TRENT (1545-1563)


THIS Council , reckoned by Roman Catholic theologians the Nineteenth Ecumenical Council, was the most impressive embodiment of the ideals of the Counter-Reformation.

The spread of Protestantism and the drastic need of moral and administrative reforms within the RC Church led to widespread demand among Catholics for a Universal Council, but disputes between Charles V and others who favoured such action, and the Popes, who were generally averse to it, long prevented a move. At last Paul III summoned a council to Mantua for 23 May 1537, but the plan fell through owing to French resistance. In 1538 further proposals for a council at Vicenza were frustrated by the unexpected indifference of the Emperor. In 1542 the Pope again convoked the Council, this time to Trent. After yet another postponement it eventually met on 13 Dec. 1545. At the outset it was a very small assembly, composed of 3 legates, 1 cardinal, 4 archbishops, 21 bishops, and 5 generals of orders.

Period I (1545–7; Sessions 1–8). As it was decided that voting should be by individual heads rather than (as at Constance, 1415) by nations, the bishops from the Italian states had a preponderant influence on account of their numbers. The principal preliminary, whether the Council should first discuss dogma or disciplinary reform, was settled by the compromise that the subjects should be treated concurrently. The control of the presiding legates was then asserted and subsequently maintained through all the Sessions.

At Session 3 (4 Feb. 1546), the Niceno-Constantinopolitan Creed was formally reaffirmed as the basis of faith. At Session 4 (8 Apr. 1546) the validity of both Scripture and unwritten traditions as sources of truth, the sole right of the Church to interpret the Bible, and the authority of the text of the Vulgate were asserted. The decrees of Session 5 (17 June 1546) on Original Sin and of Session 6 (13 Jan. 1547) on justification and merit struck at the root of the Protestant system. No decision was reached, however, on many of the points in dispute on these matters in the Catholic schools. At Session 7 (3 Mar. 1547) the theology of the Sacraments in general was defined. The institution of all seven by Christ and their necessity to salvation were affirmed. Baptism and Confirmation were also treated in detail and a number of decrees on administrative reforms were also passed.

Meanwhile, renewed political tension between Charles V and the Pope hindered progress. An epidemic at Trent offered a pretext for transferring the Council to Bologna (Session 8, 11 Mar. 1547). The Council was now virtually suspended for four years, until Julius III (1550–5) reconvoked the assembly to Trent, which some prelates had refused to abandon.

Period II (1551–2; Sessions 9–14). Important decisions were reached at Session 13 (11 Oct. 1551) on the Eucharist and at Session 14 (25 Nov. 1551) on Penance and Extreme Unction. Transubstantiation was affirmed and the Lutheran, Calvinist, and Zwinglian Eucharistic doctrines repudiated. The Protestants present demanded renewed discussion of the subjects previously defined, the release of the bishops from their oaths of allegiance to the Papacy, and the supremacy of General Councils over the Pope.

The revolt of the princes against Charles V led to the suspension of the Council on 28 Apr. 1552. Under the austere and violently anti-Protestant Paul IV (1555–9, Carafa) there was no hope of its reassembly, and it first met again ten years later under his more tolerant successor, Pius IV.

Period III (1562–3; Sessions 15–25). When the Council reassembled on 18 Jan. 1562, all hope of conciliating the Protestants had gone and the Jesuits were now a strong force. The proceedings were henceforward hampered by struggles between the Papal and the opposition bishops, Imperial, Spanish, and French. A far-reaching plan of reform, devised by the Emp. Ferdinand II and advocated by the Cardinal of Lorraine (a Guise), failed. The Papal party owed its success largely to the diplomatic skill of the legate, Cardinal G. Morone. At Session 21 (16 July 1562) the subject of Eucharistic Communion was treated and the presence of the undivided Christ under either species (concomitance) and the adequacy of Communion in one kind was affirmed. Session 22 (17 Sept. 1562) issued a series of important definitions on the sacrificial doctrine of the Mass. Session 23 (15 July 1563) dealt with Orders and Session 24 (24 Nov. 1563) with the Sacrament of Matrimony. Other work was done on the reform of the Index and the residence of bishops. Of great practical significance was the legislation establishing clerical seminaries and regulating the appointment of bishops, provincial and diocesan synods, preaching of sermons, etc. Finally, Session 25 (3–4 Dec. 1563) dealt cursorily with purgatory, the invocation of saints, the veneration of relics and images, and indulgences.

