21 June 1963

Cardinal Giovanni Battista Montini is elected as Pope Paul VI.

Pope Saint

Paul VI
Bishop of Rome
Paulus VI, by Fotografia Felici, 1969.jpg
Paul VI in early 1969
SeeHoly See
Papacy began21 June 1963
Papacy ended6 August 1978
PredecessorJohn XXIII
SuccessorJohn Paul I
Ordination29 May 1920
by Giacinto Gaggia
Consecration12 December 1954
by Eugène Tisserant
Created cardinal15 December 1958
by John XXIII
Personal details
Birth nameGiovanni Battista Enrico Antonio Maria Montini
Born(1897-09-26)26 September 1897
Concesio, Brescia, Lombardy, Kingdom of Italy
Died6 August 1978(1978-08-06) (aged 80)
Castel Gandolfo, Italy
Previous post(s)
EducationUniversity of Milan (JCD)
MottoCum Ipso in monte (With Him on the mount)
In nomine Domini (In the name of the Lord)
SignaturePaul VI's signature
Coat of armsPaul VI's coat of arms
Feast day
Venerated in
Beatified19 October 2014
Saint Peter's Square, Vatican City
by Pope Francis
Canonized14 October 2018
Saint Peter's Square, Vatican City
by Pope Francis
Other popes named Paul
Ordination history of
Pope Paul VI
Diaconal ordination
Date28 February 1920
PlaceConcesio, Brescia
Priestly ordination
Ordained byGiacinto Gaggia (Brescia)
Date29 May 1920
PlaceConcesio, Brescia
Episcopal consecration
Principal consecratorEugène Card. Tisserant (Dec. Sac. Coll.)
Co-consecrators (Brescia)
Domenico Bernareggi (Milan aux.)
Date12 December 1954
PlaceSaint Peter's Basilica, Vatican City
Elevated byPope John XXIII
Date15 December 1958
Episcopal succession
Bishops consecrated by Pope Paul VI as principal consecrator
22 May 1955
5 June 1955
3 October 1955
Domenico Enrici1 November 1955
13 November 1955
14 September 1958
Antonio Fustella25 June 1960
Giovanni Umberto Colombo7 December 1960
7 December 1961
26 May 1963
Igino Eugenio Cardinale20 October 1963
Albert Reuben Edward Thomas20 October 1963
28 June 1964
Johannes Gerardus Maria Willebrands28 June 1964
3 December 1964
Ferdinando Giuseppe Antonelli19 March 1966
Giacomo Violardo19 March 1966
Loris Francesco Capovilla[7]16 July 1967
Agostino Casaroli16 July 1967
Ernesto Civardi16 July 1967
Paul Casimir Marcinkus6 January 1969
Louis Vangeke3 December 1970
Annibale Bugnini13 February 1972
Giuseppe Casoria13 February 1972
29 June 1973
Jean Jerome Hamer29 June 1973
Andrzej Maria Deskur30 June 1974
Nicola Rotunno30 June 1974

Pope Paul VI (Latin: Paulus VI; Italian: Paolo VI; born Giovanni Battista Enrico Antonio Maria Montini, Italian: [dʒoˈvanːi baˈtːista enˈriːko anˈtɔːnjo maˈriːa monˈtiːni]; 26 September 1897 – 6 August 1978) was head of the Catholic Church and sovereign of the Vatican City State from 21 June 1963 to his death in 1978. Succeeding John XXIII, he continued the Second Vatican Council, which he closed in 1965, implementing its numerous reforms, and fostered improved ecumenical relations with Eastern Orthodox and Protestant churches, which resulted in many historic meetings and agreements.[8]

Montini served in the Holy See's Secretariat of State from 1922 to 1954. While in the Secretariat of State, Montini and Domenico Tardini were considered to be the closest and most influential advisors of Pope Pius XII. In 1954, Pius named Montini Archbishop of Milan, the largest Italian diocese. Montini later became the Secretary of the Italian Bishops' Conference. John XXIII elevated him to the College of Cardinals in 1958, and after the death of John XXIII, Montini was considered one of his most likely successors.[9] Upon his election to the papacy, Montini took the name Paul VI.

He re-convened the Second Vatican Council, which had automatically closed with the death of John XXIII. After the council had concluded its work, Paul VI took charge of the interpretation and implementation of its mandates, often walking a thin line between the conflicting expectations of various groups within Catholicism. The magnitude and depth of the reforms affecting all fields of church life during his pontificate exceeded similar reform programmes of his predecessors and successors. Paul VI spoke repeatedly to Marian conventions and mariological meetings, visited Marian shrines and issued three Marian encyclicals. Following Ambrose of Milan, he named Mary as the Mother of the Church during the Second Vatican Council.[10] Paul VI described himself as a humble servant for a suffering humanity and demanded significant changes from the rich in North America and Europe in favour of the poor in the Third World.[11] His positions on birth control, promulgated famously in the 1968 encyclical Humanae vitae, were often contested, especially in Western Europe and North America. The same opposition emerged in reaction to the political aspects of some of his teaching.

Following the standard procedures that lead to sainthood, Pope Benedict XVI declared that the late pontiff had lived a life of heroic virtue and conferred the title of Venerable upon him on 20 December 2012. Pope Francis beatified him on 19 October 2014 after the recognition of a miracle attributed to his intercession. His liturgical feast was celebrated on the date of his birth on 26 September until 2019 when it was changed to the date of his sacerdotal ordination on 29 May.[2] Pope Francis canonised Paul VI on 14 October 2018.

Early life

His father, Giorgio Montini, in 1909

Giovanni Battista Enrico Antonio Maria Montini was born in the village of Concesio, in the Province of Brescia, Lombardy, Italy, in 1897. His father, Giorgio Montini, was a lawyer, journalist, director of the Catholic Action, and member of the Italian Parliament. His mother, Giudetta Alghisi, was from a family of rural nobility. He had two brothers, Francesco Montini, who became a physician, and Lodovico Montini, who became a lawyer and politician.[12] On 30 September 1897, he was baptised with the name Giovanni Battista Enrico Antonio Maria Montini.[13] He attended the Cesare Arici school, run by the Jesuits, and in 1916 received a diploma from the Arnaldo da Brescia public school in Brescia. His education was often interrupted by bouts of illness.

In 1916, he entered the seminary to become a Catholic priest. He was ordained on 29 May 1920 in Brescia and celebrated his first Mass at the Basilica of Santa Maria delle Grazie in Brescia.[14] Montini concluded his studies in Milan with a doctorate in canon law in the same year.[15] He later studied at the Gregorian University, the University of Rome La Sapienza and, at the request of Giuseppe Pizzardo, the Accademia dei Nobili Ecclesiastici. In 1922, at the age of twenty-five, again at the request of Giuseppe Pizzardo, Montini entered the Secretariat of State, where he worked under Pizzardo together with Francesco Borgongini-Duca, Alfredo Ottaviani, Carlo Grano, Domenico Tardini and Francis Spellman.[16] Consequently, he never had an appointment as a parish priest. In 1925 he helped found the publishing house Morcelliana in Brescia, focused on promoting a 'Christian-inspired culture'.[17]

Vatican career

Diplomatic service

Montini had just one foreign posting in the diplomatic service of the Holy See as Secretary in the office of the papal nuncio to Poland in 1923. Of the nationalism he experienced there he wrote: "This form of nationalism treats foreigners as enemies, especially foreigners with whom one has common frontiers. Then one seeks the expansion of one's own country at the expense of the immediate neighbours. People grow up with a feeling of being hemmed in. Peace becomes a transient compromise between wars."[18] He described his experience in Warsaw as "useful, though not always joyful".[19] When he became pope, the Communist government of Poland refused him permission to visit Poland on a Marian pilgrimage.

Roman Curia

Montini on the day of his ordination in 1920

His organisational skills led him to a career in the Roman Curia, the papal civil service. In 1931, Pacelli appointed him to teach history at the Pontifical Academy for Diplomats[15] In 1937, after his mentor Giuseppe Pizzardo was named a cardinal and was succeeded by Domenico Tardini, Montini was named Substitute for Ordinary Affairs under Cardinal Pacelli, the Secretary of State. His immediate supervisor was Domenico Tardini, with whom he got along well. Pacelli became Pope Pius XII in 1939 and confirmed Montini's appointment as Substitute under the new Cardinal Secretary of State Luigi Maglione. In that role, roughly that of a chief of staff, he met the pope every morning until 1954 and developed a rather close relationship with him. Of his service to two popes he wrote:

It is true, my service to the pope was not limited to the political or extraordinary affairs according to Vatican language. The goodness of Pope Pius XII opened to me the opportunity to look into the thoughts, even into the soul of this great pontiff. I could quote many details how Pius XII, always using measured and moderate speech, was hiding, nay revealing a noble position of great strength and fearless courage.[20]

When war broke out, Maglione, Tardini, and Montini were the principal figures in the Secretariat of State of the Holy See.[21][page needed] Montini was in charge of taking care of the "ordinary affairs" of the Secretariat of State, which took much of the mornings of every working day. In the afternoon he moved to the third floor into the Office of the Private Secretary of the Pontiff. Pius XII did not have a personal secretary. As did several popes before him, he delegated the secretarial functions he needed to the Secretariat of State.[22] During the war years, thousands of letters from all parts of the world arrived at the desk of the pope, most of them asking for understanding, prayer, and help. Montini's task was to formulate the replies in the name of Pius XII, expressing his empathy, and understanding and providing help, where possible.[22]

At the request of the pope, Montini created an information office regarding prisoners of war and refugees, which from 1939 until 1947 received almost ten million requests for information about missing persons and produced over eleven million replies.[23] Montini was several times attacked by Benito Mussolini's government for meddling in politics, but the Holy See consistently defended him.[24] When Maglione died in 1944, Pius XII appointed Tardini and Montini together as joint heads of Secretariat of State, each with the title of Pro-Secretary of State. Montini's admiration was almost filial when he described Pope Pius XII:

His richly cultivated mind, his unusual capacity for thought and study led him to avoid all distractions and every unnecessary relaxation. He wished to enter fully into the history of his own afflicted time: with a deep understanding, that he was himself a part of that history. He wished to participate fully in it, to share his sufferings in his own heart and soul.[25]

As Pro-Secretary of State, Montini coordinated the activities of assistance to the persecuted hidden in convents, parishes, seminaries, and in Catholic schools.[26] At the request of the pope, Montini established together with Ferdinando Baldelli and Otto Faller the Pontificia Commissione di Assistenza (Pontifical Commission for Assistance), which aided large number of Romans and refugees from everywhere with shelter, food and other material assistance. In Rome alone this organisation distributed almost two million portions of free food in the year 1944.[27] The Papal Residence of Castel Gandolfo was opened to refugees, as was Vatican City in so far as space allowed. Some 15,000 persons lived in Castel Gandolfo alone, supported by the Pontificia Commissione di Assistenza.[27] At the request of Pius XII, Montini was also involved in the re-establishment of Church Asylum, providing protection to hundreds of Allied soldiers, who had escaped from Axis prison camps, Jews, anti-Fascists, Socialists, Communists, and after the liberation of Rome, German soldiers, partisans, displaced persons and others.[28] As pope in 1971, Montini turned the Pontificia Commissione di Assistenza into Caritas Italiana.[29]

Archbishop of Milan

Cardinal Montini at the opening of the new building of the , Milan, 1962. Photo by Paolo Monti.

