Pope Pius VIII

pope pius viiiPope Pius VIII was the 253rd man elected to lead the Catholic Church and the eighth man to take the papal name of Pius. This article will discuss his life and summarize his papal dealings, while also providing several more personable tidbits about the man in order to keep him distinct from the Church’s many popes.

Early Life and Education.

The man who would become Pope Pius VIII began life as Francesco Castiglioni. Francesco was the third of Count Castiglioni and Sanza Ghislieri’s eight children. He enrolled into the Society of Jesus’ Collegio Campana, then continued his education at the University of Bologna. It was in 1785, at the latter institution, that Francesco earned his doctorate in Canon and Civil Law. He was later ordained as a priest on December 17th of the same year.

Career with the Church.

Francesco served as Vicar General of Anagni from 1788 to 1790, of Fanc from 1790 to 1797 and Ascoli Piceno from 1797 until 1800.

“Bishop Castiglioni.”

Castiglioni was made Bishop of Montalto on August 11th, 1800, receiving his consecration from Cardinal Pamphili six days later in Rome’s Church of Santi Domenico e Sisto. During his time as bishop, he refused to swear fealty to neither Emperor Napoleon nor the Kingdom of Italy. This earned him an arrest in 1808 and an escorted trip through Milan, Pavia, Mantua, Turin and then back to Milan.

Upon Napoleon’s defeat, Castiglioni was free to return to his diocese in 1814. Two years later, in 1816, Pope Pius VII would commend him for remaining loyal and elevated Castiglioni to Cardinal-Priest of Santa Maria. Castiglioni would be appointed to several notable offices after becoming a cardinal, eventually becoming Frascait’s Cardinal-Bishop. When the Papal Conclave of 1823 convened, Castiglioni was deemed to be a strong candidate for the papacy; Pius VII had affectionately refered to the man as “Pius VIII.” The two main candidates for the papal crown were Cardinal Castiglioni and Cardinal della Genga; della Genga won more votes and was elected to the papacy, taking the name Pope Leo XII.


After Leo XII‘s death, Castiglioni won the subsequent conclave and took the name of Pius in homage to Pius VII’s nickname for him.

Papal Legacy.

  • “Traditi humilitati” is an encyclical he wrote that condemned the practice of religious pluralism, a philosophy that placed the importance of Catholicism on the same level as any other faith.
  • He was very critical of new translations of the Bible, seeing them as an opportunity for publishers to spin the book’s messaging to suit their own agendas. He was annoyed that the book would be freely handed to the illiterate and uneducated, often with mature illustrations inserted along the margins that diluted the notion of being a guide to salvation.
  • He was critical of the Freemasons.
  • While he was fine with intermarriage between German Catholics and Protestants, he did not extend the same opinion to staunchly Catholic countries like Ireland and Poland. He went on to mention that a mixed marriage would only be allowed if the marriage’s children be taught in the ways of Catholicism.
  • While he was only pope for two years, he was witness to both the Catholic Emancipation within the United Kingdom and France’s July Revolution. He recognized Louis Philippe I’s sovereignty of France and addresed him the by the customary title, which translates as “His Most Christian Majesty.
  • He elevated six men to the cardinalate, canonized no saints, beautified
    Benincasa da Montepulciano and Chiara Gambacorti, and proclaimed Saint Bernard of Clairvaux as “Doctor of the Church.”
  • He declared that cancelletti, grids, be removed from Roman taverns. His papal predecessor had instituted them to prevent wine from being consumed without accompanying food.
  • He permitted taking moderate interest rates in loans, provided profit was forgone by investing the capital loan.


Quick Facts About Pope Pius VIII.

  • He was born within the Papal States on November 20th, 1761.
  • His personal name was Francesco Saverio Castiglioni.
  • He died within Rome’s Quirinal Palace, at the age of 69, on November 30th, 1830.
  • While he was plagued with ill health for most of his tenure as pope, Pius VIII developed a serious illness in the early portion of November 1830. This illness manifested as fistulas along his neck and knee, as well as pustules along his entie body. While physicians were able to treat this by the middle of November, Pius VIII had another brush with serious illness. This time, he was left struggling to breathe for three whole days. Both the Viaticum and the Extreme Unction were administered to him on November 28th-he died two days thereafter.
  • The Papacy of Pius VIII started on March 31, 1829.
  • Like many popes, and all of the Piuses before and after him, his papacy concluded with his death, on November 30th, 1830.
  • Gregory XVI won the papal conclave’s election to determine Pius VIII’s successor.


Five Interesting Facts About Pope Pius VIII.

  1. While some historians have theorized that he was poisoned, nothing concrete has emerged to support such claims.
  2. His official baptismal name is Francesco Saverio Maria Felice.
  3. He was related to Pope Celestine IV, who governed the Church from October 25th to November 10 in 1241.
  4. His removal of cancelletti from Roman establishments was commemorated in poetry. The poem describes Pius VIII meeting God in Heaven. God asks what he accomplished and while Pius VIII confesses to having done nothing, the angels chime in and say he thankfully abolished the grids.
  5. The main reason people believed that he was murdered was due to the relatively short span of time he was able to rule the Church.