The Council ended on 4 Dec. 1563. The decrees were confirmed in a body on 26 Jan. 1564 by Pius IV, who in the same year published the ‘Profession of the Tridentine Faith’, a brief summary of doctrine, generally known as the Creed of Pius IV.

Several important works, which the Council recommended or initiated but could not effectually carry through, were handed over to the Pope for completion. The revision of the Vulgate, ordered at Trent in 1546, was concluded under Clement VIII in 1592; and Pius V founded the Congregation of the Index in 1571 to carry out other unfinished work, having himself issued the ‘Roman Catechism’ (1566) and revised Breviary (1568) and Missal (1570).

Though the Council failed to satisfy the Protestants and its reforms were less comprehensive than many Catholics had hoped for, it had established a solid basis for the renewal of discipline and the spiritual life in the RC Church, which emerged from Trent with a clearly formulated doctrinal system and an enhanced religious strength for the subsequent struggle with Protestantism.

The Acta of the Council ed. A. Theiner (2 vols., Leipzig, 1874); the decrees have frequently been repr. and are conveniently available, with Eng. tr., in Tanner, Decrees, 2 (1990), pp. 657–799. The principal collections of docs. are J. Le Plat (ed.), Monumentorum ad Historiam Concilii Tridentini Illustrandam Spectantium Collectio (7 vols., Louvain, 1781–7) and the Concilium Tridentinum: Diariorum, Actorum, Epistolarum, Tractatuum nova Collectio. Edidit Societas Goerresiana (Freiburg i.B., 1901 ff.). J. Šusta (ed.), Die römische Curie und das Concil von Trient unter Pius IV.: Actenstücke zur Geschichte des Concils von Trient (4 vols., Vienna, 1904–14). S. Kuttner (ed.), Decreta septem priorum sessionum Concilii Tridentini sub Paulo III Pont. Max. (Washington, DC, 1945), reproducing in facsimile the autograph of A. Massarelli, Secretary of the Council, with important introd. H. Jedin, Das Konzil von Trient: Ein Ueberblick ueber die Erforschung seiner Geschichte (1948). J. Olazarán, SJ (ed.), Documentos inéditos tridentinos sobre la Justificación (Madrid, 1957). Early histories by P. Sarpi, Servite (under the pseudonym of P. S. Polano), Historia del Concilio Tridentino (London, 1619; Eng. tr. by N. Brent, Warden of Merton College, Oxford, Oxford, 1620; very hostile), and S. Pallavicino, SJ, Istoria del Concilio di Trento (2 vols., Rome, 1656–7; reply to preceding work). H. Jedin, Geschichte des Konzils von Trient (4 vols. in 5, 1949–75; Eng. tr., 1957 ff.); G. Schreiber (ed.), Das Weltkonzil von Trient: Sein Werden und Wirken (2 vols., 1951). H. Jedin, Krisis und Abschluss des Trienter Konzils 1562/3 (Freiburg, 1964; Eng. tr., 1967). J. Lecler, SJ, and others in Latran V et Trente (Histoire des Conciles Œcuméniques publiée sous la direction de G. Dumeige, SJ, 10; 1975), pp. 115–470; idd., Trente (ibid. 11; 1981). J. M. R. Belloso, Trento: Una Interpretación Teológica (Colectánea San Paciano, 25; Barcelona, 1979); A. Duval, Des Sacrements au Concile de Trente (1985). A. Tallon, La France et le Concile de Trent (1518–1583) (Bibliothèque des Écoles françaises d’Athènes et de Rome, 295; 1997). P. Richard and A. Michel in Hefele and Leclercq, 9 and 10 (pt. 1) (1930–38). A. Michel in DTC 15 (pt. 1; 1946), cols. 1414–508, s.v. ‘Trente (Concile de)’; H. Jedin in NCE (2nd edn.), 14 (2003), pp. 168–76, s.v., with further bibl. See also bibl. to counter-reformation.



