Pope Pius V

gigatos | March 15, 2022


Pope Pius V, born Antonio (in religion Michael) Ghislieri (Bosco Marengo, January 17, 1504 – Rome, May 1, 1572), was the 225th bishop of Rome and pope of the Catholic Church, ruler of the Papal States, in addition to other titles proper to the Roman pontiff, from January 7, 1566 until his death.Dominican theologian and inquisitor, worked for the reform of the Church according to the dictates of the Council of Trent. With St. Charles Borromeo and St. Ignatius of Loyola, he is considered one of the main architects and promoters of the Counter-Reformation. During his pontificate, the new Roman Missal, the Breviary and the Catechism were published, and revisions of the Vulgate and the Corpus Iuris Canonici were undertaken.

Intransigent both in the government of the Papal States and in foreign policy, he based his action on the defense of Catholicism from heresy and on the expansion of the jurisdictional rights of the Church; in an attempt to favor the ascent to the English throne of the Catholic Mary Stuart, he excommunicated Elizabeth I of England.

His figure is linked to the constitution of the Holy League and the victorious Battle of Lepanto (1571). He was beatified in 1672 by Pope Clement X and canonized on May 22, 1712 by Pope Clement XI.

Family and Education

Antonio Ghislieri was born in Bosco (at that time a village belonging to the diocese of Tortona and to the Duchy of Milan) to Paolo and Dominina Augeri. In spite of the humble conditions of his childhood and early youth, he belonged to the firstborn branch of the noble and powerful Bolognese Ghislieri family, exiled from Bologna in the context of the civil discord for the predominance of the city, having come into conflict with the rising lordship of the Bentivoglio. Her great-grandfather was in fact Lippo di Tomaso, a rich banker and notary, who had supported Baldassarre Canetoli in the killing of Annibale I Bentivoglio in 1445. Exiled, Lippo had moved to Bosco with his son Antonio, the homonymous grandfather of the future pontiff.

After his first studies in his native town, Anthony entered the Dominican convent of Voghera at the age of fourteen, taking the name Michele. He then completed his novitiate at the convent of Vigevano, where he made his solemn vows in 1519 and completed his humanistic and theological formation at the convent”s studium. Noted by the superiors for the extraordinary liveliness of mind and for the austerity of life, he was sent to the theological studium of the University of Bologna, where he received a solid preparation of rigidly Thomist mold. After finishing his studies of philosophy and theology in Bologna, he taught as “reader major” in the convent of San Domenico, in whose Renaissance church is preserved his portrait made in the eighteenth century by the Turin painter Maria Clementi, called the Clementine, and a large canvas of the Battle of Lepanto painted in 1626 by the painter Giovanni Crosio from Trino. In 1528 he was ordained priest in Genoa by Cardinal Innocenzo Cybo.

The years of teaching and assignments in the Order

The first years of Friar Michael”s ministry were dedicated to the teaching of theology, of which he was a lector in the Dominican convents of Pavia, Alba and Vigevano. From 1528 to 1544 he also taught Philosophy at the University of Pavia and was for a short time professor of Theology at the University of Bologna.

The teaching activity was accompanied during the thirties by various governmental assignments in the Dominican Order: in Vigevano he was procurator and prior of the convent, then he was prior in Soncino, in Alba and finally again in Vigevano. During these years he often went outside the convents to exercise his pastoral ministry, preach and judge controversies in some provincial chapters. In July 1539 he was temporarily sent to oversee the reconstruction of the Dominican convent on the island of Sant”Erasmo in Venice. In 1542 he was chosen to hold the position of definitor in the general chapter of the province “Utriusque Lombardia” held in Rome. From the same assembly he was elected provincial superior for Lombardy, a position he held for a few months until he entered the Holy Inquisition.

Ecclesiastical career

On October 11, 1542 he was appointed inquisitorial commissioner and vicar for the diocese of Pavia, thus receiving his first assignment in the activity to which he would have dedicated all his energies until his death. The following year, in Parma, he made himself known by pronouncing the public conclusions of the provincial chapter, consisting of thirty-six theses against the Lutheran heresy.

