The Vespasiano Memoirs

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Vespasiano de Bisticci was born in 1421 in Basticci, a village near Florence (Gilmore, Vespasiano, xi)1 . He was a well know bookstore owner and was very popular. Only a selected people could buy his books and those were people who were highly educated and/or of the aristocracy. Even though he was still considered to be part of the middle class (on the high end), he was very much respected. Vespasiano had worked his way up to his status in the stationers' guild and established his career from there (Gilmore, Vespasiano, xi-xii)1 . In THE VESPASIANO MEMOIRS: Lives of Illustrious Men of the XVth Century, Vespasiano da Bisticci displays the lives of many important people in that era. He spoke of the leaders of the church, such as Pope Eugenius IV and Pope Nicolas V. Vespasiano displayed these men in a very positive light. The real reasons for why this was done is unknown, and all one can do is assume what his reasons were for making these papal leaders seem to never have done wrong .

Two views could shed a light on this: one that he was just wanting to show the good deeds of these men, or that he was trying to benefit himself (making one question the validity of he work as a historical text).

Vespasiano could have very well been writing about Pope Eugenius IV and Nicolas V to display the good deeds they did within their lifetimes. Vespasiano was a devout Catholic. He spoke with much praise when he said of Pope Eugenius IV, "[he] was a man of the saintliest life and carriage"(Bisticci, Vaspasiano, 17)2 . He also spoke very kindly of Pope Nicholas V, (concerning his death) "Thus died Pope Nicolas, light and ornament of the Church of God and of his own time"(Bisticci, Vaspasiano, 58)2 . During this time, the papacy was often criticized as being scandalous and corrupt because of the unwise decisions they made. For example, according to Eugen Weber, the idea of selling indulgences, which were for the remission of sins and to make money for the St. Peter's building fund, framed the idea of the supposed corruption that went on during the late 14th Century till the 15th Century (Weber, The Western, 54)3 . The popes were often considered to be the leaders of the corruption, "Ever since the High Middle Ages, the authority of the Catholic Church and its spiritual doctrines had come under mounting criticism both by lay observers and religious reformers"(Cannistraro, Perspective, 466)4 . Vespasiano may have just wanted to show that these popes were not as bad as what some may say. He may have viewed the popes' lives, as the way people and popes to come should model their behavior after. Vespasiano could have also wanted these people to be remembered. He explains the reasons why he wrote about these men, "First, that their fame may not perish; Second, that if anyone should take the trouble to write their lives in Latin, he should find before him a material from which such work could be modeled"(Gilmore, Vespasiano, xv)1 . This meaning that if someone is to be remembered, they must have some documentation of the things they did within their life time. This very well may have been Vespasiano's motivation for writing about the two popes.

On the other hand, his motivations for his writing about the faultlessness of Pope Eugenius IV and Pope Nicolas, could have been a little more self-centered. Some facts suggest that he may have had more selfish reasons for writing so kindly of the two Popes. It is believed that he knew the two Popes rather well. According to Myron P. Gilmore in the Introduction to the Torchbook Edition (the preface of The Vespasiano Memoirs), he speaks of how the two popes, among others, were friends and patrons of Vespasiano (Gilmore, Vespasiano, xii)1 . This could lead to him wanting to please these people that are buying his books. If he were to write something bad about these very powerful men, he most likely would not only lose these men as patrons, but would also lose a great deal of respect and credibility. If the popes were praised, then it is likely that he would continue to be in good favor with the popes and their supporters. This could have very well caused him to create the image of these "saintly" church figures. If this is the case, most of what Vespasiano says about these two men, is based on his opinions. In this sense, his works could not be considered a work of historical reference, but more a work based on a personal bias.

It is important to remember that it is unpossible to completely know whether or not Vespasiano had his own agenda when writing so kindly about Pope Eugenius IV and Pope Nicolas V. There are many interpretations of his reasoning, but ultimately that is all they are - interpretations. It is possible that he could have really believed what he was writing was the truth about these men, or he could have had more self-centered ideas for writing about the two popes in such a positive way. Only Vespasiano da Bisticci knows the answer.