Today is the 460th anniversary of the election of Pope Paul IV in 1555. He was the third Pope to reign that year, as Pope Julius III, Supreme Pontiff since 1550, had died on March 23rd and been succeeded by Pope Marcellus II on April 9th, but who himself died on May 1st.
These three Popes were men of contrasts, who embody not a few of the dilemmas and difficulties facing the Papacy before the Council of Trent had produced a definitive plan that could be implemented across the Church.
Of the three Pope Julius III appears to represent all that was worst in terms of neglect and unedifying lifestyle about the Renaissance Papacy, not least in his extraordinary relationship with his adoptive nephew Cardinal Innocenti - Innocenzo Ciocchi Del Monte - who was indeed curiously named in the light of his career.
Pope Julius III
Pope Marcellus II might have been a reforner had he lived. He is one of those quiet popes who slot in between the more famous ( or infamous ) ones in this era and who might have been much more significant had they lived and reigne dlonger. He is principally remembered as the person honoured in the title of the Missa Papae Marcellae.
Pope Marcellus II
His successor, Pope Paul IV, was certainly a reformer in his own eyes, and on his own terms. An uncompromising man with strong and determined views and prejudices who managed to alienate or to be alienated from those who should have been his allies - including King Philip II and Cardinal Pole.
The great nineteenth century German historian Ranke's account of him can be read at Leopold von Ranke | Portrait of Pope Paul IV