The following commentary is from the EWTN series, The Papacy: A Living History, The Papal Artifacts Collection of Father Richard Kunst. The item presented here is the most historically significant item that Father owns. It was featured on Episode 5 of the series, Popes of the 17th. Century and Earlier.
Here is Father’s Commentary:
Of all the items I have in the Collection, and it’s quite massive, there are only a handful of items that really have an historical role–in other words the item has played an important role in our history. And this item is the most significant item that I own, historically. It is a parchment that was actually signed by Pope St. Pius V. (He died on May 1, 1572 and was canonized on May 22, 1712, by Pope Clement XI.)
Pius V was one of two popes, along with Pius X, to be canonized saints before John XXIII, Paul VI & John Paul II. His time frame was the 1560s. And this item is referred to as a ‘breve’. That’s a ‘brief’. And it’s a brief letter to the Senate of Milan asking them to help support the bishop of Milan, Charles Borromeo, the greatest saint of the Counter Reformation, to suppress a religious order called the “Humiliati.”
This significant religious order was founded in Italy in the 12th century and became corrupt. Pope St. Pius V suppressed it in 1667.
The Humiliati began about the year 1300 and became quite large and quite corrupt. And so in the nature of the Counter Reformation, the Catholic Reformation, Pius V wanted to do away with the corruption, and one way to do that, in some instances, was to suppress an order.
The Humiliati was huge at the time. And they were headquartered in Milan, and so to get the support from the Senate of Milan to help the Cardinal-Archbishop, Charles Borromeo, to suppress the order was quite significant.
So this document is actually mentioned in some biographies of Pius V and in some of Charles Borromeo. It became quite significant, a huge instrument in regards to the suppression of the religious order.
You can see Charles Borromeo’s name written on it as well as Pius V’s signature. Obviously, he would have had a calligrapher write the actual document, and then he would have signed it, to seal it.
In fact, all the popes and all the cardinals then would have had professional calligraphers. So when we look at some of these old documents we see the incredibly fancy writing, and obviously these people knew how to do this–because they didn’t have printing presses, or at least not commonly. And the earlier popes certainly didn’t have printing presses. So in some of the earlier documents we see the beauty of them, and then we see the pope signs it in his own hand afterwards: “Pius PP V.” That “PP” is there once again.
Another point to mention about the suppression of a religious order is that after this was in place, and after the senate of Milan started to suppress them, the brothers of the Humiliati got so upset at Charles Borromeo that one of the members actually shot him. They tried to kill him. (He died on Nov. 3, 1584 and was canonized Nov 1, 1610). He was hardly wounded at all, but the mere fact, again, that it was such a highly tense moment in time that they were actually trying to kill the bishop that was suppressing them gives us a window into what was going on in the world during the Counter Reformation, and it makes this document a very interesting piece.
A brevis is a brief document written on vellum.
This is one of the most historic documents in the collection. It was signed by Pope Pius V and dated June 20th, 1567.
Translation of the Document:
We are grateful to Professor John Adams for his generosity in translating this brevis.
P I V S P P V
1 Dilecti filii, sal(ut)em et Ap(osto)licam ben(edictionem). Superioribus diebus quasdam nostras sub plumbo confictas l(itte)ras pro reformationis Ordinis Fratrum Humilitatorum ad dilectum filium n(ost)rum Carolum
2 Cardinalem Borromeum eiusdem ordinis Protectorem misimus, ei(que) negotium executionis dedimus. Quar(e) cupientes id ad optatum finem perduci, vos summo fraternital(is) charitatis affectu
3 hortamur in Domino, a vobisque maior(e) quo possumus studio enixi petimus, ut ipsi Cardinali, vel ei quem is huic muneri suo nomine preposuerit, ad ea exequenda quae ad ipsorum
4 Fratrum Humiliator(um) reformationem pertinent in omnibus status Mediolani locis, prout fueritis ab eo requisiti, rejectis quibusvis molestis interpellatoribus, omnem favorem et auxilium
5 opportunum prestare velitis. quod vos pro v(est)ra in Deum eiusque sanctam religionem pietat(e) et solita erga Nos et sedem ap(osto)licam observantia, ac devotion(e) libenter facturos confidimus.
6 Dat- Romae apud Sanctum Petru(m) sub Annulo Piscatoris die xx iunii M . d . LXVII . Pont(ificatus) N(ost)ri Anno Secundo.
7 Pius PP V
8 [signature of the secretary: Cae. Glorierius (Caesare Giorieri)]
“Beloved sons, greeting and Apostolic Benediction! Previously we sent a letter with a lead bulla affixed for the reformation of the Order of the Humiliati Brothers to our beloved son, Cardinal (Carlo) Borromeo, the Protector of the same Order, and we assigned him the the business of carrying it out. Therefore, wishing this to be carried forward to its desired end, We exhort you in the Lord with the highest degree of fraternal charity, and we beseech you with even greater zeal as we can to strive that to that same Cardinal (or to him to whom he shall assign the task in his own name) to carry out those things which are relevant to the reformation of the Brothers Humiliati, in all localities in the State of Milan, with all ill-intentioned interferers rejected, and that you be pleased to show (him) every favor and opportune assistance. We trust that you will gladly do this in consideration of your piety toward God and his holy religion, and your accustomed obedience to Us and the Holy See.
Given at Rome at St. Peter’s, under the (seal of the) Fisherman’s Ring, June 20, 1567, in the second year of Our Pontificate.
Pius V, Pope