The Most Famous

RELIGIOUS FIGURES from Italy

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This page contains a list of the greatest Religious Figures. The pantheon dataset contains 2,238 Religious Figures, 481 of which were born in Italy. This makes Italy the birth place of the most number of Religious Figures.

Top 10

The following people are considered by Pantheon to be the top 10 most legendary Religious Figures of all time. This list of famous Religious Figures is sorted by HPI (Historical Popularity Index), a metric that aggregates information on a biography’s online popularity. Visit the rankings page to view the entire list of Religious Figures.

Photo of Francis of Assisi

1. Francis of Assisi (1182 - 1226)

With an HPI of 84.80, Francis of Assisi is the most famous Religious Figure.  His biography has been translated into 100 different languages on wikipedia.

Giovanni di Pietro di Bernardone, better known as Saint Francis of Assisi (Italian: Francesco d'Assisi; c. 1181 – 3 October 1226), was a mystic Italian Catholic friar, founder of the Franciscans, and one of the most venerated figures in Christianity. In 1223, he arranged for the first Christmas live nativity scene. Pope Gregory IX canonized him on 16 July 1228. Francis later became associated with patronage of animals and the natural environment. It became customary for churches to hold ceremonies blessing animals on his feast day of 4 October. In 1219, he went to Egypt in an attempt to convert the sultan al-Kamil and put an end to the conflict of the Fifth Crusade. He founded the men's Order of Friars Minor, the women's Order of St. Clare, the Third Order of St. Francis and the Custody of the Holy Land. Once his community was authorized by the Pope, he withdrew increasingly from external affairs. Francis is known for his devotion to the Eucharist. According to Christian tradition, in 1224 he received the stigmata during the apparition of a Seraphic angel in a religious ecstasy. Along with Catherine of Siena, he was designated patron saint of Italy.

Photo of Saint Lucy

2. Saint Lucy (283 - 304)

With an HPI of 80.65, Saint Lucy is the 2nd most famous Religious Figure.  Her biography has been translated into 60 different languages.

Lucia of Syracuse (283–304), also called Saint Lucia (Latin: Sancta Lucia) or Saint Lucy, was a Christian martyr who died during the Diocletianic Persecution. She is venerated as a saint in the Catholic, Anglican, Lutheran, and Eastern Orthodox churches. She is one of eight women (including the Virgin Mary) explicitly commemorated by Catholics in the Canon of the Mass. Her traditional feast day, known in Europe as Saint Lucy's Day, is observed by Western Christians on 13 December. Lucia of Syracuse was honored in the Middle Ages and remained a well-known saint in early modern England. She is one of the best known virgin martyrs, along with Agatha of Sicily, Agnes of Rome, Cecilia of Rome and Catherine of Alexandria.

Photo of Pope John Paul I

3. Pope John Paul I (1912 - 1978)

With an HPI of 80.45, Pope John Paul I is the 3rd most famous Religious Figure.  His biography has been translated into 108 different languages.

Pope John Paul I (Latin: Ioannes Paulus I; Italian: Giovanni Paolo I; born Albino Luciani [alˈbiːno luˈtʃaːni]; 17 October 1912 – 28 September 1978) was head of the Catholic Church and sovereign of the Vatican City from 26 August 1978 to his death 33 days later. His reign is among the shortest in papal history, resulting in the most recent year of three popes and the first to occur since 1605. John Paul I remains the most recent Italian-born pope, the last in a succession of such popes that started with Clement VII in 1523. Before the papal conclave that elected him, he expressed his desire not to be elected, telling those close to him that he would decline the papacy if elected, but, upon the cardinals' electing him, he felt an obligation to say yes. He was the first pontiff to have a double name, choosing "John Paul" in honour of his two immediate predecessors, John XXIII and Paul VI. He explained that he was indebted to John XXIII and to Paul VI for naming him a bishop and a cardinal, respectively. Furthermore, he was the first pope to add the regnal number "I", designating himself "the First". His two immediate successors, John Paul II and Benedict XVI, later recalled the warm qualities of the late pontiff in several addresses. In Italy, he is remembered with the appellatives of Il Papa del Sorriso (transl. The Smiling Pope) and Il Sorriso di Dio (transl. The Smile of God). Time magazine and other publications referred to him as "The September Pope". He is also known in Italy as "Papa Luciani". In his hometown of Canale d'Agordo a museum built and named in his honor is dedicated to his life and brief papacy. He was declared a servant of God by his successor, John Paul II, on 23 November 2003, the first step on the road to sainthood. Pope Francis confirmed his heroic virtue on 8 November 2017 and named him as Venerable. Pope Francis presided over the beatification on 4 September 2022.