After the death of the Benedictine Cardinal Alfredo Ildefonso Schuster, in 1954, Montini was appointed to succeed him as Archbishop of Milan, which made him the Secretary of the Italian Bishops Conference.[30] Pope Pius XII presented the new Archbishop Giovanni Battista Montini "as his personal gift to Milan". He was consecrated bishop in Saint Peter's Basilica by Cardinal Eugène Tisserant, the Dean of the College of Cardinals, since Pius XII was forced to stay in bed due to his severe illness.

Pius XII delivered an address about Montini's appointment from his sick-bed over radio to those assembled in St. Peter's Basilica on 12 December 1954.[31] Both Montini and the pope had tears in their eyes when Montini parted for his diocese, with its 1,000 churches, 2,500 priests and 3,500,000 souls.[32] On 5 January 1955, Montini formally took possession of his Cathedral of Milan. After a period of settling in, Montini liked his new tasks as archbishop, connecting to all groups of faithful in Milan. He enjoyed meetings with intellectuals, artists and writers.[33]

Montini's philosophy

Cardinal Giovanni Battista Montini walking in Saint Peter's Square in 1962

In his first months Montini showed his interest in working conditions and labour issues by personally contacting unions, associations and giving related speeches. Believing that churches are the only non-utilitarian buildings in modern society and a most necessary place of spiritual rest, he initiated the building of over 100 new churches for service and contemplation.[34]

His public speeches were noticed not only in Milan but also in Rome and elsewhere. Some considered him a liberal, when he asked lay people to love not only Catholics but also schismatics, Protestants, Anglicans, the indifferent, Muslims, pagans, atheists.[35] He gave a friendly welcome to a group of Anglican clergy visiting Milan in 1957 and a subsequently exchanged letters with the Archbishop of Canterbury, Geoffrey Fisher.[36]

Pope Pius XII revealed at the 1952 secret consistory that both Montini and Tardini had declined appointments to the cardinalate[37][38] and in fact Montini was never to be made a cardinal by Pius XII, who held no consistory and created no cardinals from the time he appointed Montini to Milan and his own death four years later. After Angelo Roncalli became Pope John XXIII, he made Montini a cardinal in December 1958.

Montini and Angelo Roncalli were considered to be friends, but when Roncalli, as Pope John XXIII announced a new Ecumenical Council, Cardinal Montini reacted with disbelief and said to Giulio Bevilacqua: "This old boy does not know what a hornets nest he is stirring up."[39] He was appointed to the Central Preparatory Commission in 1961. During the council, Pope John XXIII asked him to live in the Vatican. He was a member of the Commission for Extraordinary Affairs but did not engage himself much in the floor debates on various issues. His main advisor was Giovanni Colombo, whom he later appointed to be his successor in Milan[40] The commission was greatly overshadowed by the insistence of John XXIII that the Council complete all its work in one single session before Christmas 1962, to coincide with the 400th anniversary of the Council of Trent, an insistence which may have also been influenced by the Pope's having recently been told that he had cancer.[41]

Pastoral progressivism

During his period in Milan, Montini was widely seen as a progressive member of the Catholic hierarchy. He reformed pastoral care, adopting new approaches. He used his authority to ensure that the liturgical reforms of Pius XII were carried out at the local level and employed innovative methods to reach the people of Milan. For example, huge posters announced throughout the city that 1,000 voices would speak to them from 10 to 24 November 1957. More than 500 priests and many bishops, cardinals and lay people delivered 7,000 sermons in the period not only in churches but in factories, meeting halls, houses, courtyards, schools, offices, military barracks, hospitals, hotels and other places, wherever people congregated.[42] His goal was the re-introduction of faith to a city without much religion. "If only we can say Our Father and know what this means, then we would understand the Christian faith."[43]

Pius XII asked Archbishop Montini to Rome October 1957, where he gave the main presentation to the Second World Congress of Lay Apostolate. Previously as Pro-Secretary of State, he had worked hard to form a unified worldwide organisation of lay people of 58 nations, representing 42 national organisations. He presented them to Pius XII in Rome in 1951. The second meeting in 1957 gave Montini an opportunity to express the lay apostolate in modern terms: "Apostolate means love. We will love all, but especially those, who need help... We will love our time, our technology, our art, our sports, our world."[44]


Montini as the Archbishop of Milan circa 1956

On 20 June 1958, Saul Alinsky recalled meeting with Montini: "I had three wonderful meetings with Montini and I am sure that you have heard from him since". Alinsky also wrote as follows to George Shuster,[45] two days before the papal conclave that elected John XXIII: "No, I don’t know who the next Pope will be, but if it’s to be Montini, the drinks will be on me for years to come."[46]

Although some cardinals seem to have viewed him as papabile, a likely candidate to become pope, and although he may consequently have received some votes in the 1958 conclave,[47] Montini was not yet a cardinal, which made him an unlikely choice.[a] Angelo Roncalli was elected pope on 28 October 1958 and took the name John XXIII. On 17 November 1958, L'Osservatore Romano announced a consistory for the creation of new cardinals. Montini's name led the list.[48] When the pope raised Montini to the cardinalate on 15 December 1958, he became Cardinal-Priest of Ss. Silvestro e Martino ai Monti. The pope appointed him simultaneously to several Vatican congregations which resulted in many visits by Montini to Rome in the coming years.[49]

As a Cardinal, Montini journeyed to Africa (1962), where he visited Ghana, Sudan, Kenya, Congo, Rhodesia, South Africa, and Nigeria. After this journey, John XXIII called Montini to a private audience for a debriefing on his trip which lasted for several hours. In fifteen other trips he visited Brazil (1960) and the USA (1960), including New York City, Washington DC, Chicago, the University of Notre Dame in Indiana, Boston, Philadelphia, and Baltimore. While a cardinal, he usually vacationed in Engelberg Abbey, a secluded Benedictine monastery in Switzerland.[50]


Papal styles of
Pope Paul VI
Coat of Arms of Pope Paul VI (G. Montini).svg
Reference styleHis Holiness
Spoken styleYour Holiness
Religious styleHoly Father
Posthumous styleSaint

Papal conclave

Montini was generally seen as the most likely successor to Pope John XXIII because of his closeness to both Popes Pius XII and John XXIII, his pastoral and administrative background, and his insight and determination.[51] John XXIII was not exactly a newcomer to the Vatican, since he had been an official of the Holy See in Rome and until his appointment to Venice was a papal diplomat, but returning to Rome at the age of 66 he may have felt outflanked by the professional Roman Curia at times; Montini knew its most inner workings well due to the fact that he had worked there for a generation.[51]

Unlike the papabile cardinals Giacomo Lercaro of Bologna and Giuseppe Siri of Genoa, Montini was not identified with either the left or right, nor was he seen as a radical reformer. He was viewed as most likely to continue the Second Vatican Council,[51] which already, without any tangible results, had lasted longer than John XXIII expected. John had a vision but "did not have a clear agenda. His rhetoric seems to have had a note of over-optimism, a confidence in progress, which was characteristic of the 1960s."[52] When John XXIII died of stomach cancer on 3 June 1963, this triggered a conclave to elect a new pope.

Montini was elected pope on the sixth ballot of the papal conclave on 21 June and he took the name of "Paul VI". When the Dean of the College of Cardinals Eugène Tisserant asked if he accepted the election, Montini said "Accepto, in nomine Domini" ("I accept, in the name of the Lord"). At one point during the conclave on 20 June, it was said, Cardinal Gustavo Testa lost his temper and demanded that opponents of Montini halt their efforts to thwart his election.[53] It was following Testa's outburst that Montini, fearful of causing a division, started to rise in order to dissuade the cardinals from voting for him. However, Cardinal Giovanni Urbani dragged Montini back to his seat, muttering, "Eminence, shut up!"[54] Montini took the name "Paul" in honour of Paul the Apostle.[55]

The white smoke first rose from the chimney of the Sistine Chapel at 11:22 am, Cardinal Alfredo Ottaviani in his role as Protodeacon, announced to the public the successful election of Montini. When the new pope appeared on the central loggia, he gave the shorter episcopal blessing as his first Apostolic Blessing rather than the longer, traditional Urbi et Orbi.

Of the papacy, Paul VI wrote in his journal: "The position is unique. It brings great solitude. 'I was solitary before, but now my solitude becomes complete and awesome.'"[56]

Less than two years later, on 2 May 1965, Paul addressed a letter to the dean of the College of Cardinals anticipating that his health might make it impossible to function as pope. He wrote that "In case of infirmity, which is believed to be incurable or is of long duration and which impedes us from sufficiently exercising the functions of our apostolic ministry; or in the case of another serious and prolonged impediment", he would renounce his office "both as bishop of Rome as well as head of the same holy Catholic Church".[57]

Reforms of papal ceremony

Paul VI did away with much of the regal splendor of the papacy. He was the last pope to date to be crowned on 30 June 1963;[58] his successor Pope John Paul I substituted an inauguration for the papal coronation (which Paul had substantially modified, but which he left mandatory in his 1975 apostolic constitution Romano Pontifici Eligendo). At his coronation Paul wore a tiara that was a gift from the Archdiocese of Milan. At the end of the second session of the Second Vatican Council in 1963, Paul VI descended the steps of the papal throne in St. Peter's Basilica and ascended to the altar, on which he laid the tiara as a sign of the renunciation of human glory and power in keeping with the renewed spirit of the council. It was announced that the tiara would be sold and the money obtained would be given to charity.[59] The purchasers arranged for it to be displayed as a gift to American Catholics in the crypt of the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Washington, D.C.

