- Niccolo Sfondrati
- Niccolo Sfondrato
Born to the Italian nobility, the son of Francesco, a Milanese senator and cardinal under Pope Paul III, and Anna Visconti; his mother died in childbirth following a caesarian. Studied at Perugia, Padua, and Pavia in Italy. Close friend of Saint Charles Borromeo. Priest. Bishop of Cremona, Italy on 12 March 1560. Participated in the Council of Trent. Created cardinal-priest of Santa Cecilia by Pope Gregory XIII on 12 December 1583. Close friend of Saint Philip Neri whom he later tried (and failed) to make a cardinal. Known for his personal piety and simple life. Reluctantly became the 229th pope in 1590 after a two month conclave.
Gave papal approval to the Congregation of the Fathers of a Good Death (Clerici regulares ministrantes infirmis) founded by Saint Camillus de Lellis on 21 September 1591. Prohibited, on pain of excommunication, betting on the election of a pope, the length of his life or pontificate, or on the creation of cardinals, which were common practices in his day. Ordered, on pain of excommunication, the freeing of all slaves in the Philippines. Appointed a commission to revise the Sixtine Bible. Appointed a commission to continue the revision of the Pian Breviary.
Gregory opposed Henry Navarre whom Pope Sixtus V had declared a heretic. Henry had ascended to the French throne in 1589 which caused civil disruption; the nobles swore to rise up against him if he remained a Protestant. Henry promised to convert, but apparently had no intention to do so. Gregory renewed the decree of excommunication and with the help of King Philip II of Spain he began to field an army to drive Henry from power. However, before the matter was resolved, Gregory died, having reigned less than a year.