincoli, he obtains the archbishopric of Avignon, while in the meantime he holds the bishopric of Catania as apostolic administrator. In 1480 he was sent as a papal legate to France, and here he settled for four years: during this period, he exercised a considerable influence towards the College of Cardinals, especially during the papacy of Innocent VIII. In 1483 he became the father of Felice della Rovere, with the wife of the house butler, Lucrezia Normanni.
On the death of Innocent VIII, which took place in 1492, Rodrigo Borgia was elected by a secret agreement with Ascanio Sforza, overcoming Giuliano della Rovere's competition. Since there is an evident rivalry between the new pontiff, who takes the name of Alexander VI, and the Della Rovere, the latter tries to take refuge in Ostia before going to Genoa and from there to move to Paris, where he leads King Charles VIII to go to the conquest of Naples.
Accompanies, then, the young monarch in the countryside of Lazio (among his other bishoprics there is also that of Velletri), and together with him he enters Rome, supporting the need to convoke a council aimed at investigating the behavior of the pope. His machinations, however, do not lead to the desired results. Alexander VI died however in 1503: in his place was elected Pius III, Cardinal Piccolomini of Siena, who remained in office less than a month because of an incurable disease. The conclave that follows leads to the papal appointment of Giuliano della Rovere, unanimously elected thanks to the support of Cesare Borgia: 216th Pope of the Catholic Church, takes the name of Julius II.
From the beginning the new Pope shows a significant boldness and an uncommon decision to eliminate all the powers that jeopardize his temporal authority: it is no accident the choice of the name Giulio, which is a direct reference to Julius Caesar. From an artistic point of view, shortly after being elected, Della Rovere nominates General Superintendent of the papal factories the Bramante, and entrusts him with the task of creating a connection between the Belvedere summer residence and the Apostolic Palace. Under the supervision of the architect, it was decided to open via Giulia and to arrange via della Lungara, which leads from the villages to the Settimiana gate.
On the political front, in the meantime, after having prevented the Borgias from remaining in the Papal States, Pope Julius II began to work to promote reconciliation between the Colonna family and the Orsini family, linking Roman nobility to them. Consolidated power in and around Rome, he then dedicated himself to the most distant territories, acting to drive the Venetians from the fortresses of Italy (including Rimini and Faenza) that they had occupied after the death of Alexander VI. Since the lagoons are proving rather hostile, the Pope signs an alliance with Germany and France (which also have respective interests in conflict with each other) to attack Venice, thus sacrificing the independence of the Italian territory.
Meanwhile, in 1505 Julius II convokes Michelangelo to Rome in order to entrust him with the construction of a monumental burial to be placed in the tribune of St. Peter's Basilica that will be built shortly thereafter. While Buonarroti is in Carrara to choose the marbles, however, the pontiff changes his mind, believing that taking care of his own grave can be of bad luck: and so, when the artist returns to Rome and discovers that the project has been abandoned despite the commitment, between the two the relationship is interrupted.
In 1506 Giulio demolished the free lordships of Bologna and Perugia invading the cities, while in Forlì he favored the peace between the Guelphs and the Ghibellines. Even beyond the Alps, his influence grows more and more, and both Germany and France compete to have him as a friend. In the meantime he decides to demolish the Vatican basilica, built in the time of Constantine, and to rebuild it entirely: the project is still entrusted to Bramante, who thinks of a Greek cross with a hemispherical dome in the center and at the ends of the arms four smaller domes.
While the basilica of Saint Peter takes shape, the pontiff reconciles himself with Michelangelo Buonarroti on the occasion of a visit to Bologna: the artist fuses a bronze statue for him (a few years later he will be completely repaid, receiving the task of decorating the vault of the Sistine Chapel). In 1508, with Louis XII of France, Ferdinand II of Aragon and the Emperor Maximilian I, Julius II gave life to the League of Cambrai, to oppose the Venetian Republic, which the following year was placed under interdict.
Following the battle of Agnadello the Republic loses all Italian dominions: an event that goes beyond the Pope's expectations and which soon turns against him. Both France and the Empire, in fact, turn into a threat to the Papal State: and so Julius II finds himself asking for his own help from Venice. While the Venetians are acquitted, France is put under the papal ban.
In September 1510, on the occasion of a synod convened by the French monarch in Tours, the transalpine bishops withdrew from papal obedience, decreeing to commit themselves to favor, with the collaboration of Massimiliano, Della Rovere's deposition: for this reason, a Council in Pisa in 1511, during which Julius II is accused of having corrupted the Church and is called sodomite.
To the pontiff there is nothing left to do but to ally against France, forming with the Venetians and Ferdinand II of Aragon the Holy League, which also includes Henry VIII of England and later will welcome, following the umpteenth change in front, Maximilian . In 1512 the Lateran Council V was staged in Rome, while the French were sent back to the other side of the Alps. At this point Italy was occupied by other continental powers, and the dream of Julius II - to give life to a kingdom Italian independent - it is practically impossible to complete. Pope Julius II dies at the age of 70 on 21 February 1513, struck down by a strong fever: his body is buried without any funeral monument in the Basilica of San Pietro.