He went to his last rest with the consciousness that he had fulfilled his mission, having designed great things and having accomplished them. And the result of his lifelong efforts survived him. His great enemy, the Turk, for the next half-century could only harass the frontier of his native land; and his country, a few years after his death, placed on the royal throne his son Matthias.
[Footnote 1: By permission of Selmar Hess.]
Of those pontiffs who are called the pride of modern Rome—through whom the city “rose most gloriously from her ashes”—Nicholas V (Tommaso Parentucelli) was the first. He was born at Sarzana, in the republic of Genoa, about 1398, was ordained priest at the age of twenty-five, became Archbishop of Bologna, and in 1447 was elevated to the papal chair. His election was largely due to the influential part he had taken at the councils of Basel, 1431-1449, and Ferrara-Florence, 1438-1445. In 1449, by prevailing upon the Antipope, Felix V, to abdicate, he restored the peace of the Church. He endeavored, but in vain, to arouse Europe to its duty of succoring the Greek empire.
Although the coming Reformation was already casting its shadow before, Nicholas stood calm in face of the inevitable event, devoting himself to the spiritual welfare of the Church and to the interests of learning and the arts. But he is chiefly remembered as the first pope to conceive a systematic plan for the reconstruction and permanent restoration of Rome. He died before that purpose could be executed in accordance with his great designs; but others, entering into his labors, carried his work to a fuller accomplishment.
It was to the centre of ecclesiastical Rome, the shrine of the apostles, the chief church of Christendom and its adjacent buildings, that the care of the Builder-pope was first directed. The Leonine City of Borgo, as it is more familiarly called, is that portion of Rome which lies on the right side of the Tiber, and which extends from the castle of St. Angelo to the boundary of the Vatican gardens—enclosing the Church of St. Peter, the Vatican palace with all its wealth, and the great Hospital of Santo Spirito, surrounded and intersected by many little streets, and joining to the other portions of the city by the bridge of St. Angelo.
Behind the mass of picture-galleries, museums, and collections of all kinds, which now fill up the endless halls and corridors of the papal palace, comes a sweep of noble gardens full of shade and shelter from the Roman sun, such a resort for the
Which in trim gardens takes its pleasure”