Pope Marcellus II

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Marcellus II
Bishop of Rome
222-Marcellus II.jpg
Papacy began9 April 1555
Papacy ended1 May 1555
Predecessor Julius III
Successor Paul IV
Consecration10 April 1555
by  Gian Pietro Carafa
Created cardinal19 December 1539
by Paul III
Personal details
Birth nameMarcello Cervini degli Spannochi
Born6 May 1501
Montefano, Marche, Papal States
Died1 May 1555(1555-05-01) (aged 53)
Rome, Papal States
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Coat of arms C o a Marcello II.svg
Other popes named Marcellus
Papal styles of
Pope Marcellus II
C o a Marcello II.svg
Reference style His Holiness
Spoken styleYour Holiness
Religious styleHoly Father
Posthumous styleNone
Pope Marcellus II PopeMarcellusII.jpg
Pope Marcellus II

Pope Marcellus II (6 May 1501 – 1 May 1555), born Marcello Cervini degli Spannochi, was head of the Catholic Church and ruler of the Papal States from 9 April 1555 [1] until his death 22 days later on 1 May 1555.

Catholic Church Christian church led by the Bishop of Rome

The Catholic Church, also known as the Roman Catholic Church, is the largest Christian church, with approximately 1.3 billion baptised Catholics worldwide as of 2017. As the world's "oldest continuously functioning international institution", it has played a prominent role in the history and development of Western civilisation. The church is headed by the Bishop of Rome, known as the pope. Its central administration, the Holy See, is in the Vatican City, an enclave within the city of Rome in Italy.

Papal States territories in the Appenine Peninsula under the sovereign direct rule of the pope between 752–1870

The Papal States, officially the State of the Church, were a series of territories in the Italian Peninsula under the direct sovereign rule of the Pope, from the 8th century until 1870. They were among the major states of Italy from roughly the 8th century until the Kingdom of Piedmont-Sardinia unified the Italian Peninsula by conquest in a campaign virtually concluded in 1861 and definitively in 1870. At their zenith, the Papal States covered most of the modern Italian regions of Lazio, Marche, Umbria and Romagna, and portions of Emilia. These holdings were considered to be a manifestation of the temporal power of the pope, as opposed to his ecclesiastical primacy.


He succeeded Pope Julius III. Before his accession as pope he had been Cardinal-Priest of Santa Croce in Gerusalemme . He is the most recent pope to choose to retain his birth name as his regnal name upon his accession, as well as only the second and most recent pope to date to take the name "Marcellus" upon being elected. After his death, it would be 423 years before another pope would choose a name with an ordinal number less than IV (John Paul I).

Pope Julius III 16th-century Catholic pope

Pope Julius III, born Giovanni Maria Ciocchi del Monte, was head of the Catholic Church and ruler of the Papal States from 7 February 1550 to his death in 1555.

Santa Croce in Gerusalemme Church in Rome, Italy

The Basilica of the Holy Cross in Jerusalem or Basilica di Santa Croce in Gerusalemme, is a Roman Catholic minor basilica and titular church in rione Esquilino, Rome, Italy. It is one of the Seven Pilgrim Churches of Rome.

Pope John Paul I 263rd Pope of the Catholic Church

Pope John Paul I was head of the Catholic Church and sovereign of the Vatican City from 26 August 1978 to his death 33 days later. He was the first pope to have been born in the 20th century. His reign is among the shortest in papal history, resulting in the most recent year of three popes, the first to occur since 1605. John Paul I remains the most recent Italian-born pope, the last in a succession of such popes that started with Clement VII in 1523.


Early life

A native of Montefano, a small village near Macerata and Loreto [2] he was the son of Ricardo Cervini who was the Apostolic Treasurer in Ancona. [3] The family originated in Tuscany, in the town of Montepulciano, which had once been subject to Siena, but later was under the control of Florence. Marcello had two half-brothers, Alexander and Romulus. [4] One of his sisters, Cinzia Cervini, married Vincenzo Bellarmino, and was the mother of Saint Robert Bellarmino.

Montefano Comune in Marche, Italy

Montefano is a comune (municipality) in the Province of Macerata in the Italian region Marche, located about 25 kilometres (16 mi) southwest of Ancona and about 13 kilometres (8 mi) north of Macerata.

Ancona Comune in Marche, Italy

Ancona is a city and a seaport in the Marche region in central Italy, with a population of around 101,997 as of 2015. Ancona is the capital of the province of Ancona and of the region. The city is located 280 km (170 mi) northeast of Rome, on the Adriatic Sea, between the slopes of the two extremities of the promontory of Monte Conero, Monte Astagno and Monte Guasco.

