Jul 282010

q.v. July 19, 2010 post ‘Pope Benedict XVI becomes the 7th oldest pope’
July 24, 2010 post ‘Pope Benedict XVI Was The 5th Oldest To Be Elected Pope (Since 1400)’
June 24, 2010 post ‘The youngest popes; John XII probably having been a teenager’

Given the continued ongoing interest from around the world [actually 116 countries] in my July 19 post that the current pope, Benedict XVI (#266), is now the 7th oldest pope (as of 1400), I feel compelled to fill in some of the other ‘gaps’ when it comes to papal statistics. That is why I did the July 24 post as to who the ten oldest were, when elected (again as of 1400).

When we continue along this path of oldest, youngest etc., the next obvious question has to do with how long the popes have reigned.

Whereas it is impossible to find meaningful birth dates for the popes that came prior to 1400, we do have the data for the ‘length of papacy’ for all 256 papacies that occurred prior to that of the current pope, though some of these ‘reign lengths’ are estimates — particularly in the case of the first 17 popes and many in the 10th century. Nonetheless, utilizing the best available estimates we can construct a fairly decent picture as to the trends vis-à-vis papal reigns.

The average length of the 265 papacies, prior to that of Benedict XVI, is 7.2 years.

So, Benedict XVI, who is in his fifth year, is below the average. As I have previously stated, this pope could break quite a few papal records in his lifetime.

Here is the chart of the distribution of the length of papacies for the prior 255 popes:

length of papacies by Anura Guruge

The annotations in the bottom axis have been rounded up. So when I say ‘1-5 years’ what I really mean is ‘1 to 4.99 years’! OK? Get it? So if you want to be precise, it is 1-4.99, 5-9.99, 10-14.99 etc. OK?

Most of you will immediately know three of the four popes who reigned for more than 25 years; viz. Pius IX (#256) 31 years, John Paul II (#265) 26 years and Leo XIII (#257) 25 years. It might take you a second to realize who the fourth has to be. St. Peter (#1), per the well established tradition of “Peter’s Years.”

IF you don’t have ‘regnal dates’ for all of the popes … << click here >> for a PDF with all that information. It is, in fact, Appendix A of my ‘The Next Pope’ book — but, you can have it for free. << smile >>

So basically this is what we have. 73 papacies (27.5%) were between one and 4.99 years long. 63 papacies (23.7%) were between 5 and 9.99 years long. 48 papacies (18%) lasted less than one year

  One Response to “The Length Of The Past Papacies, i.e., How Long Did The Pope Reign?”

  1. […] don’t tend to last that long in general with the average reign being about 7 years. This is probably because when they become Pope the gentlemen in question already tend to be quite […]

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