After studying Latin at Milan, at the age of 15, Charles was sent to the University of Pavia to study civil and canon law under Francis Alciati, who was later made a cardinal. By age 22 Charles had earned his doctorate and both his parents were dead. In his enthusiasm His Holiness appointed Charles in to administer the vacant see of Milan, but refused to allow him to go there. Only two years after his arrival in Rome at the age of 22 and still in minor orders, Charles had among his other responsibilities, duties similar to those of the present-day Secretary of State of the Vatican. The pope clearly found it easy to make appointments and had a strong sense of family.
Anyone else in this position would have felt that he was one of Saint Peter's seven gold keys. But Borromeo was made of stronger stuff. Perhaps he bowed his head under the weight of so many honors, but he certainly didn't bend his knee. More importantly, he rolled up his sleeves and went to work. Nevertheless, he led a balanced life. Charles still managed to find the time to play music and engage in sports; to attend to family responsibilities, such as finding husbands for his four sisters. To the consternation of many, Charles soon was attacking the Roman court. It his eyes it was worthless, with its display of luxury, its low morals, and its stink of treacherous scheming.
Loudly he declared his contempt for the practices that defiled it, condemning lechery, praising charity and humility, denouncing abuses and extolling the virtues of a good example. His daring action earned the hostility of many clerics and the reputation as a kill-joy. As a patron of learning, Charles promoted it among the clergy and laity by instituting a literary academy at the Vatican. The record of its many conferences and studies can be found in Borromeo's Noctes Vaticanae. In , Pope Pius IV reconvened the Council of Trent, which had opened in but had been suspended between and Charles is credited with keeping the council going for the next two years and hastening it to the completion of its work by reconciling opponents.
During the council Charles's older brother, Count Frederick Borromeo, died, leaving Charles as head of the family. Everyone assumed he would resign his clerical state and marry. But Charles opted to name his uncle Julius as successor, and instead was ordained a priest in and consecrated archbishop of Milan the following year. Charles was anxious to travel to Milan and begin implementing the reforms of Trent in his see, but was forced by the growing frailty of his uncle to remain in Rome.
He supervised writing of the new catechism, missal, and breviary, and the reform of the liturgy and church music called for by the council. He even commissioned Palestrina's Mass Papae Marcelli. At last he received permission to travel to Milan and convene a provincial synod the first of six during his administration because his see was in great disorder. But in he was called to the pope's deathbed, where Saint Philip Neri was also present.
The new pope Saint Pius V asked him to continue his duties in Rome for a time, but Charles resisted because he wanted to attend to his diocese. Finally taking over his see in , the year-old Charles modified the luxurious life style he had in Rome, and set himself to apply the principles of the Council of Trent in the reformation of a large, disordered diocese that had been without a resident archbishop for 80 years.
At this time the archdiocese of Milan stretched from Venice to Geneva. It comprised 3, clergy and , lay men and women in over 2, churches, communities of men, and 70 of women--about the size of the Roman Church in England today. Born an aristocrat, Charles Borromeo decided he ought to identify himself with the poor of his diocese. He regulated his household and sold household plate and other treasures to raise 30, crowns. The whole sum was used to relief the distress of the poor. His almoner was ordered to give poor families crowns monthly. He confessed himself each morning before celebrating Mass generally to Griffith Gruffydd Roberts, author of the well-known Welsh grammar.
Borromeo set his clergy an example of virtuous and selfless living, of caring for the needy and sick, of making Christ a reality to society. Charles is described as having a robust and dignified carriage. His nose was large and aquiline, his color pale, his hair brown, and his eyes blue. He sported a short, unkempt reddish-brown beard until when he ordered his clergy to shave and, as in everything, set the example himself.
He travelled the length and breadth of his huge diocese. Eventually, Charles overcame his early speech impediment, but his was never able to preach with ease. Nevertheless, he always spoke convincingly, and constantly preached and catechized on his visitations. To help remedy the people's religious ignorance he established the Confraternity of Christian Doctrine CCD and instituted 'Sunday schools'; seminaries were opened for the training of clergy he was a great benefactor of the English College at Douai that Cardinal Allen called him its founder ; the dignity of public worship was insisted upon.
