In the history of the Catholic Church, cardinals have exercised a degree of influence almost as vital as that of the pope himself. Standing at the summit of the pontifical administrative system, they typically held a dual role as papal and courtly sovereigns and also served as the pope's electors and main counselors. To date, however, their substantive role in the patronage of sacred music in sixteenth-century Italy has attracted comparatively little musicological attention, largely because the familial archives of cardinals are more difficult to locate and less likely to be catalogued than those of kings, dukes, and popes. Newly discovered correspondence and musical sources serve to establish the significance of Cardinal Giulio Feltro della Rovere as a patron of sacred music. The letters addressed to Giulio Feltro provide new information on the musical careers of Costanzo Porta and other composers working under the cardinal's ecclesiastical sway. These letters also contribute to our understanding of mid-sixteenth-century printing practices and provide concrete evidence of the influence of the Council of Trent on sacred music.

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