Concordat of Bologna Summary

  • Last updated on November 11, 2022

In the Concordat of Bologna, France and the Papal States made peace with one another and agreed to a set of political and religious concessions. The concordat influenced the distribution of power in Italy, as well as determining the relationship between monarchal and papal authority within France.

Summary of Event

Beginning with Charles VIII in 1494, the French kings fought a series of wars in northern Italy Italy;French invasions of , ostensibly justified by a dubious claim to the Duchy of Milan. During the pontificate of Alexander VI, an alliance between the papacy and France cemented French gains in Milan and extended them southward into the kingdom of Naples. However, with the death of Alexander in 1503 and the election of the previously pro-French Pope Julius II, the alliance was severed, and the Spanish drove the French out of Naples. In 1511, Julius formed the Holy League Holy League to drive the French out of Italy entirely, and in 1512, he was successful. Bologna, Concordat of (1516) Julius II Leo X Louis XII Francis I (1494-1547) Maximilian I Medici, Lorenzo de’ Julius II Leo X Louis XII (king of France) Francis I (king of France) Maximilian I (Holy Roman Emperor) Medici, Lorenzo de’ (1492-1519)

However, the situation changed drastically at that point. Julius died early in 1513 and was succeeded by the peaceful Pope Leo X. Louis XII, king of France, died the following year and was succeeded by his cousin, Francis I, who was determined to regain the lost French territories. At Marignano Marignano, Battle of (1515) on September 13-14, 1515, the French armies, reinforced by Swiss mercenaries, defeated Swiss mercenaries in the service of Milan. This battle again established French hegemony in Italy; Milan once more became a French possession.

Leo X, although he had maintained his neutrality during Francis’s invasion, was terrified at the news, and despite his natural leanings toward Spain, he hastened to make peace with France. His alarm was intensified by the fact that he was a member of the Medici family, the ruling house of Florence, and he feared that France might also conquer Florence.

Francis I was anxious to avoid having the pope as an enemy and so agreed to relatively generous terms. Papal troops were to be withdrawn from certain towns formerly belonging to Milan, but French assistance was promised to the Medici in Florence and certain revenues were bestowed on the pope. Francis asked for a conference with the pope, and Leo promised to meet him at Bologna, on the northern edge of the Papal States. Accord was reached on October 13, 1515, but subsequently Leo temporized about the meeting, fearing a strong Spanish reaction.

However, by November 30, the pope had reached his former home in Florence, where he was given a lavish reception. Early in December, he entered Bologna, which had always resented papal rule, and there he was greeted coldly, with little ceremony. On December 11, Francis entered the city and was met by the pope and cardinals. During the public ceremonies, Francis and his nobles acknowledged having borne arms against Julius II, and Leo absolved them from this offense. However, Francis used the incident to comment dryly on Julius’s great military exploits and to assert that he would have been a better general than pope.

In private sessions over the next few days, Francis sought Leo’s support for a renewed invasion of Naples, which was still held by Spain. Leo refused, although he did not oppose the plan. Francis insisted that Leo abandon all claims to any territories formerly held by Milan, but by way of compensation he agreed to allow the pope to claim the Duchy of Urbino.

During the negotiations, Francis also asked Leo to confirm the Pragmatic Sanction of Bourges Pragmatic Sanction of Bourges , a document of 1438 by which Charles VII of France had accepted the decrees of the Council of Basel, which had met without papal authority and which endorsed the theories of the Conciliar Movement that general councils were superior to papal authority. By the Pragmatic Sanction, Charles had also abolished papal taxation in France and reserved for himself the right to intervene in Church affairs in his kingdom. The fifteenth century popes had refused to recognize the sanction, which was never fully enforced.

Leo X also refused to affirm the document, which he regarded as a form of blackmail. However, he agreed to negotiate a concordat in which objectionable features of the Pragmatic Sanction would be eliminated and its acceptable features would be confirmed.

Details of subsequent negotiations between the king and the pope are not known, but before leaving Bologna, they had probably agreed on the essentials of the concordat. Ambassadors were left behind by both parties, and after arduous negotiations, the details were worked out by February, 1516. The document was formally ratified on August 18.

Meanwhile, in March, Holy Roman Emperor Maximilian I had attacked Milan; Leo sent no assistance to the French despite his alliance, but Maximilian was repulsed, and in May the papal troops conquered the Duchy of Urbino. Lorenzo de’ Medici, Leo’s nephew, was installed as duke.

Although the decree was generally favorable to France, Francis immediately encountered opposition to it in his own kingdom. He overrode the opposition and proceeded to publish the treaty. The cardinals also strongly opposed the concordat as inimical to the freedom of the Church, and the six-month delay in signing it was caused by lengthy negotiations between the royal ambassadors and the cardinals. The cardinals were reluctant to accept the document, but on December 19, the Fifth Lateran Council Lateran Council, Fifth (1512-1517) , meeting in Rome, formally approved the concordat with only a few dissenting voices.

