Pius V

January 7, 1566 - May 1, 1572

Beatified in 1672

Canonized in 1712




Birth and Youth

Pope Pius V was born Antonio Ghislieri in 1504 in Bosco Marengo, near Alessandria in northern Italy.


Although his parents were of noble lineage, they were poor at the time of his birth, and Antonio had to work as a shepherd in his early years.  His intellectual gifts were noticed by a wealthy neighbor who sponsored his education under the Dominicans at the monastery at Voghera.


At age fourteen, Antonio entered the Dominican monastery, taking the name "Michele."


Early Career Serving Dominican Order

Michele studied in Bologna and was ordained in Genoa in 1528.  He spent his early years in the Church serving the Dominican order.  He lectured on philosophy and theology in Pavia for sixteen years.  During this period, he served as the prior of several monasteries and trained novices.


Ecclesiastic Appointments


=Inquisitor of Pavia, Bergamo, and Como. When the Inquisition was established in Italy in 1542 under Paul III,  Michele was made the inquisitor of Pavia, and later, of Bergamo and Como.  These cities were located near Switzerland, where Protestantism had taken a strong hold.  


=Commissary-General of Inquisition. Michele's service attracted the notice of Cardinal Pietro Caraffa, the Grand Inquisitor under Julius III, who recommended to the pope that Michele be appointed commissary-general of the Inquisition in Rome in 1551.


=Bishop of Sutri and Nepi. In 1556, after Cardinal Caraffa became Paul IV, he appointed Michele to be the Bishop of Sutri and Nepi.  His supervision introduced drastic reforms there.


=Cardinal. In 1557, Paul IV raised Michele to the cardinalate.  He was known as Cardinal Alessandrino because of his roots near the city of Alessandria.


=Grand Inquisitor. Also in 1557, Paul IV appointed Cardinal Alessandrino to be the Grand Inquisitor, a post that he himself had held under Julius III.


=Bishop of Mondovi. In 1560, Pius IV appointed Cardinal Alessandrino Bishop of Mondovi, a northern bishopric that badly needed reorganizing.


Participation in College of Cardinals

Cardinal Alessandrino developed a reputation for integrity when he opposed two candidates for the College of Cardinals proposed by Pius IV, who wished to accommodate his allies.


=Opposition to a Medici 'child' cardinal. When Pius IV proposed granting the cardinal's hat to Cosimo I de' Medici's thirteen-year-old son, Ferdinando, Cardinal Alessandrino argued against it.  


=Opposition to marriage for priests. When Maximilian II, Emperor of Germany, proposed that Pius IV allow priests to marry as a way of inducing priests in partly Protestant regions not to leave the Roman Catholic Church, Cardinal Alessandrino vehemently opposed the change, and when he became pope, he ordered the clergy to return to residence in their monasteries.





Less-Unified Factions

Compared to the preceding elections, the various factions at work during the conclave that elected Pius V were less unified in their support of particular candidates.


Cardinals Farnese and d'Este continued to oppose each other while working together to form a more influential block.


Cardinal Borromeo's Influence

The assembly looked to the widely respected Cardinal Carlo Borromeo, nephew of Pope Pius IV, for leadership.  He refused the papal crown for himself and supported several candidates during the enclave.


In the end, Cardinal Borromeo supported Cardinal Alessandrino, whose piety and integrity were beyond question.


Selection of Name

On being elected pope, Michele Ghislieri took the name Pius V in honor of his predecessor and of Cardinal Borromeo, who had been instrumental in Ghislieri's election.


Reaction to Pius V's Election

Ghislieri's election was met with a mix of joy and concern.  Among many of the cardinals his election was received positively, his severe character and will welcomed as appropriate for the times.  Others saw his stern reputation in a less rosy light, and were concerned what effect his rigor would have, particularly on the city of Rome.





Piety and Devotion

Since his youth, Pius V's piety and devotion to God were above reproach.



As an ascetic, Pius I practiced self-denial of worldly pleasures and embraced hardships like fasting, performing long meditations on his bare knees, wearing a hair shirt under his clerical robes, traveling on foot and without a cloak, sleeping on a straw bed, and taking meals alone and in silence, which became a papal practice that was continued into the early twentieth century.



Pius V was always generous with the poor.  When he was elected pope, he suspended the festivities that usually accompanied papal inaugurations and gave the money allotted for it to the poor.