In virtue of his exemplary conduct of life, he was appointed inquisitor in Como (1550) and then, at the behest of Pope Julius III, had the same qualification in Bergamo, where he was charged with conducting an investigation on Bishop Vittore Soranzo, suspected of heresy. On December 5, 1550 Ghislieri”s residence was stormed and the inquisitor was forced to flee to Rome, where he arrived on December 24 and was able to deliver to Cardinal Gian Pietro Carafa the file related to Soranzo. Thanks to the intercession of Cardinal Carafa, Ghislieri was appointed on June 3, 1551 general commissioner of the Roman Inquisition, dealing immediately with the trials against Cardinals Reginald Pole, Giovanni Morone and against the Florentine humanist Pietro Carnesecchi.

The election of Cardinal Gian Pietro Carafa, his protector, in the Conclave of May 1555 marked a turning point in Ghislieri”s cursus honorum. Paul IV appointed him president of the commission in charge of drawing up the Index of Forbidden Books, and on September 4, 1556, appointed him bishop of Sutri and Nepi and inquisitor general in Milan and Lombardy. Fra” Michele received episcopal ordination on September 14 from Cardinal Giovanni Michele Saraceni and the following year he was created cardinal with the title of Santa Maria sopra Minerva, a Dominican church specially elevated to cardinal.

On December 14, 1558, in consistory, Paul IV appointed Cardinal Ghislieri “Grand Inquisitor of the Holy Roman and Universal Inquisition” with unlimited faculties ad vitam. The following year, at the death of the pontiff, Ghislieri participated in his first conclave, joining the party close to the Carafa family. After having supported the candidacy of Cardinal Antonio Carafa, he supported Giovanni Angelo Medici, who was elected with the name of Pius IV. Ghislieri was confirmed in his role of inquisitor, but the differences with the pontiff, who was far from the intransigent line of his predecessor, led him to be appointed bishop of Mondovì on March 17, 1560, where he moved; he took possession of the diocese on June 4, 1561.

Assignment history

Upon the death of Pius IV, who entered the conclave with the support of Cardinal Carlo Borromeo, Antonio Michele Ghislieri was elected on January 7, 1566, crowned on January 17 (his 62nd birthday) by Giulio Della Rovere, cardinal protodeacon, and took possession of the Basilica of San Giovanni in Laterano on the 27th.

He was the third Dominican friar to ascend to the papal throne. Before him had been elected Cardinal Pietro di Tarantasia, who took the name of Innocent V (February-June 1276) and Cardinal Nicola (or Niccolò) di Boccassio, who took the name of Benedict XI (1303-1304). After him a fourth Dominican, Pietro Francesco Orsini, will be elected pope with the name of Benedict XIII (1724-1730).

Relations with Church Institutions

Pius V chose a new seat for the congregation, after the previous one had been destroyed on the death of Paul IV. He held the work of the inquisitors in high esteem and sometimes personally attended the meetings. He reorganized the powers of the cardinal inquisitors in the bull Cum felicis recordationis. In 1571 he instituted the Sacred Congregation of the Index of Forbidden Books, giving it the exclusive task of updating the list of books subject to ecclesiastical censorship, separating it from the competences of the Inquisition. During his pontificate, the trials of the humanists Pietro Carnesecchi and Aonio Paleario took place, both of which ended with death sentences (in 1567 and 1570, respectively). As part of the review of the “Carafa process” was executed the scholar Niccolò Franco (which is attributed among other things a famous pasquinata), hanged in the public square on March 11, 1570).

Religious Orders

With the apostolic letter Lubricum vitae genus of November 17, 1568, the pontiff required the hermit monks gathered in the wake of the priest Filippo Dulcetti in 1517 to enter some already approved order (and these chose the Augustinian Order).