In 1968, with the motu proprio Pontificalis Domus, he discontinued most of the ceremonial functions of the old Roman nobility at the court (reorganized as the household), save for the Prince Assistants to the Papal Throne. He also abolished the Palatine Guard and the Noble Guard, leaving the Pontifical Swiss Guard as the sole military order of the Vatican.

Completion of the Vatican Council

Pope Paul VI fully supported Cardinal Augustin Bea, credited with ecumenical breakthroughs during the Second Vatican Council.

Paul VI decided to continue Vatican II (canon law dictates that a council is suspended at the death of a pope), and brought it to completion in 1965. Faced with conflicting interpretations and controversies, he directed the implementation of its reform goals.

Ecumenical orientation

During Vatican II, the Council Fathers avoided statements which might anger Christians of other faiths.[60][page needed] Cardinal Augustin Bea, the President of the Christian Unity Secretariat, always had the full support of Paul VI in his attempts to ensure that the Council language was friendly and open to the sensitivities of Protestant and Orthodox Churches, whom he had invited to all sessions at the request of Pope John XXIII. Bea also was strongly involved in the passage of Nostra aetate, which regulates the church's relations with the Jewish faith and members of other religions.[b]

Dialogue with the world

After his election as Bishop of Rome, Paul VI first met with the priests in his new diocese. He told them that in Milan he started a dialogue with the modern world and asked them to seek contact with all people from all walks of life. Six days after his election he announced that he would continue Vatican II and convened the opening to take place on 29 September 1963.[30] In a radio address to the world, Paul VI recalled the uniqueness of his predecessors, the strength of Pius XI, the wisdom and intelligence of Pius XII and the love of John XXIII. As "his pontifical goals" he mentioned the continuation and completion of Vatican II, the reform of the Canon Law and improved social peace and justice in the world. The Unity of Christianity would be central to his activities.[30]

The Council priorities of Paul VI

The pope re-opened the Ecumenical Council on 29 September 1963 giving it four key priorities:

  • A better understanding of the Catholic Church
  • Church reforms
  • Advancing the unity of Christianity
  • Dialogue with the world[30]
Pope Paul VI after his election with the only Catholic U.S. president with whom he visited as Pope, United States President John F. Kennedy, 2 July 1963

He reminded the council fathers that only a few years earlier Pope Pius XII had issued the encyclical Mystici corporis about the mystical body of Christ. He asked them not to repeat or create new dogmatic definitions but to explain in simple words how the church sees itself. He thanked the representatives of other Christian communities for their attendance and asked for their forgiveness if the Catholic Church is guilty for the separation. He also reminded the Council Fathers that many bishops from the east could not attend because the governments in the East did not permit their journeys.[61]

The opening of the second session of Vatican II

Third and fourth sessions

Paul VI opened the third period on 14 September 1964, telling the Council Fathers that he viewed the text about the church as the most important document to come out from the council. As the Council discussed the role of bishops in the papacy, Paul VI issued an explanatory note confirming the primacy of the papacy, a step which was viewed by some as meddling in the affairs of the Council[62] American bishops pushed for a speedy resolution on religious freedom, but Paul VI insisted this to be approved together with related texts such as ecumenism.[63] The Pope concluded the session on 21 November 1964, with the formal pronouncement of Mary as Mother of the Church.[63]

Between the third and fourth sessions the pope announced reforms in the areas of Roman Curia, revision of Canon Law, regulations for mixed marriages involving several faiths, and birth control issues. He opened the final session of the council, concelebrating with bishops from countries where the church was persecuted. Several texts proposed for his approval had to be changed. But all texts were finally agreed upon. The council was concluded on 8 December 1965, the Feast of the Immaculate Conception.[63]

In the final session of the council, Paul VI announced that he would open the canonisation processes of his immediate predecessors: Pope Pius XII and Pope John XXIII.

Universal call to holiness

According to Pope Paul VI, "the most characteristic and ultimate purpose of the teachings of the Council" is the universal call to holiness:[64] "all the faithful of Christ of whatever rank or status, are called to the fullness of the Christian life and to the perfection of charity; by this holiness as such a more human manner of living is promoted in this earthly society." This teaching is found in Lumen Gentium, the Dogmatic Constitution on the Church, promulgated by Paul VI on 21 November 1964.

Church reforms

Following his predecessor Ambrose of Milan, Pope Paul VI named Mary the "Mother of the Church" during Vatican II.

Synod of Bishops

On 14 September 1965, he established the Synod of Bishops as a permanent institution of the Catholic Church and an advisory body to the papacy. Several meetings were held on specific issues during his pontificate, such as the Synod of Bishops on evangelisation in the modern world, which started 9 September 1974.[65]

Curia reform

Pope Paul VI knew the Roman Curia well, having worked there for a generation from 1922 to 1954. He implemented his reforms in stages. On 1 March 1968, he issued a regulation, a process that had been initiated by Pius XII and continued by John XXIII. On 28 March, with Pontificalis Domus, and in several additional Apostolic Constitutions in the following years, he revamped the entire Curia, which included reduction of bureaucracy, streamlining of existing congregations and a broader representation of non-Italians in the curial positions.[66]

Age limits and restrictions

On 6 August 1966, Paul VI asked all bishops to submit their resignations to the pontiff by their 75th birthday. They were not required to do so but "earnestly requested of their own free will to tender their resignation from office".[67] He extended this requirement to all cardinals in Ingravescentem aetatem on 21 November 1970, with the further provision that cardinals would relinquish their offices in the Roman Curia upon reaching their 80th birthday.[68] These retirement rules enabled the Pope to fill several positions with younger prelates and reduce the Italian domination of the Roman Curia.[69] His 1970 measures also revolutionised papal elections by restricting the right to vote in papal conclaves to cardinals who had not yet reached their 80th birthday, a class known since then as "cardinal electors". This reduced the power of the Italians and the Curia in the next conclave. Some senior cardinals objected to losing their voting privilege, without effect.[70][71] Paul VI's measures also limited the number of cardinal-electors to a maximum of 120,[72] a rule disregarded on several occasions by his successors.

Some prelates questioned whether he should not apply these retirement rules to himself.[73] When Pope Paul was asked towards the end of his papacy whether he would retire at age 80, he replied "Kings can abdicate, Popes cannot."[74]


Reform of the liturgy, an aim of the 20th-century liturgical movement, mainly in France and Germany, was officially recognised as legitimate by Pius XII in his encyclical Mediator Dei. During his pontificate, he eased regulations on the obligatory use of Latin in Catholic liturgies, permitting some use of vernacular languages during baptisms, funerals and other events. In 1951 and 1955, he revised the Easter liturgies, most notably that of the Easter Triduum.[75] The Second Vatican Council (1962–1965) gave some directives in its document Sacrosanctum Concilium for a general revision of the Roman Missal. Within four years of the close of the council, Paul VI promulgated in 1969 the first postconciliar edition, which included three new Eucharistic Prayers in addition to the Roman Canon, until then the only anaphora in the Roman Rite. Use of vernacular languages was expanded by decision of episcopal conferences, not by papal command. In addition to his revision of the Roman Missal, Pope Paul VI issued instructions in 1964, 1967, 1968, 1969 and 1970, reforming other elements of the liturgy of the Roman Church.[76]

These reforms were not universally welcomed. Questions were raised about the need to replace the 1962 Roman Missal, which, though decreed on 23 June 1962[77] became available only in 1963, a few months before the Second Vatican Council's Sacrosanctum Concilium decree ordered that it be altered;[78] but attachment to it led to open ruptures, of which the most widely known is that of Marcel Lefebvre. Pope John Paul II granted bishops the right to authorise use of the 1962 Missal (Quattuor abhinc annos and Ecclesia Dei) and in 2007 Pope Benedict XVI, while stating that the Mass of Paul VI and John Paul II "obviously is and continues to be the normal Form – the Forma ordinaria – of the Eucharistic Liturgy",[79] gave general permission to priests of the Latin Church to use either the 1962 Missal or the post-Vatican II Missal both privately and, under certain conditions, publicly.[80]

Relations and dialogues

Pope Paul VI during an October 1973 audience

To Paul VI, a dialogue with all of humanity was essential not as an aim but as a means to find the truth. Dialogue according to Paul, is based on full equality of all participants. This equality is rooted in the common search for the truth.[81] He said: "Those who have the truth, are in a position as not having it, because they are forced to search for it every day in a deeper and more perfect way. Those who do not have it, but search for it with their whole heart, have already found it."[81]


Pope Paul VI meets Jafar Shahidi, an Iranian Shia cleric.

