Felice Peretti Montalto (Sixtus V) elected Pope
Pope Sixtus V (13 December, 1520 – 27 August, 1590), born Felice Peretti di Montalto, was Pope from 1585 to 1590.
Felice Peretti was born at Grottammare, in the Papal States, son of Piergentile di Giacomo, nicknamed "Peretto", and Marianna da Frontillo. He took the surname "Peretti" in 1551 and was more generally known as "di Montalto". He was reared in poverty; born in a shanty so ill-thatched that the sun shone through the roof, he later jested that he was "nato di casa illustre" — born of an illustrious house. His father was a gardener and it is said of Felice that, when a boy, he was a swineherd.
According to Andrija Zmajević's chronicle, his father originated from the Bay of Kotor (modern-day Montenegro) and was born in Bjelske Kruševice, a village near Bijela, into the Šišić family, possibly called Slavjan. The theory that he comes from the Svilanović family is unfounded. As a child, he served in a Catholic monastery in Kotor, where he converted from Serbian Orthodoxy to Roman Catholicism and was subsequently taken to Italy by an Italian friar. He settled in Ancona, where he married and had Felice Peretti (Srećko Perić in modern Croat). Not much else is recorded about Peretti's family, but when he eventually became Pope Sixtus V, the church of Saint Jerome in Rome (finished in 1589), was rebuilt to be used specifically for the people who spoke the Illyrian language. He also established a college of eleven Slavonic clerics in his papal bull Sapientiam Sanctorum of 1 August, 1589. This was later transformed into the Pontifical Croatian College of St. Jerome.
At an early age he entered a Franciscan monastery at Montalto and was known as Felice di Montalto. He soon gave evidence of rare ability as a preacher and a dialectician. About 1552 he was noticed by Cardinal Rodolfo Pio da Carpi (1500–64), protector of his order, Cardinal Ghislieri (later Pope Pius V) and Cardinal Caraffa (later Pope Paul IV), and from that time his advancement was assured. He was sent to Venice as inquisitor general, but was so severe and carried matters with such a high hand that he became embroiled in quarrels. The government asked for his recall in 1560.
After a brief term as procurator of his order, he was attached to the Spanish legation headed by Ugo Cardinal Boncampagni (later Pope Gregory XIII) in 1565, which was sent to investigate a charge of heresy levelled against Archbishop Bartolome Carranza of Toledo. The violent dislike he conceived for Boncampagni exerted a marked influence upon his subsequent actions. He hurried back to Rome upon the accession of Pius V (1566–72), who made him apostolic vicar of his order, and, later (1570), cardinal.
During the pontificate of his political enemy Gregory XIII (1572–85) the Cardinal Montalto, as he was generally called, lived in enforced retirement, occupied with the care of his property, the Villa Montalto, erected by Domenico Fontana close to his beloved church on the Esquiline Hill, overlooking the Baths of Diocletian. The first phase (1576–80) was enlarged after Peretti became pope and could clear buildings to open four new streets in 1585–6. The villa contained two residences, the Palazzo Sistino or "di Termini" ("of the Baths") and the casino, called the Palazzetto Montalto e Felice. Displaced Romans were furious. The decision to build the central pontifical railroad station (begun in 1869) in the area of the Villa marked the beginning of its destruction.
Cardinal Montalto's other concern was with his studies, one of the fruits of which was an edition of the works of Ambrose. As pope he personally supervised the printing of an improved edition of Jerome's Vulgate -- said to be "as splendid a translation of the Bible into Latin as the King James version is into English."
Though not neglecting to follow the course of affairs, Sixtus V carefully avoided every occasion of offence. This discretion contributed not a little to his election to the papacy on 24 April, 1585; but the story of his having feigned decrepitude in the conclave, in order to win votes, is a pure invention. One of the things that commended his candidacy to certain Cardinals was his physical vigour, which seemed to promise a long pontificate.
