By Maggie Bell

Pope Eugenius IV (born Gabriele Condulmer in 1383) died on February 23, 1447.  At the age of 24, Gabriele became the Bishop of Siena, which the local officials loudly resisted, causing him to eventually resign the post. He was later appointed the Cardinal Priest of Santa Maria in Trastevere by Pope Martin V, who he succeeded in 1431, taking the name Eugenius.

Eugenius’s papacy was marked with contention and political struggle, coming to a head when the prelates at the Council of Basel denounced the pope as a heretic after he formed a rival council in Ferrara.  This council was later moved to Florence due to an outbreak of the plague, and it was there that Eugenius formed an uneasy but politically advantageous truce with the Eastern Orthodox Church.

Eugenius IV is represented frequently in art from the mid-fifteenth centuries.  Even in Siena, where he was initially the dislike foreign Bishop, as pope he was welcomed into the city on his was back from Florence in 1443.  It is hypothesized that the monumental frescoes in the central ward of the Hospital of Santa Maria della Scala were painted to showcase the hospital’s good works in hopes of inspiring papal generosity. 

Further reading:

Eugenio IV, papa, Treccani online.

Pertici, Petra. “Gli affreschi del Pellegrinaio: un osservatorio d’eccezione per i grandi temi della storia italaina del Quattrocento” in Il Pellegrinaio dell’Ospedale di Santa Maria della Scala (Arcidosso: Effigi, 2014).

Pope Eugenius IV on the Florence Cathedral

Portrait of Eugenius IV after Jean Fouquet, 1568

Pinturicchio, Homage to Pope Eugenius IV in the Name of Emperor Frederick III, Piccolomini Library, Siena, 1502-1508.

Domenico di Bartolo, The Distribution of Alms, Hospital of Santa Maria della Scala, Siena, 1441.

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