Photo of Pope John XXIII

4. Pope John XXIII (1881 - 1963)

With an HPI of 80.44, Pope John XXIII is the 4th most famous Religious Figure.  His biography has been translated into 107 different languages.

Pope John XXIII (Latin: Ioannes XXIII; Italian: Giovanni XXIII; born Angelo Giuseppe Roncalli, Italian: [ ˈandʒelo dʒuˈzɛppe roŋˈkalli]; 25 November 1881 – 3 June 1963) was head of the Catholic Church and sovereign of the Vatican City State from 28 October 1958 until his death in 1963. Angelo Giuseppe Roncalli was one of thirteen children born to Marianna Mazzola and Giovanni Battista Roncalli in a family of sharecroppers who lived in Sotto il Monte, a village in the province of Bergamo, Lombardy. He was ordained to the priesthood on 10 August 1904 and served in a number of posts, as nuncio in France and a delegate to Bulgaria, Greece and Turkey. In a consistory on 12 January 1953 Pope Pius XII made Roncalli a cardinal as the Cardinal-Priest of Santa Prisca in addition to naming him as the Patriarch of Venice. Roncalli was unexpectedly elected pope on 28 October 1958 at age 76 after 11 ballots. Pope John XXIII surprised those who expected him to be a caretaker pope by calling the historic Second Vatican Council (1962–1965), the first session opening on 11 October 1962. John XXIII made many passionate speeches during his pontificate. His views on equality were summed up in his statement, "We were all made in God's image, and thus, we are all Godly alike." He made a major impact on the Catholic Church, opening it up to dramatic unexpected changes promulgated at the Vatican Council and by his own dealings with other churches and nations. In Italian politics, he prohibited bishops from interfering with local elections, and he helped the Christian Democracy to cooperate with the Italian Socialist Party. In international affairs, his "Ostpolitik" engaged in dialogue with the communist countries of Eastern Europe. He especially reached out to the Eastern Orthodox churches. His overall goal was to modernize the Church by emphasizing its pastoral role, and its necessary involvement with affairs of state. He dropped the traditional rule of 70 cardinals, increasing the size to 85. He used the opportunity to name the first cardinals from Africa, Japan, and the Philippines. He promoted ecumenical movements in cooperation with other Christian faiths. In doctrinal matters, he was a traditionalist, but he ended the practice of automatically formulating social and political policies on the basis of old theological propositions.He did not live to see the Vatican Council to completion. His cause for canonization was opened on 18 November 1965 by his successor, Pope Paul VI, who declared him a Servant of God. On 5 July 2013, Pope Francis – bypassing the traditionally required second miracle – declared John XXIII a saint, based on his virtuous, model lifestyle, and because of the good which had come from his opening of the Second Vatican Council. He was canonised alongside Pope John Paul II on 27 April 2014. John XXIII today is affectionately known as the Good Pope (Italian: il Papa buono).

Photo of Pope Gregory I

5. Pope Gregory I (540 - 604)

With an HPI of 79.59, Pope Gregory I is the 5th most famous Religious Figure.  His biography has been translated into 89 different languages.

Pope Gregory I (Latin: Gregorius I; c. 540 – 12 March 604), commonly known as Saint Gregory the Great, was the bishop of Rome from 3 September 590 to his death. He is known for instigating the first recorded large-scale mission from Rome, the Gregorian Mission, to convert the then largely pagan Anglo-Saxons to Christianity. Gregory is also well known for his writings, which were more prolific than those of any of his predecessors as pope. The epithet Saint Gregory the Dialogist has been attached to him in Eastern Christianity because of his Dialogues. English translations of Eastern texts sometimes list him as Gregory "Dialogos", or the Anglo-Latinate equivalent "Dialogus".A Roman senator's son and himself the prefect of Rome at 30, Gregory lived in a monastery he established on his family estate before becoming a papal ambassador and then pope. Although he was the first pope from a monastic background, his prior political experiences may have helped him to be a talented administrator. During his papacy, his administration greatly surpassed that of the emperors in improving the welfare of the people of Rome, and he challenged the theological views of Patriarch Eutychius of Constantinople before the emperor Tiberius II. Gregory regained papal authority in Spain and France and sent missionaries to England, including Augustine of Canterbury and Paulinus of York. The realignment of barbarian allegiance to Rome from their Arian Christian alliances shaped medieval Europe. Gregory saw Franks, Lombards, and Visigoths align with Rome in religion. He also combated the Donatist heresy, popular particularly in North Africa at the time.Throughout the Middle Ages, he was known as "the Father of Christian Worship" because of his exceptional efforts in revising the Roman worship of his day. His contributions to the development of the Divine Liturgy of the Presanctified Gifts, still in use in the Byzantine Rite, were so significant that he is generally recognized as its de facto author. Gregory is one of the Latin Fathers and a Doctor of the Church. He is considered a saint in the Catholic Church, Eastern Orthodox Church, Anglican Communion, various Lutheran denominations, and other Protestant denominations. Immediately after his death, Gregory was canonized by popular acclaim. The Protestant reformer John Calvin admired Gregory greatly and declared in his Institutes that Gregory was the last good Pope. He is the patron saint of musicians, singers, students, and teachers.

