Pio, Alberto, Prince of Carpi

   Italian prince, diplomat, and humanist. He was the son of the ruler of the small principality of Carpi; his mother Caterina was a sister of Giovanni Pico della Mirandola. The death of his father when he was still a small child made it difficult for him to uphold his right to rule the principality, but he finally secured half of the territory in 1490 and the other half in 1512, both times by virtue of a ruling by the Emperor Maximilian I. His uncle Giovanni Pico supervised the education of Alberto and his brother, choosing as their tutor the humanist Aldus Manutius, whom Alberto Pio later subsidized in his career as the greatest humanist printer of the Renaissance. After Manutius, the Greek humanist Marcus Musurus taught Alberto. During a period of the 1490s when his uncle and cousin had gained control of Carpi and forced him into exile, Alberto studied at the University of Ferrara under the noted Aristotelian philosopher Pietro Pomponazzi. At Ferrara he also became a friend of several prominent humanists, in-cluding Pietro Bembo, and also of the poet Ludovico Ariosto, who dedicated poems to him. In 1500 the sale of the other half of Carpi to the duke of Ferrara forced Pio to seek diplomatic support from Francesco Gonzaga, marquis of Mantua. This relationship eventu-ally led Pio to become a diplomat in the service of his more power-ful neighbor, representing Mantua both at the French court and at the papal curia at Rome. He briefly lost control of Carpi in 1510 when the French gained the upper hand during their Italian war, but the de-feat of the French allowed him to retain control with the aid of the emperor's decision in his favor.
   In 1513 Pio became the emperor's ambassador at Rome. He already was a friend of the new Pope Leo X and became an active participant in the social and intellectual life of curial society, including member-ship in the Roman Academy and friendship with Baldassare Cas-tiglione and the artists Raphael and Bramante. In 1518 he married a relative of Pope Leo. After his election in 1519, the new Emperor Charles V did not renew Pio's appointment as ambassador, but Pio turned to the emperor's enemy King Francis I of France and became his ambassador at Rome. In reprisal for this service to France, the em-peror confiscated his principality of Carpi, and the disastrous defeat of the French in the battle of Pavia in 1525 ended his rule over the tiny state. Pio was a friend of the second Medici pope, Clement VII, and after the conquest of Rome by the imperial army in 1527, took refuge with the pope in Castel Sant'Angelo before escaping to France, where he was well received and where he spent the rest of his life.
   Pio was religiously conservative. He supported papal inquisitors searching for heretics in his principality, and he denounced Alfonso d'Este, duke of Ferrara, to the emperor in 1522 because he had al-lowed an Augustinian friar to preach "Lutheran" doctrines. He en-couraged others to write refutations of Martin Luther's errors and in 1526 published his own treatise against Luther, Responsio accurata et paraenetica / Accurate Reply and Advice. Unfortunately for the inter-nal peace of the world of humanists, Pio (like many Italians) was con-vinced that the Dutch humanist Erasmus had prepared the way for Luther's success by his harsh criticism of the church and by his early attempts to shelter Luther from church discipline. He even counted against Erasmus the treatise in which he openly broke with Luther, charging that it was so inept that it had aided the heretic's cause.
   This attack on Erasmus was not published until 1529. But Pio's Responsio circulated in manuscript among insiders at the papal curia, and Erasmus heard reports of its existence. He tried in vain to estab-lish contact with the refugee Pio and persuade him of his own ortho-doxy and good intentions, but by the time he made contact, Pio's book had already been published. Erasmus published a reply (1529) denying that he had caused the Reformation or upheld Luther's heretical doctrines, but Pio stubbornly spent the last two years of his life preparing a series of extracts from the works of Erasmus and Luther to prove his contention that Erasmus agreed with the German heretic. This collection of extracts was published by Pio's friends af-ter his death under the title Twenty-three Books in Erasmus'Publica-tions That Ought to be Revised and Retracted (1531). Erasmus was furious at what he regarded as Pio's dishonest distortion of his words and published a bitter Apology (1532) against Pio despite his own reservations at attacking a man who had died. Pio's books were reprinted in Latin, and the Responsio was published in both Spanish and French by conservative Catholics as part of the campaign to la-bel Erasmus an enemy of the Catholic faith.

Historical Dictionary of Renaissance. . 2004.

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