In 1964, Paul VI created a Secretariat for non-Christians, later renamed the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue and a year later a new Secretariat (later Pontifical Council) for Dialogue with Non-Believers. This latter was in 1993 incorporated by Pope John Paul II in the Pontifical Council for Culture, which he had established in 1982. In 1971, Paul VI created a papal office for economic development and catastrophic assistance. To foster common bonds with all persons of good will, he decreed an annual peace day to be celebrated on January first of every year. Trying to improve the condition of Christians behind the Iron Curtain, Paul VI engaged in dialogue with Communist authorities at several levels, receiving Foreign Minister Andrei Gromyko and Chairman of the Presidium of the Supreme Soviet Nikolai Podgorny in 1966 and 1967 in the Vatican. The situation of the church in Hungary, Poland and Romania, improved during his pontificate.[82]

Foreign travels

The countries visited by Pope Paul VI
Relief commemorating Pope Paul VI's visit to Nazareth, 5 January 1964
Pope Paul VI's Diamond Ring and Cross donated to the United Nations

Pope Paul VI became the first pope to visit six continents. He travelled more widely than any of his predecessors, earning the nickname "the Pilgrim Pope". He visited the Holy Land in 1964 and participated in Eucharistic Congresses in Bombay, India and Bogotá, Colombia. In 1966, he was twice denied permission to visit Poland for the 1,000th anniversary of the introduction of Christianity in Poland. In 1967, he visited the shrine of Our Lady of Fátima in Portugal on the fiftieth anniversary of the apparitions there. He undertook a pastoral visit to Uganda in 1969,[83] the first by a reigning pope to Africa.[84] On 27 November 1970 he was the target of an assassination attempt at Manila International Airport in the Philippines. He was only lightly stabbed by Benjamín Mendoza y Amor Flores,[85][86] who was subdued by the pope's personal bodyguard and travel organiser, Paul Marcinkus.[87] Pope Paul VI became the first reigning pontiff to visit the Western hemisphere when he addressed the United Nations in New York City in October 1965.[c] As the U.S. involvement in the Vietnam War was escalating, Paul VI pleaded for peace before the UN:

Our very brief visit has given us a great honour; that of proclaiming to the whole world, from the Headquarters of the United Nations, Peace! We shall never forget this extraordinary hour. Nor can We bring it to a more fitting conclusion than by expressing the wish that this central seat of human relationships for the civil peace of the world may ever be conscious and worthy of this high privilege.[92]

No more war, never again war. Peace, it is peace that must guide the destinies of people and of all mankind."[93]

Attempted assassination of Paul VI

Shortly after arriving at the airport in Manila, Philippines on 27 November 1970, the Pope, closely followed by President Ferdinand Marcos and personal aide Pasquale Macchi, who was private secretary to Pope Paul VI, were encountered suddenly by a crew-cut, cassock-clad man who tried to attack the Pope with a knife. Macchi pushed the man away; police identified the would-be assassin as Benjamin Mendoza y Amor, 35, of La Paz, Bolivia. Mendoza was an artist living in the Philippines. The Pontiff continued with his trip and thanked Marcos and Macchi, who both had moved to protect him during the attack.[94]

New diplomacy

Like his predecessor Pius XII, Paul VI put much emphasis on the dialogue with all nations of the world through establishing diplomatic relations. The number of foreign embassies accredited to the Vatican doubled during his pontificate.[95] This was a reflection of a new understanding between church and state, which had been formulated first by Pius XI and Pius XII but decreed by Vatican II. The pastoral constitution Gaudium et spes stated that the Catholic Church is not bound to any form of government and willing to co-operate with all forms. The church maintained its right to select bishops on its own without any interference by the State.[96]

Pope Paul VI sent one of 73 Apollo 11 Goodwill Messages to NASA for the historic first lunar landing. The message still rests on the lunar surface today. It has the words of the 8th Psalm and the pope wrote, "To the Glory of the name of God who gives such power to men, we ardently pray for this wonderful beginning."[97]



Paul VI with Albino Luciani (later John Paul I) in Venice

Pope Paul VI made extensive contributions to Mariology (theological teaching and devotions) during his pontificate. He attempted to present the Marian teachings of the church in view of her new ecumenical orientation. In his inaugural encyclical Ecclesiam suam (section below), the pope called Mary the ideal of Christian perfection. He regards "devotion to the Mother of God as of paramount importance in living the life of the Gospel."[98]


Paul VI authored seven encyclicals.

Ecclesiam suam

Ecclesiam suam was given at St. Peter's, Rome, on the Feast of the Transfiguration, 6 August 1964, the second year of his Pontificate. It is considered an important document, identifying the Catholic Church with the Body of Christ. A later Council document Lumen Gentium stated that the church subsists in the Body of Christ, raising questions as to the difference between "is" and "subsists in". Paul VI appealed to "all people of good will" and discussed necessary dialogues within the church and between the churches and with atheism.[65]

Mense maio

The encyclical Mense maio (from 29 April 1965) focused on the Virgin Mary, to whom traditionally the month of May is dedicated as the Mother of God. Paul VI writes that Mary is rightly to be regarded as the way by which people are led to Christ. Therefore, the person who encounters Mary cannot help but encounter Christ.[99]

Mysterium fidei

On 3 September 1965, Paul VI issued Mysterium fidei, on the mystery of the faith. He opposed relativistic notions which would have given the Eucharist a symbolic character only. The church, according to Paul VI, has no reason to give up the deposit of faith in such a vital matter.[65]

Christi Matri
Populorum progressio
Paul VI at an audience in October 1977

Populorum progressio, released on 26 March 1967, dealt with the topic of "the development of peoples" and that the economy of the world should serve mankind and not just the few. It touches on a variety of traditional principles of Catholic social teaching: the right to a just wage; the right to security of employment; the right to fair and reasonable working conditions; the right to join a union and strike as a last resort; and the universal destination of resources and goods.

In addition, Populorum progressio opines that real peace in the world is conditional on justice. He repeats his demands expressed in Bombay in 1964 for a large-scale World Development Organization, as a matter of international justice and peace. He rejected notions to instigate revolution and force in changing economic conditions.[100]

Sacerdotalis caelibatus

Sacerdotalis caelibatus (Latin for "Of the celibate priesthood"), promulgated on 24 June 1967, defends the Catholic Church's tradition of priestly celibacy in the West. This encyclical was written in the wake of Vatican II, when the Catholic Church was questioning and revising many long-held practices. Priestly celibacy is considered a discipline rather than dogma, and some had expected that it might be relaxed. In response to these questions, the Pope reaffirms the discipline as a long-held practice with special importance in the Catholic Church. The encyclical Sacerdotalis caelibatus from 24 June 1967, confirms the traditional church teaching, that celibacy is an ideal state and continues to be mandatory for Catholic priests. Celibacy symbolises the reality of the kingdom of God amid modern society. The priestly celibacy is closely linked to the sacramental priesthood.[65] However, during his pontificate Paul VI was permissive in allowing bishops to grant laicisation of priests who wanted to leave the sacerdotal state. John Paul II changed this policy in 1980 and the 1983 Code of Canon Law made it explicit that only the pope can in exceptional circumstances grant laicisation.

Humanae vitae

Of his seven encyclicals, Pope Paul VI is best known for his encyclical Humanae vitae (Of Human Life, subtitled On the Regulation of Birth), published on 25 July 1968. In this encyclical he reaffirmed the Catholic Church's traditional view of marriage and marital relations and its condemnation of artificial birth control.[101] There were two Papal committees and numerous independent experts looking into the latest advancement of science and medicine on the question of artificial birth control.[102] which were noted by the Pope in his encyclical[103] The expressed views of Paul VI reflected the teachings of his predecessors, especially Pius XI,[104] Pius XII[105] and John XXIII[106] and never changed, as he repeatedly stated them in the first few years of his Pontificate.[107]

To the pope as to all his predecessors, marital relations are much more than a union of two people. They constitute a union of the loving couple with a loving God, in which the two persons create a new person materially, while God completes the creation by adding the soul. For this reason, Paul VI teaches in the first sentence of Humanae vitae that the transmission of human life is a most serious role in which married people collaborate freely and responsibly with God the Creator.[108] This divine partnership, according to Paul VI, does not allow for arbitrary human decisions, which may limit divine providence. The Pope does not paint an overly romantic picture of marriage: marital relations are a source of great joy, but also of difficulties and hardships.[108] The question of human procreation exceeds in the view of Paul VI specific disciplines such as biology, psychology, demography or sociology.[109] The reason for this, according to Paul VI, is that married love takes its origin from God, who "is love". From this basic dignity, he defines his position:

Love is total—that very special form of personal friendship in which husband and wife generously share everything, allowing no unreasonable exceptions and not thinking solely of their own convenience. Whoever really loves his partner loves not only for what he receives, but loves that partner for the partner's own sake, content to be able to enrich the other with the gift of himself.[110]

The reaction to the encyclical's continued prohibitions of artificial birth control was very mixed. In Italy, Spain, Portugal and Poland, the encyclical was welcomed.[111] In Latin America, much support developed for the Pope and his encyclical. As World Bank President Robert McNamara declared at the 1968 Annual Meeting of the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank Group that countries permitting birth control practices would get preferential access to resources, doctors in La Paz, Bolivia called it insulting that money should be exchanged for the conscience of a Catholic nation. In Colombia, Cardinal archbishop Aníbal Muñoz Duque declared, if American conditionality undermines Papal teachings, we prefer not to receive one cent.[112] The Senate of Bolivia passed a resolution stating that Humanae vitae could be discussed in its implications for individual consciences, but was of greatest significance because the papal document defended the rights of developing nations to determine their own population policies.[112] The Jesuit Journal Sic dedicated one edition to the encyclical with supportive contributions.[113]

Paul VI was concerned but not surprised by the negative reaction in Western Europe and the United States. He fully anticipated this reaction to be a temporary one: "Don't be afraid", he reportedly told Edouard Gagnon on the eve of the encyclical, "in twenty years time they'll call me a prophet."[114] His biography on the Vatican's website notes his reaffirmations of priestly celibacy and the traditional teaching on contraception that "[t]he controversies over these two pronouncements tended to overshadow the last years of his pontificate".[115] Pope John Paul II later reaffirmed and expanded upon Humanae vitae with the encyclical Evangelium vitae.


By taking the name of Paul, the newly elected Pope, showed his intention to take the Apostle Paul as a model for his papal ministry.[116] In 1967, when he reorganised the Roman curia, Pope Paul renamed the Congregation for the Propagation of the Faith as the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples. Pope Paul was the first pope in history to make apostolic journeys to other continents and visited six continents.[116] The Pope chose the theme of evangelism for the synod of bishops in 1974. From materials generated by that synod, he composed the 1975 apostolic exhortation on evangelisation, Evangelii nuntiandi.[116]

Ecumenism and ecumenical relations

After the council, Paul VI contributed in two ways to the continued growth of ecumenical dialogue. The separated brothers and sisters, as he called them, were not able to contribute to the council as invited observers. After the council, many of them took initiative to seek out their Catholic counterparts and the Pope in Rome, who welcomed such visits. But the Catholic Church itself recognised from the many previous ecumenical encounters, that much needed to be done within, to be an open partner for ecumenism.[117] To those who are entrusted the highest and deepest truth and therefore, so Paul VI, believed that he had the most difficult part to communicate. Ecumenical dialogue, in the view of Paul VI, requires from a Catholic the whole person: one's entire reason, will, and heart.[118] Paul VI, like Pius XII before him, was reluctant to give in on a lowest possible point. And yet, Paul felt compelled to admit his ardent Gospel-based desire to be everything to everybody and to help all people[119] Being the successor of Peter, he felt the words of Christ, "Do you love me more" like a sharp knife penetrating to the marrow of his soul. These words meant to Paul VI love without limits,[120] and they underscore the church's fundamental approach to ecumenism.


