When we consider the life of a celebrity, especially a Pope, who lived over four hundred years ago we must not make the mistake of looking at his life with our modern attitudes and prejudices. As a religious who assumed the papacy, Sixtus V brought with him the customs and attitudes of his vocation. Sixtus' spirit of poverty and obedience would present a challenge to the more worldly Roman court, and he had also come from a humble background. In addition, few Popes had been in obscurity-and even disgrace- for fourteen years prior to their election. Sixtus V has perhaps been overshadowed by the more famous Popes, Julius II and Pius V. We know of contemporary biographies, which appear to be official versions of his life. In this new biography, W. T. Selley shows how Sixtus V was outstanding in his creation of Renaissance Rome, only fifty years after it had been sacked. He was outstanding, from the point of view of good civic policy and he greatly facilitated the path of pilgrims visiting the churches of Rome. Sixtus was abstemious and devout, living quietly with his widowed sister and earning the nickname of the Hermit of Villa Montalto. He was also very intelligent in his diplomacy. Sixtus' contribution to papal administration survived virtually intact into our own time. One only needs to look at so many of the monuments of Rome, the obelisks and fountains, the frescoes and Church fa ades, to get an awareness of the measure of this great Pope.
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