1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Sixtus

SIXTUS, the name of five popes.

Sixtus I. (Xystus) was the sixth bishop of Rome (c. 116-125) and took the name on that account. Sixtus II., successor of Stephanus I. as bishop of Rome in 257, suffered martyrdom under Valerian on the 6th of August 258. He restored the relations with the African and Eastern Churches which had been broken off by his predecessor on the question of heretical baptism. Dionysius succeeded him.

Sixtus III. was bishop of Rome from the 31st of July 432 to the 19th of August 440. Before his elevation to the pontificate he had been suspected of favouring the Pelagians, but when he became pope he disappointed their expectations, and repelled their attempts to enter again into communion with the Church. During his pontificate the dispute was settled between Cyril of Alexandria and John of Antioch, who had been at variance since the council of Ephesus, but he himself had some difficulties with Proclus of Constantinople with regard to the vicariate of Thessalonica.  (L. D.*) 

Sixtus IV. (Francesco della Rovere), pope from the 9th of August 1471 to the 12th of August 1484, was born of a poor family near Savona in 1414. He entered the Franciscan order at an early age and studied philosophy and theology at the universities of Padua and Bologna. He speedily acquired a great reputation as an eloquent preacher, and, after filling the offices of procurator at Rome and provincial of Liguria, he was chosen general of his order in 1464. Three years later he was, to his own surprise, made cardinal-priest of St Pietro in Vincoli by Paul II., whom he succeeded as pope. Some writers have maintained that this sudden elevation of the most recent member of the Sacred College was due to bribery in the conclave, whilst the apologists of Sixtus affirm it was due to the friendship of the powerful and upright Cardinal Bessarion, and explain that the pope, having been brought up in a mendicant order, was inexperienced and did not appreciate the liberality of his donations after his election. There is no doubt that the expenditures of his pontificate were prodigal. Sixtus sent Cardinal Caraffa with a fleet against the Turks, but the expedition was unsuccessful. He continued to condemn the Pragmatic Sanction in France, and denounced especially the ordinance of Louis XI. which required (8th of January 1475) the royal placet for the publication of all papal decrees. He likewise continued his predecessor's negotiations with the Tsar Ivan III. for the reunion of the Russian Church with the Roman see and for support against the Turks, but without result. He was visited in 1474 by King Christian of Denmark and Norway, and in the following year (12th of June) he established the university of Copenhagen. Sixtus soon abandoned his universal policy in order to concentrate attention on Italian politics, and the admirable energy which he had shown at first was clouded by the favours which he now heaped upon unworthy relations. Not content with enriching them by gifts and lucrative offices, he made their aggrandizement the principal object of his policy as a secular prince. Sixtus was cognisant of the conspiracy of the Pazzi, plotted (1478) by his nephew, Cardinal Riario, against Lorenzo de' Medici. He entered into a fruitless and inglorious war with Florence, which kept Italy for two years (1478-80) in confusion. He next incited the Venetians to attack Ferrara, and then, after having been delivered by their general, Roberto Malatesta, from a Neapolitan invasion, he turned upon them and eventually assailed them for refusing to desist from the hostilities which he had himself instigated. He relied on the co-operation of Lodovico Sforza, who speedily forsook him; and vexation at having peace forced upon him by the princes and cities of Italy is said to have hastened his death. Several events of his pontificate are noteworthy: he granted many privileges to the mendicant orders, especially to the Franciscans; he endeavoured to suppress abuses in the Spanish Inquisition; he took measures against the Waldenses; he approved (1475) the office of the Immaculate Conception for the 8th of December; in 1478 he formally annulled the decrees of the council of Constance; and he canonized St Bonaventura (14th of April 1482). The most praiseworthy side of his pontificate was his munificence as a founder or restorer of useful institutions, and a patron of letters and art. He established and richly endowed the first foundling hospital, built and repaired numerous churches, constructed the Sistine Chapel and the Sistine Bridge, improved church music and instituted the famous Sistine choir, commissioned paintings on the largest scale, pensioned men of learning, and, above all, immortalized himself as the second founder of the Vatican library. These great works, however, were not accomplished without grievous taxation. Annates were increased and simony flourished. Though himself pious, of blameless morality, hospitable to a fault, and so exempt from avarice, says his secretary Conti, that he could not endure the sight of money, it was Sixtus's misfortune to have had no natural outlet for strong affections except unworthy relatives; and his great vices were nepotism, ambition and extravagance. He died on the 12th of August 1484, and was succeeded by Innocent VIII.

