Today, February 22, is the anniversary of the return to his native town, Corsignano in southern Tuscany, of Aeneas Sylvius Piccolomini, after many years as a diplomat, chancellery official and advisor to popes, an anti-pope and the Holy Roman Emperor, latterly as bishop and cardinal. He returned in triumph as Pope Pius II.
As he wrote in his unique memoirs: ‘A high mountain rises from the valley of the Orcia River, crowned by a plateau...There is a town of little repute but possessed of a healthful climate, excellent wine, and everything else that goes to sustain life...Here Pius was born and passed his childhood...He hoped to feel delight in seeing again his native soil; but he was disappointed, for most of those of his own generation had died and those who were left were feeble and crippled and like harbingers of death...(But) the people were delighted and in holiday mood over the presence of the Pope...Pius decided to build there a new church and a palace...that he might leave as lasting as possible a memorial of his birth.’ *
He succeeded, as we see in Pienza, the former Corsignano, over five centuries later. By his death in 1464, Pius had rebuilt the town’s medieval centre into a crown jewel of the Renaissance, and renamed the town after himself.