Paul VI visited the Orthodox Patriarchs of Jerusalem and Constantinople in 1964 and 1967. He was the first pope since the ninth century to visit the East, labelling the Eastern Churches as sister churches.[121] He was also the first pope in centuries to meet the heads of various Eastern Orthodox faiths. Notably, his meeting with Ecumenical Patriarch Athenagoras I in 1964 in Jerusalem led to rescinding the excommunications of the Great Schism, which took place in 1054.[122]

This was a significant step towards restoring communion between Rome and Constantinople. It produced the Catholic-Orthodox Joint declaration of 1965, which was read out on 7 December 1965, simultaneously at a public meeting of the Second Vatican Council in Rome and at a special ceremony in Istanbul. The declaration did not end the schism, but showed a desire for greater reconciliation between the two churches.[121] In May 1973, the Coptic Patriarch Shenouda III of Alexandria visited the Vatican, where he met three times with Pope Paul VI. A common declaration and a joint Creed issued after the visit proclaimed unity in a number of theological issues,[95] though also that other theological differences "since the year 451" "cannot be ignored" while both traditions work to a greater unity.[123]


Paul VI was the first pope to receive an Anglican Archbishop of Canterbury, Michael Ramsey, in official audience as Head of Church, after the private audience visit of Archbishop Geoffrey Fisher to Pope John XXIII on 2 December 1960.[124] Ramsey met Paul three times during his visit and opened the Anglican Centre in Rome to increase their mutual knowledge.[125] He praised Paul VI[d] and his contributions in the service of unity.[125] Paul replied that "by entering into our house, you are entering your own house, we are happy to open our door and heart to you."[125] The two church leaders signed a common declaration, which put an end to the disputes of the past and outlined a common agenda for the future.

Cardinal Augustin Bea, the head of the Secretariat for Promoting Christian Unity, added at the end of the visit, "Let us move forward in Christ. God wants it. Humanity is waiting for it."[126] Unmoved by a harsh condemnation by the Congregation of Faith on mixed marriages precisely at this time of the visit, Paul VI and Ramsey appointed a preparatory commission which was to put the common agenda into practice on such issues as mixed marriages. This resulted in a joint Malta declaration, the first joint agreement on the Creed since the Reformation.[127] Paul VI was a good friend of the Anglican Church, which he described as "our beloved sister Church". This description was unique to Paul and not used by later popes.


In 1965, Paul VI decided on the creation of a joint working group with the World Council of Churches to map all possible avenues of dialogue and co-operation. In the following three years, eight sessions were held which resulted in many joint proposals.[128] It was proposed to work closely together in areas of social justice and development and Third World Issues such as hunger and poverty. On the religious side, it was agreed to share together in the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity, to be held every year. The joint working group was to prepare texts which were to be used by all Christians.[129] On 19 July 1968, the meeting of the World Council of Churches took place in Uppsala, Sweden, which Pope Paul called a sign of the times. He sent his blessing in an ecumenical manner: "May the Lord bless everything you do for the case of Christian Unity."[130] The World Council of Churches decided on including Catholic theologians in its committees, provided they have the backing of the Vatican.[citation needed]

The Lutherans were the first Protestant church offering a dialogue to the Catholic Church in September 1964 in Reykjavík, Iceland.[131] It resulted in joint study groups of several issues. The dialogue with the Methodist Church began October 1965, after its representatives officially applauded remarkable changes, friendship and co-operation of the past five years. The Reformed Churches entered four years later into a dialogue with the Catholic Church.[132] The President of the Lutheran World Federation and member of the central committee of the World Council of Churches Fredrik A. Schiotz stated during the 450th anniversary of the Reformation, that earlier commemorations were viewed almost as a triumph. Reformation should be celebrated as a thanksgiving to God, his truth and his renewed life. He welcomed the announcement of Pope Paul VI to celebrate the 1900th anniversary of the death of the Apostle Peter and Apostle Paul, and promised the participation and co-operation in the festivities.[133]

Paul VI supported the new-found harmony and co-operation with Protestants on so many levels. When Cardinal Augustin Bea went to see him for permission for a joint Catholic-Protestant translation of the Bible with Protestant Bible societies, the pope walked towards him and exclaimed, "as far as the cooperation with Bible societies is concerned, I am totally in favour."[134] He issued a formal approval on Pentecost 1967, the feast on which the Holy Spirit descended on the Christians, overcoming all linguistic difficulties, according to Christian tradition.[135]

Beatifications and canonisations

Paul VI beatified a total of 38 individuals in his pontificate and he canonised 84 saints in 21 causes. Among the beatifications included Maximilian Kolbe (1971) and the Korean Martyrs (1968). He canonised saints such as Nikola Tavelić (1970) and the Ugandan Martyrs (1964).


Paul VI makes Joseph Ratzinger (future Pope Benedict XVI) a cardinal in 1977.

Pope Paul VI held six consistories between 1965 and 1977 that raised 143 men to the cardinalate in his fifteen years as pope:

  • 22 February 1965, 27 cardinals
  • 26 June 1967, 27 cardinals
  • 28 April 1969, 34 cardinals
  • 5 March 1973, 30 cardinals
  • 24 May 1976, 20 cardinals
  • 27 June 1977, 4 cardinals

The next three popes were created cardinals by him. His immediate successor, Albino Luciani, who took the name John Paul I, was created a cardinal in the consistory of 5 March 1973. Karol Józef Wojtyła (later Pope John Paul II) was created a cardinal in the consistory of 26 June 1967. Joseph Ratzinger (later Pope Benedict XVI) was created a cardinal in the small four-appointment consistory of 27 June 1977 that was the pope's last.[136]

With the six consistories, Paul VI continued the internationalisation policies started by Pius XII in 1946 and continued by John XXIII. In his 1976 consistory, five of twenty cardinals originated from Africa, one of them a son of a tribal chief with fifty wives.[136] Several prominent Latin Americans like Eduardo Francisco Pironio of Argentina; Luis Aponte Martinez of Puerto Rico, Eugênio de Araújo Sales and Aloisio Lorscheider from Brazil were also elevated by him. There were voices within the church at the time saying that the European period of the church was coming to a close, a view shared by Britain's Cardinal Basil Hume.[136] At the same time, the members of the College of Cardinals lost some of their previous influences, after Paul VI decreed, that membership by bishops in committees and other bodies of the Roman Curia would not be limited to cardinals. The age limit of eighty years imposed by the Pope, a numerical increase of Cardinals by almost 100%, and a reform of the formal dress of the "Princes of the Church" further contributed to a service-oriented perception of Cardinals under his pontificate. The increased number of Cardinals from the Third World and the papal emphasis on related issues was nevertheless welcomed by many in Western Europe.[136]

Final years and death

Rumours of homosexuality and denial

In 1976 Paul VI became the first pontiff in the modern era to deny the accusation of homosexuality. On 29 December 1975, the Sacred Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith issued a document entitled Persona Humana: Declaration on Certain Questions concerning Sexual Ethics, that reaffirmed church teaching that pre- or extramarital sex, homosexual activity, and masturbation are sinful acts.[137][138] In response, Roger Peyrefitte, who had already written in two of his books that Paul VI had a longtime homosexual relationship, repeated his charges in a magazine interview with a French gay magazine that, when reprinted in Italian, brought the rumours to a wider public and caused an uproar. He said that the pope was a hypocrite who had a longtime sexual relationship with an actor.[139][140][141] Widespread rumours identified the actor as Paolo Carlini,[142] who had a small part in the Audrey Hepburn film Roman Holiday (1953). In a brief address to a crowd of approximately 20,000 in St Peters Square on 18 April, Paul VI called the charges "horrible and slanderous insinuations" and appealed for prayers on his behalf. Special prayers for the pope were said in all Italian Catholic churches in "a day of consolation".[140][142][e] The charges have resurfaced periodically. In 1994, Franco Bellegrandi, a former Vatican honour chamberlain and correspondent for the Vatican newspaper L'Osservatore Romano, alleged that Paul VI had been blackmailed and had promoted other gay men to positions of power within the Vatican.[144] In 2006, the newspaper L'Espresso confirmed the blackmail story based on the private papers of police commander General Giorgio Manes. It reported that Italian Prime Minister Aldo Moro had been asked to help.[142][145]


Paul VI had been in good health prior to his pontifical election. His health following his papal election took a turn when he needed to undergo a serious operation to treat an enlarged prostate. The pope procrastinated in this but relented in November 1967; he was operated on on a simple table in an improvised operating theatre in the papal apartments by a team led by Professor Pietro Valdoni. The Vatican was delicate in their description of what the pope underwent and referred to it as "the malaise from which the Holy Father had been suffering for weeks". As a result of the delay in having the operation, the pope had to wear a catheter for a period following the operation and still was by December.[146]

The pope discussed business from his bed about 48 hours after the operation with Cardinal Amleto Cicognani and at that point was off intravenous feeding in favour of orange juice and hot broth. Cardinal Cicognani said the pope was "in good general condition" and that he spoke in a "clear and firm voice". The pope's two brothers also visited him at his bedside following a "tranquil night" for the pope. The doctors also reported the pope's condition to have been "excellent".[147]

Kidnapping and death of Aldo Moro

Aldo Moro, photographed during his kidnapping by the Red Brigades in 1978.
Paul VI's body in the Vatican, after his death.

On 16 March 1978, former Italian prime minister Aldo Moro—a friend of Paul VI's from his FUCI student days—was kidnapped by a far-left Italian terrorist group known as the Red Brigades. The kidnapping kept the world and the pope in suspense for 55 days.[148] On 20 April, Moro directly appealed to the pope to intervene as Pope Pius XII had intervened in the case of Professor Giuliano Vassalli in the same situation.[149] The eighty-year-old Paul VI wrote a letter to the Red Brigades:

I have no mandate to speak to you, and I am not bound by any private interests in his regard. But I love him as a member of the great human family as a friend of student days and by a very special title as a brother in faith and as a son of the Church of Christ. I make an appeal that you will certainly not ignore. On my knees I beg you, free Aldo Moro, simply without conditions, not so much because of my humble and well-meaning intercession, but because he shares with you the common dignity of a brother in humanity. Men of the Red Brigades, leave me, the interpreter of the voices of so many of our fellow citizens, the hope that in your heart feelings of humanity will triumph. In prayer and always loving you I await proof of that."[149]

Some in the Italian government accused the pope of treating the Red Brigades too kindly. Paul VI continued looking for ways to pay ransom for Moro, but his efforts were fruitless. On 9 May, the bullet-riddled body of Aldo Moro was found in a car in Rome.[150] Pope Paul VI later celebrated his State Funeral Mass.