It is said he had 3, catechists and 40, pupils enrolled in the CCD programs of Milan. He arranged retreats for the clergy and encouraged the Jesuits in their educational work. His influence was felt even outside his own diocese and time. Charles Borromeo was an outstanding figure among Catholic reformers after the Council of Trent, and has been called a second Saint Ambrose.
His rigorism in some directions and his imperiousness have not escaped criticism, but such work of his as the religious education of children has been very widely appreciated. Charles's uncompromising reforms were not carried out without opposition, not least from highly-placed laity whose disorderly lives he curbed with stringent measures.
Efforts were made to get him removed from office. In , he aroused the enmity of the Milan Senate over episcopal jurisdiction when he imprisoned several laypersons for their evil lives; when the episcopal sheriff was driven from the city by civil officials, he excommunicated them and was eventually upheld by King Philip II and the pope. Again his episcopal rights were challenged. Backed by governor Arburquerque, the canons of Santa Maria della Scala in Milan one day refused to allow Borromeo to enter their church.
You might imagine the scene: Borromeo pardoned the offense but the pope and king upheld his rights again. He had been attempting to bring order to a corrupt religious group known as the Humiliati, which had no more than 70 members but which possessed the wealth of 90 monasteries. One of the Humiliati, a priest named Jerome Donati Farina, was hired by three friars with the proceeds from selling church decorations to assassinate Borromeo. He shot at the archbishop as he knelt before the altar during evening prayer. The bullet, however, only struck his clothes in the back, bruising him.
He calmly ordered the service to continue. Not long afterwards he obtained a papal bull which dissolved the congregation permanently. After thanksgiving, Charles retired for a few days to a Carthusian monastery to consecrate his life anew to God. When it turned out that the wound was not mortal, Charles Borromeo rededicated himself to the reform of the Church.
He then travelled to the next three valleys of the diocese in the Alps, visiting each of the Catholic cantons, removing ignorant and unworthy clergy, and converting a number of Zwinglians. It is said the Charles possessed the extraordinary gift of being able to instantaneously recognize the gifts and capabilities of those around him.
He wished to have an efficient body of priests as auxiliaries to help him in his many works, so gathered together men of exemplary lives known for the sanctity and learning. Anyone showing ambition for place or office would not be tolerated by him. During the famine of he managed to find food for 3, people a day for three months. Lombardy was under the civil authority of Philip II of Spain at this time. Tired of the jurisdictional struggles and the political games being played, in Charles excommunicated the governor Luis de Requesens, who was then removed by Philip.
The last two governors learned from this not to mess with the cardinal- archbishop. In he went to Rome to gain a jubilee indulgence, and the following year it was published in Milan. Huge crowds of penitents came to Milan. Unfortunately, they brought the plague with them. One word spoken by him frequently so animated slothful or desponding priests, that they counted labours their gain, and braved dangers without fear.
The clergy especially were in many cases so lax and careless, and even living scandalous lives, that the people had grown to be equally negligent and sinful. Charles a yearly pension of nine thousand crowns, and confirmed to him the gift of the principality of Oria, which he had before bestowed on his elder brother, Frederic. Many are converted to God by adversity; but St.
In Lent he abstained even from bread, and lived on dried figs and boiled beans; in Holy Week his food was only a small bitter sort of peas which he ate raw.
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Charles was very soon occupied as secretary of state in using his influence to bring about the re-assembling of the Council of Trent , which had been suspended since La voce delle Sibille capace di vincere di mille secoli il silenzio. The governor and other officials fled the city; Charles Borromeo refused, remaining to care for the stricken. He assembled the superiors of the religious communities and begged them for their help. Many religious lodged in his house. The hospital of Saint Gregory was inadequate and overflowed with the sick and dead, with too few to care for them.
He sent for help from priests and lay helpers in the Alpine valleys, because the Milanese clergy would not go near the sick. As plague choked off commerce, want began. Daily food had to be found for 60, to 70, people. Borromeo first sold off his large estate at Oria, Naples, to raise money to relieve suffering.
