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Popes of the 16th Century, Part 1

History of the Roman Catholic Papacy and Church


Below is a list of all of the popes who reigned during the sixteenth century. The first number is which pope they were. This is followed by their chosen name, the starting and ending dates of their reigns, and finally the number of years they were pope. Follow the links to read short biographies of each pope and learn about what they did, what they believed, and what impact they had on the course of the Roman Catholic Church.


215. Alexander VI: August 11, 1492 - August 18, 1503 (11 years)
Alexander VI's maternal uncle was Callixtus III, who quickly made Rodrigo bishop, cardinal and vice-chancellor of the church. Despite such nepotism, he served five different popes and proved to be a capable administrator. His private life was something else, however, and he had many mistresses.

216. Pius III: September 22, 1503 - October 18, 1503 (27 days)
Pius III was the nephew of Pope Pius II and, as such, was warmly welcomed into the Roman Catholic hierarchy. Unlike many in similar positions, however, he seems to have had a strong sense of personal integrity and, as a result, became a good candidate for the papacy - all sides trusted him.

217. Julius II: November 1, 1503 - February 21, 1513 (9 years)
Pope Julius II was the nephew of Pope Sixtus IV and, because of this family connection, he moved around among a lot of different positions of power and authority within the Roman Catholic Church - eventually holding some eight bishoprics in total and then later serving as papal legate to France.

218. Leo X: March 11, 1513 - December 1, 1521 (8 years)
Pope Leo X will forever be known as the pope of the beginning of Protestant Reformation. It was during his reign that Martin Luther felt forced to react to certain church excesses - in particular, excesses for which Leo himself was responsible.

219. Adrian VI: January 9, 1522 - September 14, 1523 (1 year, 8 months)
Once a Head Inquisitor for the Inquisition, Adrian VI was a reform-minded pope, trying to improve matters within the Church by attacking the various abuses of power one-by-one.

220. Clement VII: November 18, 1523 - September 25, 1534 (10 years, 10 months, 5 days)
A member of the powerful Medici family, Clement VII possessed great political and diplomatic skills - but he lacked the understanding of the age necessary to cope with the political and religious changes he faced.

221. Paul III: October 12, 1534 - November 10, 1549 (15 years)
Paul III was the first pope of the Counter Reformation, inaugurating the Council of Trent on December 13, 1547. Paul was generally reform-minded, but he was also a strong supporter of the Jesuits, an organization which worked diligently to enforce orthodoxy within the Catholic Church.

222. Julius III: February 8, 1550 - March 23, 1555 (5 years)
Early on Julius III was persuaded by emperor Charles V to recall the Council of Trent, which had been suspended in 1548. During its six sessions Protestant theologians attended and conferred with Catholics, but nothing ultimately came of it.

223. Marcellus II: April 9, 1555 - May 1, 1555 (22 days)
Pope Marcellus II has the unfortunate distinction of having had one of the shortest papal reigns in the entire history of the Roman Catholic Church. He is also one of only two to have retained his original name after election.

224. Paul IV: May 23, 1555 - August 18, 1559 (4 years)
Responsible for reorganizing the Inquisition in Italy while archbishop of Naples, many were surprised that such a rigid and uncompromising person would be selected to become pope.

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