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Pope Innocent VIII (1432 – July 25, 1492), born Giovanni Battista Cybo (or Cibo), was Pope from 1484 until his death.

Early years

Giovanni Battista Cybo (or Cibo) was born at Genoamarker of Greek extraction, the son of Arano Cybo or Cibo (c. 1375-c. 1455) who under Pope Calixtus III (1455–58) had been a senator at Rome, and wife Teodorina de Mari (c. 1380-), and paternal grandson of Maurizio Cybo or Cibo and wife Saeacina Marocelli. His early years were spent at the Neapolitanmarker court, and subsequently he went to Paduamarker and Romemarker for his education.


In Rome he became a priest in the retinue of cardinal Calandnini, half-brother to Pope Nicholas V (1447–55); the influence of his friends procured for him, from Pope Paul II (1464–71) the bishopric of Savona, and in 1473, with the support of Giuliano Della Rovere, later Pope Julius II, he was made cardinal by Pope Sixtus IV (1471–84), whom he succeeded on August 29, 1484 as Pope Innocent VIII.

The conclave was riven with faction, while gangs rioted in the streets. Cardinal Giuliano did not have sufficient votes at the conclave to be elected, so he turned his energies towards the election of Cybo, whom he was confident that he could control.

Shortly after his coronation Innocent VIII addressed a fruitless summons to Christendom to unite in a crusade against the infidels; the amount of his own zeal may in some degree be estimated from the fact that in 1489, in consideration of a yearly stipend of 40,000 ducats and a gift of the Holy Lance, he consented to favour Bayazid II (1481–1512) by detaining the Sultan's fugitive brother Cem in close confinement in the Vaticanmarker.

Innocent VIII, in his papal bull Summis desiderantes (5 December, 1484) instigated severe measures against magicians and witches in Germanymarker. In 1487, he confirmed Tomas de Torquemada as grand inquisitor of Spainmarker; he was a strong supporter of the Spanish Inquisition; he also urged a crusade against the Waldensians, offering plenary indulgence to all who should engage in it. In 1486, he prohibited, on pain of severe ecclesiastical censures, the reading of the nine hundred propositions of Pico Mirandola.

In Rome he built for summer use the Belvedere of the Vatican, on an unarticulated slope above the Vatican Palace, which his successor would turn into the Cortile del Belvederemarker. In season he hunted at Castello della Magliana, which he enlarged. Invariably short of money, he institutionalized simony at the papal court, creating new titles of offices that were discreetly auctioned.

In 1489, Ferdinand I of Naples having repeatedly refused to pay the tariff for his investiture, and a shaky peace of 1486 having failed, Innocent VIII found reason to excommunicate Ferdinand and invite Charles VIII of France to come to Italy with an army and take possession of the Kingdom of Naples. The conflict was not ended until 1494, after Innocent VIII's death.

An important event that coincided with his pontificate was the fall of Granadamarker in January 1492, which was celebrated in the Vatican with great rejoicings. Innocent granted Ferdinand II of Aragon the epithet "Catholic Majesty."


Minnich (2005) notes that the position of Renaissance popes towards slavery, a common institution in contemporary cultures, varied. Those who allowed the slave trade did so in the hope of gaining converts to Christianity. In the case of Innocent he permitted trade with Barbary merchants in which foodstuffs would be given in exchange for slaves who could then be converted to Christianity.

King Ferdinand of Aragon gave Innocent one-hundred Moorish slaves who shared them out with favoured Cardinals. The slaves of Innocent were called "moro", meaning "dark skinned man", in contrast to negro slaves who were called "moro nero".


Innocent VIII died on July 25, 1492, leaving behind him two illegitimate children, born before he entered clergy. Another source says "sixteen", the remaining fourteen of which were presented as nephews. The title Padre della patria (= Father of the Fatherland) was suggested for him, precisely with reference to these sixteen children of his. In 1487 he married his elder son Franceschetto Cybo (d. 1519) to Maddalena de' Medici (1473-1528), by whom he had issue, the natural daughter of Lorenzo de' Medici, who in return obtained the cardinal's hat for his thirteen-year-old son Giovanni, later Pope Leo X. His daughter Teodorina Cibo married Gerardo Usodimare and had a daughter. Savonarola chastised him for his worldly ambitions. The unsympathetic Roman chronicler Stefano Infessura provides many lively details, among them the apparent attempt to revive Innocent VIII on his deathbed by blood transfusions from three young male children (who died as well in the process).


  • "Black Africans in Renaissance Europe", N. H Minnich, Thomas Foster Earle, K. J. P. Lowe, Cambridge University Press, 2005, ISBN 0521815827
  • "For the glory of God: how monotheism led to reformations, science, witch-hunts, and the end of slavery", Rodney Stark, p. 330, Princeton University Press, 2003, ISBN 0691114366
  • "The problem of slavery in Western culture", David Brion Davis, Oxford University Press US, 1988, ISBN 0195056396[4056]


  1. The Every Day Book of History and Chronology Embracing the Anniversaries of Memorable persons and events in every period and state of the world, from the creation to the present time, Joel Munsell, 1858 Appleton, University of Michigan, p.295
  2. The Chronicles of Enguerrand de Monstrelet, Enguerrand de Monstrelet, Bon Joseph Dacier, 1849 H.G. Bohn, Oxford University, p.458
  3. The history of the Christian church during the Middle Ages with a summary of the reformation, centuries XI to XVI, Philip Smith, 1885 Harper & bros, University of Michigan, p.219
  4. Minnich, p. 233
  5. "For the glory of God", Rodney Stark, p. 330, Princeton University Press, 2003, ISBN 0691114366)
  6. David Brion Davis, p. 101 fn. 21
  7. Catholic Encyclopedia article on Pope Innocent VIII
  8. "towards whom his nepotism had been as lavish as it was shameless" (Encyclopaedia Britannica 1911).
  10. Discoveries in medicine: blood transfusion.

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