The terrible condition in which Pope Gregory XIII had left the ecclesiastical states called for prompt and stern measures. Against the prevailing lawlessness Sixtus V proceeded with an almost ferocious severity, which only extreme necessity could justify. Thousands of brigands were brought to justice: within a short time the country was again quiet and safe. Next Sixtus V set to work to repair the finances. By the sale of offices, the establishment of new "Monti" and by levying new taxes, he accumulated a vast surplus, which he stored up against certain specified emergencies, such as a crusade or the defence of the Holy See. Sixtus V prided himself upon his hoard, but the method by which it had been amassed was financially unsound: some of the taxes proved ruinous, and the withdrawal of so much money from circulation could not fail to cause distress.
Immense sums, however, were spent upon public works, in carrying through the comprehensive planning that had come to fruition during his retirement, bringing water to the waterless hills in the Acqua Felice, feeding twenty-seven new fountains; laying out new arteries in Rome, which connected the great basilicas, even setting his engineer-architect Domenico Fontana to replan the Colosseum as a silk-spinning factory housing its workers. The Pope set no limit to his plans; and what he achieved in his short pontificate, carried through always at top speed, is almost incredible; the completion of the dome of St. Peter's; the loggia of Sixtus in the Basilica di San Giovanni in Laterano; the chapel of the Praesepe in Santa Maria Maggiore; additions or repairs to the Quirinal, Lateran and Vatican palaces; the erection of four obelisks, including that in St Peter's Square; the opening of six streets; the restoration of the aqueduct of Septimius Severus ("Acqua Felice"); the integration of the Leonine City in Rome as XIV rione (Borgo); besides numerous roads and bridges, he sweetened the city air by financing the Pontine Marshes. Good progress was made with more than 9,500 acres (38 km2) reclaimed and opened to agriculture and manufacture; the project was abandoned upon his death.
But Sixtus V had no appreciation of antiquities, which were employed as raw material to serve his urbanistic and Christianising programs: Trajan's Column and the Column of Marcus Aurelius (at the time misidentified as the Column of Antoninus Pius) were made to serve as pedestals for the statues of SS Peter and Paul; the Minerva of the Capitol was converted into an emblem of Christian Rome; the Septizonium of Septimius Severus was demolished for its building materials.
Born at Grottamare near Montalto, 13 December, 1521; elected 24 April, 1585; crowned 1 May, 1585; died in the Quirinal, 27 August, 1590. He belonged to a Dalmatian family which in the middle of the preceding century had fled to Italy from the Turks who were devastating Illyria and threatened to invade Dalmatia. His father was a gardener and it is said of Felice that, when a boy, he was a swineherd. At the age of nine he came to the Minorite convent at Montalto, where his uncle, Fra Salvatore, was a friar. Here he became a novice at the age of twelve. He was educated at Montalto, Ferrara, and Bologna and was ordained at Siena in 1547. The talented young priest gained a high reputation as a preacher. At Rome, where in 1552 he preached the Lenten sermons in the Church of Santi Apostoli, his successful preaching gained for him the friendship of very influential men, such as Cardinal Carpi, the protector of his order; the Cardinals Caraffa and Ghislieri, both of whom became popes; St. Philip Neri and St. Ignatius. He was successively appointed rector of his convent at Siena in 1550, of San Lorenzo at Naples in 1553, and of the convent of the Frari at Venice in 1556. A year later Pius IV appointed him also counselor to the Inquisition at Venice. His zeal and severity in the capacity of inquisitor displeased the Venetian Government, which demanded and obtained his recall in 1560. Having returned to Rome he was made counsellor to the Holy Office, professor at the Sapienza, and general procurator and vicar Apostolic of his order. In 1565 Pius IV designated him to accompany to Spain Cardinal Buoncompagni (afterwards Gregory XIII), who was to investigate a charge of heresy against Archbishop Carranza of Toledo. From this time dates the antipathy between Peretti and Buoncompagni, which declared itself more openly during the latter's pontificate (1572-85). Upon his return to Rome in 1566 Pius V created him Bishop of Sant' Agata dei Goti in the Kingdom of Naples and later chose him as his confessor. On 17 May, 1570, the same pope created him cardinal-priest with the titular Church of S. Simeone, which he afterwards exchanged for that of S. Girolamo dei Schiavoni. In 1571 he was transferred to the See of Fermo. He was popularly known as the Cardinal di Montalto. During the pontificate of Gregory XIII he withdrew from public affairs, devoting himself to study and to the collection of works of art, as far as his scanty means permitted. During this time he edited the works of St. Ambrose (Rome, 1579-1585) and erected a villa (now Villa Massimi) on the Esquiline.