Pius V was severe and harsh in dealing with heresy.  Like Paul IV, he attended sessions of interrogation and torture under the Inquisition.  He entreated Philip II to show no mercy in dealing with heretics and directed the French general who worked for Regent Catherine de' Medici to kill all Huguenots. (French Protestants)  


Not Practicing Nepotism

Although he was persuaded to promote an especially capable nephew to the level of cardinal, Pius V did not practice nepotism.





Initiating Stringent Reforms

Pius V's primary goal was to reform the Church by enforcing all the rules and policies recommended by the Council of Trent, which had closed only two years earlier.  His enforcement extended to America and Africa.


The pope's single-mindedness in following the Tridentine recommendations (the adjective 'Tridentine' referring to the Council) did much to change the character of the Church and its various institutions.


Redrafting Basic Documents

Many of the documents used in the Church were re-written in accordance with the goals of reform.


=Catechism. In 1566, an official Roman Catholic catechism was written and translated into many languages.  The catechism is a basic primer of Christian principles presented in question-and-answer form.


=New breviary. In 1568, the breviary was redrafted.  The breviary is a compendium of the regulations for celebrating Mass, the principal ritual of the Catholic service.  Under Pius V the text was arranged in a new order that emphasized the Psalms and Holy Scripture, and texts, references, or feast days whose historical truth was questionable were excised.


=New missal. The missal, the book of prayers used in celebrating the Mass, was also modified.  Prayers were changed during the year in accordance with the Church calendar.


Revising Biblical Translations

The Vulgate (St. Jerome's Latin translation of the Old Testament) and the Greek New Testament were revised according to improved scholarship and discoveries from other previously unknown Biblical manuscripts.


Reviewing Monastic Orders

Pius V conducted a review of the Orders.  Changes were recommended to some, and the Humiliati were abolished.


Establishing Seminaries

Pius V, who had himself been involved with training Dominican novices, established new seminaries for the instruction of entrants to the clergy.


Enforcing Clerical Residence

At the beginning of his pontificate, Pius V called for the clergy to return to their ecclesiastic residences and cease living lives of worldly pleasures.


Reducing the Papal Court

Pius V drastically reduced the size of the papal court and eliminated all signs of lavish living like feasts and entertainment.


Enforcing Laws Against Simony

The pope enforced the ban on buying and selling Church offices and drastically reduced corruption in the Curia, the papal administration.


Proclaiming Thomas Aquinas a Doctor

Pius V, like Paul IV, was especially influenced by the teachings of the thirteenth-century theologian Thomas Aquinas, whom he elevated to the status of "Doctor of the Church" in the 1568 breviary.  (The four Latin Doctors of the Church are St. Gregory the Great, St. Ambrose, St. Augustine, and St. Jerome.)


In 1570, he published a new edition of Aquinas' writings.





Rebuilding Inquisition's Headquarters

Soon after his election, Pius V ordered that the palace built by Paul IV to house the Inquisition, which had been destroyed by rioters upon Paul's death, be rebuilt.


Prosecuting Heretics

Pius V's excessive zeal for rooting out individuals holding unorthodox beliefs led to the arrest, torture, execution of many citizens of the Papal States.  Relatively fortunate others had their property confiscated.  Even the mentally challenged were tortured if their answers failed to persuade interrogators of their orthodoxy.


The pope also persuaded foreign leaders such as Philip II of Spain and Catherine de' Medici of France to take a similarly hard line against heretics.


Establishing New Congregation of Index

In 1571, Pius V established a New Congregation of the Index of Forbidden Books This was a new body to oversee the publishing industry's compliance with the provisions of the Index of Forbidden Books.  This led many printers to move northward, out of Italy.





Legislating Morality of Citizens

Pius V attempted to reform the public as well as the clergy by enforcing existing laws, passing new laws, and encouraging informants to report crimes committed by their fellow-citizens.


Critics at that time complained that the pope was trying to make Rome into a monastery.


Punishing Blasphemy

Blasphemy, committing impious acts or vocalizing impious utterances, was punished by fines for the rich and by flogging for the poor.


Expelling Jews

Pius V forced Jews to sell land they had acquired during the papacy of Pius IV.  He then published a bull ordering all Jews to leave the Papal States.  Subsequently, an exception was made for the cities of Rome and Ancona, where the Jewish contribution to the economy was critical and their departure would have caused serious financial difficulty.


Those who were allowed to remain, had to stay in ghettos.  (The practice of isolating the Jews in ghettos in the Papal States had been established under Paul IV.)