Final days

Pope Paul VI left the Vatican to go to the papal summer residence, Castel Gandolfo, on 14 July 1978, visiting on the way the tomb of Cardinal Giuseppe Pizzardo,[151] who had introduced him to the Vatican half a century earlier. Although he was sick, he agreed to see the new Italian President Sandro Pertini for over two hours. In the evening he watched a Western on television, happy only when he saw "horses, the most beautiful animals that God had created."[151] He had breathing problems and needed oxygen. On Sunday, at the Feast of the Transfiguration, he was tired, but wanted to say the Angelus. He was neither able nor permitted to do so and instead stayed in bed, his temperature rising.

Tomb of Paul VI following his canonisation in October 2018.


From his bed he participated in Sunday Mass at 18:00. After communion, the pope suffered a massive heart attack, after which he lived on for three more hours. On 6 August 1978 at 21:41 Paul VI died in Castel Gandolfo.[151] According to the terms of his will, he was buried in the "true earth" and therefore, he does not have an ornate sarcophagus but is buried in a grave beneath the floor of Saint Peter's Basilica, though in an area of the basilica's crypt near the tombs of other popes.[152][failed verification]

His position mirrors the statements attributed to Pius XI: "a Pope may suffer but he must be able to function" and by Pius XII.[153] Pope Paul, reflecting on Hamlet, wrote the following in a private note in 1978:

What is my state of mind? Am I Hamlet? Or Don Quixote? On the left? On the right? I do not think I have been properly understood. I am filled with 'great joy (Superabundo gaudio)' With all our affliction, I am overjoyed (2 Cor 2:4).[154]

His confessor, the Jesuit Paolo Dezza, said that "this pope is a man of great joy" [56] and

If Paul VI was not a saint, when he was elected Pope, he became one during his pontificate. I was able to witness not only with what energy and dedication he toiled for Christ and the Church but also and above all, how much he suffered for Christ and the Church. I always admired not only his deep inner resignation but also his constant abandonment to divine providence."[155]


Tapestry of Paul VI on the occasion of his beatification on 19 October 2014.
Canonization Mass held on 14 October 2018.

The diocesan process for beatification for Paul VI—titled then as a Servant of God—opened in Rome on 11 May 1993 under Pope John Paul II after the "nihil obstat" ("nothing against") was declared the previous 18 March. Cardinal Camillo Ruini opened the diocesan process in Rome. The title of Servant of God is the first of four steps toward possible canonisation. The diocesan process concluded its business on 18 March 1998.[156]

On 20 December 2012, Pope Benedict XVI, in an audience with the Cardinal Prefect of the Congregation for the Causes of Saints Angelo Amato, declared that the late pontiff had lived a life of heroic virtue, which means that he could be called "Venerable".[157]

On 12 December 2013, Vatican officials comprising a medical panel approved a supposed miracle that was attributed to the intercession of the late pontiff, which was the curing of an unborn child in California, U.S.A in the 1990s. This miracle was investigated in California from 7 July 2003 until 12 July 2004. It was expected that Pope Francis would approve the miracle in the near future, thus, warranting the beatification of the late pontiff.[158] In February 2014, it was reported that the consulting Vatican theologians to the Congregation for the Causes of Saints recognised the miracle attributed to the late pontiff on 18 February.[159] On 24 April 2014, it was reported in the Italian magazine Credere that the late pope could possibly be beatified on 19 October 2014. This report from the magazine further stated that several cardinals and bishops would meet on 5 May to confirm the miracle that had previously been approved, and then present it to Pope Francis who may sign the decree for beatification shortly after that.[160] The Congregation for the Causes of Saints' cardinal and bishop members held that meeting and positively concluded that the healing was indeed a miracle that could be attributed to the late pope. The matter would then be presented by the Cardinal Prefect to the pope for approval.[161]

The second miracle required for his canonisation was reported to have occurred in 2014 not long after his beatification occurred. The vice-postulator Antonio Lanzoni suggested that the canonisation could have been approved in the near future which would allow for the canonisation sometime in spring 2016; this did not materialise because the investigations were still ongoing at that stage.[162][163][164] It was further reported in January 2017 that Pope Francis was considering canonising Paul VI either in that year, or in 2018 (marking 40 years since the late pope's death), without the second miracle required for sainthood.[165] This too was proven false since the miracle from 2014 was being presented to the competent Vatican officials for assessment. His liturgical feast day is celebrated on the date of his birth, 26 September, rather than the day of his death as is usual since the latter falls on the Feast of the Transfiguration.[166]

The final miracle needed for the late pope's canonisation was investigated in Verona and was closed on 11 March 2017. The miracle in question involves the healing of an unborn girl, Amanda Maria Paola (born 25 December 2014), after her parents (Vanna and Alberto) went to the Santuario delle Grazie in Brescia to pray for the late pope's intercession the previous 29 October, just ten days after Paul VI was beatified.[167] The miracle regarding Amanda was the fact that she had survived for months despite the fact that the placenta was broken. On 23 September, a month before the beatification, Amanda's mother Vanna Pironato (aged 35) was hospitalised due to the premature rupture of the placenta, with doctors declaring her pregnancy to be at great risk.[167] The documents regarding the alleged miracle are now in Rome awaiting approval; he shall be canonised should this healing be approved.[168] Theologians advising the Congregation for the Causes of Saints voiced their approval to this miracle on 13 December 2017 (following the confirmation of doctors on 26 October) and have this direction on to the cardinal and bishop members of the C.C.S. who must vote on the cause also before taking it to Pope Francis for his approval. Brescian media reports the canonisation could take place in October 2018 to coincide with the synod on the youth.[169][167] The cardinal and bishop members of the C.C.S. issued their unanimous approval to this miracle in their meeting held on 6 February 2018; La Stampa reported that the canonisation could be celebrated during the synod on the youth with a probable date of 21 October.[170] Pope Francis confirmed that the canonisation would be approved and celebrated in 2018 in remarks made during a meeting with Roman priests on 14 February 2018.[171] On 6 March 2018, the Cardinal Secretary of State Pietro Parolin, speaking at a plenary meeting of the International Catholic Migration Commission in Rome, confirmed that Paul VI would be canonised in at the close of the synod on 28 October 2018.[172] On 6 March, the pope confirmed the healing as a miracle, thereby approving Paul VI's canonisation; a consistory of cardinals on 19 May 2018 determined the official date for Paul VI's canonisation to be 14 October 2018.

Paul VI's liturgical feast day was originally celebrated on 26 September, the date of his birth, but was moved to 29 May, the day of his priestly ordination, in 2019.[2]

Legacy and controversies

In 2011, newly uncovered documents went up for auction and contained, among many items, proof that beginning in September 1950, while then serving as deputy of foreign affairs for the Vatican, Montini worked with former Nazis and members of the Spanish military in planning for a mercenary style army to operate within the African continent. Another revelation was a letter from the priest of former Nazi Lieutenant Colonel Otto Skrzeny to Montini in which the priest praised Montini's efforts to fund, harbor, and give safe passage to former Nazis evading Allied capture and punishment.[173]

The pontificate of Paul VI continued the opening and internationalisation of the church started under Pius XII. He implemented the reforms of John XXIII and Vatican II. Yet, unlike these popes, Paul VI faced criticism throughout his papacy from both traditionalists and liberals for steering a middle course during Vatican II and during the implementation of its reforms thereafter.[174] He expressed a desire for peace during the Vietnam War.[175]

On basic church teachings, the pope was unwavering. On the tenth anniversary of Humanae vitae, he reconfirmed this teaching.[176] In his style and methodology, he was a disciple of Pius XII, whom he deeply revered.[176] He suffered for the attacks on Pius XII for his alleged silences during the Holocaust.[176] Pope Paul VI was said to have been less intellectually gifted than his predecessors: he was not credited with an encyclopaedic memory, nor a gift for languages, nor the brilliant writing style of Pius XII,[177] nor did he have the charisma and outpouring love, sense of humor and human warmth of John XXIII. He took on himself the unfinished reform work of these two popes, bringing them diligently with great humility and common sense and without much fanfare to conclusion.[178] In doing so, Paul VI saw himself following in the footsteps of the Apostle Paul, who, being torn to several directions, said, "I am attracted to two sides at once, because the Cross always divides."[179]

A statue of Paul VI in Milan, Italy
Paul VI received the Grand Cross First Class of the Order of Merit of the Federal Republic of Germany.

Unlike his predecessors and successors, Paul VI refused to excommunicate opponents. He admonished but did not punish those with other views. The new theological freedoms which he fostered resulted in a pluralism of opinions and uncertainties among the faithful.[180] New demands were voiced, which were taboo at the council: the reintegration of divorced Catholics, the sacramental character of the confession, and the role of women in the church and its ministries. Conservatives complained, that "women wanted to be priests, priests wanted to get married, bishops became regional popes and theologians claimed absolute teaching authority. Protestants claimed equality, homosexuals and the divorced called for full acceptance."[181] Changes such as the reorientation of the liturgy, alterations to the ordinary of the Mass, alterations to the liturgical calendar in the motu proprio Mysterii Paschalis, and the relocation of the tabernacle were controversial among some Catholics.

