Biography of Papa Gregorio XIII (1502-1585)

Father of Italian origin whose original name was Hugo Boncompagni, born in Bologna on January 1, 1502 and died in Rome April 10, 1585. It was Pope from May 13, 1572 until his death nearly thirteen years later. It applied the provisions of the Council of Trent, in particular those relating to the formation of the clergy as the opening of seminars. He/She also published the Corpus Iuris Canonici and reformed the calendar.

Lawyer, legacy and Cardinal

He was the son of the merchant Cristóbal Boncompagni with Ángela Marescalchi. Thus, with media, he/she was able to study law at the University of Bologna. Earned a doctorate in 1530 (was 28) in Canon and Civil law. He/She then taught at the same University for eight years, between 1531 and 1539, taking students to characters such as San Carlos Borromeo, Alejandro Fanesio, Stanislaus Hosius and Reginald Pole (all Cardinals later). On the latter date he/she moved to Rome, requested by Cardinal Parisio, occupying various positions: who and Pontifical abreviador and judge of the Capitalio. In 1545 the Pope Paul III sent him to the Council of Trent as a lawyer.

In 1548 he/she had a natural son, Giacomo (later Castilian Sant'Angello and Venetian and Spanish armies military), but since then gave sample of irreproachable behaviour. Julius III (1550-1555) had several commissions, including that of legacy in Campania (1555). In 1556 Paulo IV included him in the Committee on reform of the Church. On the same day he/she went on a diplomatic mission to France and Flanders (Brussels) together with the cardinal Carlos Caraffa. In 1558 he/she was ordained bishop of Veste, taking part in the last session of the Council of Trent (up to 1563). Finally, the 12 March 1565, Pope Pius IV appointed him Cardinal of St. Sixtus. Pontifical legacy in Spain to investigate the matter of the toledan Archbishop Bartolomé Carranza, earned the appreciation of King Felipe II. Then, in December, 1565, to be elected new Pope Pius V, he/she directed the Secretariat of briefs.

The papacy of Gregory XIII

This Pope, Pius V, happened may 13, 1572, being elected in a conclave fast because of the support of the Spanish King and Cardinal Antonio Granvelle, although it was well received by other European Catholic countries. He/She was seventy years old and took the name of Gregorio XIII as a sign of respect for St. Gregory I the great. Little influenced by his collaborators, although them had very capable (San Carlos Borromeo or Cardinal Gulli, Secretary of State) applied an independent papal policy.

It put intense effort in applying the provisions of the Council of Trent (residence of bishops, end nepotism and abuses in ecclesiastical charges, etc.), through Apostolic visits to the ecclesiastical provinces of Italy or through the sending of new nunciatures to more European countries (to Germany created a special Congregation of Cardinals). He/She served also the thrust of the religious orders recently created, as the society of Jesus, which favored considerably, or Nasturtium, which gave permission to extend outside Italy. In addition, reformed or confirmed the reform of other existing already old, and in 1580 the carmelitas descalzas ( Santa Teresa de Jesus-initiated) or the Trinitarian or Premonstratensians (canonized its founder, St. Norbert, in 1582). It also approved the oratory founded by San Felipe Neri in 1575 and order barnatiba (1579).

With the aim of improving the philosophical and theological formation of the clergy, to the places where it was difficult the creation of seminars as they had the canons of Trento, it created or held Roman collegia, spending significant amounts on it: the Jesuit College (the origin of the Pontifical Gregorian University), the Germanic College (founded by Julio III in 1573, it was assigned later Hungarian school), the English College (1579), the Irish school, or schools (1577) Greek, Armenian and Maronite (1584), these three for Eastern rite priests, and even one for converted Jews and Muslims. It also promoted the missions, since the beginning of the century had revitalized greatly with the discoveries of new lands: Japan and China instructed the Jesuits; of the Philippines to the Augustinians and Franciscans; American missionaries sent by the Spanish Crown. He/She became interested in unity with the Church of the East, but it got no fruits. Other measures that strengthened the Papacy as an institution; It gave more powers to the cardinal Congregation of bishops, a kind of Assembly of various religious issues.

He tried to reorganize, without success, an Alliance against the Turks, who could not form by quarrels between the Christian States and Turkey peace treaties with Venice and Spain. Also failed to roll back the Protestants (Huguenots) in France, despite the support given to Henry III and to those who had suffered a severe blow the night of St. Bartholomew (August 24, 1572; although Gregorio XIII celebrated the victory with a Te Deum, does not seem sure that then had knowledge of the killing, which later failed); or dethrone Elizabeth I of England after two failed attempts of invasion (Thomas Stukeley in 1578 and James Fitzmaurice in 1579), or to consolidate the initial conversion of the Swedish Lutheran King Juan III Vasa. However, in the long run he/she restore Catholicism in Germany and England. More immediate results he/she obtained in his defense in the southern Netherlands (Belgium) and in Poland (where recognized as King Stephen Bathory despite the initial opposition of Iván IV). He/She came to receive an Embassy of Japanese Princes in gratitude to missionaries sent in 1585.

On the other hand, it was a Pope with accused Renaissance traits for his role in the sciences and the arts. After consultation with the Jesuit Christopher Clavius, and fix with accuracy the dates of the Easter celebration, February 24, 1582 (through the Papal Bull Inter gravissimas) reformed the calendar, called in his honor "Gregorian". The previous Julian calendar had accumulated an inaccuracy of ten days (eleven minutes per year), abolished between 4 and 15 October of that year. The new calendar, in which the year was to have 365 days, 5 hours, 49 minutes and 12 seconds, was applied at first only to the Catholic States, because others rejected it by rivalry. However, for its validity, was accepted by the Protestant countries in s. XVIII and the Orthodox in the 20th.

The Martyrologium Romanum was commissioned in his pontificate ('Roman martyrology', directed by Cardinal Baronio César, would replace the other martirologios in use) and was published in 1582 the Corpus iuris canonici (legal collection initiated by Pope Pius IV, in which he/she had worked before becoming Pope). He/She embellished Rome for the Jubilee of 1575, several sources (Piazza Navona, Piazza del Popolo, Piazza of the Pantheon), building a barn into the baths of Diocletian (1575) and the Palace of the Quirinale (1580); He/She opened the Vatican Galleria delle Carte geografiche ('mapping Gallery'). Even in life, was erected him a statue in the Capitol. Died in 1585, he/she was then eighty-three years of age. He/She was buried in the chapel of San Pedro of Gregorian, and later an artistic Baroque tomb was designed for it. The Pope Sixtus Vsucceeded him.

Links on the Internet ; Page with information on the grave of Gregorio XIII (in English).


FLICHE, a. & MARTIN, V. history of the Church. Vol. XIX: "Trento" and vol. XX: "The Catholic restoration". (Valencia, Edicep: 1976).

JEDIN, H. Manual of church history. Vol. 5: "Protestant Reformation and Catholic reformation and Counter-Reformation". (Barcelona, Herder: 1986).