Expelling Prostitutes

The pope ordered Rome's prostitutes to leave.  Those who stayed were enclosed in a ghetto near the Tiber's Ripetta port.


Punishing Adulterers

To strengthen the sacrament of marriage, Pius proposed executing adulterers, but this measure was not passed.


Denying Medical Care to the Unconfessed

Pius V encouraged frequent confession by passing a law that only people who had confessed in the past three days could receive medical care.





Pius' Lack of Diplomacy

Pius V angered European leaders by issuing a bull (papal order), In coena Domini, making claims of greater authority than he had.


Pius took a stern, unyielding stance on religious issues.  His inflexible stands exacerbated the violence directed toward heretics in Catholic regions and toward Catholics in Protestant regions.


Excommunicating Elizabeth I

In 1570, Pius V excommunicated Queen Elizabeth I, who supported the Anglican Church in England.  During Elizabeth's reign, many Catholics were persecuted, and Mary, Queen of Scots, was executed because she was the focus of plots by Catholic rebels to overthrow Elizabeth and put her Catholic cousin on the throne.


Clash with King Philip II

Pius V clashed with the Spanish king, Philip II, over the issue of authority over the Church in Spain.  In Spain, the Church was under control of the state, and the pope attempted to reassert his sovereignty.  Similar issues troubled the papacy throughout the fifteenth and sixteenth century in their relationships with the major Catholic powers, including France and the Holy Roman empire.


With Pius V's encouragement, Philip II vigorously prosecuted heretics, often burning them publicly.  The entire ceremony leading up to and including the execution was known as an auto-da-fé (act of faith), a term that in English has become synonymous with execution by burning.


Clash with Emperor Maximilian II

Pius V clashed with Emperor Maximilian II (1564-76), the emperor of the Holy Roman Empire.  Maximilian II honored the Peace of Augsburg, which allowed for the practice of either Catholicism or Protestantism in each principality according to the ruler's religion, which Pius saw as an overt tolerance of Protestantism.


Maximilian was also displeased with the pope's usurpation of his authority.  The pope passed a judgment in a dispute between the dukes of Florence and Ferrara that was to have been decided by the emperor.  Maximilian felt that the pope also overstepped his authority when he awarded the title of Grand Duke of Tuscany to the Medici Duke Cosimo I in 1569.


Fighting the Huguenots in France

Pius V gave money to Catherine de' Medici, the Regent of France in the 1560s, to fund the fight against the Huguenots (French Protestants), but on the condition that the Queen not agree to a settlement with the Huguenots.  The pope instructed the French commanders not to take prisoners.


The pope was eventually disappointed when her son, King Charles IX, signed the Peace of Saint-Germain in 1570, which provided religious freedom.


Defeating the Turks at Sea near Lepanto

Despite his poor relationships with foreign leaders, the pope was successful in organizing a Holy League to oppose the Turks.  The League included Spain, Venice, and the Papal States.


Under the leadership of Don Juan of Austria, the League's troops were overwhelmingly victorious in 1571 at the Battle of Lepanto, a confrontation at sea involving hundreds of ships.  The Turks had a larger fleet, but the League was far better equipped with artillery as they had more than double the number of cannons than their opponents.


This battle marked the turning point of Europe's efforts to reverse the Turkish attempts to expand toward the Italian peninsula and European mainland.






Pius V died in 1572 of a renal disorder.



The pope was initially buried in St. Peter's in the Chapel of Saint Andrew.


In 1588, his tomb was moved to Santa Maria Maggiore by Pope Sixtus V.


Later Beatification and Sainthood

In 1672, Pius V was beatified in recognition of his important role in reforming the Church.  Beatification, the first step toward sainthood, involves a declaration that the deceased has entered Heaven and is able to intercede on behalf of individuals' prayers.


In 1712, he was canonized, declared a saint.





Enactment of Profound Changes

During Pius V's pontificate, the proposals for change, which had been evolving over the previous three decades, were enacted.  Although stringent, most of the changes introduced at this time were believed to be what was needed to restore the Church's integrity.


Negative Aspects of Pius' Pontificate

Negative aspects of his pontificate include Pius V's enthusiasm for punitive measures such as the Inquisition and his combativeness with Protestants


Pius V shared these and many other negative qualities with his principal benefactor in the Church, Paul IV of the Caraffa family.  Both were harsh ascetics who expelled or isolated the Jews and alienated foreign leaders by insisting that they constantly battle Protestants.