Photo of Pope Pius XII

6. Pope Pius XII (1876 - 1958)

With an HPI of 79.51, Pope Pius XII is the 6th most famous Religious Figure.  His biography has been translated into 95 different languages.

Pope Pius XII (Italian: Pio XII), born Eugenio Maria Giuseppe Giovanni Pacelli (Italian pronunciation: [euˈdʒɛːnjo maˈriːa dʒuˈzɛppe dʒoˈvanni paˈtʃɛlli]; 2 March 1876 – 9 October 1958), was head of the Catholic Church and sovereign of the Vatican City State from 2 March 1939 until his death in 1958. Before his election to the papacy, he served as secretary of the Department of Extraordinary Ecclesiastical Affairs, papal nuncio to Germany, and Cardinal Secretary of State, in which capacity he worked to conclude treaties with European and Latin American nations, such as the Reichskonkordat with the German Reich.While the Vatican was officially neutral during World War II, the Reichskonkordat and his leadership of the Catholic Church during the war remain the subject of controversy—including allegations of public silence and inaction about the fate of the Jews. Pius employed diplomacy to aid the victims of the Nazis during the war and, through directing the church to provide discreet aid to Jews and others, saved hundreds of thousands of lives. Pius maintained links to the German Resistance, and shared intelligence with the Allies. His strongest public condemnation of genocide was, however, considered inadequate by the Allied Powers, while the Nazis viewed him as an Allied sympathizer who had dishonoured his policy of Vatican neutrality.During his papacy, the Catholic Church issued the Decree against Communism, declaring that Catholics who profess Communist doctrine are to be excommunicated as apostates from the Christian faith. The church experienced severe persecution and mass deportations of Catholic clergy in the Eastern Bloc. He explicitly invoked ex cathedra papal infallibility with the dogma of the Assumption of Mary in his Apostolic constitution Munificentissimus Deus. His forty-one encyclicals include Mystici corporis, on the Church as the Body of Christ; Mediator Dei on liturgy reform; and Humani generis, in which he instructed theologians to adhere to episcopal teaching and allowed that the human body might have evolved from earlier forms. He eliminated the Italian majority in the College of Cardinals in 1946. After he died in 1958, Pope Pius XII was succeeded by John XXIII. In the process toward sainthood, his cause for canonization was opened on 18 November 1965 by Paul VI during the final session of the Second Vatican Council. He was made a Servant of God by John Paul II in 1990 and Benedict XVI declared Pius XII Venerable on 19 December 2009.

Photo of Pope Clement VII

7. Pope Clement VII (1478 - 1534)

With an HPI of 79.12, Pope Clement VII is the 7th most famous Religious Figure.  His biography has been translated into 74 different languages.

