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Posted in History by patriciahysell on September 27, 2014
Pope Urban VII

Pope Urban VII

September 27, 1590: Pope Urban VII dies. He was born Giovanni Battista Castagna in 1521. Although born in Rome, he was of Genoese origin and his father, Cosimo Castagna, was a noble. He became a priest in 1553, receiving his consecration on April 4 of that year. He became a Cardinal on December 12, 1583 with the blessing of Pope Sixtus V. Before the separation of church and state, religious persons often held public office as well. Giovanni had also been the governor of Bologna and the archbishop of Rossano. He served for many years as nuncio (ecclesiastic ambassador) to Spain.

He was chosen as successor to Sixtus with the help of the backing of Spanish factions. He was raised to the papacy on September 15, 1590. Pope Urban VII gave the world the first known public smoking ban. He threatened to excommunicate any person who “took tobacco in the porchway of or inside a church, whether it be by chewing it, smoking it with a pipe or sniffing it in powdered form through the nose”. He died shortly before midnight on this day from malaria. He was 69 years old and became (and has held the record so far) the shortest reigning Pope.

Prior to this, the shortest reign had been Boniface VI’s 16 calendar days in April of 896. There have been nine popes who held the office for less than a month before dying. Celestine IV reigned for 17 days in 1241 and managed to die before his official coronation.  Stephen (March 23-26, 752) died of a stroke three days after his election and before his consecration. He is not considered to be a valid pope but was added to the list during the 15th century as Stephen II and has made it difficult ever after for the name of future popes choosing the name Stephen.

There is no official list of all Popes of the Catholic Church. There is debate over who was an official pope during some of the upheaval caused by Middle Ages popes vying for the Holy See. There is particular issue with legitimate succession in regards to Pope Leo VIII, Benedict V and some mid-11th century contenders. Pius IX was Pope from 1846 to 1878 which covered 31 years, 7 month, and 23 days (11,560 days) making him the longest reigning pope. The second longest reign was John Paul II who held the papacy from 1978 to 2005 which is a span of 26 years, 5 months, and 18 days (9,665 days). There have been ten popes with tenures lasting two decades or more with Pope Urban VIII barely making the cut with 20 years, 11 months, and 24 days (7,664 days). While he was the next Urban pope, he did not rule immediately after the shortest reign, but was elected in 1623.

Teach us to give and not count the cost. – St. Ignatius de Loyola

Charity is certainly greater than any rule. Moreover, all rules must lead to charity. – St. Vincent de Paul

Wherever the bishop shall appear, there let the multitude also be; even as, wherever Jesus Christ is, there is the Catholic Church. – St. Ignatius of Antioch

There are more tears shed over answered prayers than over unanswered prayers. – St. Teresa of Avila

Also on this day: Tonight – In 1954, the Tonight show premiered.
Jesuits – In 1540, the Society of Jesus was formed.
Liberty Ship – In 1941, the SS Patrick Henry launched.
Aquarius – In 1968, Hair opened in London.