Pope Paul III

Pope Paul III

Alessandro Farnese, whose regnal name was Paul III, served as the 220th pope. He headed both the Catholic church as well as the Papal States during the Protestant Reformation in the 16th century.

Pope Paul III is known for starting the Counter-Reformation, which in turn, increased conflict across Europe.

His Life Before Becoming A Pope

Alessandro was born on February 29, 1468, in a part of the Papal States known as Canino, Latium. He was the eldest son of Pier Luigi I Farnese. His mother was Giovanna Caetani. The Caetani family can also be connected to the 161st pope (Gelasius II) and produced the 193rd pope (Boniface VIII).

He received his education at the University of Pisa. The future pope also spent time in the court of the Italian Statesman Lorenzo de’ Medici (also referred to as Lorenzo the Magnificent). As an apostolic notary, he joined the administrative institutions during the reign of Pope Alexander VI.

Alessandro became the Cardinal/Deacon of the Roman Forum’s Santi Cosma e Damiano in 1493. Pope Clement VII approved his appointment as Cardinal-Bishop of Ostia, and later, as Dean of the College of Cardinals. It was upon Pope Clement VII’s death in 1534 that Allesandro Farnese was elected pope and took the regnal, or reign, name of Paul III.

List of Events In The Life of Pope Paul III (Alessandro Farnese)

DateAgeEventTitle
29 Feb 1468Born
20 Sep 149325.5Elevated to Cardinal
23 Sep 149325.5InstalledCardinal-Deacon of Santi Cosma e Damiano
28 Apr 150133.1AppointedBishop of Corneto (Tarquinia) e Montefiascone, Italy
29 Nov 150335.7AppointedCardinal-Deacon of Sant’Eustachio
18 Feb 150839.9AppointedAdministrator of Vence, France
Oct 150840.5AppointedArchpriest of the Arcibasilica di San Giovanni in Laterano {Saint John Lateran Basilica}
28 Mar 150941.0AppointedBishop of Parma, Italy
5 Jun 151042.2ResignedAdministrator of Vence, France
25 Sep 151345.5ResignedCardinal-Deacon of Santi Cosma e Damiano
6 Mar 151446.0AppointedAdministrator of Benevento, Italy
28 Jul 151446.4AppointedAdministrator of Saint-Pons-de-Thomières, France
15 Jun 151951.2AppointedCardinal-Bishop of Frascati
26 Jun 151951.3Ordained PriestPriest
2 Jul 151951.3Ordained BishopBishop of Parma, Italy
31 Aug 152254.5ResignedAdministrator of Benevento, Italy
9 Dec 152355.7AppointedCardinal-Bishop of Palestrina
18 Dec 152355.8AppointedCardinal-Bishop of Sabina
20 May 152456.2AppointedCardinal-Bishop of Porto e Santa Rufina
15 Jun 152456.2AppointedCardinal-Bishop of Ostia (e Velletri)
3 Apr 152557.0AppointedAdministrator of Anagni, Italy
7 Jun 152557.2ResignedAdministrator of Anagni, Italy
24 Jan 153061.9AppointedAdministrator of Bitonto, Italy
17 Apr 153264.1AppointedAdministrator of Sovana (Soana), Italy
26 Apr 153264.1ResignedAdministrator of Sovana (Soana), Italy
17 May 153264.2ResignedAdministrator of Bitonto, Italy
13 Oct 153466.6ElectedPope (Roma, Italy)
3 Nov 153466.6InstalledPope (Roma, Italy)
10 Nov 154981.6DiedPope (Roma, Italy)

Quick Facts About Pope Paul III

Born: February 29, 1468
Birth Name: Alessandro Farnese
Died: November 10, 1549

How He Died: Political intrigue weighed heavily on Paul III in his later years. He became heartbroken when his favorite grandson aligned against him and his orders. Pope Paul III developed an intense fever that his frail body could not withstand, and he died at 81-years old.