  Chadwick, The Reformation

  The Council of Trent

Adapted from Chadwick, The Reformation, ch. 8 [.3], The Counter-Reformation

The Council of Trent is important, in the first place, because it failed to meet until 1545.

The Cardinals, if they must have a Council, wanted it at Rome. The Emperor Charles V was determined to have a Council in Germany. For long years papal diplomacy was directed to securing that a Council never met. The legate Aleander offered welcome advice to Pope Clement VII: ‘Never offer a Council, never refuse it directly. On the contrary, show you are willing to comply with the request, but stress the difficulties in the way. Thus you will be able to ward it off.’ ‘Commit yourself to nothing,’ the legate Cervini warned Pope Paul III at the eleventh hour, ‘until it is agreed that the Pope is absolute master of the Council.’

The postponement, perhaps a fatal postponement for Christendom, was made easier because Charles V was usually at war with the King of France. France, fearing a united Germany, feared a General Council. The French king was almost as anxious as the Roman cardinals to put off the Council indefinitely. After repeated false starts under Pope Paul III, who saw that the danger in not summoning was now greater than the danger in summoning, the Council was at last enabled to meet in 1545, because the Emperor and the French king signed the Peace of Crépy in 1544, containing a secret clause whereby King Francis pledged himself to further the Emperor’s plans for a Council.

As early as 1524 the’ name of Trent was mentioned as a possible site: a little town on the south side of the Alps and the Brenner pass, under the rule of a Catholic bishop, in Italy, easy of access to Italian bishops, and yet also within the Holy Roman Empire and therefore complying with the German demand that the Council must meet ‘in German lands’.

The Council of Trent opened after an infinity of delays upon 13 December 1545, with only twenty-eight bishops present. The Emperor and the Pope wanted the Council to perform different functions. The Emperor hankered for religious peace in Germany, by reforming the abuses and corruptions of the Church and by giving to the Lutherans certain concessions, like the marriage of the clergy and communion in both kinds. He therefore desired the Council to attend to the questions of discipline and leave the questions of doctrine, which his experience of divines led him to think insoluble. The Pope on the contrary instructed his legates, who presided, that the Council must first treat the questions of doctrine. It was therefore agreed that doctrine and discipline should be treated in parallel. But of the three sessions during which the Council sat (1545-8, 1551-2, 1562-3) the first was chiefly concerned with the doctrinal definitions believed needful upon the questions in controversy with the Protestants, and the last was chiefly concerned with those efforts at disciplinary regulation and correction which the traditionalists meant when they used the word reform.

The Fathers of the Council felt no obligation to be tender to the Protestants. In the session of 1545-8 they were mainly from areas unaffected by Protestant ideas, and they wished to condemn what appeared to them to be erroneous doctrines.

CONFRONTED by the doctrine of justification by faith alone,
     the [council fathers] declared that faith alone was not sufficient for justification, but must be accompanied by hope and love.

Confronted by the Protestant appeal to the Scripture,
     they declared that unwritten traditions and Scripture were to be received with equal reverence.

Confronted by the Protestant declaration that the sacraments of the Gospel were three or two in number,
     they affirmed that the sacraments were neither more nor less than seven.

Protestant scholars believed that the Hebrew Bible was the source of the authentic text, and therefore put the Greek apocrypha upon one side as instructive for morals but uncanonical (the question had never been settled by the medieval theologians).
     The Fathers of Trent declared that the Latin Vulgate was the canonical and sacred text.

The Protestant divines believed that the doctrine of a repeated sacrifice of Calvary in the mass, a doctrine which they attributed too sweepingly to the Catholic divines, was perilous and unscriptural;
      and they abolished ‘private masses’ root and branch.

The Fathers of Trent declared that in the mass there was a truly propitiatory sacrifice of Christ,
      and commended those masses at which the priest alone communicated.

The Protestants contended that the liturgy should be in a language understood by the people.
     The bishops declared that the mass should normally continue to be in Latin.

