On August 26th 1978, Cardinal Albino Luciani was elected pope, taking the name John Paul I.
John Paul I was the first pope to choose a double name and the first to call himself the first! He explained that his choice of names was to honour his two immediate predecessors, Pope John XXIII (r. 1958-63), who made him a bishop, and Pope Paul VI (r. 1963-78), who made him a cardinal.
It was not only in his choice of name that Pope John Paul I broke the mould; he was the first pope to use the singular form 'I' not the royal 'we' and the first to refuse a coronation.
However, little more than a month after his election, in the morning of September 29th, Pope John Paul I was unexpectedly found dead in bed. His sudden death and short reign (one of the shortest in papal history) led to 1978 becoming the year of three popes, the first such instance since 1605. On October 16th, Pope John Paul I was succeeded by the fifty-eight-year-old Polish cardinal, Karol Józef Wojtyła, who took the name Pope John Paul II in his honour.
On September 4th 2022, Pope John Paul I, who came to be known as il Papa del Sorriso (the Smiling Pope), was beatified by Pope Francis (r. 2013-).
My name is David Lown and I am an art historian from Cambridge, England. Since 2001 I have lived in Italy, where I run private walking tours of Rome.
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