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"Paul IV" redirects here. For the Patriarch of Constantinople, see Patriarch Paul IV of Constantinople.
Paul IV
Papacy began 23 May 1555
Papacy ended 18 August 1559
Predecessor Marcellus II
Successor Pius IV
Consecration 18 September 1505
Created Cardinal 22 December 1536
by Paul III
Personal details
Birth name Gian Pietro Carafa
Born (1476-06-28)28 June 1476
Capriglia Irpina, Kingdom of Naples
Died 18 August 1559(1559-08-18) (aged 83)
Rome, Papal States
Other popes named Paul
Papal styles of
Pope Paul IV
C o a Paulo IV.svg
Reference style His Holiness
Spoken style Your Holiness
Religious style Holy Father
Posthumous style None

Pope Paul IV, C.R. (Latin: Paulus IV; 28 June 1476 – 18 August 1559), né Gian Pietro Carafa, was Pope from 23 May 1555 to his death in 1559.[1][2] While serving as papal nuncio in Spain, he developed an anti-Spanish outlook that later coloured his papacy, and resulted in the Papal States suffering a serious military defeat in the Italian War of 1551–59.

Carafa was appointed bishop of Chieti, but resigned in 1524 in order to found with St. Cajetan the Congregation of Clerics Regular (Theatines). Recalled to Rome, and made Archbishop of Naples, he was instrumental in setting up the Roman Inquisition, sent hundreds of convicted heretics to the stake, and was opposed to any dialogue with the emerging Protestant party in Europe. Carafa was elected pope in 1555 through the influence of Cardinal Alessandro Farnese in the face of opposition from Emperor Charles V. His papacy was characterized by strong nationalism in reaction to the influence of Philip II of Spain and the Habsburgs. He compelled the Jews of Rome to wear distinctive clothing and confine themselves to a ghetto. The appointment of Carlo Carafa as Cardinal Nephew damaged the papacy further when Paul was forced to remove him from office following a scandal. He curbed many clerical abuses in Rome but his methods were seen as harsh.

Early life[edit]

Gian Pietro Carafa was born in Capriglia Irpina, near Avellino, into a prominent noble family of Naples.[2] His father Giovanni Antonio Carafa died in West Flanders in 1516 and his mother Vittoria Camponeschi was the daughter of Pietro Lalle Camponeschi, 5th Conte di Montorio, a Neapolitan nobleman, and wife Dona Maria de Noronha, a Portuguese noblewoman of the House of Pereira Senhores dos Lagares de El-Rei and Senhores de Paiva, Baltar e Cabeceiras de Basto.[1]

Church career[edit]


He was mentored by Cardinal Oliviero Carafa, his relative, who resigned the see of Chieti (Latin Theate) in his favour. Under the direction of Pope Leo X, he was ambassador to England and then papal nuncio in Spain, where he conceived a violent detestation of Spanish rule that affected the policies of his later papacy.[1]

However, in 1524, Pope Clement VII allowed Carafa to resign his benefices and join the ascetic and newly founded Congregation of Clerks Regular, popularly called the Theatines, after Carafa's see of Theate. Following the sack of Rome in 1527, the order moved to Venice. But Carafa was recalled to Rome by the reform-minded Pope Paul III (1534–49), to sit on a committee of reform of the papal court, an appointment that forecast an end to a humanist papacy and a revival of scholasticism, for Carafa was a thorough disciple of Thomas Aquinas.[1]


In December 1536 he was made Cardinal-Priest of S. Pancrazio and then Archbishop of Naples.

The Regensburg Colloquy in 1541 failed to achieve any measure of reconciliation between Catholics and Protestants in Europe, but instead saw a number of prominent Italians defect to the Protestant camp. In response, Carafa was able to persuade Pope Paul III to set up a Roman Inquisition, modelled on the Spanish Inquisition with himself as one of the Inquisitors-General. The Papal Bull was promulgated in 1542 and Carafa vowed, "Even if my own father were a heretic, I would gather the wood to burn him".[3]

Election as pope[edit]

He was a surprise choice as pope to succeed Pope Marcellus II (1555); his rigid, severe and unbending character combined with his age and patriotism meant he would have declined the honor. He accepted apparently because Emperor Charles V was opposed to his accession.[1]


As pope his nationalism was a driving force; he used the office to preserve some liberties in the face of fourfold foreign occupation. Initially, he supported the marriage of Mary I of England and Prince Philip of Spain by recognizing Henry VIIIs' creation of the kingdom of Ireland and the couple's claim to France in his bull "Ilius".[4] However, the Habsburgs disliked Paul IV and he allied with France, possibly against the true interests of the Papacy. He used the Holy Office to suppress the Spirituali, a Catholic group that was deemed heretical. He angered people in England by insisting on the restitution of property confiscated during the dissolution, and rejected the claim of Elizabeth I of England to the Crown.[1]

Paul IV strongly affirmed the Catholic dogma of extra ecclesiam nulla salus ("Outside the Church there is no salvation"). The strengthening of the Inquisition continued under Paul IV, and few could consider themselves safe by virtue of position in his drive to reform the Church; even cardinals he disliked could be imprisoned.[5]

In 1555 he issued a canon (papal law), Cum Nimis Absurdum, by which the Roman Ghetto was created. Jews were then forced to live in seclusion in a specified area of the rione Sant'Angelo, locked in at night, and he decreed that Jews should wear a distinctive sign, yellow hats for men, and veils or shawls for women.[6] Jewish ghettos existed in Europe for the next 315 years.

