Posted by Art Of Legend India [dot] Com On 11:03 PM
As the Ottoman Turks drove remorselessly into Europe, Piero's patron, the humanist Pope Pius II, appealed to little effect, for a crusade to save Christendom. Meanwhile the sovereigns of Europe remained absorbed in chivalric dreams and their inevitable dynastic struggles.
In 1458 Aeneas Silvius, the former poet, humanist, and diplomat, was elected to the papal chair as Pius II. Though determined to steer his own course and renounce his earlier frivolities, the new pontiff was still sufficiently a man of the Renaissance to order Piero della Francesca to Rome to decorate his apartments. The artist was paid 150 florins 'for his share of the work on paintings carried out on his Holiness' bedroom'.
Pius took his new role extremely seriously. In 1460 he issued the papal bull Execrabilis which condemned as heretical all those who felt that they could legitimately appeal to a general council over the head of the pope. Papal authority was to remain supreme in all church matters.
Pius was also obsessed with the dream of rallying Christendom under the papal banner to a crusade against the Ottoman Turks. In a century and a half this small Islamic group had become the most powerful political force in the Near East. Only seven years before, they had conquered Constantinople, and brought the 1000-year-old Byzantine Empire to an end. In 1460 they captured the Morea (the great peninsula that constitutes Southern Greece), and murdered the last duke of Athens, Franco Acciajuoli. The Turks were now poised for European conquest.
The Pope had convened the Council of Mantua in June 1459, to which were summoned the secular princes of Europe, in order to discuss plans for mobilization against the Turkish menace.
Many absented while others made flowery but evasive speeches. By February 1460 the disillusioned Pope had dissolved the congress. Only the maritime commercial republic of Venice was willing to fight but then Venice ruled extensive territories in the Aegean.
During this year the Venetians equipped their famous Arsenal with new doors, crowned by the Lion of St Mark, the symbol of the city, but the book the lion carried usually open, and inscribed 'Peace be with you, Mark was closed. The city of merchants was preparing for war. Four years later Pius II died, on the brink of leading the Crusade he had dreamed about. Venice was left to conduct a punishing war single-handed against the Turks.
Although the age of the crusades was over, the chivalric Ideal was still alive, enshrined in the romances and ritual of French courtly life. Rene of Anjou, sometimes called 'the last of the troubadours' had by 1460 begun his 'Livre des Tournois', an illuminated book of chivalric ceremonial.
Rene's daughter Margaret had already shown herself to be an Amazon of whom no troubadour could possibly approve. As wife of the weak Henry VI of England - she had emerged as the effective leader of the Lancastrian party in the Wars of the Roses. 1460 was a year of changing fortunes, marked first by the recognition of the Duke of York as Henry's heir, and then by the defeat and death of York by disaffected Lancastrians at the Battle of Wakefield on 30 December.
The able and ruthless King of Scotland, James II, decided to take advantage of this chaotic situation. The desirable English stronghold of Roxbrugh in the north was held by the Yorkists with the result that James became a temporary Lancastrian and laid siege to it during the summer of 1460. With the help of artillery, the Scots took and utterly destroyed the Castle but James did not live to see his victory. During a bombardment, while the King was keenly watching this display of modem technology, one of the guns exploded and killed him.
In the long run, Scotland benefited more from events in northern Europe. In March 1460 Christian I of Denmark was recognized as Duke of Holstein and Count of Schleswig. Paying off rival claimants to these titles crippled the Danish exchequer. Thus the Scots eventually collected an unpaid dowry from the Danes in territories instead of cash. In 1472 the Orkney and Shetland islands were formally acceded to the Scottish crown.
Writer – Marshall Cavendish