Urban VII, Pope
URBAN VII, POPE
Pontificate: Sept. 15, 1590, to Sept. 27, 1590; b. Giambattista Castagna, Rome, Aug. 4, 1521. Through his father, Cosimo, he descended from Genoese nobility; from his mother, Costanza, he traced his ancestry through the Roman families of the Ricci and Jacobazzi. After studies in Padua and Bologna he earned a doctorate utriusque juris. In 1551 he accompanied his uncle, Cardinal Girolamo Verallo, as auditor in the papal legation to Henry II, King of France. Two years later, Julius III made
him referendary of the Segnatura di Giustizia and bishop of Rozzano. He became successively governor of Fano (1555) and of Perugia and Umbria (1559). During the third period of the Council of Trent (1562–63) he showed prudent leadership as president of several commissions. In a legation to Madrid, Castagna was in the service of Cardinal Ugo Boncompagni (later Gregory XIII), and remained as papal nuncio to the court of Philip II until 1572. In this capacity he represented the interests of the papacy in the formation of the Holy League against the Turks, which brought victory at Lepanto (1571). His appointment to the nunciature of Venice and then the governorship of Bologna (1577) followed his resignation of the See of Rozzano in 1573. He was again a papal legate at the peace negotiations at Cologne that ended the conflict between Philip II and the Low Countries (1578). Gregory XIII named him consultor of the Holy Office (1580) and created him a cardinal priest with the title of San Marcello al Corso on Dec. 12, 1583. The next year he was legate at Bologna; he held this post until 1590. Sixtus V appointed him inquisitor general of the Holy Office in November 1586.
His reputation for successful administration and Spanish support made him a likely choice of the conclave following the death of Sixtus V on Aug. 27, 1590. His election was accepted with popular acclaim. Urban's pontificate, though lasting for only 12 days, showed promise of an outstanding reign, particularly in the government of the Papal States. He encouraged public works to check unemployment, regulated the finances of the montes pietatis (lending houses), planned agencies for dispensing alms, and put the reform of the Datary into the hands of a commission comprised of Cardinals Gabriele Paleoto, Ippolito Aldobrandini (later Clement VIII), Scipione Lancelotti, and Antonio Facchinetti. He succumbed to malaria prior to his coronation. In his will left his patrimony of 30,000 scudi to the Confraternity of the Annunciation of S. Maria sopra Minerva, Rome, for the endowment of poor girls. In gratitude the Confraternity erected a statue by Ambrogio Bonvicino in their chapel.
Bibliography: l. pastor, The History of the Popes from the Close of the Middle Ages (London-St. Louis 1938–61) 22:313–333. c. eubel et al., Hierarchia Catholica medii (et recentioris) aevi: v. 3: 1503–1600 (2d. ed. Münster 1923) 54, 59. m. r. o'connell, The Counter-Reformation, 1559–1610 (New York 1974). m. a. mullett, The Catholic Reformation (New York 1999).
[e. d. mcshane]