With the Bull Superna dispositione of February 18, 1566, Pius V approved all the privileges, indulgences and graces granted to the Carmelite Order, including the Sabatine Privilege. In 1567, with the brief Superioribus mensibus, the pontiff submitted the Carmelites to the bishops, who were to be assisted in their task by a small group of Dominicans;

In 1566 he promoted the construction of the Dominican convent of Santa Croce and Ognissanti in Bosco Marengo, which in his intentions should have been the center of a newly founded city, as well as his burial place.

With the bull Illa nos cura (June 23, 1568), Pius V imposed on the Chapter of a Province the appointment of a Provincial Superior coming from another Province. Furthermore, in order to safeguard the chapels of the Portiuncula, the Transit and the Rose Garden and other places made sacred by the memory of St. Francis, as well as to welcome the many pilgrims who came from all over the world to visit them, in 1569 he gave orders to build the great Basilica of St. Mary of the Angels in Assisi, completed in 1679;

With the bull Dum indefessae (1571) he consented to the collection of alms for the support of the order;

Pius V confirmed the privileges granted to the “Society of Crusaders for the Protection of the Inquisition” and ordered them to defend the actions of the Inquisition (1570). He established that the Order of Saints Maurice and Lazarus generally maintained the privileges obtained before the pontificate of his predecessor Pius IV; he also confirmed that the election of the Grand Master was to be done by the Knights, subject to papal approval.

Relations with Jews and Waldensians

If Spain, the major Catholic power of the time, had expelled the Jews from its territory, thus giving up converting them, the Holy See followed a different path. In fact, Pius V decided to keep the Jews on Italian territory, aiming at their conversion. The Venetian model was chosen. In the lagoon city the Jews arrived after the Spanish expulsions and were confined on an island. The Roman Jews were confined in the ghetto, located in a specific area of the Sant”Angelo district, from which the Christians were expelled. They were also forced to attend sermons (given by Dominican friars) aimed at their “redemption”. Thus, in the papal project, the hoped-for conversion would come at the end of a long process of attrition.

On January 19, 1567 the pontiff published the bull Cum nos nuper, with which he revoked many of the concessions of Pius IV: he obliged the Jews to sell all their property and real estate purchased during the pontificate of his predecessor.On February 26, 1569 he published the bull Hebraeorum gens, which sanctioned the expulsion of all Jews from the Papal States, with the exception of those who agreed to reside in the ghettos of Rome, Ancona and Avignon. The Jews residing in the centers closest to Rome emigrated to the Roman ghetto, which in a few years became overpopulated.

At the head of the Holy Office, Cardinal Ghislieri, having learned that the Waldensians of Calabria had called Protestant teachers from Geneva, requesting them directly from Calvin, charged the bishop of Lesina Orazio Greco with investigating the Waldensian doctrine and endowed him with inquisitorial powers. The report of Lesina confirmed the seriousness of the facts, so the Waldenses of Guardia Piemontese and San Sisto were subjected to forced measures, more and more stringent, from the obligation to listen to preaching, up to abjuration. Even after abjuring, some continued to profess heresy and refused to wear the yellow habit in which those who had abjured were obliged to dress. A Guardia Piemontese and San Sisto remained a climate of revolt: some fled, while others were imprisoned. The troops of the viceroy of Naples Pedro Afán de Ribera intervened: Gian Luigi Pascale, tried in Rome, was burned at the stake on September 16, 1560, for having seduced the population of Guardia Piemontese to embrace heresy. On February 9, 1561 the Holy Office issued a decree that provided for many limitations to the freedom of the Waldensians, who reacted by rebelling or fleeing. The troops of the viceroy, led by Marino and Ascanio Caracciolo, set fire to the villages, but were attacked by the population of San Sisto in a narrow gorge and had about fifty losses. The Caracciolo, who then entered Guardia Piemontese, condemned 150 Waldensians to death for rebellion, carrying arms and heresy: 86 or 88 people were executed on June 11, 1561. Hundreds more were imprisoned.