These definitions or decisions effectively ended the hopes of the Emperor and other moderates that the Council might seek a measure of reconciliation with the Protestants. It is not to be denied that the fear of Protestantism led the bishops towards direct confutation of its doctrines. There were rumours in the Council, from time to time, that Protestant armies were marching upon Trent. The bishops sometimes felt themselves to be legislating under an im­minent threat from heretical force. In x552 a Protestant army under Maurice of Saxony was but a few hours’ march from Trent, and the Council hastily adjourned. But it should be observed that the doctrinal decrees of Trent, because they were sometimes given a polemical tone, sounded more hostile to the Protestants than they really were. In the early sessions of the Council, when the most momentous of the doctrinal decrees were passed, the numbers of bishops present (about sixty) was still compara­tively small. But even within this number, there was sufficient variety of opinion to illustrate the diversities of medieval theology. One bishop, Nacchianti of Chioggia, even believed that all things necessary to salvation are contained in Scripture, and protested his right to continue to believe this until the Council declared otherwise. The bishops of Trent, in framing their decrees, needed to allow a breadth which men of diverse opinions could accept as the authentic teaching of the Catholic Church. The decrees of Trent were framed with care; their language was designed to allow more liberty of opinion than their Protestant critics believed. The care with which they were framed has only been fully evident during the twentieth century. During the last fifty years the Görres Society has been engaged in publishing the minutes of the debates and discussions which lay behind the formal promulgation of the canons.

One example will suffice: the decree of 8 April 1546 upon the canonical Scriptures. Later critics of the Council contended that this decree elevated tradition into a second source of revelation, outside and independent of Scripture: an unwritten word spoken by Christ to his apostles and guaranteed by its acceptance in the Catholic Church. Many defenders of the Counter-Reformation understood the decree in this way. But the minutes of the discussion show that, if the decree is patient of that interpretation, it was not intended by all the disputants. Some bishops would have liked all the ‘traditions’ of the Holy Roman Church to be declared sacred. Other bishops felt that this was too generalized; that the only traditions which could claim this sacredness were ‘apostolic’ traditions, traditions handed down in the Church from apostolic times. It was suggested that a list of apostolic traditions might be framed in the canon; and this was rejected on the ground that a list might unwittingly omit an apostolic tradition and thereby cause Christians to neglect or repudiate it. The clause was therefore framed to sanctify only traditions ‘which have always been maintained in the Catholic Church’; and it is clear that some of those who framed it were thinking not of an unwritten heritage of doctrine but of certain practices, like the keeping of Sunday or the baptism of infants. Though the decree was intentionally directed against certain beliefs of Protestants, it was less hostile to the Protestant doctrines than was afterwards believed. And the same measure of diversity may be found among other decrees, even those on the eucharistic sacrifice or justification by faith.

Yet it is certain that the immediate effect was calamitous for the programme of the peace-makers.

In October and November r551, after a period when Pope and Emperor were in vehement conflict, Lutheran representatives at last arrived at Trent to prepare the way for their theologians. They refused to participate in the Council unless the bishops would begin to discuss the questions of doctrine again from the beginning and regard as null all the decisions which had been taken. Under­standably; and it is equally understandable that the papal legates and the bishops should have rejected the suggestion with warmth. By the word Council, the two sides meant different assemblies. One assembly at Trent could not serve for both.

The Council was not under the immediate control of the Pope, who never came to it. His legates presided and received frequent communications and instructions from the Curia at Rome, just as the representatives of the Emperor or the kings of France and Spain received frequent instructions from their respective sovereigns. The majority in the Council was Italian; but as the number of bishops rose (in the last session of 1562-3 it was over 200) the successive Popes needed to exercise vigilant diplomacy through agents at Trent. It was important to the Popes that the Council should not be swayed by the political desires of the Catholic monarchs, and that the Council should not reform Rome itself — Rome alone must reform Rome. The Spanish bishops held strenuous opinions about the ‘divine law’ which insisted that a bishop reside upon his see, and complained of the hundred and more bishops from various countries who resided in Rome. The Papal Curia, though it might admit excess, held strenuous opinions that the central administration of the Church needed bishops who were not residing upon their sees, and that this administration must not be weakened through the doctrinaire fervour of Spanish bishops. The Catholic princes of South Germany, like the Emperor Ferdinand, wanted the Catholics permitted communion in both kinds, and a married clergy; the demand (1562) had to be skilfully turned aside, and celibacy reaffirmed. But for most of the time the diplomatic labours of the papal legates were not arduous. The Council, though not an assembly of papal dependants, had no intention of being a revolutionary assembly; and at its close in 1563 the Fathers officially reaffirmed all the decrees passed in the different sessions and officially requested the Pope to confirm them. They asked the Pope for new editions of the Index (that published in 1564 imported prudence into Caraffa’s original Index), the catechism (1566), the missal (157o), and the breviary (1568). Their decrees were formally confirmed by Pope Pius IV in the Bull Benedictus Deus of 26 January 1564.


