The first Medici pope was Giovanni de' Medici, who, as I mentioned last time, is reported to have written to his brother, "God has given us the Papacy--let us enjoy it," when in 1513 he learned he'd be able to change his name from Giovanni to Leo X. (Leo X just doesn't sound as good as Malcolm X, does it.)
But Leo had to help God a little along the way in getting Him to give him the papacy. The pope before Leo was Julius II, a particularly bellicose and belligerent man who shocked absolutely everyone by riding out before the armies of the Vatican and who, in the words of Tuchman,
is ranked among the great popes because of his temporal accomplishments, not least his fertile partnership with Michelangelo--for art, next to war, is the great immortalizer of reputations.... He achieved important results in both these endeavors, which, being visible, have received ample notice as the visibles of history usually do, while the significant aspect of his reign, its failure of concern for the religious crisis, has been overlooked as the invisibles of history usually are.
After Julius II's very martial papacy, many were glad to have a lazy hedonist on the papal throne, particularly one who might die early and so give all the other cardinals a chance to be pope before too long. According, once again, to Tuchman, Leo's
health was a major concern because, although only 37 when elected, he suffered from an unpleasant anal ulcer which gave hm trouble in processions, although it aided his election because he allowed his doctors to spread word that he would not live long--always a persuasive factor to fellow cardinals.
Now, the fact that letting everyone think you'll die soon could aid your chances of being elected pope is interesting, but what really caught my attention in that passage is the phrase "unpleasant anal ulcer." Maybe it's just my lack of experience with anal ulcers, but I have trouble imagining a pleasant anal ulcer. The "unpleasant" there seems superfluous, about like mentioning a "tall giant" or a "short dwarf."
But in 1517 the story of Leo's ass gets every weirder, and here it is: