Pius IV

December 26, 1559 - December 9, 1565




Birth and Family Connections

Pope Pius IV was born in Milan as Giovanni Angelo Medici.  His family was poor and not related to the Florentine banking family of Medici.  However, after his election as pope, Cosimo I de' Medici allowed him to use the coat of arms of the Florentine Medici family.


Giovanni Angelo's older brother, Gian Giacomo, who was a soldier-of-fortune, received the title of Marquis of Marignano from Charles V.  After Gian Giacomo wed Marzia Orsino (1515-48) in 1545, the Medici family of Milan were related by marriage to Paul III, whose sister was married to Orsino Orsini.


Giovanni Angelo, who had already received several appointments under Clement VII and Paul III, benefited from the Orsini connection further by receiving an archbishopric the year of the marriage and a cardinalate four years later.


Doctorate in Law

Giovanni Angelo studied in Bologna and took a doctorate in law in 1525.





Career under Clement VII

After deciding to enter the Church in 1527, when he was 28, Giovanni Angelo moved to Rome.


Prothonotary. Under Pope Clement VII, Giovanni Angelo was appointed prothonotary, a clerical post in the papal administration.  


Career under Paul III

Under Pope Paul III, Giovanni Angelo's talents were used in a number of posts.


Apostolic prothonotary. Paul III appointed Giovanni Angelo to the post of apostolic prothonotary, a top clerical post in the papal administration.


Governorships of cities in the Papal States. The Pope appointed Giovanni Angelo to govern several cities in the Papal States.


Commissioner General of papal forces. Paul III made Giovanni Angelo commissioner of the papal forces in Hungary and Transylvania in 1542-3.  They were fighting the Schmalkaldic League, an alliance of Protestant princes who wanted independence from the emperor as well as the freedom to practice their new religion.


Vice-legate to Bologna. Paul named Giovanni Angelo vice-legate to Bologna


Archbishop of Ragusa. Paul III made Giovanni Angelo Archbishop of Ragusa in December of 1545, the same year that his brother Giacomo married into the Orsini family.


Cardinal. Paul III made Giovanni Angelo a cardinal in 1549.


Career under Julius III

During the pontificate of Julius III, Cardinal Medici held a position in the papal administration and served on a tribunal, the Signatura gratiae (a body of officials who deliberated on favors to be bestowed by the Church).


Career under Paul IV

Cardinal Medici disagreed with Paul IV's anti-Spanish policy, and their relationship was tense, although not openly hostile.  In 1558, Medici left Rome, in part due to the political situation, but primarily to travel to thermal baths in Lucca in an attempt to heal his persistent gout.





Election as Pope

As in the preceding several elections, an equal number of cardinals supported each of the two principal powers of Europe, namely, the French on the one hand and the Hapsburg-governed coalition of Spain and the Holy Roman Empire on the other.  A third faction was led by Cardinal Carlo Caraffa, who was still recognized as an influential force in the College of Cardinals, despite the fact that he had been disowned and exiled by his uncle Paul IV.


On Christmas eve in 1559, after the conclave had been deadlocked for nearly four months, Cosimo I de' Medici's representative bribed Cardinal Caraffa with money and a promise of immunity from prosecution for past crimes in exchange for his faction's support of Cardinal Giovanni Angelo Medici.  The deal was struck that night, and Medici was officially elected pope on Christmas day and crowned on Epiphany, January 6, 1560.


Pardon of Rioters

One of Pius IV's first acts was to pardon those who took part in the riots and effigy abuse after Paul IV's death, acknowledging the deep and justified unpopularity of his predecessor.


Trial of the Caraffas

Partly to gratify the populace and partly to appease the Spanish king, Pius IV began his papacy by trying and executing Paul IV's nephews, Cardinal Carlo Caraffa and Giovanni, Duke of Paolino, for their crimes against the state, and in particular, for instigating the war with Spain in 1556-7.


They were tried by a jury that was less than impartial, as it included their uncle's enemies.  Their sentences, strangling for Carlo and beheading for Giovanni, were carried out immediately after they were pronounced guilty.


Cosimo de' Medici, whose representative had promised Cardinal Caraffa safety in exchange for his support for Giovanni Angelo Medici in the papal election,  berated the pope for bringing the Caraffas to trial.  Many felt that Pius was too harsh in meting out death sentences, particularly to such a high-ranking member of the clergy.


Under Pius IV's successor, Pius V, the verdicts were overturned, and the property confiscated from the Caraffa nephews was returned to their families.


Appointing a Nephew Cardinal

As was customary, Pius made his nephew Carlo Borromeo (d. 1584) a cardinal.  However, unlike many appointments of nephews to this position, Carlo Borromeo was an asset to both his uncle's pontificate and the Church.  He was made a saint in 1610.





Reducing Jurisdiction of Inquisition

Pius IV, who did not share Paul IV's enthusiasm for investigating and punishing heretics, restricted the jurisdiction of the inquisition to matters of faith exclusively, as it had been before the pontificate of Paul IV.


Having Fewer Books on the Index

After the Council of Trent was concluded, Pius IV issued the Dominici gregis, or Tridentine Index, on March 24, 1564.  In relation to the 1559 Index of Forbidden books, this new document reduced the overall number of books on the list as well as the penalties resulting from conviction.  The list of forbidden materials had formerly been extensive and had even included grammar books.


Establishing Rules of Acceptable Material

The Dominici gregis contains not only the traditional list of prohibited authors and works but also a list of ten rules outlining the broad concepts and categories that determine whether a book should be placed on the Index.  The inclusion of a list of general rules was new and reflected the council's realization that it was simply beyond the scope of any Index to include all problematic publications.


The list prohibited all books regarding forbidden topics such as divination and anything offensive to morality such as pornography.  The rules also delegated some of the responsibility for determining whether a book be prohibited or not to bishops, for example in the case of Bibles published in the vernacular, which could have value in certain situations.


Changing Other Policies

Pius IV's decision to reconvene the Council of Trent and to maintain friendly relations with the Hapsburgs were also reversals of Paul IV's policies.





Friendly Relations with Hapsburgs

Pius IV disagreed with his predecessor's anti-Hapsburg foreign policy and maintained a warm relationship with Philip II and Ferdinand I, Charles V's successors as King of Spain and Emperor of the Holy Roman Empire.  He also kept the papacy neutral in the conflict between the Empire and France.


Aiding France in War Against Huguenots

The pope supported the French king in his war against the Huguenots, a Protestant sect that was strong in France.


Not Excommunicating Elizabeth I

Elizabeth I of England was a supporter of Protestant ideas and political movements, which tended to strengthen her own position as Queen of England.  However, equally pragmatically, she continued to hint at Catholic sympathies and thus Pius IV did not excommunicate her because he did not want to eliminate the possibility of a future reconciliation between England and the Roman Catholic Church.


Contributing to War Against the Turks

The pope contributed financial support to the war against the Turks in Hungary, where the Turks had been a problem for three decades.





Reconvening the Council of Trent

Pius IV reconvened the Council of Trent on January 18, 1562.


The council took up the agenda that it had when it was dissolved by Julius III a decade earlier.


Problems with European Representatives

Through his representatives, Ferdinand I of the Holy Roman Empire introduced issues related to the marital status of priests and the laity's handling the chalice in administering the Eucharist


The representatives of King Charles IX of France and King Philip II of Spain also had strong views on many issues, and the conference was in danger of splitting into separate councils.


Pius IV persevered in his determination that the council complete the business of recommending reform measures for the Church, and appointed strong cardinals to offer leadership and resolve conflicts among participants.


Concluding the Business

After submitting its report to the pope for implementation, the Council of Trent was dissolved in December of 1563.



The Council recommended a variety of changes.


=Settling doctrinal issues. The Church clarified its position on doctrinal issues.


=Prohibiting sale of indulgences. The selling of indulgences, namely forgivenesses for sin, was prohibited.  The flagrant abuse of the selling of indulgences had been a flash-point for Martin Luther, in large part sparking him to begin his protests.


=Educating the clergy differently. With the help of the Jesuit order, new training and orientation were developed to make the clergy more effective.


=Setting guidelines for art and architecture. In its final session, the council recommended a number of ways that art and architecture could bolster the messages of the Church.





Utilizing the Council of Trent's Conclusions

The most important aspect of Pius IV's pontificate was his being able to bring the Council of Trent to a successful conclusion and begin implementing the recommended reforms.


Pius orally confirmed the recommendations of the Council of Trent on January 26, 1564 and officially approved them in the bull Benedictus Deus on June 30 of that year.


In Rome he convened councils and charged them with determining precisely how to implement the reforms without becoming involved with approving case-by-case decisions, which might have weakened the effectiveness of the decrees overall.


Pius also required bishops to take up residence in their ecclesiastic residences.


Maintaining Papal Autonomy

The pope maintained autonomy in the power struggle between his own office and those who wanted to empower an assembly.  Had papal authority been reduced, the Roman Catholic Church would have been in danger of fragmenting into several sects.


Drafting a Creed for Taking Oaths

Pius IV is identified with the approval of an oath that was to be sworn upon taking an ecclesiastical office.  The creed, which is still in use, is called the "Creed of Pius IV" or the "Tridentine Creed."  Initially, this oath was intended primarily as an oath for bishops, but it has been extended to other offices and is still in use.  The adjective "Tridentine" is a reference to the Council of Trent.


Ruling on Unresolved Issues

After the council was dissolved, the pope ruled against priests being allowed to marry, but he ruled in favor of letting the bishop decide on whether to allow the laity to handle the chalice in countries that were heavily Protestant.


Reforming Administration

Assisted by Borromeo, the pope reformed the Curia, the papal administration, during 1561 and 1562.  In 1562 he issued De eligendis, a bull regarding papal elections.


Setting Up Printing Press

Pius IV had a printing press set up at the Vatican for the publication of Christian texts in all languages.  He appointed Paolo Manuzio, son of Aldo Manuzio (Aldus Manutius), a Venetian printer and the founder of the Aldine press, as its first director.





Conspiracy to Assassinate Pope

In 1564, a conspiracy to assassinate the pope was uncovered, and in 1565, its organizer, Benedetto Accolti, was executed.