Measures on ethics and Christian morals

Other documents of the pontificate

Relations with European Monarchs

The intransigence, inflexibility and zeal that the Pontiff showed in his relations with the powerful people of Europe at the time brought him many adversaries. The new pontiff saw the decisions of the Council of Trent recognized in Italy, Germany, Poland and Portugal; among the Catholic monarchs, only the King of France opposed a denial. Philip II of Spain accepted the Council”s decrees only on condition that they did not conflict with his royal prerogatives.

In 1566 the Pope created a network of informers formed by agents located at all European courts and assassins with the aim of opposing the Protestants by all means. It was called the “Holy Alliance” and is considered the first papal secret service.

The pontiff sent Cardinal Gian Francesco Commendone to Germany as papal legate, trying to prevent Emperor Maximilian II from evading the jurisdiction of the Holy See.

Pius V helped Francis II in the repression of the Huguenots. In 1569 he sent 6,000 men to the leadership of Sforza I Sforza, count of Santa Fiora.Caterina de” Medici, queen consort of Florentine origin, sent a letter to the pontiff (March 28, 1569) in which she feared the risk that the conflict could have degenerated into a civil war. The pontiff listened to her advice and agreed to the peace, which was signed on August 8, 1570 (Peace of Saint-Germain). He then appointed the expert Anton Maria Salviati (former bishop of Saint-Papoul) as nuncio to France and sent his cardinal nephew Michele Bonelli as apostolic legate.

On February 25, 1570, the pope excommunicated Queen Elizabeth I Tudor for heresy, judging her to have forfeited her right to rule (Regnans in Excelsis). With this decision the Holy See severed official relations with the Kingdom of England, which were only resumed in the 20th century. The Pope supported the Catholic Queen of Scots, Mary Stuart.

Countering Ottoman expansionism

In 1571 the Ottomans conquered in succession the two main cities of the island of Cyprus: Nicosia and Famagosta, the latter heroically defended by the Venetian Marcantonio Bragadin who, after surrendering, was skinned alive. Pius V, realizing that the Turkish advance represented a threat to the freedom of Europe, tenaciously undertook to organize a coalition of the main European countries. Thus, the Holy League was formed (1571), which the pontiff placed under the protection of the Mother of God. The Holy League organized the fleet that then defeated the Ottomans in the famous Battle of Lepanto (Gulf of Corinth, October 7, 1571). Two days before the official announcement, the pope would have supernaturally received the news of the victory, communicating it to the cardinals who were in Rome meeting with him, and ordering the bells of the Roman churches to ring out.

The following year, October 7 was celebrated as the first anniversary of the victory of Lepanto. Pius V consecrated the victory obtained “…through the intercession of the august Mother of the Savior, Mary”, naming the day October 7 after “Our Lady of Victory”, later renamed by Pope Gregory XIII in Our Lady of the Rosary. The Venetian Senate had the battle scene painted in the assembly hall with the inscription: Not force, not weapons, not commanders, but the Rosary of Mary has made us victorious!

Government of the Papal State

The most important document regarding the administration of papal territories was the bull Admonet nos (March 29, 1567), which declared the inalienability of the lands belonging to the Church and the prohibition of feuding them. In addition to affirming the rights of the Church, the bull also had the effect of putting an end to the period known as “great nepotism”, i.e. the cession by the pontiff of large jurisdictions to his relatives, a practice that had proved to be a harbinger of squandering.

Relations with other Italian States

On May 23, 1567 Pius V published the bull Prohibitio alienandi et infeudandi civitates et loca Sanctae Romanae Ecclesiae. With it, the pope prohibited illegitimate children from being invested with fiefs of the Church. For some noble families, who administered ecclesiastical fiefs such as the Este family, this measure had decisive effects. When Duke Alfonso II d”Este died without direct descendants in 1597, his successor to the papal throne, Pope Clement VIII, granted the condition of legitimate descendant to his heir Cesare d”Este, refused to invest him, excommunicated him, and gave the papal state control over the city of Ferrara and its domains, implementing the devolution of Ferrara in 1598.

