Pope Gregory XIV

Pope Gregory XIV (Latin: Gregorius XIV; 11 February 1535 – 16 October 1591), born Niccolò Sfondrato[1] or Sfondrati,[2] was Pope from 5 December 1590 to his death in 1591.


Gregory XIV
Bishop of Rome
Papacy began5 December 1590
Papacy ended16 October 1591
PredecessorUrban VII
SuccessorInnocent IX
Consecration13 March 1564
by St. Charles Borromeo
Created cardinal12 December 1583
by Gregory XIII
Personal details
Birth nameNiccolò Sfondrato
Born11 February 1535
Somma Lombardo, Duchy of Milan
Died16 October 1591 (aged 56)
Rome, Papal State
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  • Abbot of Civate (1551–1560)
  • Bishop of Cremona (1560–1590)
  • Cardinal-Priest of Santa Cecilia in Trastevere (1585–1590)
Coat of armsGregory XIV's coat of arms
Other popes named Gregory

Early career

Niccolò Sfondrati was born at Somma Lombardo, then part of the Duchy of Milan, in the highest stratum of Milanese society. His mother, of the house of Visconti, died in childbirth. His father Francesco Sfondrati, a senator of the ancient comune of Milan, was created Cardinal-Priest by Pope Paul III in 1544.[3]

In his youth he was known for his modest lifestyle and stringent piety. He studied law at Perugia and Padua, was ordained a priest and swiftly appointed Bishop of Cremona, in 1560, in time to participate in the sessions of the Council of Trent from 1561 to 1563. Pope Gregory XIII made him a Cardinal-Priest of Santa Cecilia in Trastevere on 12 December 1583. Sfondrati was a close follower of Carlo Cardinal Borromeo, and when the cardinal died, he celebrated the Requiem Mass for Borromeo on 7 November 1584.[4] Sfondrati was an intimate friend and a great admirer of Philip Neri, an Italian priest who died in 1595 and was canonised in 1622.

Papal election

After the death of Pope Urban VII on 27 September 1590, the Spanish ambassador Olivares presented the conclave a list of the seven cardinals who would be acceptable to his master Philip II of Spain. On 5 December 1590, after two months of deadlock, Sfondrati, one of Philip II's seven candidates but who had not aspired to the office, was elected pope. Alessandro Cardinal Montalto came to Sfondrati's cell to inform him that the Sacred College had agreed on his election and found him kneeling in prayer before a crucifix.[5]

On the day after he was elected Pope, Gregory XIV burst into tears and said to the cardinals: "God forgive you! What have you done?"[5] In his bull of 21 March 1591, Cogit nos, he forbade under pain of excommunication all betting concerning the election of a Pope, the duration of a pontificate, or the creation of new cardinals.


Papal styles of
Pope Gregory XIV
C o a Gregorio XIV
Reference styleHis Holiness
Spoken styleYour Holiness
Religious styleHoly Father
Posthumous styleNone

Gregory XIV's brief pontificate was marked by vigorous intervention in favour of the Catholic party in the French Wars of Religion. Instigated by the king of Spain and the duke of Mayenne, he excommunicated Henry IV of France on 1 March 1591, reiterating the 1585 declaration of Pope Sixtus V that as a heretic (Protestant) Henry of Navarre was ineligible to succeed to the throne of Catholic France and ordered the clergy, nobles, judicial functionaries, and the Third Estate of France to renounce him.[5]

Gregory XIV levied an army for the invasion of France, and dispatched his nephew Ercole Sfondrati to France at its head. He also sent a monthly subsidy of 15,000 scudi to Paris to reinforce the Catholic League. By coming down solidly on the side of Spanish interests, in part because Gregory XIV was elected due to the influence of the Spanish cardinals, the recent papal policy of trying to maintain a balance between Spain and France was abandoned.

Gregory XIV
A medal depicting Gregory XIV.

Gregory XIV created five cardinals, among whom was his nephew Paolo Emilio Sfondrati, his Secretary of State. He attempted to convince Philip Neri, a long-time friend, to accept the post of Cardinal, but Neri refused, saying that there were many more deserving of the honour than him.

In a decree dated 18 April 1591 (Bulla Cum Sicuti), Gregory XIV ordered reparations to be made by Catholics in the Philippines to the natives, who had been forced into slavery by Europeans, and he commanded under pain of excommunication of the owners that all native slaves in the islands be set free.

Also in 1591, Gregory XIV modified the Apostolic Constitution Effraenatam of Pope Sixtus V (1588) so that the penalty for abortion did not apply until the foetus became animated.

The biographers mention that Pope Gregory XIV had a nervous tendency to laughter, which occasionally became irresistible and even manifested itself at his coronation. Gregory XIV, who was in poor health before his election to the papacy, died due to a large gallstone and was succeeded by Innocent IX.

See also


  1. ^ "Wikisource Baynes, T.S.; Smith, W.R., eds. (1880). "Gregory XIV." . Encyclopædia Britannica. 11 (9th ed.). New York: Charles Scribner's Sons.
  2. ^ Francesco Patrizi's Hermetic Philosophy, Cees Leijenhorst, Gnosis and Hermeticism from Antiquity to Modern Times, ed. R. van den Broek, Wouter J. Hanegraaff, (State University of New York Press, 1998), 125.
  3. ^ Terence Scully, The Opera of Bartolomeo Scappi (1570), (University of Toronto Press, 2008), vi.
  4. ^ Miranda, "Cardinals of the Holy Roman Church"
  5. ^ a b c Ott, Michael. "Pope Gregory XIV." The Catholic Encyclopedia Vol. 7. New York: Robert Appleton Company, 1910. 21 December 2018 This article incorporates text from this source, which is in the public domain.


External links

Catholic Church titles
Preceded by
Federico Cesi
Bishop of Cremona
1560 – 1590
Succeeded by
Cesare Speciano
Preceded by
Urban VII
5 December 1590 – 16 October 1591
Succeeded by
Innocent IX
1591 papal conclave

The papal conclave of 1591 (27–29 October) was held after the death of Pope Gregory XIV on 16 October that year, after less than a year as pope. This left the Holy See vacant for the third time in fourteen months. The conclave lasted only three days and elected Pope Innocent IX.

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Pope Gregory

Gregory has been the name of sixteen Roman Catholic Popes and two Antipopes. The Latin name is Gregorius.

Pope Gregory I "the Great" (590–604), after whom the Gregorian chant is named

Pope Gregory II (715–731)

Pope Gregory III (731–741)

Pope Gregory IV (827–844)

Pope Gregory V (996–999)

Pope Gregory VI (1045–1046)

Antipope Gregory VI

Pope Gregory VII (1073–1085), after whom the Gregorian Reform is named

Pope Gregory VIII (1187)

Antipope Gregory VIII

Pope Gregory IX (1227–1241)

Pope Gregory X (1271–1276)

Pope Gregory XI (1370–1378)

Pope Gregory XII (1406–1415)

Pope Gregory XIII (1572–1585), after whom the Gregorian calendar is named

Pope Gregory XIV (1590–1591)

Pope Gregory XV (1621–1623)

Pope Gregory XVI (1831–1846)

Scipione Spina

Scipione Spina (died 6 March, 1639) was a Roman Catholic prelate who served as Bishop of Lecce (1591–1639).

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