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Marcellus II, Pope


Pontificate: April 9, 1555, to May 1, 1555; b. Marcello Cervini, Montepulciano, Tuscany, May 6, 1501. His father, Ricciardo, served as scriptor in the Apostolic Penitentiary in the reign of Innocent VIII and vice-treasurer of the Marches of Ancona under Alexander VI. Marcello studied humanities at Siena, and was called to Rome by Clement VII to continue the work of correcting the calendar, begun by Ricciardo. His interest in the New Learning brought him into familiarity with many of the humanists in the Curia, such as Lampridio, Tebaldeo, Lascari, and Bembo. He also gained the patronage of the powerful Cardinal Alessandro Farnese, who, upon his election as paul iii in 1534, made Marcello tutor of his young nephew, Alessandro Farnese. When Paul III entrusted much of papal affairs, including foreign policy, to Alessandro, Marcello, as his private secretary, was brought into ecclesiastical politics. At the end of August 1539 he received the See of Nicastro in Calabria and in December, the cardinal's hat with the title of Santa Croce in Gerusalemme. The next year he was made administrator of the See of Reggio Emilia. In these offices he was active in promoting reform and took interest in his role of protector of the Servites and the Augustinian hermits, winning praise from the Augustinian general, Girolamo seripando. In 1540 he accompanied Alessandro as papal legate a latere on legations to Francis I, King of France, at Amiens and to the Emperor Charles V at Ghent, in an effort to interest these monarchs in a general council. The next year he was with Paul III in the meeting with Charles at Lucca, and in 1543 was appointed papal legate to the imperial court. On Feb. 6, 1545, in a general consistory he was chosen to share the presidency of the Council of trent with cardinals Giovanni Maria Ciocchi del Monte (afterward julius iii, 155055) and Reginald pole. Until the prorogation of the council in 1547, he opposed the emperor in favor of papal policy, thereby earning imperial disfavor. In 1548 he was appointed Vatican librarian and a member of the reform commission of Paul III. He became president of this commission under Julius III, until his outspoken criticism of the pope's nepotism forced him to retire to his See of Gubbio, which he had administered since 1544. In the conclave that started on April 4, 1555, he was not considered a papal prospect because of the contravention of the emperor, but after four days he was elected, consecrated bishop, and crowned. As pope, he was one of the few in the modern period to keep his baptismal name. During his short reign of 22 days, he appointed Angelo Massarelli as secretary to the Council of Trent and entrusted him to gather all the reform documents drawn up by Julius III, his predecessor, seeking to have them quickly published. He attempted a posture of neutrality in politics, initiated police measures for peace in Rome, and befriended the Jesuits, who had frequently been his confessors.

Bibliography: g. b. mannucci, Il conclave di papa Marcello (Siena 1921). h. jedin, History of the Council of Trent, tr. e. graf, (St. Louis 195760) v.1. l. pastor, The History of the Popes from the Close of the Middle Ages (LondonSt. Louis 193861) 14:155. h. lutz, Lexikon für Theologie und Kirche, ed. j. hofer and k. rahner, 10 v. (2d, new ed. Freiburg 195765) 7:34. g. mollat, Dictionnaire de théologie catholique, ed. a. vacant et al., 15 v. (Paris 190350; Tables générales 1951) 9.2:199293. w. hudon, Marcello Cervini and Ecclesiastical Government in Tridentine Italy (De Kalb, Ill. 1992). e.g. gleason, "Who Was the First Counter-Reformation Pope?" Catholic Historical Review (April 1995) 173184.

[e. d. mcshane]

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