Having exhausted his own resources and he began piling up debt to get supplies. Clothes were made from the flags that had been hung from his house to the cathedral during processions. Empty houses were used, and shelters were built for the sick. Altars were set up in the streets so that the sick could attend public worship from their windows. He himself ministered to the sick, in addition to supervising care in the city. The plague lasted from Even during this period, resentful magistrates tried to make trouble between Charles and the pope.
When the plague was over, Charles wanted to establish anew his cathedral chapter on the basis of a common life, but the canons refused. Roberts, Borromeo appointed another Welshman , Dr. Owen Lewis later bishop of Calabria , to be his vicar general, and he always had with him a little picture of Saint John Fisher. In , he met, aided, and entertained for a week twelve young priests going on a mission to England. A little later the same year, Charles met the year-old Saint Aloysius Gonzaga, to whom he gave his first Communion. Charles was a martyr in his own way. He travelled under much strain and without enough sleep.
In , his health declined. After arranging for the establishment of a convalescents' home in Milan, he went to Monte Varallo to make his annual retreat, accompanied by the Jesuit Father Adorno. He told several people that he was not long for this world, took ill on October 24, and arrived back in Milan on All Souls' Day November 2 , having celebrated Mass for the last time the day before in his hometowm of Arona.
He went to bed, requested the last rites, received them, and died quietly during the early hours of November 4 in the arms of his Welsh confessor, Fr. Roberts, in , aged only 46, with the words, "Behold, I come. Your will be done.
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He was buried in Milan Cathedral. A spontaneous cultus arose immediately. Soon after his death the people agreed to build a monument to him--a meter statue set upon a meter pedestal. The statue was called "Carlone" or "Big Charles.
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Among Walter Savage Landor's poems is one addressed to Saint Charles, invoking his pity on Milan at the time of the troubles in In art his emblem is a cardinal's hat and crozier. Normally he is shown as a cardinal praying before a crucifix, generally barefoot and often with a rope around his neck. Sometimes he is shown 1 kissing the hand of the Blessed Virgin and blessed by the Christ Child; 2 weeping over a book with untouched bread and water nearby; or 3 bringing the Blessed Sacrament to plague victims Roeder, White. He is the patron of Roman clergy, seminaries, spiritual directors, catechists, catechumens, and starch makers.
Invoked against the plague Roeder, White. Petri, general of the Barnabites, afterwards bishop of Novara; and more in detail in Italian, by Peter Giussano, a priest of the Congregation of the Oblates at Milan. Many others have since compiled lives of this saint, principally Ripamont, who, in his history of Milan, employs eight books chiefly about St. Ciaconius speaks of him, In vitis Pontif. See also Vagliano, Sommario delle vite degli arcivescovi di Milano.
And his life by John Baptist, Possevini, priest of Mantua. Likewise Lettera di Agata Sfondrata, priora di S. Paolo in Milano alla priora de Angeliche di S. Marta di Cremona, per la morte di San Carlo. Caroli per Saxium, t. The family of Borromeo is one of the most ancient in Lombardy, and has been famous for several great men, both in the church and state. Count Gilbert behaved in such a manner in the wars between the French and Spaniards in Lombardy, as to preserve the favour of both courts; and the Emperor Charles V.
The count was so pious that he communicated every Sunday, said every day the office of the church on his knees, and often shut himself up for many hours together, in a little retired chapel which he made in the castle of Arona, where, covered with sackcloth, in the habit of a penitent, he spent a considerable part of his time alone at his devotions. By much praying his knees became hard and brawny.
He was a tender father to all his tenants and vassals, took care of all orphans, and was so charitable that his friends often told him he injured his children. To whom he made answer: His abstemiousness and rigorous fasts were not less remarkable than his charities. The countess was, by her pious deportment, a living rule to all the ladies in Milan, and to cut off all dangerous visits, scarcely ever went out of doors but to some church or monastery.