Papacy Began: October 13, 1534
Papacy Ended: November 10, 1549
Successor: Pope Julius III

Leading The Catholic Church During The Protestant Reformation

The Reformation of the 16th century challenged the Catholicism both politically and religiously. These disagreements included challenges to papal authority in various situations.

Pope Paul III was the fourth pope to rule during the Protestant Reformation. He was the first to act in response to the movement, and his papacy is known for initiating the Counter-Reformation. This counter-movement began with the Council of Trent (1545) and ended with the conclusion of the European Wars of Religion (1648).

Consilium de Emendanda Ecclesia

Two years after beginning his papacy, Paul III initiated a committee to examine the Reformation in detail and to discuss options for reaffirming the Catholic Church’s leadership role in Christianity. These nine prelates produced the Consilium de Emendanda Ecclesia (“Project for the Reform of the Church”) the following year.

The report outlined cases of abuse of power within the Catholic Church. It also gave potential solutions to these problematic issues. Paul III agreed with the recommendations suggested by the committee but did not implement any of them during his papacy.

Council of Trent

The Council of Trent is the 19th ecumenical council of the Catholic Church. Held in Trento, Italy, the conference was a response to the Protestant Reformation. Three popes oversaw the 25 sessions between December 1545 and December 1563, with Pope Paul III convoking the council.

Symbolizing the Counter-Reformation, it condemned many heresies of Protestant proponents. There were also clarifications of Catholic doctrines and teachings that the Reformation had challenged. Subjects included the canon of scripture, apostolic succession, mass, and the sacraments.

It established the Latin Vulgate as the official translation of the Bible. The Breviary and Missal also received revisions during this time.

The Council of Trent also dealt with some of the abuses of power within the church administration. The sale of indulgences was an issue with Martin Luther and the Protestants, so it became a topic examined by the council. The Council of Trent addressed several other Reformation topics as well.

Various disciplinary actions were also discussed and invoked as a result of these sessions. There was no serious effort made to examine Protestant ideas, and the council gave no concessions to them. The Council of Trent was the last ecumenical council for 305 years.

Excommunicating Henry VIII

Henry VIII ruled England from 1509 until 1547. Pope Clement VII excommunicated him as a result of Henry VIII separating the Church of England from the authority of the Catholic Church in 1533. He disbanded convents and monasteries while making himself the leader of the Church of England.

It was the dismantling of the shrine of St. Thomas Becket in Canterbury in 1538 that led to Pope Paul III acting. In December of 1538, he announced a second (and final) excommunicating of King Henry VIII of England.

Commissioned Works Of Michaelangelo

Paul III began construction of Pallazzo Farnese when he was still a cardinal. Michaelangelo refined the architecture as work continued after Alessandro ascended to the papacy.

Paul also renewed the commission of Michaelangelo to finish the “Last Judgement” in the Sistine Chapel located in the Vatican Palace. Michaelangelo started it under commission from Pope Clement VII in 1536, and he finished in 1541. This fresco is considered one of the most important pieces of artwork finished during the papacy of Pope Paul III.

In 1546, Pope Paul III made the artist supervisor of the building of St. Peter’s Basilica. This famous renaissance-styled church is traditionally known as the burial site for Saint Peter.

Alessandro also commissioned the artist to paint both the “Crucifixion of St. Peter” and the “Conversion of St. Paul.” He also ordered Michaelangelo to move the ancient bronze of Emperor Marcus Aurelius to its current location.

The Society of Jesus

Pope Paul III approved the formation of this religious order in 1540. It is also known as the Jesuit Order (Jesuits). Ignatius of Loyola and six other men swore oaths and took religious vows in 1534. Paul III released a papal bull in 1540 that included the “Formula of the Institute.”

The Jesuits have gone on to work in education and research. The society has a presence in over 112 countries, providing apostolic ministry as well as evangelization throughout the world.

See the full list of Popes