Marcello was educated locally, and at Siena and Florence, where he became proficient in writing Latin, Greek, and Italian. He also received instruction in jurisprudence, philosophy, and mathematics. [5] His father had an interest in astrology and upon discovering that his son's horoscope presaged high ecclesiastical honours, Riccardo set the young Cervini on a path to the priesthood. [6]


After his period of study at Siena, Cervini traveled to Rome in the company of the Delegation sent by Florence to congratulate the new Pope on his election. His father and Pope Clement VII were personal friends, and Marcello was made Scrittore Apostolico. He was set to work on astronomical and calendar studies, a project which was intended to bring the year back into synchronization with the seasons. In 1527, he fled home after the Sack of Rome, but eventually returned and was taken into the household of Cardinal Alessandro Farnese senior. Cervini was ordained a priest in 1535.

Pope Clement VII pope

Pope Clement VII, born Giulio di Giuliano de' Medici, was head of the Catholic Church and ruler of the Papal States from 19 November 1523 to his death on 25 September 1534. “The most unfortunate of the Popes,” Clement VII’s reign was marked by a rapid succession of political, military, and religious struggles — many long in the making — which had far-reaching consequences for Christianity and world politics.

Sack of Rome (1527)

The Sack of Rome on 6 May 1527 was a military event carried out in Rome by the mutinous troops of Charles V, Holy Roman Emperor. It marked a crucial imperial victory in the conflict between Charles and the League of Cognac (1526–1529)—the alliance of France, Milan, Venice, Florence and the Papacy.

Pope Paul III Pope

Pope Paul III, born Alessandro Farnese, was head of the Catholic Church and ruler of the Papal States from 13 October 1534 to his death in 1549.


In 1534, after Farnese had become pope Pope Paul III, Cervini was appointed a papal secretary (1534–49) and served as a close advisor to the pope's nephew Alessandro Farnese. He was made a papal Protonotarius. [7] He travelled in the suite of the Pope during the papal visit to Nice, where Paul III was promoting a truce between François I and Charles V. He then accompanied the young Cardinal Farnese on a trip to Spain, France and the Spanish Netherlands to help implement the terms of the truce. Paul III later appointed him bishop of Nicastro, Italy in 1539. Cervini was not, however, consecrated bishop until the day he himself was elected pope. While he was still on the embassy to the Netherlands, Paul III created him the Cardinal-Priest of Santa Croce in Gerusalemme on 19 December 1539.

When, almost immediately after, Cardinal Farnese was recalled to Rome, Cervini stayed on as Nuntius. Over the course of next decade Cervini also became the apostolic administrator of the dioceses of Reggio and Gubbio. [3] His house in Rome became a center of Renaissance culture, and he himself corresponded with most of the leading humanists [8]

During the Council of Trent he was elected one of the council's three presidents, [1] along with fellow cardinals Reginald Pole and Giovanni Maria Ciocchi del Monte (the future Pope Julius III). He continued to serve in that role throughout the remainder of Paul III's papacy after which he was replaced to placate the Holy Roman Emperor Charles V (1519–56). He was credited not only with defending orthodoxy and Church discipline, but also the universal claims of the Papacy in spiritual and temporal affairs, and with such vigor that the Emperor was affronted. In 1548 (or 1550) he was granted the supervision of the Vatican Library, with the title of Protettore della Biblioteca Apostolica. [9]

The Apostolic Brief of his appointment, however, came from the new pope, Julius III, on 24 May 1550, and he was named not Vatican Librarian, but Bibliothecarius Sanctae Romanae Ecclesiae because he was the first cardinal to be in charge of the library. [10] During his administration, he employed the services of Marcello and Sirleto, as well as Onuphrio Panvinio (who was especially consulted in matters of Christian archaeology). He added more than 500 codices to the holdings of the Library, including 143 Greek codices, as his own entry book (which still survives as Vaticanus Latinus 3963) testifies. [11]

Coat of Arms of Pope Marcellus II Coat of arms marcellus II.jpg
Coat of Arms of Pope Marcellus II

In the conclave of 1549–50 to elect a successor to Paul III, fifty-one cardinals, including Marcello Cervini, participated at the opening on 3 December 1549. The initial candidates included Cardinals Pole, Sfondrati, Carpi and Ridolfi (who died on the night of 31 January). Pole, the favorite of the Emperor Charles V, came within two votes of being elected in the first scrutinies, but he could not attract any additional votes. Juan Álvarez de Toledo (Bishop of Burgos), another Imperial favorite, was proposed, and he too failed, because of strong opposition from the faction of Cardinal Alessandro Farnese, nephew of the late Pope Paul III and from the French.

