1534-1566 History of Italy 1590-1618

Papal State and Papacy, 1566-1590

Pope Pius V. (Antonio Michele Ghisleri) ruled from 1566 to 1573; he was succeeded by Gregory XIII. (1572-1585, Ugo Buoncompagni) and Sixtus V. (1585-1590, Felice Peretti). These three are regarded the great reform popes of the counterreformation.
In 1564 the Council of Trent had ended; it had redefined Catholicism. During the pontificate of Pius V. the Roman Catechism was published (1566), an improved breviary in 1568, the Missale Romanum in 1570, texts intended to standardize and simplify Catholic education and rite. In 1582, Gregory XIII. replaced the Julian Calendar by the Gregorian Calendar. In the same year, a compilation of canonic law, the Corpus Juris Canonici, was published.
Pope Sixtus V. reformed the college of cardinals (1586) and the administration of the papal court.

In Italy the papacy supported the Inquisition in the suppression of protestantism (Savoy-Piemont), in France the papacy supported the Catholic side by placing troops at their disposal. In 1570 Pius V. proclaimed Queen Elizabeth of England a heretic. In the same year, Cyprus was conquered by the Ottoman Empire. Papal diplomacy succeeded in the formation of an alliance consisting of Spain, Venice and the Papal State. In 1571, the allied fleet, under the command of Don Juan d'Austria, defeated the Ottoman fleet decisively in the naval Battle of Lepanto.
When news of the St. Bartholomew Day's Massacre reached Rome, newly elected Pope Gregory XIII. had the church bells rung in celebration of the event. A medal was minted in its commemoration. Gregory XIII. continued the England policy begun by his predecessor Pius V. and urged King Philip II. of Spain to undertake an expedition against the island kingdom. Negotiations were held with King Johan III. of Sweden with the hope of reuniting Lutheran Sweden with the Catholic church; King Johan was willing to convert, negotiations failed over the issue of priest marriage.
The pontificates of Pius V. and Gregory XIII. saw the onset of the Counterreformation">Counterreformation; the inquisition battled protestantism in many regions, such as the Low Countries. The violent acts of inquisition and the political Council of Trobles caused the Dutch Revolt, but the population of the Southern Netherlands (modern Belgium) were turned into devoted and loyal Catholics. The Counterreformation had similar successes in the German Rhineland and in Poland.

Pope Pius V. had the nepotes of his predecessor tried; two of them were sentenced to death for having unscrupulously enriched themselves at the expense of the church and the people. However, nepotism continued to be practised during his pontificate. Gregory XIII. improved education in the Papal State. Pope Sixtus V. tackled banditry in the Papal State and, by having land property rights checked and confiscating property held by dubious claims. Law and order were imposed harsh-handedly. Agriculture and trade were supported, the administration of the treasury reformed. Pope Sixtus piled up a state treasury, partially by perfecting the tradition of selling church offices. During the pontificate of Sixtus V., the Spanish Stairs and the Vatican Library were built; Sixtus V. also had much of the Lateran Palace torn down and had threatened to treat other 'ugly antiquities' similarly.

Biography of Pius V., from Catholic Encyclopedia 1911 edition
Biography of Gregory XIII., from Catholic Encyclopedia 1910 edition
Biography of Sixtus V., from Catholic Encyclopedia 1912 edition
Article Counterreformation, from Catholic Encyclopedia, 1908 edition
Calendars in History, by L.E. Doggett
Article St. Bartholomew Day's Massacre, from Catholic Encyclopedia, 1912 edition
Ugo Balzani, Rome under Sixtus IV., posted by MATEO
REFERENCE Book Reviews : Papal State, from History Book Reviews

Franz Xaver Seppelt, Georg Schwaiger, Geschichte der Päpste (History of the Popes), München : Kösel 1964, 572 pp., in German [G]
Christopher Hibbert, Rome. The Biography of a City, Penguin 1988, 387 pp. [G]

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First posted on September 5th 2002, last revised on March 29th 2006

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