Pope Gregory XV

Pope Gregory XV, born Alessandro Ludovisi in 1554 and was the leader of the Catholic Church from 1621 to 1623. He was the 234th pope. Most know him for the bulls he issued, including one that allowed bishops to vote for popes by secret ballot. He also released an order that spoke out against witches and magicians.

He ascended to the papacy in 1621, marking a pivotal period in the Counter-Reformation and the Catholic Church’s efforts to assert its authority and influence across the globe.

His pontificate, though relatively brief, was characterized by significant contributions to the missionary work of the Church, the establishment of the Congregation for the Propagation of the Faith, and the canonization of notable saints such as Ignatius of Loyola and Francis Xavier.

Early Life

The future Pope Gregory XV was the third child born to Camilla Bianchini and Pompeo Ludovisi. His family had money as his father was a count. Known as Alessandro during his early years, he saw the births of three more siblings. The future pope would study with the Society of Jesuits at the Roman College in Rome. Not long after he graduated, he became a papal jurist.

Later Years

Alessandro spent some time traveling around Italy before settling down in Rome. It was here that he held different positions in the Church and where he would work as an auditor for the Roman Rota. Pope Paul V chose Alessandro as the new Archbishop of Rome, which required him to go through a consecration.

While working for Pope Paul V, he traveled to the Duchy of Savoy and worked as a mediator to end a feud between King Phillip III of Spain and the Duke of Savoy. This also brought him to the attention of voting bishops, especially after he became the Cardinal-Priest of Santa Maria.

Papal Election

Following the death of Pope Paul V, Alessandro attended the conclave where bishops voted on the next pope. Though he was in his late 60s and poor health, he willingly accepted the position but announced that he would need help.

After choosing the name Pope Gregory XV, he turned to his nephew Ludovico and made him a cardinal. The pope believed that his nephew had the energy that he would need to handle the daily operations of the Church. Gregory also quickly named his brother as the Captain General and put him in charge of the Church’s military forces.


Pope Gregory XV did little during his short papacy. He supported several other leaders in their actions against the Ottoman Empire and sent them money to support their battles. Gregory issued a papal bull in 1621 that required secret ballots in all future papal elections.

He would also release a second document in which he spoke out against magicians and witches. The pope helped with the canonization of several saints, including Teresa of Avila and Francis Xavier. Towards the end of his papacy, Gregory XV oversaw the beatification of three people and put them on the road to sainthood.


The poor health that he suffered before his papacy continued during his later years. Pope Gregory XV suffered from kidney stones and other medical conditions that caused diarrhea and stomach cramps. After waking in the middle of the night on July 4, he developed a fever and additional symptoms that contributed to his death four days later.

List of Events In The Life of Pope Gregory XV (Alessandro Ludovisi)

9 Jan 1554Born
2 Apr 159743.2AppointedVicegerent of Roma {Rome}, Italy
May 159844.3ResignedVicegerent of Roma {Rome}, Italy
2 Apr 161258.2AppointedArchbishop of Bologna, Italy
1 May 161258.3Ordained BishopArchbishop of Bologna, Italy
19 Sep 161662.6Elevated to Cardinal
3 Dec 161864.9InstalledCardinal-Priest of Santa Maria in Traspontina
9 Feb 162167.0ElectedPope (Roma, Italy)
14 Feb 162167.0InstalledPope (Roma, Italy)
8 Jul 162369.4DiedPope (Roma, Italy)

Quick Facts About Pope Gregory XV

  • Alessandro Ludovisi was born in the Papal States in Bologna.
  • He was born on January 9, 1554.
  • Gregory XV died on July 8, 1623.
  • He died from natural causes brought on by his kidney stones.
  • The papacy of Pope Gregory XV began on February 9, 1621.
  • His papacy ended in July of 1623 when he passed away.
  • The successor to Gregory XV was Pope Urban VIII.

Interesting Facts About Pope Gregory XV

  • The final resting place for the pope was Church of Sant’Ignazio. In honor of his contributions, the Society of Jesuits later added a large monument to his gravesite.
  • Gregory XV was the pope for two years and 149 days.
  • The pope created an order of the Church called the Congregation for the Propagation of Faith, now called the Sacred Congregation for the Propagation of Faith.
  • Though many approved of his papacy, the pope was guilty of nepotism. Of the 11 cardinals he created, two were his family members: his cousin and his nephew.
  • Pope Gregory VX sat for several artists who created busts that let us see what he looked like. Gian Lorenzo Bernini sculpted one bust, which is now in the Art Gallery of Toronto.