By Anne Leader

On 21 July 1414, Francesco della Rovere was born near Savona. He began his Christian vocation as a Franciscan friar and came to lead the order in 1464. Elected pope in 1471, he took the name Sixtus IV and commissioned numerous art and architectural projects at the Vatican and elsewhere in Rome. He is best known for constructing the papal palace chapel that bears his name. He also built and renovated numerous other structures in Rome; among the most important were the church of Santa Maria del Popolo (1472-90) and the Ospedale di Santo Spirito in Sassia (1473-82), which can be seen as the backdrop of Sandro Botticelli’s Sistine Chapel fresco showing the Temptation of Jesus. Additionally, as Pope Sixtus IV, della Rovere commissioned Ponte Sisto, a bridge over the Tiber that connects Trastevere to the Regola neighborhood. It was built over the collapsed Pons Aurelius, which had spanned the Tiber at this point since Roman times. Sixtus died in Rome in 1484 at the age of 70.

For more on Sixtus IV as patron of the arts see: Hellmut Wohl and Sabine Eiche. “Rovere, della (i).” Grove Art Online. Oxford Art Online. Oxford University Press.

Melozzo da Forlì, Sixtus IV Appointing Platina as Prefect of the Vatican Library, ca. 1477, fresco, formerly Vatican Library (now Vatican Pinacoteca)

Sistine Chapel as it appeared in 1480, Apostolic Palace, Vatican City

Sandro Botticelli, Temptation of Christ, 1481-2, fresco, Sistine Chapel, Vatican City

Baccio Pontelli, Ponte Sisto, 1473-9, Rome

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