Paul IV

May 23, 1555 - August 18, 1559




Birth and Family

Pope Paul IV was born Gian Pietro Caraffa (also Carafa) on June 28, 1476 in Sant'Angelo a Scala, a small town south of Benevento and east of Naples.  The Caraffa family was one of the most noble in Naples.


Gianpietro's Neapolitan background fostered his dislike of the Spanish, who ruled Naples during the Renaissance.



Gianpietro was educated in Rome in the house of his uncle Cardinal Oliviero Caraffa.  He received a thorough grounding not only in Latin and Greek but also in Hebrew.





Dominican and Camaldolese Orders

Gianpietro's ascetic nature led him to join the Dominican and the Camaldolese Orders.  Both orders required vows of poverty and encouraged ascetic lifestyles.  The Camaldolese Order included hermits.


Appointments under Julius II and Leo X

Like many popes of the Renaissance, Gianpietro's career in the Church was jump-started by the assistance of an uncle who was already a cardinal.


Bishop of Chieti. In 1505, Julius II appointed Gianpietro to be the Bishop of Chieti upon his uncle's resignation of the position.


Legate to England. Leo X made Bishop Caraffa his legate (representative) to Henry VIII in England in 1513-14.


Archbishop of Brindisi. In 1518, Leo X made Bishop Caraffa Archbishop of Brindisi, a port on the eastern coast of Naples.


Nuncio to Flanders and Spain. Leo X appointed Caraffa to be his nuncio (papal ambassador) to Flanders (Belgium) and Spain from 1515 to 1520.  His time in Spain further sharpened his antipathy of the Spanish, whom he believed to be half Jewish and half Moorish.


Joining Oratory of Divine Love

Caraffa joined a newly founded brotherhood called the Oratory of Divine Love, which was dedicated to reform.


Assisting Hadrian VI

Hadrian VI, who was also ascetic and reform-minded, used Caraffa's assistance to plan his program of church reform.  If Hadrian had lived long enough to have implemented part of his program, Caraffa would probably have played a major role.


Forming Order of Theatines

In 1524, with the consent of Pope Clement, Gianpietro Caraffa resigned his benefices, and with Gaetano di Thiene, founded the Order of St. Cajetan, which is better known as the Order of the Theatines.  The name is derived from Theate, which is the Latin name for Chieti, the city over which Caraffa, who became the new order's first director, had been bishop.


Members of this order, which was never very large, took vows of poverty.  The order was dedicated to restoring the apostolic (as opposed to the secular) way of life and reforming the Church's corruption.


After the Sack of Rome, the Theatines moved to Venice.  They returned to Rome at the invitation of Pope Paul III, who was elected in 1534.


Appointments under Paul III

Paul III, the first pope to take effective action to counteract the Reformation, found ways to utilize Caraffa's zeal.


=Cardinal of San Pancrazio. In 1536, Paul III elevated Caraffa to the level of cardinal.


=Archbishop of Naples. In 1549, Pope Paul made Caraffa Archbishop of Naples.


=First Director of Roman Inquisition. In 1542, Paul III appointed Cardinal Caraffa to establish the Inquisition in Rome and to serve as its first director.  The censorship of printed material, which had been established under Leo X, was placed under the Inquisition's authority the following year.


Dean of College of Cardinals

In 1553, Cardinal Caraffa, who was 77,  was elected the Dean of the College of Cardinals.






Because Pope Marcellus II's pontificate had lasted only 22 days, the conclave to elect his successor was faced with the same three factions: supporters of the French, supporters of the emperor, and the reform party.  Although the emperor of the Holy Roman Empire had as many supporters as the French king, they were not united around a single candidate.


Agreement between Farnese and d'Este

The French faction supported Cardinal d'Este. Cardinal Alessandro Farnese who led the Reform party, told d'Este, who was his enemy, that his group would not support his election.  He proposed that if they could agree on another candidate, they might be able to control the election without the consent of the emperor's party.


They both agreed on Cardinal Caraffa.


Late-Night Voting

Farnese convinced several cardinals from the emperor's party to vote for Caraffa, and the election was rushed through in the middle of the night.


Opposition by Emperor

Charles V, knowing of Caraffa's antipathy for the Spanish, had stated that he would not be an acceptable choice.


Part of Caraffa's willingness to accept the position although he was 79 years old was the opportunity to oppose the emperor.