Pope Clement VII (Latin: Clemens VII; Italian: Clemente VII; born Giulio de' Medici; 26 May 1478 – 25 September 1534) was head of the Catholic Church and ruler of the Papal States from 19 November 1523 to his death on 25 September 1534. Deemed "the most unfortunate of the popes", Clement VII's reign was marked by a rapid succession of political, military, and religious struggles—many long in the making—which had far-reaching consequences for Christianity and world politics.Elected in 1523 at the end of the Italian Renaissance, Clement came to the papacy with a high reputation as a statesman. He had served with distinction as chief advisor to Pope Leo X (1513–1521), Pope Adrian VI (1522–1523), and commendably as gran maestro of Florence (1519–1523). Assuming leadership at a time of crisis, with the Protestant Reformation spreading; the Church nearing bankruptcy; and large, foreign armies invading Italy, Clement initially tried to unite Christendom by making peace among the many Christian leaders then at odds. He later attempted to liberate Italy from foreign occupation, believing that it threatened the Church's freedom.The complex political situation of the 1520s thwarted Clement's efforts. Inheriting unprecedented challenges, including Martin Luther's Protestant Reformation in Northern Europe; a vast power struggle in Italy between Europe's two most powerful kings, Holy Roman Emperor Charles V and Francis I of France, each of whom demanded that the Pope choose a side; and Turkish invasions of Eastern Europe led by Suleiman the Magnificent, Clement's problems were exacerbated by King Henry VIII of England's contentious divorce, resulting in England breaking away from the Catholic Church; and in 1527, souring relations with Emperor Charles V, leading to the violent Sack of Rome, during which Clement was imprisoned. After escaping confinement in the Castel Sant'Angelo, Clement—with few economic, military, or political options remaining—compromised the Church's and Italy's independence by allying with his former jailer, Charles V.In contrast to his tortured pontificate, Clement was personally respectable and devout, possessing a "dignified propriety of character", "great acquirements both theological and scientific", as well as "extraordinary address and penetration—Clement VII, in serener times, might have administered the Papal power with high reputation and enviable prosperity. But with all of his profound insight into the political affairs of Europe, Clement does not seem to have comprehended the altered position of the Pope" in relation to Europe's emerging nation-states and Protestantism.Clement left a significant cultural legacy in the Medici tradition. He commissioned artworks by Raphael, Benvenuto Cellini, and Michelangelo, including Michelangelo's The Last Judgment in the Sistine Chapel. In matters of science, Clement is best known for approving, in 1533, Nicolaus Copernicus's theory that the Earth revolves around the Sun—99 years before Galileo Galilei's heresy trial for similar ideas.

Photo of Benedict of Nursia

8. Benedict of Nursia (480 - 543)

With an HPI of 78.85, Benedict of Nursia is the 8th most famous Religious Figure.  His biography has been translated into 76 different languages.

Benedict of Nursia (Latin: Benedictus Nursiae; Italian: Benedetto da Norcia; 2 March 480 AD – 21 March 548 AD) was an Italian Christian monk, writer, and theologian who is venerated in the Catholic Church, the Eastern Orthodox Church, the Oriental Orthodox Churches, the Anglican Communion and Old Catholic Churches. He is a patron saint of Europe.Benedict founded twelve communities for monks at Subiaco, Lazio, Italy (about 65 kilometres (40 mi) to the east of Rome), before moving to Monte Cassino in the mountains of central Italy. The Order of Saint Benedict is of later origin and, moreover, is not an "order" as is commonly understood but merely a confederation of autonomous congregations.Benedict's main achievement, his Rule of Saint Benedict, contains a set of rules for his monks to follow. Heavily influenced by the writings of John Cassian, it shows strong affinity with the Rule of the Master, but it also has a unique spirit of balance, moderation and reasonableness (ἐπιείκεια, epieíkeia), which persuaded most Christian religious communities founded throughout the Middle Ages to adopt it. As a result, his Rule became one of the most influential religious rules in Western Christendom. For this reason, Giuseppe Carletti regarded Benedict as the founder of Western Christian monasticism.

Photo of Pope Pius XI

9. Pope Pius XI (1857 - 1939)

With an HPI of 78.59, Pope Pius XI is the 9th most famous Religious Figure.  His biography has been translated into 94 different languages.

