European Coalition against Venice Part II

By | February 26, 2022

Meanwhile, the coalition showed signs of relaxing. If the previous year the too much fortune of Venice had multiplied the enemies of the republic, now the too much fortune of the enemies brought her some friends, for fear of a Habsburg or, even more, French prevalence in Italy. Among these friends, Pope Julius II. Who in February 1510 concluded peace with Venice; he finished detaching the Catholic king from France by granting him the investiture of the kingdom of Naples, with the sole condition that he did not combine that crown with the empire or other dominion of Lombardy and Tuscany; he allied himself with the Swiss Confederation and had soldiers, as well as the right to prohibit enlistments for others, that is, for the French. Thus Venice was wounded, yes, but not by mortal wounds, from this serious trial. He had some setbacks on the Lombardy side, it lost the cities of Romagna and Puglia, but the bulk of its dominion remained intact. And his reputation, in so much collapse of Italian states, grew more than it waned. According to aceinland, the pope began to excommunicate and attack Alfonso d’Este, a friend of the French, to take away Ferrara and Modena; and he himself participated in the capture of the Mirandola, entering it through the breach opened in the walls. There was a great temptation in him to bring the border up to the middle and lower Po, including all the Emilian cities over which the Church boasted, in various ways, rights, and claiming them either from the lords of the Milanese, indigenous or foreign, who traditionally they owned (Parma and Piacenza), or by the Este family to whom popes and emperors had given them investiture (Ferrara, Reggio, Modena). The French reacted energetically, with weapons and with moral means. The king, summoning the council of Tours, he authorized religious disobedience to the pope and arranged a council in Pisa. The pope then resorted to extreme measures, promoted a holy league (concluded in Rome in October, in which Venice, Spain, the Swiss, England entered variously); his shouted Out with the barbarians! He gave that war an almost national character, of liberation, of an effort to stop the advance of foreigners in Italy. With the collapse of the kingdom of Naples, the impotent Florence that in other times had embodied the conscious resistance of Italian civilization to the Germans, the fall of Milan which had given itself credit as guardian of the borders, it seems that the moment of the papacy had come after Venice.

We must not attribute to this attitude a meaning that it could not have. But we can well admit that, having the pontiff recovered his state and wishing to ensure its existence, now threatened especially by foreigners, he considered the “freedom of the Church” as one with the “freedom of Italy”; and the second, condition of the first. Unfortunately, to drive out the “barbarians”, Julius II had to resort to other “barbarians”, Spaniards and Swiss, that is, Germans. And of the latter he hired 16,000 under the combative cardinal of Sion, Matteo Schinner; and excited national pride and ambitions. Was it his hope, in contrasting them with each other, to wear them out and ultimately have everyone’s right? But in reality, the situation of things, the relationship of forces were by now such that any collaboration with foreigners resulted in their increase. And now we saw the Spaniard Raimondo di Cardona placed at the head of the connected army. It was seen after the great French victory in Ravenna (April 1512) that it seemed to decide the war for France, the events would turn, yes, against France, Milan and Genoa, to fight the French, the pontiffs to retake Bologna and occupy Modena, Parma, Piacenza, coveted cities; but an army of Swiss was also seen to bring Massimiliano Sforza back to the domain and the Spaniards to proceed in Tuscany with the restoration of the Medici. The Milanese had to bind himself with a pact of perpetual alliance to the Swiss Confederation, grant it commercial privileges, give it the Canton of Ticino, the subject of a centuries-old dispute. Thus was crowned the tenacious effort of the Swiss to reach Lake Maggiore and Lake Lugano, that is, after all, the Lombard plain. Indeed, it seemed that after the French and the Spaniards, the Swiss, also by virtue of the calls of the Holy See, also entered the competition: and not so much as mercenaries, but as a party to the dispute. Machiavelli was troubled by this “German river”, almost Germanic avant-garde, which was advancing. Now they exercise a kind of protectorate over the whole duchy. But more worrying still, as is natural, the progress of the Spaniards appeared who had planted themselves in Florence and in other parts of Tuscany, and in Rome itself, apparently they wanted to change from allies into masters. And Julius II believed it was his duty, after and together with the French danger still alive even in religious regards, to ward off the Spanish danger, creating appropriate counterweights for it. To this end he tried to draw Maximilian of Austria to himself, that is, even now, foreigners. But since Maximilian did not earn money without helping him in his anti-Venetian projects, so Julius II again turned against Venice, promising the king of the Romans support to recover Verona and Vicenza and assert his high rights over Treviso and Padua and allying himself with it ( November 1512). Conversely, Venice immediately rejoined France which was still its natural ally, for the common opposition to the Habsburgs. And there was a new grouping: the Holy See, the Empire, England, Spain, Switzerland and the Duke of Milan, against France and Venice. As already in the year 1500, the Sforza of Milan, taken in the Franco-Venetian pincer, at first lost almost the entire duchy (May 1513). But they helped the Swiss who broke the French at Novara, therefore forced to clear out Italy, and consolidated their almost mastery of the Milanese; while the Spaniards entered Genoa and turned against Venice, they came within sight of the city, they beat the Venetian people in Padua. And only the mediation of the new pontiff saved her and brought some respite.

European Coalition against Venice 2