On August 21, 1569 the pontiff granted Cosimo I de” Medici the title of Grand Duke of Tuscany, rewarding him for his zeal in the fight against heresy and for his commitment to the war in France against the Huguenots. This, on the other hand, was not without consequences in relations with the kings of France and Germany: Cosimo I, in fact, was their vassal and the conferral of the title would have had to obtain the prior consent of both. Maximilian II, in fact, delivered a formal protest, to which the pope responded by appointing a special commission chaired by Cardinal Giovanni Gerolamo Morone.

Pius V and culture

Pius V was a rigid opponent of nepotism. To the many relatives who flocked to Rome with the hope of some privilege, Pius V said that a relative of the pope can consider himself sufficiently rich if he does not know poverty. Since the cardinals considered the presence of a nephew of the pope in the College of the Princes of the Church advisable, Pius V allowed himself to give the purple to Michele Bonelli, nephew of one of his sisters and a Dominican himself, as long as he helped him in the management of affairs.

Pius V, exhausted by a serious prostatic hypertrophy of which, for modesty, he did not want to be operated, died on the evening of May 1, 1572, at the age of 68, after having said to the cardinals gathered around his bed: “I recommend the holy Church that I have loved so much! Try to elect me a zealous successor, who seeks only the glory of the Lord, who has no other interests down here but the honor of the Apostolic See and the good of Christendom.” It is often erroneously reported that he was the first Pope to wear white, wanting to wear the Dominican habit even after his election as Supreme Pontiff; in reality, Popes had been wearing the white cassock for centuries and Pope Pius V merely wore the white habit of his Order under his papal robes.

He was buried in the Vatican Basilica. On January 9, 1588 his remains were transferred to the Basilica of Santa Maria Maggiore in Rome.

Pius V remains the only Piedmontese to have been elevated to the throne of Peter in the first two thousand years of Christianity (in the third millennium Pope Francis, who is Piedmontese only by ancestry, ascended the papal throne).

In 1616 Pope Paul V, at the request of the Dominican Order, signed the decree authorizing the ordinary investigation, thus beginning the canonical process of beatification of Pius V. In 1624 Pope Urban VIII agreed to open the process that recognized the reputation of sanctity of the pope and eight miracles, two of which were performed during his lifetime. After the Sacred Congregation of Rites examined and approved the process files, Pius V was beatified by Pope Clement X on May 1, 1672.

In 1695, the Master General of the Order of Preachers, Antonin Cloche, requested the examination of two other miracles: the healings of the paralytic child Margherita Massi and of Isabella Ricci, in danger of death due to a miscarriage. Approved the report of the miracles presented by Cardinal Giovanni Maria Gabrielli in consistory on August 4, 1710, Pius V was canonized in St. Peter”s Basilica on May 22, 1712 by Pope Clement XI together with Andrea Avellino, Felice da Cantalice and Caterina da Bologna.

His liturgical feast was fixed on May 5 and is still celebrated on this date in the Tridentine mass; in 1969, with the reform of the liturgical calendar, the recurrence was degraded to an optional memory and fixed on April 30. Pius V is the only pontiff proclaimed a saint in a period of six centuries, between Celestine V (1313) and Pius X (1954).

Separation of dioceses

Pope Pius V during his pontificate created 21 cardinals during 3 separate consistories.

Pius V proclaimed Ivo of Chartres (1040-1115) a saint on December 18, 1570.

With the bull Mirabilis Deus, on April 11, 1567 he proclaimed Thomas Aquinas a Doctor of the Church, requiring all universities to study the Summa Theologiae and promoting in 1570 the edition of the saint”s opera omnia.

On September 20, 1568, he also declared Basil the Great, Athanasius the Great, John Chrysostom, and Gregory Nazianzen Doctors of the Church.

Episcopal genealogy is:

Apostolic succession is:



  1. Papa Pio V
  2. Pope Pius V
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