The disciplinary decrees of the Council were henceforth the canonical basis of the Catholic reformation. They were often sweeping in their impact.

The office of indulgence seller or ‘quaestor’ was abolished.

Bishops were given effective powers of supervision in their dioceses.

The Council removed many of those exemptions from episcopal control which during the Middle Ages made the office and work of a bishop so frustrating and so likely to produce litigation.


The patterns of devout shepherds of souls, whether bishop or priest, were described by the canons, but these were liable to be no more effective than the admirable exhortations of earlier Councils.

The Council of Trent took one practical step to this end, a measure in the long run the most important of all the measures decreed there. It ordered that the bishop of every diocese where no university existed should establish a seminary to train boys and young men to the priesthood.

The Jesuit colleges provided some precedent. The new training educated the clergy in theology and fostered in them disciplined habits of devotion. Probably the institution of seminaries was more efficacious than any other canon in promoting the chief aim of the Catholic reform — an instructed and pure-hearted priesthood.


Nothing in the history of the Church has proved more intractable than the problem of turning an illiterate clergy into an educated clergy. The Protestants were shocked to find priests mumbling in the mass words as meaningless as any magical formula, and in their own way set out to instruct the clergy — by establishing schools and colleges, by instituting clerical meetings for study, by encouraging scholarship in the bestowal of benefices, by turning the pastoral emphasis away from the sacraments in favour of the due and efficacious preaching of the Word.

The Roman Catholic Church likewise used all these methods, not excluding a more urgent emphasis upon preaching.

In 1538 the city of Rome had forgotten that the surplice was the proper garment in which secular priests should preach; for the secular priests hardly ever did preach, and the congregations were accustomed only to friars and other religious, who preached in the habits of their order. The Jesuits, and later the Oratorians, attempted to remedy the defect as part of their vocation of a reformed priesthood — a Jesuit was listed as a ‘reformed priest’ at the Council of Trent. As the Protestants thundered against ‘dumb dogs’ and demanded that pastors should be preaching men, the Council of Trent laid its obligation upon bishops and clergy that they should preach.


It is easier to legislate than to see that the law is executed. It was not difficult to assert that the clergy must be educated and must preach sermons. It was more difficult, and took far more time, to secure that the sermons which they preached were not offensive to instructed ears. It was easy to legislate that a seminary should be instituted in every diocese. It was long years before there were seminaries in most dioceses and before many of those seminaries were purveying an education worthy of the ideal which inspired their foundation. It is possible that in the Protestant coun­tries the problem of ministerial education was made easier to solve because the revolutionary changes in the ecclesias­tical constitution gave the authorities a hand less tied, and also allowed a somewhat larger proportion of endowment to be diverted into education. But in Protestant as in Catholic countries a long age of endeavour was needed.

In the Protestant countries the reform was often carried through by the princes against the Pope. In the Catholic countries the process was not so different - it was carried through by the ecclesiastics with the active or reluctant assistance of the princes. In Catholic France and parts of south Germany the decrees could not even be received, and Spain helped itself to what it preferred. It was not easy to reform the episcopate when so many Catholic kings, includ­ing those of France and Spain, exercised an almost absolute control over the choice of men to be bishops. As late as June 1569, the Venetian ambassador in Paris said that at the French court ‘they deal in bishoprics and abbeys as merchants trade in pepper and cinnamon’. The Council of Trent was an effective reforming council mainly in Italy; elsewhere it was an encouragement and stimulus to reform. The decrees were accepted by some French provincial councils in 1580-4, and solemnly in 1615 by the representa­tives of all the French clergy, at a brief moment of indepen­dent assertion. Spanish councils of clergy consented to them forthwith (1564) •but could not put them into practice without leave from the crown. In south Germany, thanks to the skill of the papal legate Commendone, the bishops and Catholic princes (except the Emperor) received the decrees of Trent in 1566, though with a few reserva­tions.


