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Revocation of Papal privilege to print and distribute Roman [Gregorian] Calendar and Martyrology (1582)

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Primary Sources on Copyright (1450-1900)

Identifier: va_1582


Commentary on The Gregorian Calendar and Roman Martyrology, Rome (1582)

Jane C. Ginsburg


Please cite as:

Ginsburg, J.C. (2022) ‘Commentary on The Gregorian Calendar and Roman Martyrology, Rome (1582)', in Primary Sources on Copyright (1450-1900), eds L. Bently & M. Kretschmer,


1. Full title

2. Introduction

3. Revocations of Papal Privileges

4. Persons mentioned in the documents

4a. Giovanni Francesco Commendone

4b. Cesare Glorieri

4c. Antonio Lilio


1. Full title

Revocation of Papal privilege to print and distribute Roman [Gregorian] Calendar and Martyrology (1582)


2. Introduction

This document revokes an earlier privilege granted to Antonio Lilio in April 1582, which gave him the exclusive right to publish the reformed Calendar and Martyrology across Europe. Pope Gregory XIII (1502 - 1585) introduced the Gregorian Calendar in October 1582, modifying the previously used Julian Calendar in order to realign the canonical date of Easter with its observed reality. Pope Gregory issued the papal bull Inter gravissimas on February 24, 1582, ordering the Catholic clergy to adopt the new Calendar and Martyrology. For an in-depth account of the Calendar's development and promulgation, see Gregorian Reform of the Calendar: Proceedings of the Vatican Conference to Commemorate its 400th Anniversary (1582-1982), ed. G. V. Coyne, Michael A. Hoskin, and O. Pedersen (1983). The Martyrology lists Roman Catholic martyrs and saints in order of the dates of their feasts. The first edition of the Roman Martyrology (Martyrologium Romanum) was published in 1583 (WorldCat/BAVat).

As alluded to in the revocation, Lilio struggled to accomplish the task with the necessary speed, and the Vatican elected to open up the Calendar's and Martyrology's publication to any and all potential publishers outside of Rome, but required that the works be printed in conformity with the Roman master copy ("pur che siano stampati in modo che non discordino in cosa alcuna da li esemplari stampati in Roma"). The Bull, Inter gravissimus, issued the same day as the Revocation of Lilio's privilege, ordered the substitution of the new Calendar and Martyrology and prohibited the continued use of the old calendars, on pain of confiscation and 100 ducats fine, "in order that both [the Calendar and the Martyrology] remain uncorrupted all over the world, and purged of faults and errors" ("Ut vero utrumque ubique terrarum incorruptum, ac mendis, ac erroribus purgatum."). Sec. Brev. Reg. 96 F. 304 (Nov. 20, 1582). For the full Bull Inter gravissimus, in Latin transcription and French and English translations, see

The difficulties in propagating the new calendar led the Vatican to issue a decree on November 7, 1583 that allowed would-be adopters to skip ten days in February 1583 and thus catch up with other nations that had skipped ten days in October 1582 as per the instructions in the Papal Bull of February 1582 that announced the new calendars. A scanned copy of the Calendar printed in Munich in 1583 (accessible via this link) preserves this decree's Latin text alongside the original Papal Bull, the April 3rd Privilege, and the November 20th Revocation.


3. Revocations of Papal Privileges

Revocations of privileges appear to have been infrequent, but Lilio's revocation is not the only one citing failure to disseminate the work. See Sec. Brev. Reg. 339 F. 44 (1603) (revoking privilege granted to author who failed to pay printers, and granting it to another printer who paid prior debt on condition of transfer of privilege). In Lilio's case, liturgical imperative underlay the Pope's determination to make the Calendar and Martyrology freely available for publication throughout the Catholic world, subject, however, to strict conformity with the Roman master copy. Ensuring accuracy furnished a primary motivation for granting privileges, as petitioners stressed the risks of errors appearing in unauthorized copies. See, e.g., Sec. Brev. Rev. 140 F. 314 (1589) (privilege to Gerard Voss for Latin translation of works of St. Ephrem of Syria). Indeed, the poor quality of an edition of a book of commentaries on Job provoked the revocation of the privilege and its transfer to a different publisher, see Sec. Brev. Reg. 130 F. 70 (1587).


4. Persons mentioned in the documents

4a. Giovanni Francesco Commendone (1523 - 1584). Cardinal and papal nuncio, elevated in 1565 by Pius IV. Commendone was born in Venice, and studied at the University of Padua before going to Rome in 1550. He was famously sent by Pope Julius III in 1553 to London, where he treated with Mary Tudor in an attempt to restore the Catholic faith to England. Served as a papal legate to various other courts and locations, before dying in 1584 in Padua. See "Giovanni Francesco Commendone." The Catholic Encyclopedia. Vol. 4. New York: Robert Appleton Company, 1908. 

4b. Cesare Glorieri (1505 - 1595). Cardinal-Secretary of Papal Letters. Glorieri was a long-serving papal secretary who began working for the Vatican sometime around 1526. Over the course of his career he amassed great personal wealth, which was subsequently seized from him by Pope Gregory XIII in 1584 due to Glorieri's alleged involvement in a financial scandal related to Pope Pius IV's estate. After Gregory's death in 1585, Pope Sixtus V restored Glorieri's wealth to him, but it does not appear that Glorieri returned to his secretarial duties. In 1575, he commissioned the Chapel of the Assumption in Santo Spirito in Sassia, which can be viewed here. For more on Cesare, see "Glorieri, Alessandro." Dizionario Biografico degli Italiani - Volume 57 (2001).

4c. Antonio Lilio (dates uncertain) was the brother of the Italian doctor and astronomer Aloysius Lilius (c. 1510 - 1576), also known as Luigi Lilio or Luigi Giglio, whose calculations and rationales were instrumental in constructing the Gregorian Calendar. After Aloysius' death, Antonio, a doctor of medicine, submitted his brother's manuscript to Pope Gregory XIII, who on April 3, 1582 granted Antonio the exclusive rights to publish the calendar for 10 years. For more about the Lilio brothers and the calendar reform process, see "Gregorian Reform of the Calendar. For more about Antonio Lilio's role, positing that he was a co-author of the Calendar, see Francesco Vizza, Aloysius Lilius, Author of the Gregorian Reform of the Calendar, Lilius Author of the Gregorian Reform of the Calendar .pdf pp.8-10.

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