Paul IV

Paul IV (1476-1559) was pope from 1555 to 1559. He was one of the most energetic of the reforming popes of the 16th century. Known for his harsh and imperialistic manner, he broke many of the papal ties with the secular elements of the Renaissance.

Giampietro Carafa, who became Paul IV, was born into the Neapolitan aristocracy at Capriglio a Scala on June 28, 1476. In the household of his uncle, Cardinal Oliviero Carafa, he received a superb training in Latin, Greek, and Hebrew. With his learning he combined a simple manner of life and a burning ambition for reform in the Church. Soon after his ordination as priest he was made, in 1505, the bishop of Chieti. In 1518 he became the archbishop of Brindisi. In 1524 he joined Cajetan in founding an apostolic-orientated group of priests known as the Theatines. In 1536 Pope Paul III created him a cardinal and in 1549 archbishop of Naples. On May 23, 1555, he was elected pope and took the name Paul IV.

Paul used his new powers extensively and severely to achieve reform in the Church. He sentenced to the galleys monks whom the police found absent from their monasteries. He drove bishops from Rome back to their sees. In 1559 he issued the first Index of Forbidden Books under the supervision of the Congregation of the Inquisition. Adamant in regard to the purity of the faith, he suspected two excellent cardinals, Giovanni Morone and Reginald Pole, of softness toward heresy, imprisoned Morone, and tried to have Pole return from England. In contrast to his predecessors, he declined to use the major instrument for reform, the Council of Trent, and left it suspended during his pontificate.

Paul marred his religious ambitions by nepotism and nationalism. Blind to the serious defects of his unprincipled nephew, Cardinal Carlo Carafa, he entrusted him with extensive administrative power in ecclesiastical business. Only toward the end of his pontificate did he become aware of his nephew's evil conduct and exile him. As a Neapolitan, he had a deep resentment of the Spanish control of southern Italy. This feeling led him into the ill-advised war with Philip II in November 1556. The war ended with a Spanish victory and the Peace of Cave on Sept. 12, 1557. Paul also had strained relations with the Austrian Hapsburgs, threatening to depose Charles V and refusing to recognize Ferdinand I, partly because of imperial acquiescence to the Religious Peace of Augsburg (1555) and partly because Ferdinand accepted the office of emperor without the Pope's approval.

Although Paul was himself an excellent classicist, he was not a patron of the arts. When he died on Aug. 18, 1559, the Roman populace, which intensely disliked his stern policies, rioted and destroyed his statues and the buildings of the Inquisition.


Further Reading on Paul IV

A good comprehensive study of Paul IV is Ludwig Pastor, History of the Popes, vol. 14, translated by Ralph F. Kerr (1924), which includes a full bibliography and list of sources.