Pope Pius XI (Italian: Pio XI), born Ambrogio Damiano Achille Ratti (Italian: [amˈbrɔ:dʒo daˈmja:no aˈkille ˈratti]; 31 May 1857 – 10 February 1939), was head of the Catholic Church from 6 February 1922 to his death in 1939. He was the first sovereign of Vatican City from its creation as an independent state on 11 February 1929. He assumed as his papal motto "Pax Christi in Regno Christi," translated "The Peace of Christ in the Kingdom of Christ." Pius XI issued numerous encyclicals, including Quadragesimo anno on the 40th anniversary of Pope Leo XIII's groundbreaking social encyclical Rerum novarum, highlighting the capitalistic greed of international finance, the dangers of socialism/communism, and social justice issues, and Quas primas, establishing the feast of Christ the King in response to anti-clericalism. The encyclical Studiorum ducem, promulgated 29 June 1923, was written on the occasion of the 6th centenary of the canonization of Thomas Aquinas, whose thought is acclaimed as central to Catholic philosophy and theology. The encyclical also singles out the Pontifical University of Saint Thomas Aquinas, Angelicum as the preeminent institution for the teaching of Aquinas: "ante omnia Pontificium Collegium Angelicum, ubi Thomam tamquam domi suae habitare dixeris" (before all others the Pontifical Angelicum College, where Thomas can be said to dwell).To establish or maintain the position of the Catholic Church, Pius XI concluded a record number of concordats, including the Reichskonkordat with Nazi Germany, whose betrayals of which he condemned four years later in the encyclical Mit brennender Sorge ("With Burning Concern"). During his pontificate, the longstanding hostility with the Italian government over the status of the papacy and the Church in Italy was successfully resolved in the Lateran Treaty of 1929. He was unable to stop the persecution of the Church and the killing of clergy in Mexico, Spain and the Soviet Union. He canonized important saints, including Thomas More, Peter Canisius, Bernadette of Lourdes and Don Bosco. He beatified and canonized Thérèse de Lisieux, for whom he held special reverence, and gave equivalent canonization to Albertus Magnus, naming him a Doctor of the Church due to the spiritual power of his writings. He took a strong interest in fostering the participation of lay people throughout the Catholic Church, especially in the Catholic Action movement. The end of his pontificate was dominated by speaking out against Hitler and Mussolini, and defending the Catholic Church from intrusions into Catholic life and education. Pius XI died on 10 February 1939 in the Apostolic Palace and is buried in the Papal Grotto of Saint Peter's Basilica. In the course of excavating space for his tomb, two levels of burial grounds were uncovered which revealed bones now venerated as the bones of St. Peter.

Photo of Saint Valentine

10. Saint Valentine (226 - 273)

With an HPI of 78.54, Saint Valentine is the 10th most famous Religious Figure.  His biography has been translated into 59 different languages.

Saint Valentine (Italian: San Valentino; Latin: Valentinus) was a 3rd-century Roman saint, commemorated in Western Christianity on February 14 and in Eastern Orthodoxy on July 6. From the High Middle Ages, his Saints' Day has been associated with a tradition of courtly love. He is also a patron saint of Terni, asthma and beekeepers. Saint Valentine was a clergyman – either a priest or a bishop – in the Roman Empire who ministered to persecuted Christians. He was martyred and his body buried at a Christian cemetery on the Via Flaminia on February 14, which has been observed as the Feast of Saint Valentine (Saint Valentine's Day) since at least the eighth century.Relics of him were kept in the Church and Catacombs of San Valentino in Rome, which "remained an important pilgrim site throughout the Middle Ages until the relics of St. Valentine were transferred to the church of Santa Prassede during the pontificate of Nicholas IV". His skull, crowned with flowers, is exhibited in the Basilica of Santa Maria in Cosmedin, Rome. Other relics of him are in Whitefriar Street Carmelite Church, Dublin, Ireland, a popular place of pilgrimage, especially on Saint Valentine's Day, for those seeking love. At least two different Saint Valentines are mentioned in the early martyrologies. For Saint Valentine of Rome, along with Saint Valentine of Terni, "abstracts of the acts of the two saints were in nearly every church and monastery of Europe", according to Professor Jack B. Oruch of the University of Kansas.Saint Valentine is commemorated in the Anglican Communion and the Lutheran Churches on February 14. In the Eastern Orthodox Church, he is recognized on July 6; in addition, the Eastern Orthodox Church observes the feast of Hieromartyr Valentine, Bishop of Interamna, on July 30. In 1969, the Roman Catholic Church removed his name from the General Roman Calendar, leaving his liturgical celebration to local calendars, though use of the pre-1970 liturgical calendar is also authorized under the conditions indicated in the motu proprio Summorum Pontificum of 2007. The Roman Catholic Church continues to recognize him as a saint, listing him as such in the February 14 entry in the Roman Martyrology, and authorizing liturgical veneration of him on February 14 in any place where that day is not devoted to some other obligatory celebration, in accordance with the rule that on such a day the Mass may be that of any saint listed in the Martyrology for that day.

Pantheon has 528 people classified as religious figures born between 600 BC and 1971. Of these 528, 57 (10.80%) of them are still alive today. The most famous living religious figures include Tarcisio Bertone, Angelo Sodano, and Giovanni Battista Re. The most famous deceased religious figures include Francis of Assisi, Saint Lucy, and Pope John Paul I. As of April 2022, 47 new religious figures have been added to Pantheon including Eugenia of Rome, Saint Silvia, and Saint Sabina.

Living Religious Figures

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Deceased Religious Figures

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Newly Added Religious Figures (2022)

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Which Religious Figures were alive at the same time? This visualization shows the lifespans of the 25 most globally memorable Religious Figures since 1700.