Pope Urban VII – Pope for 12 Days

Urban VII ([Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons)

Giovanni Castanga was born in Rome in 1521. He studied law and practised as a lawyer, eventually working for the papal Curia. He was ordained in March 1553 and went on to hold a number of prestigious posts include the governorships of Fano (1555 to 59); Perugia and Umbria (1559 to 60) and Bologna (1576 to 77). He was papal Nuncio to Spain (1565 to 72) and to Venice (1573 to 77). He was made a cardinal in 1583. Following the death of Pope Sixtus in 1590, Castanga was elected as his replacement and took the name Urban VII on 15th September 1590. One of his first actions was to issue a declaration threatening to excommunicate anyone found chewing, smoking or snorting tobacco in a church – perhaps the world’s first smoking ban! Unfortunately, within days Pope Urban was struck down with malaria and he died in Rome on 27 September 1590, just 12 days after taking office- the shortest period of office of any pontiff

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