Pope Sixtus V

Sixtus V was the 227th pope and the fifth man to use this name. He ruled for more than five years between 1585 and 1590 and was known as a tough pope. You can find out more about his life and how he helped Rome in the following article.

Early Life

Before becoming pope, Sixtus V was a poor man born in Grottammare. He was given the name Felice Piergentile at birth, but the future pope was also known as Felice Peretti. Though Church records indicate that his family lived near modern Marche, some historians believe that his family adopted their surname after his father lived in a small village of the same name.

As a young man, he joined the Conventual Franciscan Order and worked as an inquisitor in Venice. He would serve as a cardinal priest and a bishop in two churches in Italy before becoming pope.

Papal Election

Pope Gregory XIII was pope for more than a decade before becoming ill and passing away. The cardinals responsible for electing the next pope wanted to find someone strong and healthy.

They hoped that the next pope would lead the Church for years and selected Felice. Though he was in his early 60s, he appeared stronger than some of their other candidates. His papacy began on April 4, 1585.


After choosing the name Sixtus V, the pope began working for the Church. He learned that his predecessor was much stricter and decided to continue with his actions. He called for the execution of both men and women who worked for the Church if they were not celibate and had the heads of robbers and other criminals displayed on pikes across Rome. Sixtus also implemented new taxes to build a surplus in case the Church needed to launch another crusade.

Later Years and Death

During his later years, Sixtus V began speaking out against abortions. He claimed that aborted children could not enter heaven and demand that anyone who aborted would be excommunicated from the Church. The pope spent much of his later years assisting the Counter-Reformation movement and helping others create new buildings in Rome.

On August 24, the pope came down with a high fever that grew worse in the coming days. This fever was a symptom of malaria that he contracted, though historians do not know how he came down with the illness. Just three days after exhibiting his first symptoms, the pope passed away.

Through the work he did as pope, Sixtus raised more than three million in funds that the next pope could use to help the city. Historians today remember him as both a severe and tough pope as well as a successful one.

List of Events In The Life of Pope Sixtus V (Felice Peretti Montalto)

13 Dec 1521Born
153311.0EnteredMember of Order of Friars Minor Conventual
153614.0ProfessedMember of Order of Friars Minor Conventual
154018.0Ordained DeaconDeacon of Order of Friars Minor Conventual
154725.0Ordained PriestPriest of Order of Friars Minor Conventual
156644.0AppointedVicar Apostolic of Order of Friars Minor Conventual
15 Nov 156644.9AppointedBishop of Sant’Agata de’ Goti, Italy
12 Jan 156745.0Ordained BishopBishop of Sant’Agata de’ Goti, Italy
156846.0ResignedVicar Apostolic of Order of Friars Minor Conventual
17 May 157048.4Elevated to Cardinal
9 Jun 157048.4InstalledCardinal-Priest of San Girolamo dei Croati
17 Dec 157150.0AppointedBishop of Fermo, Italy
14 Aug 157755.6ResignedBishop of Fermo, Italy
24 Apr 158563.3ElectedPope (Roma, Italy)
1 May 158563.3InstalledPope (Roma, Italy)
27 Aug 159068.7DiedPope (Roma, Italy)

Quick Facts About Pope Sixtus V

  • Sixtus V was born in the Papal State of Grottammare and given the name Felice Piergentile.
  • His official listed birth date is December 13, 1521.
  • He died on August 27, 1590.
  • Sixtus was 68 when he died of a fever brought on by Malaria.
  • The papacy of Sixtus began on April 4, 1585.
  • His papacy ended when he passed away in 1590.
  • Urban VII became the next pope after his death.

Interesting Facts About Sixtus V

  • Edmund C. Bacon published a book called Design of Cities that showed the architectural changes that Sixtus V made in Rome. His work later appeared in the documentary Rome: Impact of an Idea.
  • Sixtus V helped design and fund the construction of several buildings that still stand today, including Santa Maria Maggiore, which is where he had his chapel. Another building became the private home for him and future popes.
  • He became known as a tough pope because of the stances he took after his election. Sixtus V ended some of the lawlessness in Rome and developed tough penalties for those convicted of corruption.
  • Many historians credit Sixtus V with helping the Counter-Reformation movement in Europe. One of the ways he impacted this movement was through the excommunication of leaders such as Henry IV and Elizabeth I.
  • The coat of arms created for Sixtus V features a lion in the center with a sash draped over its chest. This coat of arms is still on display on structures across Rome.
  • Sixtus V was such a fan of the Old Testament that he wanted to introduce a penalty described in that section of the Bible that called for the execution of anyone convicted of adultery. Though he talked about this measure in public, he could not get enough support to make the idea law.