In the Cappella dell’ Annunziata, in the Dominican church of Santa Maria sopra Minerva, stands the funerary monument of Pope Urban VII, the shortest-reigning pope in the history of the papacy.
Cardinal Giovanni Battista Castagna (b. 1521) was elected pope on September 15th, 1590, taking the name Urban VII. Twelve days later he was dead. And yet despite the brevity of his reign, Pope Urban VII found the time to introduce, what is thought to be, the world’s first ban on smoking in public.
The pope's edict threatened to excommunicate anyone who "took tobacco in the porch of, or inside, a church, whether it be by chewing it, smoking it with a pipe or sniffing it in powdered form through the nose".
Urban VII, who died of malaria, was succeeded by Gregory XIV (elected on December 5th), making 1590 a year of three popes.
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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