It now remains to us only to speak of ecclesiastical principalities, with regard to which the difficulties lie wholly before they are possessed. They are acquired either by ability or by fortune; but are maintained without either, for they are sustained by the ancient religious customs, which are so powerful and of such quality, that they keep their princes in power in whatever manner they proceed and live. These alone have a state without defending it, have subjects without governing them, and the states, not being defended, are not taken from them; the subjects not being governed do not disturb themselves, and neither think of nor are capable of alienating themselves from them. Only these principalities, therefore, are secure and happy. But as they are upheld by higher causes, which the human mind cannot attain to, I will abstain from speaking of them; for being exalted and maintained by God, it would be the work of a presumptuous and foolish man to discuss them.

However, I might be asked how it has come about that the Church has reached such great temporal power, when, previous to Alexander VI. , the Italian potentates, and not merely the really powerful ones, but every lord or baron, however insignificant, held it in slight esteem as regards temporal power; whereas now it is dreaded by a king of France, whom it has been able to drive out of Italy, and has also been able to ruin the Venetians. Therefore, although this is well known, I do not think it superfluous to call it to mind. Before Charles, King of France, came into Italy, this country was under the rule of the pope, the Venetians, the King of Naples, the Duke of Milan, and the Florentines. These potentates had to have two chief cares: one, that no foreigner should enter Italy by force of arms, the other that none of the existing governments should extend its dominions. Those chiefly to be watched were the pope and the Venetians. To keep back the Venetians required the ruin of all the others, as in the defence of Ferrara, and to keep down the pope they made use of the Roman barons. These were divided into two factions, the Orsinis and the Colonnas, and as there was constant quarrelling between them, and they were constantly under arms, before the eyes of the pope, they kept the papacy weak and infirm. And although there arose now and then a resolute pope like Sextus, yet his fortune or ability was never able to liberate him from these evils. The shortness of their life was the reason of this, for in the course of ten years which, as a general rule, a pope lived, he had great difficulty in suppressing even one of the factions, and if, for example, a pope had almost put down the Colonnas, a new pope would succeed who was hostile to the Orsinis, which caused the Colonnas to spring up again, and he was not in time to suppress them. This caused the temporal power of the pope to be of little esteem in Italy.

Then arose Alexander VI. who, of all the pontiffs who have ever reigned, best showed how a pope might prevail both by money and by force. With Duke Valentine as his instrument, and on the occasion of the French invasion, he did all that I have previously described in speaking of the actions of the duke. And although his object was to aggrandise not the Church but the duke, what he did resulted in the aggrandisement of the Church, which after the death of the duke became the heir of his labours. Then came Pope Julius, who found the Church powerful, possessing all Romagna, all the Roman barons suppressed, and the factions destroyed by the severity of Alexander, He also found the way open for accumulating wealth in ways never used before the time of Alexander. These measures were not only followed by Julius, but increased; he resolved to gain Bologna, put down the Venetians and drive the French from Italy, in all which enterprises he was successful. He merits the greater praise, as he did everything to increase the power of the Church and not of any private person. He also kept the Orsini and Colonna parties in the conditions in which he found them, and although there were some leaders among them who might have made changes, there were two things that kept them steady: one, the greatness of the Church, which they dreaded; the other, the fact that they had no cardinals, who are the origin of the tumults among them. For these parties are never at rest when they have cardinals. for these stir up the parties both within Rome and outside, and the barons are forced to defend them. Thus from the ambitions of prelates arise the discords and tumults among the barons. His holiness, Pope Leo X. , therefore, has found the pontificate in a very powerful condition, from which it is hoped, that as those popes made it great by force of armies, so he through his goodness and infinite other virtues will make it both great and venerated.