Passions & Places

Popes from Le Marche

I Papi marchigiani 

Over the centuries, Le Marche has given birth to various Popes, however only a few of these remain traceable to our territory. For example, Giovanni Fasano, Giovanni XVIII,  who came from Rapagnano was pope from 1003 to 1009, although with the exception of a bust conserved in the parish church of his home town, no other testimony remains. 

There was also Niccolò IV (Girolamo Masci), also from the Ascoli Piceno region. He was born in Lisciano and was pope from 1288 up until his death in 1292. The civic art gallery in Ascoli Piceno keeps a precious silk and gold cope which the town presented to him upon his appointment.

In 1585 Felice Peretti from Grottamare became pope. During Sisto V’s (his chosen name) five year papacy, Rome underwent a complete architectural and administrative transformation. Confirming his bond to the place of his childhood, Sisto invested the title of “city” to the village his family came from, Montalto delle Marche. It was there that he also founded a secondary school, assigned a dowry to poor spinsters and gave his village a reliquary belonging to Paolo II (today held by the local Diocesan museum). In his birth place of Grottamare, Sisto V initiated the construction of the Santa Lucia Church and the local Diocesan Museum of Sacred Art, which today holds a collection of sacred vestments, chalices and objects which belonged to him.

In 1592 Pope Clemente VIII from Fano was elected, a name assigned to Ippolito Aldobrandini who is remembered for his intense diplomatic activity and for the definitive sentence of Giordano Bruno.

Whilst there is very little trace of him in Le Marche, you might be interested to know that it was probably down to him that coffee took off in Europe.

An incisive mark was left by Clemente XI from Urbino (Gian Francesco Albani); during the numerous years of his papacy (1700-1721) he reserved particular attention for his home town, contributing to the splendid renovation of Urbino. He was also responsible for the expansion of the university, the restoration of numerous churches, the Palazzo Ducale and the city walls, and also in Portonovo, where he initiated the construction of the watch tower which sits by the beach.

Apparently, from a noble family from Le Marche there was also Gianvincenzo Ganganelli, elected Pope in 1769 with the name Clemente XIV: he came from Sant’Angelo in Vado and is remembered for his diplomatic actions; he instigated the reclamation of the Paludi Pontine and founded the Clementine Museum in Rome. Unfortunately, little testimony remains in Le Marche.

Annibale Sermattei from Genga became Pope in 1823 with the name Leone XII. He was extremely rigid in his papal reign, although he never forgot his birthplace; in fact he improved the road networks in Fabriano and made every effort to make the land around Genga more useable and fertile. He also had the Tempio Ottaganole (designed by French architect Valadier) built in the Grotte del Santuario di Frassasi, still admired today. He died in 1829. His successor was also in fact from Le Marche: Francesco Saverio Castigliono from Cingoli, in the century of Pope Pio VIII.

His papacy was a brief one, lasting just 22 months. In the town of his birth, even today you can marvel at the Palazzo dei Marchesi Castiglioni which inside, holds many of his furnishings and objects as well as paintings and sculptures portraying the pontiff.

Finally Pio IX, or rather Giovanni Maria Mastai Ferretti, was born in Senigallia to a noble family and became pope in 1846. His appointment lasted until his death in 1878, he was beatified in 2000. In Senigallia it’s possible to visit his interesting home, now a museum – Palazzo Mastai, which is full of signed letters, relics and period furnishings; also the Cathedral of Senigallia has a façade of Pio IX, whilst around the city there remain various other villas belonging to the Mastai Ferretti family.

In conclusion, there is a considerable list of Popes who came from Le Marche, sons of a region full of spirituality, able to grow amongst nature, bringing them even closer to God.

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