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Pope Pius IV (31 March 1499 – 9 December 1565), born Giovanni Angelo Medici, was Pope from 1559 to 1565. He is notable for presiding over the culmination of the Council of Trent.


Giovanni Angelo Medici was born of humble parentage in Milanmarker, unrelated to the Medicis of Florencemarker. His early career connects itself in some measure with the rise of his elder brother, Gian Giacomo Medici, from the position of a mere bravo to that of Marchese di Marignanomarker.

After studying at Bolognamarker and acquiring a reputation as a jurist, he went in 1527 to Rome, and as the favorite of Pope Paul III was rapidly promoted to the governorship of several towns, the archbishopric of Ragusa, the vice-legateship of Bologna, and in April 1549, to the cardinalate. Meanwhile he had three illegitimate children. On the death of Pope Paul IV, he was elected Pope Pius IV on 25 December 1559, and installed on 6 January 1560. His first public acts of importance were to grant a general pardon to the participators in the riot which had closed the previous pontificate, and to bring to trial the nephews of his predecessor, of whom Cardinal Carlo Carafa was strangled to death, and Duke Giovanni Carafa of Paliano, with his nearest connections, beheaded.

A portrait of Pope Pius IV
On 18 January 1562 the Council of Trent, which had been suspended by Pope Julius III, was opened for the third time. Great skill and caution were necessary to effect a settlement of the questions before it, inasmuch as the three principal nations taking part in it, though at issue with regard to their own special demands, were prepared to unite their forces against the demands of Rome. Pius IV, however, aided by Moroni and Carlo Cardinal Borromeo, proved himself equal to the emergency, and by judicious management – and concession – brought the council to a termination satisfactory to the disputants and favourable to the pontifical authority. Its definitions and decrees were confirmed by a papal bull dated 26 January 1564; and, though they were received with certain limitations by Francemarker and Spainmarker, the famous Creed of Pius IV, or Tridentine Creed, became an authoritative expression of the Catholic faith. The more marked manifestations of stringency during his pontificate appear to have been prompted rather than spontaneous, his personal character inclining him to moderation and ease.

Thus, a warning, issued in 1564, summoning Jeanne d'Albret, the Queen of Navarremarker, before the Inquisition on a charge of Calvinism, was withdrawn by him in deference to the indignant protest of Charles IX of France. In the same year he published a bull granting the use of the cup to the laity of Austriamarker and Bohemia. One of his strongest passions appears to have been that of building, which somewhat strained his resources in contributing to the adornment of Rome (including the new Porta Piamarker and Via Pia, named after him, and the northern extension (Addizione) of the rione of Borgomarker), and in carrying on the work of restoration, erection, and fortification in various parts of the ecclesiastical states.
On the other hands, others bemoaned the austere Roman culture during this papacy; Giorgio Vasari in 1567 spoke of a time when the grandeurs of this place reduced by stinginess of living, dullness of dress, and simplicity in so many things; Rome is fallen into much misery, and if it is true that Christ loved poverty and the City wishes to follow in his steps she will quickly become beggarly...".

A conspiracy against Pius IV, headed by Benedetto Accolti, the son of a cardinal, was discovered and crushed in 1565.

Pius IV, like many of his predecessors and successors, was a nepotist. Among the relatives he favoured, the main figure is that of Carlo Borromeo. Under his reign Michelangelo re-built the basilica of Santa Maria degli Angelimarker (in the Diocletian's Baths) and the eponymous Villa Piamarker, now known as Casina Pio IVmarker and headquarters of the Pontifical Academy of Sciencesmarker, was designed by Pirro Ligorio in the Vatican Gardensmarker.

He died on 9 December 1565, and was buried in Santa Maria degli Angeli. His successor was Pius V.

He is generally believed to be the first pope to have died leaving in pectore cardinals unpublished.



  1. Freedberg SJ, p. 429.

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