Home News 1567: Pope Pius V bans bullfighting

1567: Pope Pius V bans bullfighting

For this supreme pontiff, who led the Catholic Church between 1566 and 1572, they were shameful spectacles, in which no Christian should participate.



Pope Pius V could go down in history for many reasons. He was the first to use the white cassock; also, a remarkable inquisitor, famous for his severity; he effectively launched the Counter-Reformation; and with the name of Roman Catechism or, published the doctrine of the Council of Trent.

In addition, he encouraged the creation of the Holy League, the coalition that, commanded by John of Austria -her brother of Philip II- , defeated the Ottomans in Lepanto; ordered to cover the genitals of the protagonists of the Last Judgment of Michelangelo, in the Sistine Chapel; excommunicated Elizabeth I of England; and expelled 45,000 prostitutes from Rome – some cardinal warned that they were necessary so that the clergy would not fall into sodomy.

Finally, he decreed the supremacy of his authority over that of the civil power of all nations. However, he is now famous in Spain because, in a bull promulgated on November 20, 1567, he banned bullfighting under pain of excommunication.

In Spain, no case

The measure affected the entire world, but it was not accepted equally, which called into question the papal influence in such matters. It took immediate effect in Italy – bulls and other animals were thrown down from Mount Testaccio in Rome, but in Portugal it took three years to publish. There, the horns of the bulls simply popped to reduce the risk of the right-handed man. The Catholic King Philip II of Spain did not pay much attention to this question.

In fact, the bull did not even make itself known. It was entitled Super prohibitione agitationis Taurorum & Ferarum and, as he proclaimed, his intention was to avoid the dangers that run those who face “bulls and other beasts in public and private shows, to show their strength and audacity”. Pius V called them “bloody and shameful”, “proper to the devil”, and strictly prohibited their celebration to any Christian prince. He added, furthermore, that if someone died during the fight, he would not receive ecclesiastical burial. The bull charged the inks on the clerics, who used to adorn the religious festivals with such acts.

The strength of tradition


Apparently, several people influenced Philip II to not give publicity to the bull, and provided arguments, citing the lack of information from the pontiff on the peculiarities of these festivities in Spain, as well as the popularity and tradition of them. Knowing that Pius V needed his help to fight the Turks – and not to antagonize his subjects – the monarch chose to put the matter on hold, and waited for the change of Pope to fix things. Gregory XIII, in 1585, and Clement VIII, in 1596, softened the prohibition “in the kingdoms of Spain”. Thus, they abolished the penalties of excommunication and anathema, except for clerics. They asked that the shows be limited to non-holiday days and that measures be taken to prevent the death of people. The issue continued to revolve and revolt, but without substantial changes in the position of the Church until today.


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