The reforming party in the Church was helped to overcome the conservative traditions of Rome by the new political predicament of the Pope. Considered as a political sov­ereign, the Pope was less important to the European powers in 1565 than in 1510. In 1510 Julius II made the Papal State one of the powers of Europe, maintaining the political balance between France and Germany and so preserving papal independence and sovereignty. In 1565 all this was changed. The Pope was much poorer, for Germany and England had defected, France was fighting a civil war, and fees and dues were not paid. The Spanish Cardinal of Compostella wrote with a cool cynicism to the Emperor Charles V in 1555 that the Pope must reform the Church, because he was now too poor to do anything else. The rules of the Council of Trent hampered traditional and lucrative sources of profit, and made the Papal State a less happy ground for adventurers ready to be ordained in exchange for a fortune. Then Pope Paul IV (Caraffa) attacked the Spanish in Naples with his armies, was defeated, and threw the Papacy under the dominance of Spain for forty years.

In 1565 Michele Ghislieri, the Grand Inquisitor of Pope Paul IV (though no disciple or favourite), was elected Pope and became Pius V (1565-72, canonized in 1712). A holier man than Paul, he looked upôn reform with a similar contempt for compromise, politics, and diplomacy. He was another ascetic with a decisive mind, a body which made him look nothing but skin and bones, and a way of life which was still that of a strict friar. He once said that the Church had need neither of cannon nor of soldiers, that its weapons were prayers and fasting, tears and the Bible. But he was prepared to use other weapons than the spiritual when they were available. He encouraged the killing of Huguenot prisoners. He sent the consecrated hat and sword to the Duke of Alva to show his gratitude for the reign of terror in the Netherlands.

Edicts imposed savage penalties for simony, blasphemy, sodomy, concubinage. They limited luxury in dress or in banquets, expensive marriages or marriage settlements. They expelled all the prostitutes from Rome within six days, unless they would marry or enter the convent of the Penitents — a decree which was not carried out in its full rigour, but those who preferred not to brave the perils of flight were confined to a special quarter, which was walled in and where special sermons were arranged for their instruction. Another edict forbade all residents with houses to visit taverns. The Pope was narrowly dissuaded from imposing the death penalty for adultery. Parents were subjected to special penalties if they failed to send their children to Sunday schools. Priests, who had commonly dressed• like laymen, were compelled to wear clerical dress and to shave off their beards. Physicians and doctors were forbidden to wear the biretta. Doctors were not to visit the sick for more than three days without receiving a certificate that the patient had confessed to a priest. The Pope tried to restrain the luxury of banquets, of weddings, and of dress; his police raided jewellers’ shops to confiscate the world’s baubles; his taxes discouraged carriages; his decrees limited dowries and forbade shopkeepers to hang out signboards with saints painted upon them. He thought it unfitting that pagan images should decorate his residence, and gave a few of the classical statues to the Roman people. He wantedto give away many more, including some of the great statues housed in the gallery of the Belvedere, and allowed them to remain only on condition that the collec­tion should not be open to the public. He approved of the covering of the statue of Neptune on the fountain at Bologna and hired an artist to clothe more of the frescoes, though in general he did not further drape the nudes. Gossips began to say that Pope Pius wanted to change the whole city of Rome into a monastery.

