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Back in the Day: the end of the shortest ever papacy

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Back in the Day: the end of the shortest ever papacy


September 27, 1590. Pope Urban VII dies just 13 days after being elected as successor to Pope Sixtus V, making his the shortest ever term in papal office. Even in such a curtailed reign, Urban did manage to come up with what is thought to be the first ever smoking ban in history: he threatened to excommunicate anyone who “took tobacco in the porchway 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”. Another of Urban’s laws required bakers to make larger loaves of bread and sell them at lower prices, with the lost money being replaced from the Pope’s own pocket. Born Giovanni Battista Castagna in Rome in 1521, Urban was widely appreciated for his kindness and efforts to help the poor. He died even before his coronation as Pope after being bitten by a malarial mosquito and was replaced by Gregory XIV.

Also on September 27: Spain recognises Mexico’s independence (1821); production of the first Ford Model T automobile (1908); publication of the Warren Commission report into the assassination of US President John F. Kennedy (1964); Taliban forces take control of the Afghan capital, Kabul (1996).

Born on September 27: Meat Loaf (1947), Jean-Marc Barr (1960), Irvine Welsh (1961), Gwyneth Paltrow (1972), Francesco Totti (1976), Avril Lavigne (1984).

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