Which Renaissance Pope is your college?
You’ve always wanted to know
Please leave comments about your own favourite popes.
Darwin – Clement V (1305-1314)
If you know your Dan Brown you’ll recognise this pope as the man to suppress the Knights Templar, a group laden with conspiracy theories about how they run the world – but what really runs the world is rational science, an idea we have thanks to Charles Darwin, this college’s namesake. Maybe a better link is that he moved the papacy to Avignon, much like Darwin’s site outside the Vatican enclave that is the right bank of the Cam.
St Catherine’s – John XXII (1316-1344)
John was very studious and very arrogant, and basically everyone hated him. Not much of a reason to give Catz him, I’m just really not a fan of their front court. Looks like a prison.
Trinity – Clement VI (1342-1352)
Incredibly rich and incredibly extravagant. When he was elected pope he decided he was going to absolutely milk that job for all it was worth, claiming that his predecessors ‘did not know how to be pope’. Built incredibly grandiose buildings – the Papal Palace at Avignon is vintage Clement, and wouldn’t look out-of-place on one side of Great Court. Seriously, just look how smug he is.
Christ’s – Gregory XI (1370-1378)
During his reign the Church began brutally suppressing Lollardy by burnings and the like, a heresy which began in merry old England – as Rowan Williams’ old college, Christ’s knows a lot about the effects of English heresy. He also left Avignon to go back to Rome – looks like he Lost a Paradise. Bit weak there, technically a John Milton reference.
Clutching at straws by pope four, what a good start.
Selwyn – Urban VI (1378-1398)
Urban wasn’t even a cardinal when he was elected pope, seeing as it was during the Western Schism. Many people didn’t even think he was a legitimate pope. Is Selwyn even in Cambridge? Sounds like a town in Wales to be perfectly honest.
Caius – Martin V (1417-1431)
Generally seen as a pretty good pope. His election ended the Western Schism and brought the Papacy back to Rome – central, not objectionable, much like Caius. Probably didn’t have the best food in the world, much like Caius. Launched a couple of crusades – much like Caius’ attack on Gardies kebab shop.
Trinity Hall – Eugene IV (1441-1447)
This pope was forced into exile for ten years, which Tit Hall second years can commiserate with, having to live so far from their riverside Vatican. He was the last pope to be called Eugene, and Trinity Hall was the first college named after the Trinity – the coincidences stack up.
Clare – Nicholas V (1447-1455)
Nicholas V was well known for his building works which had such high hopes, like Memorial Court, but no one really liked them. Like Memorial Court. His reign was darkened metaphorically by the fall of Constantinople to the Ottomans, in a disturbing parallel to the literal darkening Clare faces, both from the Gothic arrogance of King’s and the ‘magnificent erection’ (Chamberlain) of the UL.
King’s – Callixtus III (1455-1458)
The first Borgia pope, his achievements included the retrial of Joan of Arc, perhaps showing off his revisionism and battling against English imperialist aggression, from a palace. All traits shared with King’s. Apparently he excommunicated Halley’s Comet as an ill omen – just 15 years after King’s was founded, another staggering coincidence.
Jesus – Pius II (1458-1464)
The alumnus Samuel Taylor Coleridge gives a not very dubious at all link here, with Pius II being famous as the only serving pope to write an autobiography. Also he is the only pope to have written erotic fiction, unless Francis is out there spewing out Harry Potter slash fiction. Which he might well be.
Fitzwilliam – Paul II (1464-1471)
Almost as soon as he was invested Paul withdrew and became inaccessible, with even friends waiting a fortnight to see him. Just like the two week trek it takes to reach Fitz. He apparently died from eating too much melon and Fitz probably has a lot of fruit. Also he wanted to be called ‘Formosus’ for his Pope name, which means handsome, but he had to be talked out of it. Not aware of their own ugliness? Perfect parallel.
Newnham – Sixtus IV (1471-1484)
Sixtus was involved in the famous Pazzi conspiracy to assassinate the Medici rulers of Florence, betraying his jealously of the inner city dwellers, like Newnham’s jealousy of those not out in the banlieues. He was responsible for starting work on the Sistine Chapel, a building directly comparable to some of Newnham’s Queen Anne architecture.
Clare Hall – Innocent VIII (1484-1492)
Poor old Innocent was elected only because people thought he was weak and could be controlled, overshadowed by more important people. No parallel there then… He had a bit of an obsession with stamping out witchcraft, and we can all be certain there are no witches in Clare Hall, probably because of him.
St Edmund’s – Innocent IX (1591)
Clever old Innocent had two doctorates in both civil and canon law when he became pope, just as educated as all those graduates at Eddie’s.