Sumptuary legislation of this sort was impossible to enforce effectively in the Rome of 1570. Outside the power of the papal government it was altogether ineffective. The Pope published a .decree abolishing bull-fights, but the Spanish bishops dared not publish it. These sumptuary laws were more important as a symbol of a programme and an ideal than as a practical venture in moral government In the realm of administration the Pope ran into those obstacles which had frustrated the reforming efforts of his predecessors. The Pope once professed that the Church needed no wealth. In fact, Rome contained a great civil service, a network of administration, and the papal govern­ment could not be carried on without money. Offices had been sold for money; and in moments of imminent bank­ruptcy, popes had created more offices, with incomes attached, in order to find capital. To clear out the hangers-. on, the corrupt and ‘petty officials from the papal court, was not only an act of administrative reform. It meant finding huge sums of money to compensate persons who had bought offices in good faith and would now find their offices and their income abolished. Pope Pius told some officials dismissed from the Penitentiary that ‘it is always better to die of hunger than to lose one’s soul’. He said that it was preferable for the Curia to be ruined rather than Christianity. But common justice could not sweep away the bureaucrats of Rome without making provision for them. He tried to force every priest and bishop who had a cure of souls outside Rome to go back to his benefice, and even imprisoned in the Castle of Sant’Angelo some bishops who failed to obey the order. It was an attempt to cure the symptom rather than the disease. Yet it was much for the future that a Pope should have attempted so fearless a reformation of the Papal administration. ‘Men in Rome,’ said the Venetian ambassador Tiepolo, ‘have become a great deal better — or at least they have put on the appear­ance of being so.’

In 1568 the Pope reformed the Breviary. He adopted some of that programme which Cranmer had wanted earlier — making it clearer and simpler, restoring the Psalms and the reading of the Bible to their dominant place, removing passages from the non-Scriptural readings that were spurious or incredible. He restrained the issue of indulgences; and in every way he attempted to carry into practice the decrees and the spirit of the Council of Trent. In St Maria Maggiore in Rome may be seen the copy of the decrees of Trent which Pope Pius V used. The historian Pastor looked upon that little book with deep emotion, and commented: ‘It became in his hands the hoe by which he uprooted a whole world of weeds.’

Charles Borromeo

The strength of the movement at its best is seen in the work of Charles Borromeo, Archbishop of Milan from 1560 to 1584. He experienced one of those colourful conversions so exuberantly plentiful in the Counter-Reformation. The nephew of Pope Pius IV, a beneficed clergyman at the age of twelve, a pluralist and an archbishop at the uncanonical age of twenty-one, a cardinal at twenty-two, a devotee of hunting in a manner criticized as unfitting for a cardinal, a lover of splendour and display who clothed his 15o retainers from head to foot in a livery of black velvet, he suddenly received holy orders at the age of twenty-five, undertook the Spiritual Exercises of Ignatius, tried to resign most of his lucrative sinecure benefices, dismissed half his retinue and prescribed austere rules for the other half, lived on bread and water one day a week, used a scourge of spikes upon his body, and began to preach sermons — which the people thought striking, for they had never heard of a cardinal preaching. His abilities and his standing at Rome enabled him to play a large part in the last session of the Council of Trent (1562-3). The Council created a commission to ensure that its decrees were observed, and another commis­sion to draw up a revised catechism in Catholic doctrine; Borromeo helped to direct the work of both these commis­sions and revised the first draft of the catechism. It is characteristic of the Counter-Reformation that this famous catechism should have been designed not for the child or the illiterate, but for the instruction of the parochial clergy. He helped to revise the Breviary, as Trent had decreed. He attempted to carry out in his archdiocese the disciplinary decrees of Trent. Trent had ordered him to reside in his diocese, but he had the greatest difficulty in persuading the Pope to allow him even to visit it. He succeeded in persuad­ing Pope Pius V and lived at Milan, the first archbishop to reside in the diocese for many years. He held provincial and diocesan synods of his clergy as Trent had ordered. He was the new model of a Catholic bishop, constantly engaged in visiting his parishes. He established not one seminary but three in Milan and three more outside it. He put these at first under the control of the Jesuits, but later lost his confidence in the Jesuits and founded a teaching society, the Oblates of St Ambrose, for the purpose. He founded a ‘Swiss college’ to train priests for Catholic Swit­zerland. He instituted an educational society which by the time of his death was controlling 740 schools. He was a grimly austere, often unpopular, heroic man, ready to risk life in a plague or hisomfort in a fight with the governor. He died in 1584 and was canonized in 1610.



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