Sextus V. Pope (1521–1590)
One of the popes accused of sorcery. J. A. de Thou said of
him in his Histoire Universelle (1734, Vol. II)
‘‘The Spaniards continued their vengeance against this Pontiff
even after his death, and they forgot nothing in their anxiety
to blacken his memory by the libels which they flung against
him. Sextus, said they, who, by means of the magical art, was
for a long time in confederacy with a demon, had made a compact
with this enemy of humanity to give himself up to him, on
condition he was made Pope, and allowed to reign six years.
‘‘Sextus was raised to the chair of St. Peter, and during the
five years he held sway in Rome he distinguished his pontificate
by actions surpassing the feeble reach of the human intellect.
Finally, at the end of this term, the Pope fell sick, and the devil
arriving to keep him to his pact, Sextus inveighed strongly
against his bad faith, reproaching him with the fact that the
term they had agreed upon was not fulfilled, and that there still
remained to him more than a twelve-month.
‘‘But the devil reminded him that at the beginning of his
pontificate he had condemned a man who, according to the
laws, was too young by a year to suffer death, and that he had
nevertheless caused him to be executed, saying that he would
give him a year out of his own life; that this year, added to the
other five, completed the six years which had been promised
to him, and that in consequence he did very wrong to complain.
‘‘Sextus, confused and unable to make any answer, remained
mute, and turning himself towards the ruelle of his bed,
prepared for death in the midst of the terrible mental agitation
caused by the remorse of his conscience.’’ De Thou added, ‘‘For
the rest, I only mention this trait as a rumor spread by the
Spaniards, and I should be very sorry to guarantee its truth.’’
During his papacy, Sextus authorized very large sums to be
expended on public works, including completion of the dome
of St. Peter’s, the loggia of Sextus in the Lateran, and the chapel
of the Praesepe in Sta. Maria Maggiore. In spite of the controversy,
today Sextus is ranked among the greatest popes.