Peterhouse – Alexander VI (1492-1503)
Who else for the college renowned for sexual deviance and extravagance? The most famous of the Borgia popes, perhaps his best known excess was the ‘Banquet of Chestnuts’, an orgy where fifty prostitutes entertained the pope, his son, and their friends. The historian William Manchester sums up the comparison best: “Servants kept score of each man’s orgasms, for the pope greatly admired virility and measured a man’s machismo by his ejaculative capacity….After everyone was exhausted, His Holiness distributed prizes…”. Just like the Adonian society.
Hughes Hall – Pius III (1503)
Pope for less than a month, and died of gout. That’s about it. He was fairly old, like Hughes Hall students, and overall fairly unremarkable, but with that slight hint of excess all Cambridge colleges crave. From dying of gout.
Homerton – Julius II (1503-1513)
Julius II, the Warrior Pope, who personally led armies rampaging across Italy. Much like Homerton’s sports teams which surge from the outskirts of Cambridge and leave everyone gasping in their wake. Julius II never achieved very much but did like to show off. Read into that what you will.
Sidney Sussex – Clement VIII (1592-1605)
Chose to be called Clement to be boring as it wasn’t politicised, just like Sidney’s bland bland name. Hard working if somewhat ruthless. He absolutely loved drinking coffee, which is presumably all Sidney students do being so close to cafés and Sainsbury’s.
Emmanuel – Leo X (1513-1521)
Poor old Leo. He saw Martin Luther’s Ninety-Five Theses and never really got over the shock. He was a big spender and a patron of learning – Emmanuel’s rankings on the Tompkins table match up with this pope. Also he had a pet white elephant called Hanno, which is essentially the same thing as a duck.
Girton – Adrian VI (1522-1523)
Adrian was chosen to be a reformer, linking well with Girton’s status as a trailblazing centre for women’s education. But he was mocked in Rome for not being from the city. Classic Girton.
Corpus – Clement VII (1523-1534)
Clement was Pope during the infamous Sack of Rome in 1527 when the soldiers of the Holy Roman Emperor, Charles V, ran amok in the city and destroyed a generation of artists and creative thinkers, not to mention incalculable wealth in art and architecture. This is almost literally the same paralysing effect on Cambridge culture the iconoclastic Corpus Clock has had, a million pound monstrosity which is a larger blight on our beautiful city than any number of brutalist concrete eyesores.
Churchill – Paul III (1534-1549)
Nicholas Copernicus dedicated his On the Revolutions of the Celestial Spheres to Paul III. Churchill is good at science. Go figure.
Downing – Julius III (1550-1555)
Julius wasn’t really interested in political or church affairs, much like Downing, a bit of a non-entity in terms of being a big hitter-college. He tried to reform only reluctantly, and instead indulged in personal pleasure. Lovely.
Wolfson – Marcellus II (1555)
A non-tenuous link here! He was the last pope to use his birth name, and Wolfson is one of the only colleges named after a non-divine or saintly person. Maybe slightly tenuous. Also he was too weak physically to be pope and died after a few months in office. Wolfson’s mature students probably find their time in study away from the real world just as fleeting.
St John’s – Paul IV (1555-1559)
Paul IV was famous for setting up the Inquisition in Rome, sending hundreds to burn at the stake. He was terrifyingly austere and oppressive. He was a tyrant, universally loathed, known for throwing his weight around, and incredibly fanatical. Bit of a no-brainer really.
Had a reputation for putting orthodoxy first and foremost as a cardinal. Also excommunicated Elizabeth I. Conservative and anti-women? Only one stereotype that fits.
New Hall Murray Edwards – Gregory XIII (1572-1585)
Biggest achievement was to bring in the Gregorian calendar. Everyone hated the changes he made and many people refused to implement them. Watch this space for the first college to be named after Google.
Pembroke – Urban VII (1590)
Urban introduced the first known smoking ban in history, threatening to excommunicate anyone caught using tobacco. Pembroke is marginally less harsh, but many students there still mourn the ban on smoking in college only put in place this year
Queens’ – Sixtus V (1585-1590)
Romans today still loathe Sixtus for tearing down swathes of the city to build things they hate, especially as it ruined many sites important to Rome’s history and culture. Four words for you: Erasmus Building. Cripps Court. Not even the strangely alluring Mathematical Bridge makes up for how much they mar the college.
Lucy Cavendish – Gregory XIV (1590-1591)
Honestly got very little here. That’s the link really – there isn’t even enough to say about Lucy Cavendish to connect it to a Renaissance pope. Still not a hundred percent convinced it even exists. But on a side note, amusingly, apparently when Gregory was elected he burst into tears because he hated the idea of being pope.
Feel free to pass this information on to any sixth-formers who are applying next year.