12 December 2009

Remarkable Consistory of 1583

Four hundred and twenty six years ago, on this very day, the pope held a consistory to create cardinals. It is doubtful that anyone that day could have foreseen the future events that would make it so remarkable.

The Pope was Gregory XIII and it was the twelth year of his reign. He had not held a consistory to create new cardinals in almost five years. He was less than a month from his 82nd birthday.

That day he named 19 new Cardinals. It was a typical collection of Cardinals for that era: many from Italy, but also some from France, Spain, and elsewhere. Many were Archbishops or Bishops. Three were a mere 21 years of age on that day. The oldest was just 9 years younger than the pope himself.

What makes this consistory so remarkable is four of those named cardinals that day: Giovanni Battista Castagna, Niccolò Sfondrati, Giovanni Antonio Facchinetti de Nuce, and Alessandro Ottaviano de' Medici. They are more commonly known as: Popes Urban VII, Gregory XIV, Innocent IX, and Leo XI, respectively.

No other consistory in at least the last 500 years has yielded four future popes.

Pope Gregory XIII died less than a year and a half after this consistory, but his successor was not one of these four. Instead Pope Sixtus V was elected (he was created a cardinal by Pope Pius V, Gregory's predecessor).

He was followed by Pope Urban VII, the first of the four. But he died less than a fortnight after his election.

Another of the four, Pope Gregory XIV was next. His reign lasted almost a year, quite short, but the longest of the four.

Pope Innocent IX was the next to be elected. He too had a short papacy - his death was just two months and a day after his election.

The next pope was not from our remarkable consistory, instead he was created a cardinal by Pope Gregory's immediate successor. Pope Clement VIII reigned for 13 years.

Upon his passing, the last of our four was elected. Pope Leo XI was elected on 1 April 1605 and died on the 27th of the same month.

And that is the remarkable consistory of 1583. Four future popes were created cardinals that day ... but their combined total time in the papacy was a little less than 15 months. Oddly enough, the pope who called the consistory, Pope Gregory XIII, only lived a bit under 16 more months.
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