See L. Pastor, History of the Popes, vol. iv., trans, by F. I. Antrobus (London, 1898); M. Creighton, History of the Papacy, vol. iv. (London, 1901); F. Gregorovius, Rome in the Middle Ages, vol. vii., trans. by Mrs G. W. Hamilton (London, 1900-1902); Jacob Burckhardt, Geschichte der Renaissance in Italien (4th ed., 1904); J. A. Symonds, Renaissance in Italy; E. Frantz, Sixtus IV. u. die Republik Florenz (Regensburg, 1880); I. Schlecht, “Sixtus IV. u. die deutschen Drucker in Rom,” in S. Ehses, Festschrift zu elfhundertjahrigen Jubiläum des Campo Santo (Freiburg, 1897); Aus den Annaten-Registern der Papste Eugen IV., Pius II., Paul II. u. Sixtus IV., ed. by K. Hayn (Cologne, 1896).  (C. H. Ha.) 

Sixtus V. (Felice Peretti), pope from 1585 to 1590, was born at Grottamara, in Ancona, on the 13th of December 1521. He was reared in extreme poverty; but the story of his having been a swineherd in his youth appears to be open to question. At an early age he entered a Franciscan monastery. He soon gave evidence of rare ability as a preacher and a dialectician. About 1552 he came under the notice of Cardinal Carpi, protector of his order, Ghislieri (later Pius V.) and Caraffa (later Paul IV.), and from that time his advancement was assured. He was sent to Venice as inquisitor general, but carried matters with a high hand, became embroiled in quarrels, and was forced to leave (1560). After a brief term as procurator of his order, he was attached to the Spanish legation headed by Buoncampagno (later Gregory XIII.) 1565. The violent dislike he conceived for Buoncampagno exerted a marked influence upon his subsequent actions. He hurried back to Rome upon the accession of Pius V., who made him apostolic vicar of his order, and, later (1570), cardinal. During the pontificate of Gregory XIII. he lived in retirement, occupied with the care of his villa and with his studies, one of the fruits of which was an edition of the works of Ambrose; not neglecting, however, to follow the course of affairs, but carefully avoiding every occasion of offence. This discreetness contributed not a little to his election to the papacy on the 24th of April 1585; but the story of his having feigned decrepitude in the Conclave, in order to win votes, is a pure invention. One of the things that commended his candidacy to certain cardinals was his physical vigour, which seemed to promise a long pontificate.

The terrible condition in which Gregory XIII. had left the ecclesiastical states called for prompt and stern measures. Against the prevailing lawlessness Sixtus proceeded with an almost ferocious severity, which only extreme necessity could justify. Thousands of brigands were brought to justice: within a short time the country was again quiet and safe. Sixtus next set to work to repair the finances. By the sale of offices, the establishment of new “Monti” and by levying new taxes, he accumulated a vast surplus, which he stored up against certain specified emergencies, such as a crusade or the defence of the Holy See. Sixtus prided himself upon his hoard, but the method by which it had been amassed was financially unsound: some of the taxes proved ruinous, and the withdrawal of so much money from circulation could not fail to cause distress. Immense sums, however, were spent upon public works. Sixtus set no limit to his plans; and what he achieved in his short pontificate is almost incredible; the completion of the dome of St Peter's; the loggia of Sixtus iri the Lateran; the chapel of the Praesepe in Sta Maria Maggiore; additions or repairs to the Quirinal, Lateran and Vatican palaces; the erection of four obelisks, including that in the piazza of St Peter's; the opening of six streets; the restoration of the aqueduct of Severus (“Acqua Felice”); besides numerous roads and bridges, an attempt to drain the Pontine marshes, and the encouragement of agriculture and manufacture. But Sixtus had no appreciation of antiquity: the columns of Trajan and Antoninus were made to serve as pedestals for the statues of SS Peter and Paul; the Minerva of the Capitol was converted into “Christian Rome”; the Septizonium of Severus was demolished for its building materials.