Their family consisted of six children, Count Frederick, who afterwards married the sister of the Duke of Urbino, and our saint, and four daughters: All these children were very virtuous: Anne, though engaged in the world, imitated all the religious exercises and austerities of her brother Charles, prayed many hours together with a recollection that astonished every one; and in order to increase the fund of her excessive charities, retrenched every superfluous expense in her table, clothes, and house-keeping.
By her virtue and the saintly education of her children, she was the admiration of all Italy and Sicily, and died at Palermo in The saint in his infancy gave proofs of his future sanctity, loved prayer, was from the beginning very diligent in his studies; and it was his usual amusement to build little chapels, adorn altars, and sing the divine office. By his happy inclination to piety and love of ecclesiastical functions, his parents judged him to be designed by God for the clerical state, and initiated him in it as soon as his age would allow him to receive the tonsure.
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Charles was careful, even in his childhood, that the gravity of his dress and his whole conduct should be such as became the sanctity of his profession. Gratinian and Felin, martyrs, in the territory of Arona, which had been long enjoyed by some clergymen of that family in commendam. Charles, as young as he was, put his father in mind, that the revenue, except what was expended on his necessary education at his studies, for the service of the church, was the patrimony of the poor, and could not be applied to any other uses, or blended with his other money.
Charles learned Latin and humanity at Milan, and was afterwards sent by his father to the university of Pavia, where he studied the civil and canon law under Francis Alciat, the eminent civilian, who was afterwards promoted, by St. In a judicious course of the canon law, the articles of our holy faith and the condemnation of heresies are expounded, and often a fuller resolution of practical cases, and of Christian duties, enforced, not only from the canons, but also from scriptures, tradition, and the law of nature or reason, than is found in courses of moral theology; and this study, which presupposes some acquaintance with the civil or imperial law, is of great importance for the care of souls, especially in the chief pastors.
Charles, though on account of an impediment in his speech, and his love of silence, was by some esteemed slow, yet by the soundness of his judgment, and a diligent application, made good progress in it; and the prudence, piety, and strictness of his conduct rendered him a model of the youth in the university, and proof against evil company, and all other dangers which he watchfully shunned.
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Such was the corruption of that place that several snares were laid for his virtue; but prayer and retirement were his arms against all assaults, and the grace of God carried him through difficulties which seemed almost insurmountable. He communicated every eight days, after the example of his father; and shunned all connexions or visits which could interrupt his regular exercises, or hours of retirement: A little before this, his uncle, the cardinal of Medicis, resigned to him another abbey and priory; but the saint made no addition to his private expenses, so that the poor were the only gainers by this increase of his fortune.
It was only with a view to the foundation of a college at Pavia that he accepted these benefices. When he had taken the degree of doctor he returned to Milan, where he soon after received news that his uncle, the cardinal of Medicis, by whom he was tenderly beloved, was chosen pope on the 25th of December, in , in the conclave held after the death of Paul IV. The new pope being a patrician of Milan, that city made extraordinary rejoicings, and complimented his two nephews in the most pompous and solemn manner.
Charles gave no signs of joy on the occasion; but only persuaded his brother Frederic to go with him to confession and communion; which they did. Count Frederic went to Rome to compliment his holiness; but St. Charles staid at Milan, living in the same manner he did before, till his uncle sent for him, and on the last day of the same year created him cardinal, and on the 8th of February following nominated him archbishop of Milan, when he was in the twenty-third year of his age. The pope, however, detained him at Rome, placed him at the head of the consult or council, with power to sign in his name all requests, and intrusted him with the entire administration of the ecclesiastical state.
Ci vengono incontro leggiadre e piene di grazia in un luogo veramente particolare: Un luogo davvero inconsueto: Una piccola Borsa rinascimentale. Il Padre Eterno benedicente, circonfuso da una mandorla dorata, sovrasta i due gruppi. Fasto e splendore in breve rendono splendide Bruges, Gand, Anversa. E proprio a Gand opera il maggiore pittore del Rinascimento nordico: Per la cattedrale di San Bavone egli realizza un grandioso polittico in 20 pannelli in legno di quercia, in cui, attraverso figure dai colori squillanti, sviluppa la storia della Redenzione dal peccato originale al trionfo finale di Cristo.
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