The Franciscan Popes


Nicholas IV (1288-1292)
He held many offices in the Order and succeeded St. Bonaventure as Minister General. He participated at the 2nd Council of Lyon (1274) and had the privilege of announcing the reaching of the wished for accord between the Latin and Greek churches. He succeeded Honorius IV. In the See of St. Peter he confirmed his qualities as a man of piety and zeal. He worked for the agreement with the Greeks, the missions in the Middle and Far East and for the defence of Christian Europe against the Muslims, and for peace between Italian princes and people. He was distinguished also for his patronage of the city of Rome (the apse of Santa Maria Maggiore and that of St. John of Lateran date to his time).

Sixtus IV (1471-1484)
As Francesco della Rovere of Savoy, he was a professor of theology at Pavia, Padua Rome and Florence. He was elected Minister General in 1464. He succeeded Pope Paul II. Far-seeing and zealous in propagating the faith, he supported vigourous actions against the incursions of the Turks. His name is linked mainly however to his splendid patronage. It is to him we owe the Sistine Chapel and the new Apostolic Library, the inauguration of which was immortalized in the splendid fresco of Melozzo da Forli (Vatican art gallery). He embellished and restored many churches in Rome. He celebrated the Holy Year of 1475, by building the Sixtus Bridge for the convenience of the many pilgrims.

Sixtus V (1585-1590)
Born at Grottamare in the Marche region in 1520, Felice Peretti was amongst the strongest personalities of his time and one of the most singular of Popes. A professor of theology and a theologian of the Council of Trent he was called, contrary to all forecasts, to succeed Pope Gregory XIII. He immediately showed exceptional energy in every field of his activity. He restored the State eliminating brigandage he made agreements with Venice making peace between it and Milan, reconciled the Orsini and Colonna families in Rome. He fixed the number of Cardinals at 70, a figure which lasted until the Second Vatican Council and he organized the Curia in 15 Congregations. He gave thought also to the amendment of the Latin version of the Bible (the Vulgate) and the reform of the liturgy. He was responsible for the completion of Michaelangelo’s dome, left unfinished by the artist and which no-one after him had the courage to complete. He built the new Lateran Palace and also that of the Quirinal; he gave the façade of the Vatican buildings and the Library their present day appearance and transferred the Egyptian obelisk to the centre of St. Peter’s Square, placing other obelisks at other important points in Rome. He provided a regulatory plan for the city which was both logical and elegant, especially from Santa Maria Maggiore to the Spanish Steps. He brought water from Palestrina to Rome, which he called Aqua Felix. He accomplished all of this in 5 years. In 1590 in fact he died of malaria which he contracted visiting the Pontine marshes, which he had ordered to be dried up. He now rests in Santa Maria Maggiore, in the Chapel of the Most Holy Sacrament.

Clement XIV (1769-1774)
He entered the Order of the Conventual Friars Minor. A distinguished theologian, writer and Latin poet and collaborator in various papal works, he was made a Cardinal by Clement XIII. Of jovial character and exquisite sensibility and an intimate friend of St. Paul of the Cross (founder of the Passionists), he was elected to the supreme government of the Church during a period of overbearing regalism and at a conclave made difficult by the political intrigues of the European monarchs. A conciliating spirit who had both tact and patience he sought agreements with European princes, including Protestant ones. He worked hard for the building up of Catholic missions in Africa, Asia and America. He favoured both sciences and the arts. His name remains linked to the admirable Pius-Clement Museum. He firmly held out for four years against the called for abolition of the Jesuits, whose members were expelled from many countries. He succumbed finally to intense political pressures and in order to calm many turbulent souls. He died in 1774 and was buried in the Vatican, but later moved in 1802 to the Conventual Basilica of the Twelve Apostles.

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