The administrative system of the church owed much to Sixtus. He limited the College of Cardinals to seventy; and doubled the number of the congregations, and enlarged their functions, assigning to them the principal role in the transaction of business (1588). The Jesuits Sixtus regarded with disfavour and suspicion. He meditated radical changes in their constitution, but death prevented the execution of his purpose. In 1589 was begun a revision of the Vulgate, the so-called Editio Sixtina.

In his larger political relations Sixtus, strangely enough, showed himself visionary and vacillating. He entertained fantastic ambitions, such as the annihilation of the Turks, the conquest of Egypt, the transporting of the Holy Sepulchre to Italy, the accession of his nephew to the throne of France. The situation in which he found himself was embarrassing: he could not countenance the designs of heretical princes, and yet he distrusted Philip II. and viewed with apprehension any extension of his power. So, while he excommunicated Henry of Navarre, and contributed to the League and the Armada, he chafed under his forced alliance with Philip, and looked about for escape. The victories of Henry and the prospect of his conversion to Catholicism raised Sixtus's hopes, and in corresponding degree determined Philip to tighten his grip upon his wavering ally. The pope's negotiations with Henry's representative evoked a bitter and menacing protest and a categorical demand for the performance of promises. Sixtus took refuge in evasion, and temporized until death relieved him of the necessity of coming to a decision (27th of August 1590).

Sixtus died execrated by his own subjects; but posterity has recognized in him one of the greatest popes. He was impulsive, obstinate, severe, autocratic; but his mind was open to large ideas, and he threw himself into his undertakings with an energy and determination that often compelled success. Few popes can boast of greater enterprise or larger achievements.

Lives of Sixtus are numerous: Cicarella’s, in Platina, De vitis pontiff. Rom., is by a contemporary of the pope, but nevertheless of slight importance; Leti's Vita di Sisto V (Amsterdam, 1693, translated into English by Farneworth, 1779) is a caricature, full of absurd tales, utterly untrustworthy, wanting even the saving merit of style; Tempesti’s Storia della vita e geste di Sisto Quinto (Rome, 1754–1755) is valuable for the large use it makes of the original sources, but lacks perspective and is warped by the author's blind admiration for his subject; Cesare's Vita di Sisto V (Naples, 1755) is but an abridgment of Tempesti. Of recent works the best are Hübner, Sixte-Quint, &c. (Paris, 1870, translated into English by H. E. H. Jerningham, London, 1872); and Capranica, Papa Sisto, storia del s. XVI (Milan, 1884). See also Lorentz, Sixtus V. u. seine Zeit (Mainz, 1852); Dumesnil, Hist. de Sixte-Quint (Paris, 1869, 2nd ed.); Segretain, Sixte-Quint et Henri IV (Paris, 1861, strongly Ultramontane); Ranke's masterly portrayal, Popes (Eng. trans., Austin), i. 446 sq., ii. 205 sq.; and v. Reumont, Gesch. der Stadt Rom, iii. 2, 575 sq., 733 sq. Extended bibliographies may be found in Herzog-Hauck, Realencyklopädie, s.v. “Sixtus V.”; and Cambridge Mod. Hist. iii. 835 sq.  (T. F. C.)