Selection of Name "Paul"

Caraffa selected the name "Paul" in honor of Paul III, who had made him a cardinal and appointed him to establish and direct an Inquisition in Rome.



The reform party, believing that they were electing a pope who could and would continue the reform movement, were to be disappointed as Pope Paul IV promoted reform chiefly as a method of stamping out heresy.  Socially and politically his reign was marked by nepotism and its associated failings.





Belief in Own Infallibility

Pope Paul IV, who was narrow-minded and opinionated as a cardinal, believed in his own infallibility as pope.  He often unleashed his temper and physically attacked visitors who displeased him.


Practice of Asceticism

As a follower of the fourteenth-century theologian Thomas Aquinas and the scholastic ideals of the Middle Ages, Paul IV was ascetic and practiced self-denial by fasting regularly.  His predilections can be seen in the requirement of poverty in the order that he co-founded, the Theatines, and in his campaign against secularism.


Enforcement of Celibacy Policy

Pope Paul enforced the Church's prohibition against marriage or carnal relationships.  He not only didn't accept the nomination of worldly candidates but also ordered the arrest of monks and clerics who had left their ecclesiastic residences.


The new policy on celibacy led to the dismissal of the married composer Palestrina, who is noted in music history as a master of polyphonic choral music.


Isolating Jews into Ghettos

Paul IV was prejudiced against the Jews and believed that they had something to do with the Protestant movement.  He required them to sell their property and live in a designated area of town.


The Jews were required to stay within their zone at night, and when outside it, they were required to identify themselves by wearing yellow headgear--hats for men and shawls or veils for women.


Isolating the Jews from the rest of a community had a precedent in Venice where in 1516 the Council of Ten passed an ordinance relegating the Jews to the island of Ghetto.  The term "ghetto" is now used to refer to a slum-like neighborhood inhabited by a poor minority group.





Condemning Peace of Augsburg

Pope Paul IV condemned a peace treaty made a few months after his election between Emperor Charles V, who was Catholic, and the Schmalkaldic League, a confederation of Protestant princes, who agreed to come to each other's defense if attacked by the emperor.


The treaty signed in Augsburg provided a form of religious tolerance among the German states by stipulating that the religion of each state was to be determined by that of its ruler (cuius regio, eius religio).  During a grace period individual families could move if their religious preference differed from that of their ruler.


Paul condemned Charles V's tolerance of Lutheranism as heretical.


Refusal to Recognize Charles' Abdication

Paul IV, obsessed with his own importance, clung to the medieval notion that the pope had a critical role in approving important matters like the succession of sovereigns.


Because he hadn't been consulted, Paul refused to recognize Charles V's abdication in 1556 as emperor of the Holy Roman Empire and King of Spain or the successions of his brother Ferdinand I and his son Philip II to these offices, respectively.


Failure to Maintain Ties with England

When Paul IV was elected, his predecessor's legate in England, Cardinal Reginald Pole, had just worked out a deal to restore England's allegiance to the Roman Catholic Church.


Pope Paul would not agree to the deal because it did not provide for the return of all the Church lands confiscated when Henry VIII broke with Rome.  Instead, Paul IV demanded that they be returned.


The pope also withdrew Pole's legateship and commanded him come to Rome and be examined by the Inquisition.  Both Pole and Mary I died in 1558.


Paul thoroughly alienated the English by not recognizing the succession of Elizabeth I, who was illegitimate in the eyes of the Church, and by demanding that she submit her credentials.





Hatred of Spanish

Having experienced Spanish rule both in Naples when he was chief chaplain at King Ferdinand I's court and in Spain as Leo X's nuncio, Pope Paul IV was imbued with a deep hatred of the Spanish.  He called them a "vile, abject people."


Alliance with France

Late in 1555, the pope formed an alliance with France, who supplied 12,000 troops to the project of driving the Spanish out of Naples.


Defeat in Naples

In 1556, the combined forces of the pope and the French were unsuccessful in taking Naples, which was defended by the Spanish viceroy, the Duke of Alba.


March on Rome

The Duke of Alba then marched on Rome and could have entered and looted the city if he had chosen.  His presence outside Rome put pressure on the pope to agree to imperial demands.


Peace of Cave

In 1557, the pope was forced to sign the Peace of Cave, which provided that he put aside his alliance with France and remain neutral in international politics, that he recognize Philip II as the new King of Spain, and that he retract his accusations that Charles V and his son Philip II are heretics.



This unsuccessful war strained papal resources.