Meanwhile, opposition in France, which had been temporarily quelled, erupted again. Various French parlements (judicial bodies with a limited right to accept or reject new laws) refused to register the treaty, despite royal commands. The clergy, the universities, and the parlements all protested strongly against what they considered to be the surrender of the liberties of the French Church embodied in the Pragmatic Sanction. Not until April, 1518, did the parlements register the concordat, and then only under protest and threat of royal action. Several members of the University of Paris were arrested for their opposition, and Leo X solemnly condemned the university for its stand in the affair.


The Concordat of Bologna defined and regulated the relation between church and state in France for 275 years. Under the terms of the concordat, the Pragmatic Sanction was officially abolished, reestablishing papal authority in France. However, the French king received the right to nominate all bishops and abbots in France, subject to papal approval. The collection of papal taxes and appeals to papal courts were restricted, but not abolished. In return, the king promised to cooperate in reforming the French Church.

Over all, the concordat confirmed in principle the pope’s authority within France, thereby strengthening the Papacy, while it simultaneously provided the French Crown with ample concrete power in religious affairs, so that the power of the Papacy did not threaten the authority of the French monarch. This balance of power arguably influenced the attitude of the Crown toward Protestantism, since France’s rulers did not feel weakened by the Catholic power structure after 1516, and they therefore had no direct motive to support the Reformation. Catholicism;France

Further Reading
  • citation-type="booksimple"

    xlink:type="simple">Batiffol, Louis. The Century of the Renaissance. New York: G. P. Putnam’s Sons, 1916. Reprint. New York: AMS Press, 1967. A brief survey of sixteenth century France.
  • citation-type="booksimple"

    xlink:type="simple">Bridge, John S. C. Reign of Louis XII, 1508-1514. Vol. 4 in A History of France from the Death of Louis XI. Reprint. New York: Octagon Books, 1978. Discusses the conflict between Louis XII and Julius II in preparing for the concordat.
  • citation-type="booksimple"

    xlink:type="simple">Chamberlin, E. R. The Bad Popes. Stroud, Gloucestershire, England: Sutton, 2003. Leo’s failings are detailed in this study of papal corruption across the six hundred years leading up to the Reformation. Includes photographs, illustrations, genealogical tables, bibliographic references, and index.
  • citation-type="booksimple"

    xlink:type="simple">Creighton, M. M. A History of the Papacy from the Great Schism to the Sack of Rome. Vol. 5. New ed. New York: Longmans, Green, 1919. Unlike Pastor, Creighton does not see the meeting at Bologna as an unquestioned diplomatic victory for Francis. He believes that both the king and the pope came away dissatisfied.
  • citation-type="booksimple"

    xlink:type="simple">Grant, A. J. The French Monarchy, 1483-1789. Reprint. 2 vols. New York: H. Fertig, 1970. A brief but authoritative survey of the concordat. Includes maps and bibliography.
  • citation-type="booksimple"

    xlink:type="simple">Hackett, Francis. Francis the First. Reprint. Garden City, N.Y.: Doubleday, 1968. A highly readable, romantic popular biography, but dated and not always judicious in its conclusions. Hackett’s enthusiasm for psychoanalyzing Francis and other figures unfortunately entailed the construction of great edifices of interpretation on flimsy foundations of fact. No notes or bibliography.
  • citation-type="booksimple"

    xlink:type="simple">Knecht, R. J. French Renaissance Monarchy: Francis I and Henry II. 2d ed. New York: Longman, 1996. A detailed survey of the first half of the sixteenth century by the leading English language scholar of Francis I. Includes map, bibliographic references, and index.
  • citation-type="booksimple"

    xlink:type="simple">Pastor, Ludwig. Leo X, 1513-1521. Vol. 8 in The History of the Popes from the Close of the Middle Ages. Reprint. Wilmington, N.C.: Consortium, 1978. Argues that although the Concordat of Bologna carried with it some advantages for the Papacy, it was on the whole a diplomatic victory for Francis I, who was a more crafty diplomat than Leo. Calls the treaty the greatest concession ever wrung from the Papacy by a secular ruler.
  • citation-type="booksimple"

    xlink:type="simple">Richardson, Glenn. Renaissance Monarchy: The Reigns of Henry VIII, Francis I, and Charles V. New York: Oxford University Press, 2002. Comparison of Francis I to two other monarchs who helped define Renaissance government and culture. Focuses on their careers as warriors, governors, and patrons. Includes maps, bibliographic references, and index.
  • citation-type="booksimple"

    xlink:type="simple">Stinger, Charles L. The Renaissance in Rome. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1998. Leo is a central figure in this study of the resurgence of Rome’s cultural, religious, and political importance in the Renaissance. Includes maps, illustrations, bibliographic references, and index.

1469-1492: Rule of Lorenzo de’ Medici

1481-1499: Ludovico Sforza Rules Milan

Sept., 1494-Oct., 1495: Charles VIII of France Invades Italy

1499: Louis XII of France Seizes Milan

Apr. 11, 1512: Battle of Ravenna

Sept. 13-14, 1515: Battle of Marignano

1521-1559: Valois-Habsburg Wars

Feb., 1525: Battle of Pavia

May 6, 1527-Feb., 1528: Sack of Rome

Apr. 3, 1559: Treaty of Cateau-Cambrésis

Mar., 1562-May 2, 1598: French Wars of Religion

Categories: History