While the total number of Catholics increased during the pontificate of Paul VI the number of priests did not keep up. In the United States at beginning of Paul's reign there were almost 1,600 priestly ordinations a year while that was nearly 900 a year at his death. The number of seminarians at the same time dropped by three quarters. More pronounced declines were evident in religious life where the number of sisters and brothers declined sharply. Infant baptisms began to decline almost at once after Paul's election and did not begin to recover until 1980. In the same period adult conversions to the church declined by a third. While marriages increased annulments also increased but at a much greater rate. There was a 1322% increase in declarations of nullity between 1968 and 1970 alone. While 65% of US Catholics went to Sunday Mass in 1965 that had slipped to 40% by the time of Paul's death. Similar collapses occurred in other developed countries.[182]

Paul VI did renounce many traditional symbols of the papacy and the Catholic Church; some of his changes to the papal dress were reversed by Pope Benedict XVI in the early 21st century. Refusing a Vatican army of colourful military uniforms from past centuries, he got rid of them. He became the first pope to visit five continents.[183] Paul VI systematically continued and completed the efforts of his predecessors, to turn the Euro-centric church into a church of the world, by integrating the bishops from all continents in its government and in the Synods which he convened. His 6 August 1967 motu proprio Pro Comperto Sane opened the Roman Curia to the bishops of the world. Until then, only Cardinals could be leading members of the Curia.[183]

Some critiqued Paul VI's decision; the newly created Synod of Bishops had an advisory role only and could not make decisions on their own, although the Council decided exactly that. During the pontificate of Paul VI, five such synods took place, and he is on record of implementing all their decisions.[184] Related questions were raised about the new National Bishop Conferences, which became mandatory after Vatican II. Others questioned his Ostpolitik and contacts with Communism and the deals he engaged in for the faithful.[185]

The pope clearly suffered from the responses within the church to Humanae vitae. While most regions and bishops supported the pontiff, including notable support from Patrick O'Boyle.[186] However, a small but important part of the church, especially in the Netherlands, Canada, and Germany openly disagreed with the pope, which deeply wounded him for the rest of his life.[187]

See also

Directly related

Associated topics



  1. ^ In theory any male Catholic is eligible for election to the papacy. In fact, his photograph was published in Life magazine with the other potential candidates for the papacy in 1958. However, the cardinals in modern times almost always elect a fellow cardinal to the office.
  2. ^ 28 October 1965.
  3. ^ As a gesture of goodwill, the pope gave to the UN two pieces of papal jewellery, a diamond cross[88][89] and ring,[90][91] with the hopes that the proceeds from their sale at auction would contribute to the UN's efforts to end human suffering.
  4. ^ And John XXIII.
  5. ^ In 1984, Paul Hofmann, a former correspondent for The New York Times, repeated the allegations.[143]


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  99. ^ Mense maio, 1
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  • Adam, A (1985), Liturgie, Freiburg: Herder.
  • Alnor, William M. Soothsayers of the Second Advent.
  • Duffy, Eamon (1997). Saints and Sinners, A History of the Popes. Yale University Press..
  • Fappani, Antonio; Molinari, Franco; Montini, Giovanni Battista (1979), Giovane, documenti inediti e testimonianze [Youth, unedited documents and testimonies], Turino: Maretti.
  • Franzen, August (1988), Papstgeschichte (in German), Freiburg: Herder, quoted as Franzen.
  • ——— (1991), Kleine Kichengeschichte (in German), Herder: Freiburg, quoted as Franzen, Kirchengeschichte
  • Gonzalez, JL; Perez, T (1964), Paul VI, Paulist Press
  • Graham (7 November 1983), Paul VI, A Great Pontificate, Brescia.
  • Guitton, Jean (1967). Dialog mit Paul VI [Dialogues with Paul VI] (in German). Wien: Molden..
  • Hebblethwaite, Peter (1993). Paul VI: The First Modern Pope. Paulist Press. ISBN 978-0-8091-0461-1..
  • (1964). Paolo VI, Profilo di Montini [Paul IV: profile of Montini] (in Italian). Roma, IT: Casa Editrice Herder. quoted from Papst Paul VI (in German), Freiburg: Herder, 1964.
  • Malachi Martin (1972). Three Popes and the Cardinal. New York: Farrar, Straus & Giroux. ISBN 978-0-374-27675-1..
  • ——— (1981), The Decline and Fall of the Roman Church, New York: Putnam.
  • Pallenberg, Corrado (1960), "Inside the Vatican", Michigan University, Hawthorn Books, p. 273.
  • Rahman, Tahir (2007). We Came in Peace for all Mankind – the Untold Story of the Apollo 11 Silicon Disc. Leathers. ISBN 978-1-58597-441-2.

External links

Documentaries with English subtitles

Catholic Church titles
Preceded by
Federico Tedeschini
Substitute for General Affairs
13 December 1937 – 17 February 1953
Succeeded by
Angelo Dell'Acqua
Preceded by
Alfredo Ildefonso Schuster
Archbishop of Milan
1 November 1954 – 21 June 1963
Succeeded by
Giovanni Colombo
Preceded by
Alfredo Ildefonso Schuster
Cardinal-Priest of Santi Silvestro e Martino ai Monti
18 December 1958 – 21 June 1963
Succeeded by
Giovanni Colombo
Preceded by
21 June 1963 – 6 August 1978
Succeeded by
John Paul I

21 March 1963

Alcatraz Federal Penitentiary (in California) closes.

United States Penitentiary,
Alcatraz Island photo D Ramey Logan.jpg
Alcatraz Island
LocationSan Francisco Bay, California
Coordinates37°49′36″N 122°25′24″W / 37.82667°N 122.42333°W / 37.82667; -122.42333[1]
StatusClosed (now a museum)
Security classMaximum
Opened11 August 1934; 86 years ago (1934-08-11)
Closed21 March 1963; 58 years ago (1963-03-21)
Managed byFederal Bureau of Prisons, Department of Justice
James A. Johnston (1934–48)
Edwin B. Swope (1948–55)
Paul J. Madigan (1955–61)
Olin G. Blackwell (1961–63)

The Alcatraz Federal Penitentiary or United States Penitentiary, Alcatraz Island (often referred to as Alcatraz [/ˈælkəˌtræz/, Spanish pronunciation: [al-ka-tɾas] (Latin America)/Spanish pronunciation: [al-ka-tɾaθ] (Spain)[3] from Arabic: غطاس‎, romanizedal-ġaţţās, lit.'gannet ("the diver")'] or The Rock) was a maximum security federal prison on Alcatraz Island, 1.25 miles (2.01 km) off the coast of San Francisco, California, United States, the site of a fort since the 1850s; the main prison building was built in 1910–1912 as a United States Army military prison. The United States Department of Justice acquired the United States Disciplinary Barracks, Pacific Branch, on Alcatraz on 12 October 1933, and the island became a prison of the Federal Bureau of Prisons in August 1934 after the buildings were modernized and security increased. Given this high security and the island's location in the cold waters and strong currents of San Francisco Bay, prison operators believed Alcatraz to be escape-proof and America's strongest prison.

The three-story cellhouse included the four main cell blocks – A-block through D-block, the warden's office, visitation room, the library, and the barber shop. The prison cells typically measured 9 feet (2.7 m) by 5 feet (1.5 m) and 7 feet (2.1 m) high. The cells were primitive and lacked privacy, with a bed, desk, washbasin, a toilet on the back wall, and with few furnishings except a blanket. African-Americans were segregated from other inmates in cell designation due to racial abuse. D-Block housed the worst inmates, and six cells at its end were designated "The Hole", where severely bad-behaving prisoners would be sent for periods of often brutal punishment. The dining hall and kitchen extended from the main building. Prisoners and staff ate three meals a day together. The Alcatraz Hospital was above the dining hall.

Prison corridors were named after major U.S. streets such as Broadway and Michigan Avenue. Working at the prison was considered a privilege for inmates and many of the better inmates were employed in the Model Industries Building and New Industries Building during the day, actively involved in providing for the military in jobs such as sewing and woodwork, and performing various maintenance and laundry chores.

Today, Alcatraz is a public museum and one of San Francisco's major tourist attractions, attracting some 1.5 million visitors annually. Now operated by the National Park Service's Golden Gate National Recreation Area, the former prison is being restored and maintained.



Alcatraz Cellhouse

The main cellhouse was built incorporating some parts of Fort Alcatraz's citadel, a partially fortified barracks from 1859 that had come to be used as a jail. A new cellhouse was built from 1910 to 1912 on a budget of $250,000, and upon completion, the 500 feet (150 m) long concrete building was reputedly the longest concrete building in the world at the time. This building was modernized in 1933 and 1934 and became the main cellhouse of the federal penitentiary until its closure in 1963.[4]:76

When the new concrete prison was built, many materials were reused in its construction. Iron staircases in the interior and the cellhouse door near the barber's shop at the end of A-block were retained from the old citadel and massive granite blocks originally used as gun mounts were reused as the wharf's bulkheads and retaining walls. [5] Many of the old cell bars were used to reinforce the walls, causing structural problems later due to the fact that many placed near the edge were subject to erosion from the salt air and wind over the years.[5][dubious ]


After the United States Army's use of the island for over 80 years, it was transferred to the Federal Bureau of Prisons, which hoped an escape-proof jail would help break the crime wave of the 1920s and 1930s.[6] The Department of Justice acquired the Disciplinary Barracks on Alcatraz on 12 October 1933, and it became a Federal Bureau of Prisons facility in August 1934. $260,000 was spent to modernize and improve it from January 1934.[7][8] George Hess of the United States Public Health Service was appointed chief medical officer and Edward W. Twitchell became a consultant in psychiatry for Alcatraz in January 1934.[8]

The hospital was checked by three officials from the Marine Hospital of San Francisco.[8] The Bureau of Prisons personnel arrived on Alcatraz in early February; among them was acting chief clerk Loring O. Mills. In April 1934, the old material was removed from the prison; holes were cut in the concrete and 269 cell fronts were installed, built using four carloads of steel ordered from the Stewart Iron Works.[8]

Two of four new stairways were built, as were 12 doors to the utility corridors and gratings at the top of the cells. On 26 April, a small accidental fire broke out on the roof and an electrician injured his foot by dropping a manhole cover on it.[8] The Anchor Post Fence Company added fencing around Alcatraz and the Enterprise Electric Works added emergency lighting in the morgue and switchboard operations.[8]

In June 1934, the Teletouch Corporation of New York began the installation of an "electro-magnetic gun or metal detecting system" at Alcatraz; detectors were added on the wharf, at the front entrance into the cellblock, and at the rear entrance gate.[8] The correctional officers were instructed on how to operate the new locking devices in July 1934, and both the United States Coast Guard and the San Francisco Police Department tested the new radio equipment.[8] Final checks and assessments were made on the first two days of August.[8]