As it is completely absurd and improper in the utmost that the Jews, who through their own fault were condemned by God to eternal servitude, can under the pretext that pious Christians must accept them and sustain their habitation, are so ungrateful to Christians, as, instead of thanks for gracious treatment, they return contumely, and among themselves, instead of the slavery, which they deserve...
— Paul IV, Cum nimis absurdum, 1555

Paul IV was violently opposed to the liberal Giovanni Cardinal Morone whom he strongly suspected of being a hidden Protestant, so much that he had him imprisoned. In order to prevent Morone from succeeding him and imposing what he believed to be his Protestant beliefs on the Church, Pope Paul IV codified the Catholic Law excluding heretics and non-Catholics from receiving or legitimately becoming Pope, in the bull Cum ex apostolatus officio.

Like Pope Paul III, he was an enemy of the Colonna family. His treatment of Giovanna d'Aragona, who had married into that family, drew further negative comment from Venice. This because she had long been a patron of artists and writers.[7]

As was usual with Renaissance Popes, Paul IV sought to advance the fortunes of his family as well as that of the papacy. As Cardinal-nephew, Carlo Carafa became his uncle's chief adviser and the prime mover in their plans to ally with the French to expel the Spanish from Italy. Carlo's older brother Giovanni was made commander of the papal forces and Duke of Paliano after the pro-Spanish Colonna were deprived of that town in 1556. Another nephew, Antonio, was given command of the Papal guard and made Marquis of Montebello. Their conduct became notorious in Rome. However at the conclusion of the disastrous war with Philip II of Spain in the Italian War of 1551–59 and after many scandals, in 1559 the Pope publicly disgraced his nephews and banished them from Rome.

During his papacy, censorship reached new heights.[8] Among his first acts as Pope was to cut off Michelangelo's pension, and he ordered the nudes of The Last Judgment in the Sistine Chapel be painted more modestly (a request that Michelangelo ignored) (the beginning of the Vatican's Fig leaf campaign). Paul IV also introduced the Index Librorum Prohibitorum or "Index of Prohibited Books" to Venice, then an independent and prosperous trading state, in order to crack down on the growing threat of Protestantism. Under his authority, all books written by Protestants were banned, together with Italian and German translations of the Latin Bible.


Paul IV's health began to break down in May 1559. He rallied in July, holding public audiences and attending meetings of the Inquisition. But he engaged in fasting, and the heat of the summer wore him down again. He was bedridden, and on August 17 it became clear he would not live. Cardinals and other officials gathered at his bedside on August 18, where Paul IV asked them to elect a "righteous and holy" successor and to retain the Inquisition as "the very basis" of the Catholic Church's power. By 2 or 3 PM, he was close to death, and died at 5 PM.[9]

Crowds of people, angry at tyrannical rule and the actions of the Inquisition, gathered at the Piazza del Campidoglio and began rioting even before Paul IV died.[10] His statue, erected before the Campidoglio just months before, had a yellow hat placed on it (similar to the yellow hat Paul IV had forced Jews to wear in public). After a mock trial, the statue was decapitated.[10] It was then thrown into the Tiber.[11] The crowd broke into the three city jails and freed more than 400 prisoners, then broke into the offices of the Inquisition at the Palazzo dell' Inquisizone near to the Church of San Rocco. They murdered the Inquisitor, Tommaso Scotti, and freed 72 prisoners. They ransacked the palace, and then set it afire (destroying the Inquisition's records).[9] That same day, or the next day (records are unclear), the crowd attacked the Church of Santa Maria sopra Minerva. The intercession of some local nobility dissuaded them from burning it and killing all those within.[12] On the third day of rioting, the crowd removed the Carafa family coat of arms from all churches, monuments, and other buildings in the city.[11]

The crowd dedicated to him the following pasquinata:[13]

Carafa hated by the devil and the sky
is buried here with his rotting corpse,
Erebus has taken the spirit;
he hated peace on earth, our faith he contested.
he ruined the church and the people, men and sky offended;
treacherous friend, suppliant with the army which was fatal to him.
You want to know more? Pope was him and that is enough.