On 12 December, five more French voters arrived, and though they could not advance the candidacy of their favorite, Ippolito d' Este, they did have Cardinal Cervini on their list of possible candidates. Farnese and his faction were also positively inclined toward him. Unfortunately, the Imperial faction was not. [12] Worst of all, on 22 December, Cardinal Cervini left the Conclave, suffering from a quartan fever. Finally, on 7 February 1550, the cardinals chose Giovanni Maria Ciocchi del Monte, who took the name Julius III. [13]

Papal election

The first conclave of 1555, following the death of Julius III (1550–55), involved a struggle between French interests in Italy (which had been favored by Julius III) and Imperial interests, which were intent on Church reform through a Church council, but with the Emperor controlling the outcome. [14] On 9 April 1555, on the evening of the fourth day of the papal conclave, Cervini was "adored" as Pope, despite efforts by cardinals loyal to the Emperor Charles V to block his election. [6] Next morning, a formal vote was taken in the Capella Paolina, in which all of the votes cast were for Cardinal Cervini except his own, which he cast for the Dean of the Sacred College of Cardinals, Giampietro Carafa.

The new Pope chose to retain his birth name, the most recent Pope to do so, reigning as Marcellus II. He was both ordained [consecrated] as a bishop and crowned Pope on the next day in a subdued ceremony on account of it falling during the Lenten season. [15]


The tomb of Pope Marcellus II in the grottoes of St. Peter's Basilica in Vatican City Tomb of Marcellus II.jpg
The tomb of Pope Marcellus II in the grottoes of St. Peter's Basilica in Vatican City

Though Marcellus II desired to reform many of the inner workings of the church, his feeble constitution succumbed to the fatigues of the conclave, the exhausting ceremonies connected with his ascension, the anxieties arising from his high office, and overexertion in his performance of the pontifical functions of the Holy Week and Easter. [16] He quickly fell ill.

He was bled, and appeared to begin to recover. In an audience he gave to the Cardinals, who wanted him to sign the Electoral Capitulations from the conclave and to guarantee that he would make no more cardinals than those agreements allowed, he refused to sign, stating that he would show his intent by deeds not words. In his first audience with the Ambassadors of France and Spain, he warned the Ambassadors that their monarchs should keep the peace that had been agreed upon, and that if they did not, not only would they be sent Nuncios and Legates, but that the Pope himself would come and admonish them. He wrote letters to the Emperor, to Queen Mary I of England, and to Cardinal Reginald Pole (in which he confirmed Pole's Legateship in England). [17] When the Spanish Ambassador asked for pardon for having killed a man, the Pope replied that he did not want to start his reign with such auspices as absolution from homicide, and ordered the appropriate tribunals to observe the law.

He did not want his relatives descending on Rome, nor did he want them to be enriched beyond the station of a member of the nobility, and he did not allow his two nephews, Riccardo and Herennius (sons of his half-brother Alexander), who lived in Rome under his care, to have formal visits. He instituted immediate economies in Vatican expenditures. On 28 April, he was able to receive the Duke of Urbino in audience, and on 29 April, the Duke of Ferrara. He also gave audience to four cardinals, Farnese, D'Este, Louis de Guise and Ascanio Sforza, the leaders of the French faction in the recent conclave. That night he had difficulty sleeping. On the morning of the 30th he suffered a stroke (hora XII apoplexi correptus) and slipped into a coma. That night he died, on the 22nd day after his election. [6]


Palestrina's Missa Papae Marcelli (dating from 1565 or before [18] ), one of the glories of polyphonic sacred choral music, is traditionally believed to have been composed in his memory, ca. 1562. [3] Having reigned for just 22 calendar days, Pope Marcellus II ranks sixth on the list of 10 shortest-reigning Popes. His successor was Giampietro Carafa, Dean of the Sacred College of Cardinals, who reigned as Pope Paul IV (1555–59).

