Giulio de 'Medici, who later became Pope Clement VII, was born in Florence on May 26, 1478. He is the son of Giuliano de' Medici, brother of Lorenzo the Magnificent and victim of the Pazzi conspiracy in which he died stabbed while his brother managed to escape attack and to take revenge by exterminating a large part of the Pazzi family.
Giulio is a natural son of Giuliano who recognizes him before his death, letting him enter in all respects into the great Medici family. Lorenzo decides to entrust the child to Antonio Sangallo and then to take him permanently with him. At the age of seven he started his ecclesiastical studies, working with Ferdinando I d'Aragona to grant Giulio the Priua priory of the Order of San Giovanni.
In 1495, due to a popular uprising, the Medici were driven out of Florence and Giulio, after a journey that forced him to stay in Bologna, Pitigliano and Città di Castello, arrived in Rome under the protection of his cousin Giovanni, already at the time Cardinal. In March 1513, the cousin was elected Pope with the name of Leo X and Giulio de 'Medici's ecclesiastical career underwent a major improvement; in fact he was appointed archbishop of Florence. It is the first step to be granted the cardinal's cap, which happens in September 1513.
At only 35, Giulio de 'Medici becomes a cardinal after a dispensation and some papal documents have legitimized his birth. At this point he faces a long ascent in the ecclesiastical career. Its most important task is to settle diplomatic relations between England and the Vatican. In 1517 he was appointed Vice Chancellor of the Church of Rome and his main task was to oppose the Lutheran reform and to strengthen relations between Rome and the new emperor Charles V.
In 1521, his cousin died and on the papal throne salt Adrianus VI. The relationship with the new pope is good and Giulio succeeds in continuing his diplomatic activity that brings the first great success in 1523, when the papacy ratifies the alliance agreement with the empire. In the same year Adriano VI dies and Giulio de 'Medici is elected pope with the name of Clement VII. A very intense papacy awaits him, above all because of international problems.
The conclave for his election is already difficult, despite the support of the emperor. Clement VII has to face two problems: the relationship between the emperor and the king of France for the European balances, and the independence of Italy and the consequences of the Lutheran reform, which is increasingly gaining ground. The war between the emperor and France forces the pope to perform a difficult task of mediation.
When Charles V arrested King Francis I, imprisoned after the battle of Pavia on 24 February 1525, the pope was forced to try to soften the tone of the conflict and create a force opposed to that of the emperor by founding with the French, the Venetians, the Florentines and the Duke of Milan the "League of Cognac".
The emperor does not like the move and, after the defeat with the Turks, accuses the pope of having been the cause of a wrong war having confirmed the clash between the empire and the latter for religious matters. The emperor's revenge takes place in two different times: first he sends Cardinal Colonna to besiege the Vatican, forcing Clemente VII to come to terms. Charles of Bourbon does not accept the Pope's surrender and decides to bend Rome himself to seize most of Italy.
During the siege of the eternal city, the Bourbon is killed; the city, however, is also looted by imperial soldiers and lansquenets. It is 1527 and the Sacco di Roma is completed. The mortification of the capital of Christianity upsets many, including the same emperor who condemns it, despite it being one of the causes.
Pope Clement VII capitulates and pays a very high money price. His incapacity for government and military administration is palesa to all of Europe. On December 16, he withdrew to Orvieto unable to fulfill the obligations imposed by peace.
Charles V asks the Pope for forgiveness and with the peace of Barcelona of 1529 good relations between the two are restored. Furthermore, Clement VII obtains that Florence be freed from the Republicans and that the Medici be returned to the head of the city. The Pope reestablishes a relationship of precarious equilibrium between France and the Empire, dedicating himself, with the help of Charles V, to the delicate question of the Lutheran Reformation which in the meantime had taken root very deeply.
Clement VII is a cultured man and lover of the arts; his activity is not limited to international politics and issues within his own state and to Italy, but he also takes care of patronage. In 1528 he also approved the birth of the Capuchin order.
After eleven years of intense and difficult pontificate, Clement VII died in Rome on 25 September 1534, at age 56, after eating a mortal mushroom, the amanita phalloides. He is buried in Santa Maria sopra Minerva, in the mausoleum designed by his "second father" Antonio Sangallo.