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Benvenuto Cellini (1500–1571). Autobiography.
The Harvard Classics. 1909–14.


CARDINAL CORNARO, on hearing of the affair, despatched thirty soldiers, with as many partisans, pikes, and arquebuses, to bring me with all due respect to his quarters. This he did unasked; whereupon I accepted the invitation, and went off with them, while more than as many of the young men bore me company. Meanwhile, Messer Traiano, Pompeo’s relative and first chamberlain to the Pope, sent a Milanese of high rank to Cardinal de’ Medici, giving him news of the great crime I had committed, and calling on his most reverend lordship to chastise me. The Cardinal retorted on the spot: “His crime would indeed have been great if he had not committed this lesser one; thank Messer Traiano from me for giving me this information of a fact of which I had not heard before.” Then he turned and in presence of the nobleman said to the Bishop of Frulli, his gentleman and intimate acquaintance: “Search diligently after my friend Benvenuto; I want to help and defend him; and whoso acts against thyself acts against myself.” The Milanese nobleman went back, much disconcerted, while the Bishop of Frulli come to visit me at Cardinal Cornaro’s palace. Presenting himself to the Cardinal, he related how Cardinal de’ Medici had sent for Benvenuto, and wanted to be his protector. Now Cardinal Cornaro who had the touchy temper of a bear, flew into a rage, and told the Bishop he was quite as well able to defend me as Cardinal de’ Medici. The Bishop, in reply, entreated to be allowed to speak with me on some matters of his patron which had nothing to do with the affair. Cornaro bade him for that day make as though he had already talked with me.

Cardinal de’ Medici was very angry. However, I went the following night, without Cornaro’s knowledge, and under good escort, to pay him my respects. Then I begged him to grant me the favour of leaving me where I was, and told him of the great courtesy which Cornaro had shown me; adding that if his most reverend lordship suffered me to stay, I should gain one friend the more in my hour of need; otherwise his lordship might dispose of me exactly as he thought best. He told me to do as I liked; so I returned to Cornaro’s palace, and a few days afterwards the Cardinal Farnese was elected Pope.

After he had put affairs of greater consequence in order, the new Pope sent for me, saying that he did not wish any one else to strike his coins. To these words of his Holiness a gentleman very privately acquainted with him, named Messer Latino Juvinale, made answer that I was in hiding for a murder committed on the person of one Pompeo of Milan, and set forth what could be argued for my justification in the most favourable terms. The Pope replied: “I knew nothing of Pompeo’s death, but plenty of Benvenuto’s provocation; so let a safe-conduct be at once made out for him, in order that he may be placed in perfect security.” A great friend of Pompeo’s, who was also intimate with the Pope, happened to be there; he was a Milanese, called Messer Ambrogio. This man said: “In the first days of your papacy it were not well to grant-pardons of this kind.” The Pope turned to him and answered: “You know less about such matters than I do. Know then that men like Benvenuto, unique in their profession, stand above the law; and how far more he, then, who received the provocation I have heard of?” When my safe conduct had been drawn out, I began at once to serve him, and was treated with the utmost favour.