See also

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  1. 1 2 Wikisource-logo.svg Chisholm, Hugh, ed. (1911). "Marcellus (popes)". Encyclopædia Britannica . 17 (11th ed.). Cambridge University Press. p. 685.
  2. Lorenzo Cardella, Memorie storiche de' cardinali della Santa Romana Chiesa Tomo Quarto (Roma: Pagliarini 1793) pp. 225.
  3. 1 2 3 Catholic Encyclopedia, Pope Marcellus II (1913)
  4. Onofrio Panvinio, "Marcellus II" in Historia B. Platina de vitis pontificum Romanorum ... ad Paulum II...annotation Onuphrius Panvini ... cui, eiusdem Onuphrius ... Pontificum vitae usque ad Pium V (Coloniae: apud: Maternum Cholinium MDLXIII) [Panvinio, "Life of Marcellus II"], 423.
  5. Cardella, 225: Nella patria, in Siena, in Firenze attese allo studio delle lingue latina, greca, e italiana, e in tutte scriveva con gran facilità, ed eleganza. Non trascurò le scienze più gravi, e nella giurisprudenza, filosofia, e mattematica, fece lieti progressi.
  6. 1 2 3 Valérie Pirie. The Triple Crown: An Account of the Papal Conclaves From the Fifteenth Century to the Present Day. New York: G.P. Putnam's Sons, 1936.
  7. Panvinio, 424.
  8. Cardella, 226: la di lui famiglia piena fosse di uomini dotti, scientifici, e letterati, ed egli mantenesse stretta corrispondenza con Angelo Coluzio, Costantino Lascari, ed altri uomini dotti, ed eruditi di quei tempi.
  9. Isidoro Carini, La Biblioteca Vaticana seconda edizione (Roma 1893), 59–61.
  10. Domenico Zanelli, La Biblioteca Vaticana (Roma 1`857) 28–29.
  11. Zanelli, loc. cit.
  12. Prof. John P. Adams, Modern and Classical Languages and Literatures (2012-11-13). "Sede Vacante of 1549–1550". Csun.edu. Retrieved 2013-06-23.
  13. Onuphrio Panvinio, "Marcellus II" in Historia B. Platinae de vitis pontificum Romanorum ... ad Paulum II...annotationum Onuphrii Panvinii ... cui, eiusdem Onuphrii ... Pontificum vitae usque ad Pium V (Colonia: apud: Maternum Cholinum MDLXVIII), 425: Defuncto Paulo III quum in eius locum isdem Cardinalius Iulius III vocatus, quo cum arctissimae amicitiae nexu coniunctus erat, pontifex factus esset, absens (conclave enim adversa valetudine conflictatus exierat) primum per nuntium ei gratulatus est, mox viribus parumper recuperatis, cum Urbe egredi ad salubriora loca medicorum consilio statuisset, se sellae impositus, ad Pontificem deferri curavit.
  14. Prof. John P. Adams, Modern and Classical Languages and Literatures (2012-11-13). "Sede Vacante of April, 1555". Csun.edu. Retrieved 2013-06-23.
  15. Onuphrio Panvinio, who was present, recorded the event: "Anno Dominicae Nativitatis MDLV, postridie quam PP Marcellus creatus est, videlicet die Mercurii IIII Idus Aprilis [10 April 1555], maioris hebdomadae, instantibus magnis solennibus, Coenae Domini, Veneris Sancti, & Paschatis, ne tot solennitates sine Pontifice (qui sacra omnia faceret) transigerentur, quum prius in aurora eius creatio, more Maiorum, per Archidiaconum S.R.E. Franciscum Pisanum Venetum, Diac. Cardinalem S. Marci, in Palatio facta esset, haud multo post ante aram maximam principis Apostolorum suae coronationis & Romani Pontificatus insignia per eundem Archidiaconum suscepit, data benedictione a Ioanne Bellaio Episcopo Cardinale Portuensi & S. Rufinae." (Onuphrio Panvinio, Epitome Pontificum Romanorum a S. Petro usque ad Paulum IIII. Gestorum (videlicet) electionisque singulorum & Conclavium compendiaria narratio (Venice: Jacob Strada 1557), p. 423.)
  16. Panvinio, "Life of Marcellus II", 430: Quum satis (ut dixi) firmus non esset viribus, & propterea anno superiori diu etiam febre laborasset, corpore quoque tam comitiorum incommodis, quam obeundis publicis muneribus, quae vetere Christiani populi instituto, annuis Dominici Cruciatus [Good Friday] & Resurrectionis [Easter] diebus per Maximum Pontificem fieri consuerunt, fatigato, duodecimo pontificatus die gravius e pituita, & non levi febre decubuit.
  17. Paul Friedmann (editor), Les dépêches de Giovanni Michiel, Ambassadeur de Venise en Angleterre pendent les années 1554–1557 (Venice 1869), p. 36, dispatch of 6 May 1555. This is confirmed by Sir John Masone, the English ambassador in Bruxelles: William B. Turnbull (editor), Calendar of State Papers, Foreign Series, of the Reign of Mary, 1553–1558 (London 1861), p. 164 #348 (26 April 1555).
  18. Catholic Encyclopedia, Giovanni Pierluigi da Palestrina (1913).
Catholic Church titles
Preceded by
Julius III
9 April – 1 May 1555
Succeeded by
Paul IV