Gregory XIII died on 10 April 1585, and after a conclave of four days Peretti was elected pope by "adoration" on 24 April, 1585. He took the name Sixtus V in memory of Sixtus IV, who had also been a Minorite. The legend that he entered the conclave on crutches, feigning the infirmities of old age, and upon his election exultantly thrust aside his crutches and appeared full of life and vigour has long been exploded; it may, however, have been invented as a symbol of his forced inactivity during the reign of Gregory XIII and the remarkable energy which he displayed during the five years of his pontificate. He was a born ruler and especially suited to stem the tide of disorder and lawlessness which had broken out towards the end of the reign of Gregory XIII. Having obtained the co-operation of the neighbouring states, he exterminated, often with excessive cruelty, the system of brigandage which had reached immense proportions and terrorized the whole of Italy. The number of bandits in and about Rome at the death of Gregory XIII has been variously estimated at from twelve to twenty-seven thousand, and in little more than two years after the accession of Sixtus V the Papal States had become the most secure country in Europe.
Of almost equal importance with the extermination of the bandits was, in the opinion of Sixtus V, the rearrangement of the papal finances. At his accession the papal exchequer was empty. Acting on his favourite principle that riches as well as severity are necessary for good government, he used every available means to replenish the state treasury. So successful was he in the accumulation of money that, despite his enormous expenditures for public buildings, he had shortly before his death deposited in the Castello di Sant' Angelo three million scudi in gold and one million six hundred thousand in silver. He did not consider that in the long run so much dead capital withdrawn from circulation was certain to impoverish the country and deal the death-blow to commerce and industry. To obtain such vast sums he economized everywhere, except in works of architecture; increased the number of salable public offices; imposed more taxes and extended the monti, or public loans, that had been instituted by Clement VII. Though extremely economical in other ways, Sixtus V spent immense sums in erection of public works. He built the Lateran Palace; completed the Quirinal; restored the Church of Santa Sabina on the Aventine; rebuilt the Church and Hospice of San Girolamo dei Schiavoni; enlarged and improved the Sapienza; founded the hospice for the poor near the Ponte Sisto; built and richly ornamented the Chapel of the Cradle in the Basilica of Santa Maria Maggiore; completed the cupola of St. Peter's; raised the obelisks of the Vatican, of Santa Maria Maggiore, of the Lateran, and of Santa Maria del Popolo; restored the columns of Trajan and of Antoninus Pius, placing the statue of St. Peter on the former and that of St. Paul on the latter; erected the Vatican Library with its adjoining printing-office and that wing of the Vatican Palace which is inhabited by the pope; built many magnificent streets; erected various monasteries; and supplied Rome with water, the "Acqua Felice", which he brought to the city over a distance of twenty miles, partly under ground, partly on elevated aqueducts. At Bologna he founded the Collegio Montalto for fifty students from the March of Ancona.