Not Reconvening Council of Trent

The pope, who was not one to entertain the ideas of others or to come to terms through diplomacy, saw no point in reconvening the Council of Trent, which would have been attended by numerous European Churchmen.  Instead, he replaced the Council with his own commission on reform, which included few foreigners


Expanding Jurisdiction of Inquisition

Paul IV's chief tool in counteracting the Reformation was the Inquisition, which he had instituted in Italy on behalf of Paul III in 1542.


Once he became pope, Paul IV expanded the jurisdiction of the Inquisition from exclusively matters of faith to include sexual prohibitions like rape and homosexuality, religious prohibitions like eating during fasts, and administrative prohibitions like breaking simony laws (buying or selling church offices).


During Paul IV's pontificate, the use of torture during interrogation was harsher and the punishments for those found guilty were more severe.


The Roman Inquisition imprisoned many innocent men without evidence.  The population of Rome is said to have shrunk by half as people left to avoid being arrested by the Inquisition.


Establishing the Index of Forbidden Books

Under Paul IV, the censorship arm of the Inquisition was expanded into the Indice Liborum Prohibitorum (Index of Forbidden Books), which was first published for the entire Catholic world in 1559.  Individuals found guilty of possessing, reading, selling, or transporting forbidden books could be condemned for heresy and burned at the stake.


The 1559 Index listed such works as Boccaccio's Decameron, which includes many tales of the sexual escapades of priests and nuns, Machiavelli's The Prince, which advocates the separation of church and state and advises tyrants on how to maintain power, and Erasmus' In Praise of Folly, which satirizes the irrationality of the leaders and institutions of his day.  The list also included translations of the Bible by Protestants.





Public Hostility Towards Paul IV's Policies

The pope's failure as a leader is clear from the popular response to his death.  A marble statue of him was decapitated and the head dragged through the gutters of Rome for four days until it was finally thrown in the Tiber.  Had Paul's actual body not been secretly buried in a remote part of St. Peter's, it would have suffered a similar fate.  He was later given a proper burial in the Caraffa family chapel in Santa Maria sopra Minerva by Pope Pius V.


Overzealous Administration of Inquisition

The Inquisition reached a pinnacle of horror during Paul IV's pontificate.  After his death, Rome's angry masses released the prisoners and set fire to the palace housing the Inquisition.


Political Mismanagement

Pope Paul IV misjudged his ability to defeat the Spanish, and in going to war, he squandered papal funds and put the Church even deeper in debt.


The pope's failure to recognize the English queen served to eliminate any possibility of reconciliation between the two powers or of retaining influence in England.



Although it ran counter to reformist ideals, Paul IV practiced nepotism and appointed his relatives to positions of power.  He was motivated by mistrust of strangers rather than by a desire to enrich his relatives.


The pope especially favored his nephew Carlos, who he made a cardinal soon after his election.  Many of his foolish political decisions were at Carlos' instigation.  Carlos concealed his own corrupt activities by telling his uncle stories of conspiracies and showing him forged letters that he claimed to have intercepted.


When the pope finally saw the truth of the behavior of Carlos and his other relatives in 1559, he disowned them, stripped them of their positions, and banished them.





Destruction of Worldly Art at Vatican

Paul IV found the subjects of much of the art at the Vatican to be too worldly.  He objected to Michelangelo's Last Judgment in the Sistine Chapel.  He asked the artist to "mend" the work and went as far as threatening to destroy the painting outright.  Under Paul's successor, Pius IV, Daniele da Voltera was engaged to paint bits of drapery on the nudes to make the work more suitable to its site and use.


Architectural Commissions

In his patronage, Paul IV favored architectural projects.  He was rumored to have said that it was more necessary to fortify Rome than to adorn it with pictures.  However, the Vatican's debts and the expense of his war with Spain limited the funds available for architecture.


St. Peter's, Vatican. Paul IV continued the construction of St. Peter's under the direction of Michelangelo.  


Casino of Pius IV, Vatican. Paul IV commissioned Pirro Ligorio to design a retreat on the grounds of the Vatican west of the Belvedere Court.  The complex is now known as the Casino of Pius IV for his successor, who oversaw its completion.


Palace of the Inquisition, Rome. Paul IV's main architectural project was to build headquarters for the Inquisition.  This palace was burned after his death by angry mobs. 


Fortifications in Rome. The pope commissioned improvements to Rome's fortifications.












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