Four or five hours after his death, Paul IV's body was taken to the Cappella Paolina chapel in the Apostolic Palace. It lay in repose, and a choir sang the Office of the Dead on the morning of August 19. Cardinals and many others then paid homage to Paul IV ("kissed the feet of the pope"). The canons of St. Peter's Basilica refused to take his body into the basilica unless they were paid the customary money and gifts. Instead, the canons sang the usual office in the Cappella del Santissimo Sacramento (Chapel of the Blessed Sacrament). Paul IV's body was taken to the Sistine Chapel in the Apostolic Palace at 6 PM.[11]

Paul IV's nephew, Cardinal-nephew Carlo Carafa, arrived in Rome late on August 19. Worried that the rioters might break in and desecrate the pope's corpse, at 10 PM Cardinal Carafa had Pope Paul IV buried without ceremony next to the Cappella del Volto Santo (Chapel of the Holy Face) in St. Peter's. His remains stayed there until October 1566, when his successor as pope, Pius V, had them transferred to Santa Maria sopra Minerva. In the chapel founded by Paul IV's uncle and mentor, Cardinal Oliviero Carafa, a tomb was created by Pirro Ligorio and Paul IV's remains placed therein.[11]

In fiction[edit]

Paul IV's title in the Prophecy of St. Malachy is "Of the Faith of Peter".[14]

As Paul IV, Carafa appears as a character in John Webster's Jacobean revenge drama The White Devil (1612).[15]

In the novel Q by Luther Blissett, while not appearing himself, Gian Pietro Carafa is mentioned repeatedly as the cardinal whose spy and agent provocateur, Qoelet, causes many of the disasters to befall Protestants during the Reformation and the Roman Church's response in the 16th century.[16]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c d e f Wikisource-logo.svg Loughlin, James F. (1913). "Pope Paul IV". Catholic Encyclopedia. New York: Robert Appleton Company. 
  2. ^ a b Public Domain Chisholm, Hugh, ed. (1911). "Pope Paul IV". Encyclopædia Britannica (11th ed.). Cambridge University Press. p. 956. 
  3. ^ Dairmuid MacCulloch, Reformation in Europe, London, 2005
  4. ^ Pope Paul IV. "Ilius per quem Reges regnant". 7 June 1555. (Latin)
  5. ^ Will Durant (1953). The Renaissance. Chapter XXXIX: The Popes and the Council: 1517–1565. 
  6. ^ Coppa, Frank J. (2006). The Papacy, the Jews, and the Holocaust. Washington: Catholic University of America Press. p. 29. ISBN 9780813215952. 
  7. ^ Robin, Larsen and Levin. Encyclopedia of Women in the Renaissance. p. 24. 
  8. ^ Deming 2012, p. 36.
  9. ^ a b Setton, Kenneth M. (1984). The Papacy and the Levant, 1204-1571. Volume IV: The Sixteenth Century. Philadelphia: American Philosophical Society. p. 718. ISBN 0871691140. 
  10. ^ a b Stow, Kenneth (2001). Theater of Acculturation: The Roman Ghetto in the 16th Century. Seattle: University of Washington Press. p. 41. ISBN 0295980257. 
  11. ^ a b c d Setton, Kenneth M. (1984). The Papacy and the Levant, 1204-1571. Volume IV: The Sixteenth Century. Philadelphia: American Philosophical Society. p. 719. ISBN 0871691140. 
  12. ^ Setton, Kenneth M. (1984). The Papacy and the Levant, 1204-1571. Volume IV: The Sixteenth Century. Philadelphia: American Philosophical Society. pp. 718–719. ISBN 0871691140. 
  13. ^ Claudio Rendina, I papi, p. 646
  14. ^ "Prophecies of Future Popes". The Month: An Illustrated Magazine of Literature, Science and Art. June 1899. p. 572. 
  15. ^ Rist, Thomas (2008). Revenge Tragedy and the Drama of Commemoration in Reforming England. Aldershot, England: Ashgate. p. 121. ISBN 9780754661528. 
  16. ^ Garber, Jeremy (Winter 2006). "Reading the Anabaptists: Anabaptist Historiography and Luther Blissett's 'Q'". The Conrad Grebel Review 24 (1). 


External links[edit]

Catholic Church titles
Preceded by
Giovanni Salviati
Cardinal-bishop of Albano
Succeeded by
Ennio Filonardi
Cardinal-bishop of Sabina
Succeeded by
François de Tournon
Preceded by
Philippe de la Chambre
Cardinal-bishop of Frascati
Succeeded by
Jean du Bellay
Preceded by
Giovanni Salviati
Cardinal-bishop of Porto
Preceded by
Giovanni Domenico de Cupi
Cardinal-bishop of Ostia
Preceded by
Marcellus II
23 May 1555 – 18 August 1559
Succeeded by
Pius IV

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