#225 - Pope St. Pius V
Pope from January 7, 1566 - May 1, 1572
Lived: January 17, 1504 - May 1, 1572
Birth name: Antonio Ghislieri; Dominican
name: Michele Ghislieri
Who was this guy before he was pope?
Michele Ghislieri, a native of Lombardy, was born to a noble family who had fallen on hard times, and thus spent his first 14 years of life as a shepherd. Call it job training for later. Michele soon encountered a pair of Dominicans, who noticed his intelligence and piety and invited him to join the order. He entered the Dominicans at 15, was ordained a priest at 28, then taught theology and philosophy for the next 16 years. The future Pope Paul IV, then Cardinal Caraffa, soon recognized Michele’s zeal and enlisted him in numerous roles, culminating in his appointment as cardinal and Inquisitor General in 1557. Through to his election, Michele fiercely fought heresy and clerical abuses, showing no fear even to targets at the highest levels.
Give me the scoop on Pius V.
Pope St. Pius V was elected on January 7, 1566, taking the name “Pius” to honor his predecessor, Pius IV. The prior pope’s nephew, Charles Borromeo, was especially instrumental in getting the forthright and virtuous new pontiff elected, and it was Charles who helped Pius V complete important works following the Council of Trent. As pope, Pius excommunicated Queen Elizabeth I and favored Mary, Queen of Scots, given the former’s mass persecution of English Catholics in those days. He also worked to combat the growing swath of Protestantism across Germany, France, and the rest of Europe.
Pius V put the kibosh on extravagant spending in his court, instead opting to use the money for feeding and caring for the poor and sick, much of which he did personally. Though he was disliked by Romans for insisting on moral reform, Pius practiced what he preached. He regularly wore a hair shirt beneath his clothes, was often seen barefoot, and spent massive amounts of time before the Blessed Sacrament. Pius V, who died on May 1, 1572, was beatified by Pope Clement X in 1672 and canonized by Clement XI in 1712.
What was he known for?
This is an easy one. Despite a relatively short papacy, Pius V is basically responsible for protecting Western Civilization from utter destruction. No big D. He established the Holy League, an alliance of Catholic states, when the island of Malta defeated the Turkish forces in the Great Siege of Malta (1565). In Maltese history this is known as “The Great Siege” and is still commemorated on August 8th of each year. Pius then commissioned his fleet, whose soldiers included now-famous men like Don Juan and Miguel Cervantes, out to sea to meet the Turks in the 1571
Battle of Lepanto
Meanwhile, Pius had stirred up warriors of a different kind back home: a horde of faithful reciting the Rosary, calling upon help from the Blessed Virgin specifically for victory over the enemy. Here's the thing ...
Though vastly outnumbered, the Holy League prevailed when a 180-degree wind change -- the “Divine Breath,” as it’s been called -- allowed them to overcome and completely demolish the Turkish fleet. Pius, upon hearing of the triumph, attributed it to the intercession of Mary and declared the day, October 7, the Feast of Our Lady of Victory. The Turks, who were fully intent on conquering Rome, never recovered, and Christendom was saved. Slow clap.
"[The Virgin Mary] by her seed has crushed the head of the twisted serpent, and has alone destroyed all heresies, and by the blessed fruit of her womb has saved a world condemned by the fall of our first parent. From her, without human hand, was that stone cut, which, struck by wood, poured forth the abundantly flowing waters of graces."
Pope St. Pius V
It’s a common misconception that Pope St. Pius V began the custom of popes sporting a white cassock. With Pius having been a Dominican, the story goes that he opted to continue wearing his white habit even as pope, and that his successors simply followed suit. However, the custom in reality had been in place for nearly 300 years before Pius ever graced the Chair of Peter. A manual (
) published in 1274 by Blessed Pope Gregory X marked the first explicit mention of the pope’s white cassock, and the rest is history.
Coming tomorrow...Pope Gregory XIII
SOURCES (and further reading)
John, E. (1964). The Popes: A concise biographical history. New York: Hawthorn Books.
Pope St. Pius V -
Pope Pius V -
St. Pius V, Pope -
The Banners of Lepanto -
The Battle of Lepanto -
The Origin and Symbolism of the Pope’s Attire -
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on Thursday, November 1, 2018 at 2:00AM