Pope Urban VII (Latin: Urbanus VII; Italian: Urbano VII; 4 August 1521 – 27 September 1590), born Giovanni Battista Castagna, was head of the Catholic Church, and ruler of the Papal States from 15 to 27 September 1590. His papacy was the shortest recognized in history, during which a smoking ban encompassing churches across the world was implemented.

Urban VII
Bishop of Rome
Portrait by Jacopino del Conte
(c. 1590, Vatican Museums)
ChurchCatholic Church
Papacy began15 September 1590
Papacy ended27 September 1590
PredecessorSixtus V
SuccessorGregory XIV
Ordination30 March 1553
by Filippo Archinto
Consecration4 April 1553
by Girolamo Verallo
Created cardinal12 December 1583
by Gregory XIII
Personal details
Giovanni Battista Castagna

4 August 1521
Died27 September 1590(1590-09-27) (aged 69)
Rome, Papal States
Previous post(s)
Coat of armsUrban VII's coat of arms
Other popes named Urban
Papal styles of
Pope Urban VII
Reference styleHis Holiness
Spoken styleYour Holiness
Religious styleHoly Father
Posthumous styleNone

Castagna, born in Rome in 1521, was a highly educated man who held various positions within the Roman Catholic Church. He served as the Archbishop of Rossano, Governor of Fano, Perugia, and Umbria, and participated in the Council of Trent. Later, he was appointed as the Apostolic Nuncio to Spain and Venice and served as the Papal legate to Flanders and Cologne. He was elevated to cardinalate in 1583 by Pope Gregory XIII.

Upon the death of Pope Sixtus V, Castagna was elected as pope on 15 September 1590, taking the name Urban VII. He was known for his charity, public works projects, and strict opposition to nepotism. His papacy was short-lived as he died of malaria on 27 September 1590 after just 12 days in office. Urban VII is remembered for instituting the world's first known public smoking ban, threatening excommunication for those using tobacco in or near a church.



Giovanni Battista Castagna was born in Rome in 1521 to a noble family as the son of Cosimo Castagna of Genoa and Costanza Ricci Giacobazzi of Rome.[1]

Castagna studied in universities all across Italy and obtained a doctorate in civil law and canon law when he finished his studies at the University of Bologna. Soon after he became auditor of his uncle, Cardinal Girolamo Verallo, whom he accompanied as datary on a papal legation to France.[1] He served as a constitutional lawyer and entered the Roman Curia during the pontificate of Pope Julius III as the Referendary of the Apostolic Signatura. Castagna was chosen to be the new Archbishop of Rossano on 1 March 1553, and he would quickly receive all the minor and major orders culminating in his ordination to the priesthood on 30 March 1553 in Rome. He then received episcopal consecration a month after at the home of Cardinal Verallo.

He served as the governor of Fano from 1555 to 1559 and later served as the governor of Perugia and Umbria from 1559 to 1560. During the reign of Pius IV, he settled satisfactorily a long-standing boundary dispute between the inhabitants of Terni and Spoleto.[1] Castagna would later participate in the Council of Trent from 1562 to 1563 and served as the president of several conciliar congregations. He was appointed as the Apostolic Nuncio to Spain in 1565 and served there until 1572,[2] resigning his post from his archdiocese a year later. He also served as the governor of Bologna from 1576 to 1577. Among other positions, he was the Apostolic Nuncio to Venice from 1573 to 1577 and served also as the Papal Legate to Flanders and Cologne from 1578 to 1580. Pope Gregory XIII elevated him to the cardinalate on 12 December 1583 and he was appointed as the Cardinal-Priest of San Marcello al Corso.[citation needed]





After the death of Pope Sixtus V, a conclave was convoked to elect a successor. Ferdinando I de' Medici, Grand Duke of Tuscany had been appointed a cardinal at the age of fourteen but was never ordained to the priesthood. At the age of thirty-eight, he resigned from the cardinalate upon the death of his older brother, Francesco in 1587, to succeed to the title (there were suspicions that Francesco and his wife died of arsenic poisoning after having dined at Ferdinando's Villa Medici, although one story has Ferdinando as the intended target of his sister-in-law). Ferdinando's foreign policy attempted to free Tuscany from Spanish domination.

He was consequently opposed to the election of any candidate supported by Spain. He persuaded Cardinal Alessandro Peretti di Montalto, grand-nephew of Sixtus V, to switch his support from Cardinal Marco Antonio Colonna, which brought the support of the younger cardinals appointed by the late Sixtus.[3]

Castagna, a seasoned diplomat of moderation and proven rectitude, was elected as pope on 15 September 1590 and selected the pontifical name of "Urban VII".[3]



Urban VII's short reign gave rise to the world's first known public smoking ban, as he threatened to excommunicate anyone who "took tobacco in the porchway of or inside a church, whether it be by chewing it, smoking it with a pipe or sniffing it in powdered form through the nose".[4]

Urban VII was known for his charity to the poor. He subsidized Roman bakers so they could sell bread under cost, and restricted the spending on luxury items for members of his court. He also subsidized public works projects throughout the Papal States. Urban VII was strictly against nepotism and he forbade it within the Roman Curia.[5]



Urban VII died in Rome on 27 September 1590,[6] shortly before midnight, of malaria. He had reigned for 13 days. He was buried in the Vatican. His remains were later transferred to the church of Santa Maria sopra Minerva, on 21 September 1606. His estate, valued at 30,000 scudi, was bequeathed to the Archconfraternity of the Annunciation, for use as dowries for poor young girls.[citation needed]

Reverse of 1590 coin in honor of Urban VII with menorah and the legend
(Let your light so shine - Matt. 5:16)

See also



  1. ^ a b c   One or more of the preceding sentences incorporates text from a publication now in the public domainOtt, Michael (1912). "Pope Urban VII". In Herbermann, Charles (ed.). Catholic Encyclopedia. Vol. 15. New York: Robert Appleton Company.
  2. ^ Britannica, The Editors of Encyclopaedia. "Urban VII". Encyclopedia Britannica
  3. ^ a b Pirie, Valérie Pirie. The Triple Crown: An Account of the Papal Conclaves, London. Sidgwick & Jackson, 1935.
  4. ^ "Public smoking ban: Europe on the move" (PDF). European Society of Cardiology. 2006. Archived from the original (PDF) on 24 May 2011.
  5. ^ "Pope Urban VII". Saints SQPN. 4 April 2012. Retrieved 12 February 2015.
  6. ^ "Urban VII", The Holy See, vatican.va. Accessed 25 February 2024.
Catholic Church titles
Preceded by Pope
15–27 September 1590
Succeeded by