On This Day in History – 1 May – Death of Pope Pius V


Portrait by Bartolomeo Passarotti
(c. 1566, Walters Art Museum in Baltimore)

Event – Death of Pope Pius V

Year – 1572

Location – Vatican City, Italy

After Northern Rising of 1569 against Elizabeth I of England, Pope Pius V issued the Regnans in Excelsis bull in 1570 which excommunicated Elizabeth I, absolved her subjects of their loyalty to her, and encouraged her overthrow. This would provide Catholic Englishmen with the support they needed to act more brazenly against their Protestant Queen in the future, with the Ridolfi Plot in 1571, the Throckmorton Plot in 1583 and the Babington Plot in 1586.

Pope Pius V had been Pope since 1566 and had been born as Antonio Ghislieri in 1504 in the Duchy of Milan in Italy. He played a large role in the Council of Trent which embodied the counter-Reformation and aimed to clamp down on Protestant heresies across Europe. His excommunication of Elizabeth I can be seen in this vein, as Elizabeth was considered to be one of the greatest heretics, the daughter of Anne Boleyn who was believed to have pushed Henry VIII to Break with Rome.

Pope Pius V was canonised in 1712 by Pope Clement XI for his efforts on behalf of the Roman Catholic Church in the face of the Protestant heresies sweeping Europe in the sixteenth century.

Further Reading

  • Richard McBrien – Lives of the Popes (1998)
  • John O’Malley – A History of the Popes: From Peter to the Present (2009)
  • John O’Malley – Trent: What Happened at the Council? (2013)
  • Charles Phillips – An Illustrated History of the Popes (2017)
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