Post-classical history

Innocent VIII (1432-1492)

Pope (1484-1492), original name Giovanni Battista Cibo.

As pope, Innocent VIII at first showed little interest in sponsoring a crusade against the Ottoman Turks, in spite of the threat that they now posed to Italy. In 1489, however, Cem (Djem), brother of Sultan Bayezid II and pretender to the Ottoman throne, arrived in Rome. Innocent now had a useful political pawn in his hands, since releasing Cem could spark civil war in the Ottoman Empire, and the mere threat to do so could put a brake on Ottoman expansion in the Balkans.

Innocent summoned a crusade congress to Rome to consider how to make the most of this advantage and overcome the practical problems of mounting an expedition against the Turks. The congress met in March 1490, but its deliberations ultimately came to nothing. Of the two powers on which such an expedition would depend, Venice was reluctant to renew the war against the Turks, and Hungary was in a weak position following the death of its king, Matthias Corvinus. Nevertheless, the possession of Cem was a useful lever against Bayezid, who was careful to cultivate Innocent by sending him a gift in 1492—the iron head of the Holy Lance, which was supposed to have pierced Christ’s side during the Crucifixion.

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