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Pope Julius Goes to War (2)

Michelangelo did not relish the thought of telling his father that he was leaving for Bologna.

Lodovico Buonarroti was 62, and showing his age. Ever since his second wife had died nine years earlier, Lodovico had been sad and lonely. It was hard for the man to take comfort from his sons. He missed his eldest son Lionardo, who was off in Pisa working as a priest. Buonarroto and Giovansimone were nearby, and well-meaning, but they never worked hard enough to make their way in business. Poor Gismondo had always been a lost soul.

Everything improved for Lodovico after Michelangelo came home to live. As busy as he was, Michelangelo always took the time to make sure his father was getting by. More than ever, Michelangelo acted like the eldest son. He began to push his brothers to do more with their lives and not depend on him so much.

Michelangelo could see that this made his father very happy, and it hurt him deeply to tell Lodovico he had to go away again.

As he expected, Lodovico panicked. “Will you get paid for the apostles before you leave, or the Great Hall? Will the pope make a payment now for the tomb work?”

“I don’t know, Father. I’m not sure what the pope has in store for me.”

Michelangelo in his 30s

“I don’t understand. Aren’t you going back to Rome to carve his tomb? You spoke so highly of it. You said the pope loved the plans and the first sculptures of the slaves.”

“He loves the tomb, and actually I’d do anything to carve it. The problem is the pope is angry with me. So angry that he might pay me nothing. Or throw me in prison. Or both.”

“What did you do to make him so angry?”

“I didn’t do what he wanted me to.”

Lodovico leaned forward in his chair and rested his chin in his right hand, his elbow on his knee. “Some things never change with you.”

“I’m sorry, Father. Please pray for me.”

Lodovico smiled ruefully. “You’re the only prayer I’ve got.”

Michelangelo hated seeing his father look so sad. He was angry at himself. All of his problems were born from his flight from Rome, all because he didn’t want to paint the ceiling. What was wrong with him? Why was he so stubborn, why did he keep running away from painting?

He knew the solution was simple: To get back to work on the tomb, all he had to do was paint 12 apostles on the ceiling.

But he hated feeling forced into anything, and he hated the thought of working on someone else’s flawed idea—a thing doomed to fail. He knew that if he failed, the pope might be so angry he’d send Michelangelo away without the tomb finished.

Then there would be no tomb, and humiliation as well. He couldn’t stand it. Late into the night, feverishly he worked on drawings for the Great Hall, hoping he could tempt Soderini to change his mind at the last minute.

Next: Pope Julius Goes to War (3)


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