Giuliano della Rovere, bisexual. Born at Albisola, near Savona, of a noble but impoverished family, he followed his uncle Francesco della Rovere into the Franciscan Order. With the elevation of his uncle to the papacy as Sixtus IV on 9 August, 1471, begins the public career of Giuliano.
On 15 December, 1471, he was created Cardinal Priest of San Pietro in Vincoli, and thereafter literally overwhelmed with benefices, although during the lifetime of Sixtus IV he never took a prominent part in ecclesiastical diplomacy.
His large incomes, however, he did not spend in vain pomp and dissipation, as was the custom of many ecclesiastics of those times. Giuliano was a patron of the fine arts, and spent most of his superfluous money in the erection of magnificent palaces and fortresses. Still his early private life was far from stainless, as is sufficiently testified by the fact that before he became pope he was the father of three daughters.
In June, 1474, Giuliano was sent at the head of an army to restore the papal authority in Umbria. Then he was sent as legate to the Netherlands and France. After successfully completing his mission he returned to Rome in the beginning of 1482. After the death of Sixtus IV on 12 August, 1484, Giuliano played a disreputable role in the election of Innocent VIII. To effect the election of his candidate he did not scruple to resort to bribery. Innocent VIII was greatly influenced during the eight years of his pontificate by the strong and energetic Giuliano.
After the death of Innocent VIII on 25 July, 1492, Giuliano again aspired to the papacy, however Rodrigo Borgia was the successful candidate, and ascended the papal throne as Alexander VI on 11 August, 1492. Fearing for his safety in Rome, Giuliano withdrew to his strongly fortified castle at Ostia towards the end of 1492. Giuliano did not trust in the sincerity of the pope and fled by way of Genoa to the court of Charles VIII of France and Northern Italy.
After the death of Alexander VI, he returned to Rome to take part in the election of the new pope. He was again a strong candidate for the papacy, but his great ambition was not yet to be realized. The sick and aged Francesco Piccolomini ascended the papal throne as Pius III, but died on 18 October, 1503, after a reign of only twenty-six days.
Giuliano's chance of being elected was now better than at any previous election. To ensure his success he made great promises to the cardinals, and did not hesitate to employ bribery. The conclave began on 31 October, and after a few hours the cardinals united their votes on Giuliano, who as pope took the name of Julius II. It was the shortest conclave in the history of the papacy.
The chief task of his pontificate he saw in the firm establishment and the extension of the temporal power. For the accomplishment of this task no pope was ever better suited than Julius, whom nature and circumstances had hewn out for a soldier.
Julius II was the supreme temporal master over the entire Pontifical States, but his national pride extended beyond the Patrimony of St. Peter. His ambition was to free the whole of Italy from its subjection to foreign powers, and especially to deliver it from the galling yoke of France.
The so-called Holy League was formed for the purpose of delivering Italy from French rule. In the beginning the League included only the pope, the Venetians, and Spain, but England joined it on 17 November, and was soon followed by the emperor and by Switzerland.
Julius II was chiefly a soldier, still he did not forget his duties as the spiritual head of the Church. He was free from nepotism; issued a strict Bull against simony at papal elections; erected dioceses in the recently discovered American colonies; and finally convoked the Fifth Lateran Council to eradicate abuses from the Church and especially from the Roman Curia.
Julius II has also gained an enviable reputation as a patron of arts. Bramante, Raphael, and Michelangelo gave to the world some of their greatest masterpieces while in his service. He laid the cornerstone of the gigantic Basilica of St. Peter on 18 April, 1506. The famous frescoes of Michelangelo in the Sistine Chapel and of Raphael in the Stanze, the Court of St. Damasus with its loggias, the colossal statue of Moses in the church of San Pietro in Vincoli, and many other magnificent works in and out of Rome are lasting witnesses of his great love of art.
According to is contemporaires, Julius II was a sodomite. The Venetian diarist Girolamo Priuli wrote: "He brought along with him his catamites, that is to say, some very handsoome young men with whom he was publicly rumored to have intercourse; and he was said to be the passive partner..." And the Venitian historian Marino Sanudo reported a sonnet declaring also that Julius II was a passive sodomite.