Retrying the Caraffa Case

One of Pius V's questionable actions was retrying the nephews of Paul IV, his principal benefactor in the Church.  Although they had already been executed, reversing the judgment cleared their names and enabled their families to recover property confiscated by the Church.


Reversing the verdict was unpopular both at home and abroad, and it is hard to see why the pope re-opened the cases in view of the fact that the Caraffa nephews had committed crimes so heinous that their own uncle had banished them.





Commissions outside Rome

Pius V commissioned several ecclesiastic projects outside Rome.


Santa Maria degli Angeli, Assisi. At Assisi, Pius commissioned a church that enshrines and commemorates rooms that St. Francis had occupied at the end of his life.


Santa Croce, Bosco Marengo. The pope built a Dominican monastery in Bosco Marengo, the town near Alessandria where he had been born.  For the church, he commissioned Vasari to paint a double-sided altarpiece illustrating the Adoration of the Magi.  Although Pius V commissioned a tomb for himself intended to be placed in the monastery, he was instead buried in Santa Maria Maggiore in Rome.


Commissions in Rome

In addition to continuing many of the repairs and improvements in Rome begun by his predecessor, Pius V commissioned a tomb for him and a new facility for the Inquisition.


Tomb of Paul IV, Santa Maria sopra Minerva. Pius commissioned an elaborate tomb for Paul IV, whose original tomb at St. Peter's was small and hidden away in the hopes that angry mobs would not have been tempted to defile it.  Pius V also gave S. Maria sopra Minerva titular status, making it a pilgrimage church.  


Palace of the Inquisition. Pius commissioned the rebuilding of the headquarters of the Inquisition, which had been built by Paul IV and burned by angry mobs after he died.


Commissions at the Vatican

Pius commissioned several projects at the Vatican.  At the time of his election, Pirro Ligorio had completed several projects at the Belvedere Court and St. Peters.


Firing Ligorio and Appointing Vignola. According to Giorgio Vasari, Pius V relieved Pirro Ligorio as chief architect at St. Peter's and other Vatican projects because he intended to alter Michelangelo's design.  Although some architectural historians believe that he made the windows of the attic story of St. Peter's more decorative, its current state is generally assumed to reflect Michelangelo's final design, which is believed to have been represented by a couple drawings, including Dupérac's elevation, which was published in 1569.  In Ligorio's place, Pius V appointed Giacomo Vignola in 1567 as chief architect of St. Peter's.  (In the same period, Vignola also began designing Il Gesù for Alessandro Farnese).  


Continuing the Decoration of the Sala Regia.  Pius commissioned Vasari to complete the fresco decoration of the Sala Regia and include scenes of the Battle of Lepanto, a decisive victory over the Turks in 1571.  It was won by an alliance organized by the pope, and consequently, its subject continued the theme of papal supremacy established by the room's completed paintings.  These paintings were begun in 1572 and finished under Pius V' successor.


Building Chapels in Torre Borgia. Pius commissioned the construction of several chapels in the Borgia tower.  They were used for daily mass for the pope and his staff.  His personal chapel was decorated by colored marble, gilded stucco, and frescoes by Vasari illustrating scenes of the life of St. Peter Martyr, to whom the chapel was dedicated. 


Strengthening Fortifications at Borgo. Pius commissioned the strengthening of the fortifications of the Borgo, the area between the entrance to the Vatican and the Castel Sant'Angelo.


Removal of Worldly Art and Architecture

Pius V found nudity offensive and inappropriate for use in religious or public settings.


Removing Ligorio's Theater. Because Pius considered worldly entertainments to be out of place at the Vatican, in 1569 he removed the seating from the theater that Pirro Ligorio built for Pius IV at the south end of the Belvedere Court.  (The rest of the theater was removed in 1755).  


Covering Giambologna's statue of Neptune, Bologna. Pius V ordered that Giambologna's bronze statue of Neptune, which is the main figure of the fountain in Bologna, be covered.


Attempting to give away ancient statues. It was believed in Rome that Pius V wanted to donate the ancient statues kept in the Belvedere courtyard to the city of Rome, moving them to the Campidoglio.  General dismay and outrage prevented the move from taking place.


Giving away ancient statues. Pius used ancient sculpture from Church holdings such as Julius III's Villa Giulia and the Casino of Pius IV as gifts to cardinals while others were acquired by allies such as Holy Roman Emperor Maximilian II and Francesco de' Medici in Florence.













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