Francis I on the throne of Peter
Roberto de Mattei
History also teaches us that Giulio de Medici succeeded Adrian VI and took the name of Clement VII (1523–1534). During his Pontificate, on May 6, 1527, there occurred the terrible sack of Rome, perpetrated by Lutheran mercenaries (Landsknechte) of the Emperor Charles V. It is difficult to describe the devastation and sacrileges committed during this event which proved to be more terrible than the sack of Rome in 410. Men and women of the Church were targeted for especial cruelty: nuns were raped, priests and monks were killed or sold as slaves, churches, palaces and houses were destroyed. The massacres were swiftly followed by famine and plague. The inhabitants of Rome were decimated.
The Catholic people interpreted the event as a punishment they deserved for their own sins. It was only after the terrible sack that life in Rome changed profoundly. The climate of moral relativism dissolved and the general poverty stamped austerity and penitence onto the city. It was this new atmosphere which made possible that great religious rebirth, the Catholic Counter-Reformation of the 16th century.