Although Accolti, the son of a cardinal, had personal motivations for his homicidal anger against the pope, he was joined by many Romans in being dissatisfied with Pius IV's pontificate because of his tax increases.



Pius IV, who suffered intermittently from gout, catarrh (inflammation of the mucous membrane), and restricted mobility, died suddenly at the age of sixty.  The cause may have been an apoplectic fit.



Pius IV was initially buried in St. Peter's.  In 1583, he was moved to his final tomb in Santa Maria degli Angeli in Rome, which he commissioned Michelangelo to design from the remains of the Baths of Diocletian.





Fondness for Architecture

Pope Pius IV especially liked architecture and would have done more building if he had not been saddled with the debts of his predecessor's war with Spain.  He was forced to raise taxes to an unpopular level to fund the amount of building and repair that he did initiate.


Commissions to Michelangelo

Pius IV's love of architecture enabled him to make splendid use of the final five years of Michelangelo's life.


St. Peter's, Vatican. The pope continued to fund construction at St. Peter's under Michelangelo's direction.  Like his papal predecessors, he found it necessary to insist that the building committee, the Fabbrica, respect Michelangelo's autonomy.  During Pius IV's pontificate, they tried to replace him with another architect.  It is recorded that in 1561, the pope climbed the dome of St. Peter's and inspected the building works himself.  


Santa Maria degli Angeli, Rome. Pius commissioned Michelangelo to convert the Thermae of Diocletian into the church of Santa Maria degli Angeli.  (The name of the church stems from Pius' baptismal name, Giovanni Angelo.)  The pope ceded the adjoining property to the Carthusians for a monastery, the Certosa of Santa Maria degli Angeli.  Today, the monastery building houses part of the Museo Nazionale Romano and contains treasures such as the Garden Scene from the House of Livia, who was the wife of Emperor Augustus.


Piazza del Campidoglio, Rome. Pius revived Paul III's plan to remodel the Piazza del Campidoglio.  This phase involved adding a new building and two new façades and reshaping and paving the site.  


Porta Pia, Rome. Pope Pius also commissioned Michelangelo to design and erect the Porta Pia, which was the terminus of the Via Pia at the Aurelian walls.  


Commissions to Piero Ligorio

Using the services of Piero Ligorio, his chief antiquarian, Pius IV completed a small villa and worked on the Belvedere Court, where he added two major additions.


Completion of Casino of Pius IV, Vatican. Pius IV had Pirro Ligorio and a host of painters continue to build and decorate the Casino of Pius IV, a villa suburbana begun under his predecessor, Paul IV.  The structure, intended as a retreat for the pope, is located in the Vatican gardens on the west side of the Belvedere Court.  


Nicchione at Belvedere Court, Vatican Palace. The pope reconceived the north façade of the Belvedere Court.  In 1562, he commissioned Ligorio to build a semidome nicknamed the Nicchione (Giant Niche) over its semicircular center, forming a giant apse.


Theater at Belvedere Court, Vatican Palace. The pope commissioned Ligorio to add a theater to the south end of the lowest terrace.  It had a semicircular-shaped area of seating like those in ancient Roman theaters.  


West facing of lowest terrace, Belvedere Court. Pius directed Ligorio to continue construction on the galleries of the Belvedere Court.  In building the west facing of the lowest terrace, Ligorio modified Bramante's design to make it more decorative.  It was later partially filled in and buttressed. 


Palace on the Via Flaminia, Rome. Pius commissioned a palace on the Via Flaminia from Pirro Ligorio.  Located near a public fountain built under Julius III, the so-called Palazzina (Little Palace) was constructed between 1561 and 1564. 


Other Additions to the Vatican


Decoration of Sala Regia. Pius IV commissioned the decoration of the Sala Regia, an anteroom to the Sistine Chapel that was built by Paul III but left undecorated by his successors.  After Vasari declined the commission, a team of well-known Mannerist artists, including Francesco Salviati and Taddeo Zuccaro, were employed to fresco the space with scenes related to the Defense of the Faith.  


Via Angelina and Porta Angelina. In the Borgo area of the Vatican, Pius built the Via Angelina and the Porta Angelina (no longer extant), a gate through the outer wall of the Borgo, an area then also known after the pope as the Borgo Pio.


Drapery added to Michelangelo's Last Judgment. To cover the nudity of the figures in Michelangelo's Last Judgment in the Sistine Chapel, Pius IV commissioned Daniele da Volterra to paint drapery over the offensive parts.


Fortifications and Repairs in Rome

Pius IV commissioned repairs to many older structures like the Lateran Palace, where he added a massive wooden ceiling.


He also made improvement to the walls, gates, and fortifications of Rome.  At the Castel Sant' Angelo he commissioned Francesco Laparelli to add mound-like ramparts with arrowhead bastions.


Urban Renewal in Bologna

Pius IV commissioned the remodeling of the city center by enlarging the main piazza of Bologna, known as Piazza Maggiore, and adding a new piazza, Piazza del Nettuno, next to it.  The two piazzas were linked by a fountain celebrating Neptune, which was commissioned from Giovanni Bologna.











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