WELCOME TO THE WORLD OF POPE SIXTUS V
Our hotel’s name, SISTO V, does homage to one of those many people who have contributed to the making of ROME as the ETERNAL city.
Pope Sixtus V was the 229th Pope of the Roman Catholic Church, succeeding to Pope Gregory XIII in 1585.
He was born in Grottammare, in the province of Ascoli Piceno, on 13 December 1521, with the name of Felice Peretti. He came from a very poor family and started his ecclesiastical life from sheer necessity, entering a Franciscan monastery at Montalto delle Marche (his family’s original town) when he was 12. His growth within the church community was overseen by Cardinal Rodolfo Pio Carpi (1500-1564), the protector of the order, by Michele Ghisleri (who later became Pope Pius V, 1566-1572), and by Giovan Pietro Carafa (Pope Paul IV, 1555-1559).
He was an inquisitor in Venice, but his inflexibility was such that the city government requested his recall in 1560. After a short period as procurator of his order, he was attached to the Spanish legation guided by Ugo Boncompagni (the future Pope Gregory XIII), and whom he investigated in 1565 in connection with a charge of heresy laid by Archbishop Carranza of Toledo. The unhappy rapport created between the then procurator of the Franciscan order and Ugo Boncompagni influenced his subsequent decisions.
At the ascent of Pius V to the pontifical chair, he returned to Rome, was nominated the vicar apostolic of his order, and then, in 1570, was ordained Cardinal. During Gregory XIII’s pontificate, Cardinal Montalto, as he was generally known, retreated to his villa erected by Domenico Fontano on the Esquilino Hill, overlooking the Baths of Diocletian. The first part of the villa was enlarged and then four new roads were opened, with seizure of surrounding land and buildings. The villa consisted of two residences, Palazzo Sistino or Termini (from Terme, Baths) and the Palazzotto di Montalto e Felice. In 1869, the decision to start construction of the pontifical central railway station (today’s Termini Station) upon the area enclosing the villa decreed its total disappearance. Cardinal Montalto dedicated much time to his studies, without however losing sight of his personal affairs and carefully avoiding giving offence to anyone.
This care made an important contribution to his ascent to the Papacy on 24 April 1585. The story according to which Felice Peretti, Cardinal Montalto, faked decrepitude during the conclave in order to obtain votes is untrue; his robust health, as a promise for a long-lasting papacy, attracted preference over other candidates.
The Pontificate of Sixtus V (1585-1590)
Pope Gregory XIII did not leave Sixtus V a happy legacy. The condition of the Papal States required immediate and decisive action. Legality was more or less absent and Sixtus V had to act resolutely and rigorously. His actions brought the Papal States back to a condition of legal serenity, which then allowed him to pass on to the next phase: restoring the finances of the Papal States. He operated through the sale of offices and properties, the foundation of new "Monti di Pietà" (a public loan system that permitted the raising of 8 million gold scudi), and new taxes.
These initiatives allowed him to accumulate ample liquidity that was set aside for use if needed for specific “state” emergencies. The Pope was particularly satisfied with the results, but the methods used in order to reach them were not appreciated very much: some taxes were excessive and the removal of so much money ended in causing tensions.
Large sums were, however, spent on public works. Sixtus V knew no limits to his plans and what he achieved during his brief pontificate seems incredible. He directed the completion of the dome of Saint Peter’s; the Loggia of Blessings at St John Lateran; the Presepe Chapel at St Mary Major; the completion of the Quirinal Palace and repairs to it and in the Vatican; the erection of the Obelisks in St Peter’s Square, Piazza del Popolo, Piazza dell’Esquilino and at St John Lateran; the opening of new roads; the rebuilding of the Septimius Severus aqueduct (Acqua Felice); numerous streets and bridges; an attempt at reclamation of the Pontine Marshes; incentives for agriculture and manufacturing. He also integrated the Borgo district, near the Vatican, until then autonomous, as the 14th District of Rome.
Sixtus V is also noted for the first Roman urban reorganization project tending toward the city as we know it today. In this connection, he set out the new road that crossed the three hills of the Monti District, connecting Trinità dei Monti (above the Spanish Steps) with St John Lateran and Santa Croce in Gerusalemme. This was the famous via Sistina, whose path (Via Quattro Fontane on the Quirinal Hill, Via Viminale on the hill of the same name, S. Maria Maggiore on the Esquiline Hill, and on to the Lateran Palace) is marked by large Egyptian obelisks.
Sixtus died on 27 August 1590, the conclusion of an impulsive, obstinate, and very severe life. His capacity to see far ahead and set himself clear objectives increased his determination and allowed him to obtain extraordinary successes in administration, town planning, art, and architecture, results that few have equaled.
Roman tradition and Pope Sixtus VMany stories tell of the strong personality of Sixtus V. Among so many is the legend that inspired Giuseppe Gioachino Belli to write witty poems, according to which Sixtus V, hearing that in a particular farmhouse there was a bleeding crucifix, decided to go and see for himself, took up an ax and said: “As Christ I worship You; as wood I smash you”. His strong blow revealed, inside the crucifix, a sponge soaked in animal blood, which the farmer squeezed in order to obtain money from those who came to pray at the site of the miracle.
« Fra ttutti quelli c'hanno avuto er posto
De vicaj de Dio, nun z'è mai visto
Un papa rugantino, un papa tosto,
Un papa matto uguale a Ppapa Sisto.
E nun zolo è da dì che dassi er pisto
A chiunqu'omo che j'annava accosto,
Ma nu la perdunò neppur'a Cristo,
E nemmanco lo roppe d'anniscosto.
Aringrazziam'Iddio c'adesso er guasto
Nun po' ssuccede ppiù che vienghi un fusto
D'arimette la Chiesa in quel'incrasto.
Perché nun ce po' èsse tanto presto
Un altro papa che je piji er gusto
De mèttese pe nome Sisto Sesto. »
"Among all those who have had the position
Of Vicar of God, never was seen
A Pope so strong, so tough
A Pope so mad like Pope Sixtus
And not only did he go up against
Any man who goes near him
He did not save even Christ
And did not even break him in secret
Let us thank God that now it
Cannot happen any more, that some strongman
Comes to put the Church back into that pickle
Because there cannot be any time soon
Another Pope who would have the face
To take the name Sixtus the Sixth"
Another story is the basis of a still-current proverb: “Mejo n’morto dentro casa cche n’marchigiano fori daa porta” (Better a death in the house than someone from the Marches at the door). Pope Sixtus V did not trust the Roman tax officials and entrusted enforcement to people from his own Marches region of Italy.
We could tell much more about the man whose name adorns our hotel, but in the meantime, we hope that we will see you here, ready to take a walk down the world’s greatest historical trail, thanks to everything that Sixtus V has left behind for visitors to Rome.