Pope Leo X had expensive tastes. A true Renaissance man, he built up the Vatican Library, accelerated the construction of St. Peter's Basilica and poured lavish funds into the arts. But his efforts to renew Rome's position as a cultural center took money. So much money, in fact, that within two years he had drained the papal treasury completely, as well as a great deal of his own fortune. To compensate, Leo X began selling off pieces of the Vatican palace furniture, dishes, jewels and statues of the apostles. He also issued indulgences as a way to make up lost funds, essentially allowing sinners to buy their way out of damnation.
The indulgences helped, though in the end they would cost Leo X much more. Martin Luther harshly objected to what he saw as the buying and selling of salvation, saying, "As soon as a coin in the coffer rings, a soul from purgatory springs." Leo X dismissed Luther's claims. By failing to take such criticism seriously, he contributed to the dissolution of the Western church and the rise of the Protestant Reformation.
Next Sergius III