Far-reaching were the reforms which Sixtus V introduced in the management of ecclesiastical affairs. On 3 Dec., 1586, he issued the Bull "Postquam verus", fixing the number of cardinals at seventy, namely, six cardinal-bishops, fifty cardinal-priests, and fourteen cardinal-deacons. Before his pontificate, ecclesiastical business was generally discharged by the pope in consistory with the cardinals. There were, indeed, a few permanent cardinalitial congregations, but the sphere of their competency was very limited. In his Bull "Immensa aeterni Dei", of 11 February, 1588, he established fifteen permanent congregations, some of which were concerned with spiritual, others with temporal affairs. They were the Congregations: (1) of the Inquisition; (2) of the Segnatura; (3) for the Establishment of Churches; (4) of Rites and Ceremonies; (5) of the Index of Forbidden Books; (6) of the Council of Trent (7); of the Regulars; (8) of the Bishops; (9) of the Vatican Press; (10) of the Annona, for the provisioning of Rome and the provinces; (11) of the Navy; (12) of the Public Welfare; (13) of the Sapienza; (14) of Roads, Bridges, and Waters; (15) of State Consultations. These congregations lessened the work of the pope, without in any way limiting his authority. The final decision belonged to the pope. In the creation of cardinals Sixtus V was, as a rule, guided by their good qualities. The only suspicion of nepotism with which he might be reproached was giving the purple to his fourteen-year-old grand-nephew Alessandro, who, however did honour to the Sacred College and never wielded an undue influence.
In 1588 he issued from the Vatican Press an edition of the Septuagint revised according to a Vatican manuscript His edition of the Vulgate, printed shortly before his death, was withdrawn from circulation on account of its many errors, corrected, and reissued in 1592 (see ROBERT BELLARMINE). Though a friend of the Jesuits, he objected to some of their rules and especially to the title "Society of Jesus". He was on the point of changing these when death overtook him. A statue which had been erected in his honour on the Capitol during his lifetime was torn down by the rabble immediately upon his death.
His family was extremely poor, having come to Italy a few years earlier as refugees from the Turkish invasion of Dalmatia. His father was a gardener, and Felice may have been a swineherd as a boy. Novice at the Minorite convent of Montalto, Italy at age twelve. Educated at Montalto, Ferrara, and Bologna, Italy. Ordained at Siena, Italy in 1547. Noted preacher and apologist. Friend of Saint Philip Neri, Saint Ignatius of Loyola, and of the men who would later become Pope Saint Pius V and Pope Paul IV. Rector of his convent in Siena in 1550. Rector of San Lorenzo in Naples in 1553. Rector at the convent of the Frari at Venice, Italy in 1556. Inquisitor general at Venice in 1557; he was so severe with heretics that in 1560 city officials demanded his recall. Professor at the Sapienza in Rome. Procurator of his order. Papal legate to Spain in 1565, working with the man who would become Pope Gregory XIII, but they did not care for each other. Apostolic vicar of the Franciscans under Pope Saint Pius V. Bishop of Sant' Agata dei Goti, Naples in 1566. Papal confessor. Created cardinal on 17 May 1570. Bishop of Fermo, Italy in 1571. Edited an edition of the works of Saint Ambrose of Milan. Chosen 227th pope in 1585, taking the name Sixtus V.
Immediately embarked on a law and order campaign in the papal states, cracking down on gangs of highway robbers, and making his territory the safest in Europe. Worked to get the Vatican finances back on sound footing; the treasury was empty when he ascended the throne. He not only got the Church back in the black, but spending hugely on public works projects like roads, bridges and rebuilding churches, and creating an large emergency fund. His method, however, was a very poor choice; he taxed so much money out of private hands that it was a drag on the general economy. On 3 December 1586 he restricted the College of Cardinals to seventy, and revised their duties and authority. On 11 February 1588 he established the Congregation of the Inquisition, Congregation the Segnatura, Congregation for the Establishment of Churches, Congregation of Rites and Ceremonies, Congregation of the Index of Forbidden Books, Congregation of the Council of Trent, Congregation of the Regulars, Congregation of the Bishops, Congregation of the Vatican Press, Congregation of the Annona, Congregation of the Navy, Congregation of the Public Welfare, Congregation of the Sapienza, Congregation of Roads, Bridges, and Waters, and the Congregation of State Consultations. These congregations handled most of the day to day business of the Vatican, all under the final authority of the pope. He started a revision of the Vulgate text of the Bible, and was starting to revise the constitution of the Jesuits at the time of his death. He had plans to chase the Turks from Europe and to conquer Egypt for Christianity. He was known as impulsive, stubborn and autocratic in office, and by his death many of his subjects hated him, but he accomplished a huge amount in his time.