In the Cappella dell’ Annunziata, in the church of Santa Maria Sopra Minerva, stands the funeral monument of Pope Urban VII. The pope's claim to fame is that his reign was the shortest in the history of the papacy, but what is much less well-known about Urban VII is that he introduced (what is thought to be) the world’s first ban on smoking in public.
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 issue an edict which 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 the year of the three popes.
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My name is David Lown and I am an art historian, writer and guide