Early history

Alcatraz laundry service

Alcatraz was intended for prisoners who continuously caused trouble at other federal prisons. It would be a "last resort prison", to hold the worst of the worst who had no hope of rehabilitation.[9][10] On 11 August 1934, the first batch of 137 prisoners arrived at Alcatraz from the United States Penitentiary in Leavenworth, Kansas, having traveled by rail to Santa Venetia, California. Before being escorted to Alcatraz, they were handcuffed in high-security coaches and guarded by some 60 Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) special agents, U.S. Marshals, and railway security officials.[8][11] Most of the prisoners were notorious bank robbers, counterfeiters, or murderers.[11]

Among the first inmates were also 14 men from McNeil Island, Washington.[8] On 22 August 1934, 43 prisoners arrived from Atlanta Penitentiary and 10 from North Eastern Penitentiary, Lewisburg, Pennsylvania.[8] On 1 September, one prisoner arrived from Washington Asylum and Jail and seven from the District of Columbia Reformatory in Virginia, and on 4 September, another batch of 103 prisoners arrived by train from Leavenworth.[8] Prisoners continued to arrive, mainly from Leavenworth and Atlanta, into 1935 and by 30 June 1935, the penitentiary's first anniversary, it had a population of 242 prisoners, although some inmates such as Verrill Rapp had already been transferred from Alcatraz some months earlier.[8]

On Alcatraz's first anniversary, the Bureau of Prisons wrote, "The establishment of this institution not only provided a secure place for the detention of the more difficult type of criminal but has had a good effect upon discipline in our other penitentiaries also. No serious disturbance of any kind has been reported during the year." The metal detectors often overheated and had to be turned off. After the Teletouch Corporation failed to address the problem, their contract was terminated in 1937 and they were charged over $200 for three new detectors supplied by Federal Laboratories.[8]

On 10 January 1935, a severe storm caused a landslide on Alcatraz, causing the Model Industries Building to slide.[8] This prompted a series of changes to the structures on the island. A riprap was built around the Model Industries Building, it was strengthened, and a guard tower added to the roof in June 1936. That same month, the barracks building was remodeled into 11 new apartments and nine single rooms for bachelors; by this time there were 52 families living on Alcatraz, including 126 women and children.[8] The problems with the Model Industries Building and continuing utility problems with some of the old buildings and systems led to extensive updates in 1937, including new tool-proof grills on the ventilators of the cell house roof, two new boilers installed in the power house, and a new pump for salt water sanitation and guardrails added to stairways.[8]

In 1939–40, a $1.1 million redevelopment was begun, including construction of the New Industries Building, a complete overhaul of the power house with a new diesel engine, the building of a new water tower to solve the water storage problem, new apartment blocks for officers, improvements to the dock, and the conversion of D-block into isolation cells.[8] The changes were completed in July 1941. The workshops of the New Industries Building became highly productive, making Army uniforms, cargo nets, and other items in high demand during World War II. In June 1945, it was reported that the federal penitentiaries had made 60,000 nets.[8]


Henri Young, who was tried for the murder of a fellow inmate in 1941

Alcatraz gained notoriety from its inception as the toughest prison in America, considered by many the world's most fearsome prison of the day. Former prisoners reported brutality and inhumane conditions which severely tested their sanity.[12][13][14] Ed Wutke was the first prisoner to commit suicide in Alcatraz. Rufe Persful chopped off his fingers after grabbing an axe from the firetruck, begging another inmate to do the same to his other hand.[14]

One writer described Alcatraz as "the great garbage can of San Francisco Bay, into which every federal prison dumped its most rotten apples."[15] In 1939, the new U.S. Attorney General, Frank Murphy, attacked the penitentiary, saying, "The whole institution is conductive to psychology that builds up a sinister ambitious attitude among prisoners."[8]

The prison's reputation was not helped by the arrival of more of America's most dangerous felons, including Robert Stroud, the "Birdman of Alcatraz", in 1942. He entered the prison system at age 19, and never left, spending 17 years at Alcatraz. Stroud killed a guard, tangled with other inmates and spent 42 of his 54 years in prison in solitary confinement. Despite its reputation, with many former inmates calling it "Hellcatraz", some prisoners reported that the living conditions there were much better than most other prisons in the country, especially the food, and many volunteered to come to Alcatraz.[6]

On 3 December 1940, Henri Young murdered fellow inmate Rufus McCain. Running downstairs from the furniture shop to the tailor's shop where McCain worked, Young violently stabbed McCain in the neck; McCain died five hours later.[8] Young had been sent to Alcatraz for murder in 1933, and was later involved in an escape attempt during which gangster Doc Barker was shot to death. He spent nearly 22 months in solitary confinement as a result, but was eventually permitted to work in the furniture shop. Young went to trial in 1941, with his attorneys claiming that their client could not be held responsible for the murder, since he had allegedly been subjected to "cruel and unusual punishment" by prison guards prior to the act. The trial brought Alcatraz into further disrepute.[8] Ultimately, Young was convicted of manslaughter and his prison sentence was only extended by a few years.

From left to right: Warden James A. Johnston, associate warden E.J. Miller, District Attorney Frank J. Hennessy

Final years

By the 1950s, conditions at Alcatraz had improved, and inmates were gradually permitted more privileges, such as playing musical instruments, watching movies on weekends, painting, and radio use; the strict code of silence became more relaxed, and prisoners were permitted to talk quietly.[14] However, it was by far the most expensive prison in the United States, and many still perceived it as America's most extreme jail.[16][8] In his annual report for 1952, Bureau of Prisons director James V. Bennett called for a more centralized institution to replace Alcatraz.[8]

A 1959 report indicated that the facility was over three times more expensive to run than the average American prison; $10 per prisoner per day compared to $3 in most other prisons.[17] The problem was made worse by the buildings' structural deterioration from exposure to salt spray, which would require $5 million to fix. Major repairs began in 1958, but by 1961 engineers considered the prison a lost cause. Attorney General Robert F. Kennedy submitted plans for a new maximum-security institution at Marion, Illinois.[8]

The June 1962 escape from Alcatraz led to acrimonious investigations. Combined with the major structural problems and expensive operation, this led to its closure on 21 March 1963.[17] The final Bureau of Prisons report said of Alcatraz: "The institution served an important purpose in taking the strain off the older and greatly overcrowded institutions in Atlanta, Leavenworth and McNeil Island since it enabled us to move to the smaller, closely guarded institution for the escape artists, the big-time racketeers, the inveterate connivers and those who needed protection from other groups."[8]

Today a museum and one of San Francisco's major tourist attractions, Alcatraz drew some 1.5 million visitors annually (2010).[18][19] Visitors arrive by boat and are given a tour of the cellhouse and island, and a slide show and audio narration with anecdotes from former inmates, guards and rangers on Alcatraz.[20] The atmosphere of the former penitentiary is still considered to be "eerie", "ghostly" and "chilling".[20] Protected by the National Park Service and the National Register of Historic Places, the salt-damaged buildings of the former prison are now being restored and maintained.[21]

Escape attempts

Alcatraz Island from San Francisco, March 1962

According to the prison's correctional officers, once a convict arrived on the Alcatraz wharf, his first thoughts were on how to leave.[22] During its 29 years of operation, the penitentiary claimed that no prisoner successfully escaped. A total of 36 prisoners made 14 escape attempts, two men trying twice; 23 were caught, six were shot and killed during their escape, two drowned, and five are listed as "missing and presumed drowned".[23]

The first escape attempt was made on 27 April 1936, by Joseph Bowers, who was assigned to burn trash at the incinerator. He was scaling a chain link fence at the edge of the island when noticed. When he refused orders of the correctional officer located at the West Road guard tower to come down he was shot. He was seriously injured in the fall from over 15 m (50 ft) and consequently died.[6]

The second escape attempt was on 16 December 1937, by Theodore Cole and Ralph Roe. During their work assignment in one of the workshops, they cut the flat iron bars of the window and climbed into the bay. It was a stormy day and the sea was rough. They were thought dead by the prison authorities, who believed that they drowned in the bay and their bodies were swept out to sea.[6]

Battle of Alcatraz

Bernard Coy, Marvin Hubbard and Joseph Cretzer were killed in the Battle of Alcatraz.
Carnes, Shockley and Thompson on way to court for trial in the Battle of Alcatraz

The most violent escape attempt occurred on 2–4 May 1946, when a failed attempt by six prisoners led to the Battle of Alcatraz, also known as the "Alcatraz Blast Out". Bernard Coy, Joseph Cretzer, Sam Shockley, Clarence Carnes, Marvin Hubbard and Miran Thompson took control of the cell house by overpowering correctional officers, and were able to enter the weapons room, where they then demanded keys to the outside recreation door.[6][24]

A quick-thinking guard, William Miller, turned over all but the key to the outer door, which he pocketed. The prisoners' aim was to escape by boat from the dock, but when they were unable to open the outside door, they decided to battle it out. They held Miller and a second guard hostage. Prompted by Shockley and Thompson, Cretzer shot the hostages at very close range. Miller succumbed to his injuries while the second guard, Harold Stites, was also killed at the cell house. Although Shockley, Thompson, and Carnes returned to their cells, the other three, Coy, Cretzer and Hubbard, persisted with their fight.[6][24]

The U.S. Marines intervened and killed the three prisoners. In this battle, apart from the guards and prisoners killed, 17 other guards and one prisoner were also injured. Shockley, Thompson, and Carnes were tried for the killing of the correctional officers. Shockley and Thompson were sentenced to death in the gas chamber, which was carried out at San Quentin in December 1948. However, Carnes, who was only 19 years of age, was given a second life sentence.[6][24]

"Escape from Alcatraz"

On 11 June 1962, Frank Morris, John Anglin, and Clarence Anglin attempted to escape using careful planning. Behind their cells in Cell Block B was a 3-foot (0.91 m) wide unguarded utility corridor. The prisoners chiseled away the salt-damaged concrete from around an air vent leading to this corridor, using tools such as a metal spoon soldered with silver from a dime and an electric drill improvised from a stolen vacuum cleaner motor. The noise was disguised by accordions played during music hour, and the progress was concealed by false walls which, in the dark recesses of the cells, fooled the guards.[6]

Side view of model head found in Frank Morris's cell

The escape route led up through a fan vent; the prisoners removed the fan and motor, replacing them with a steel grill and leaving a shaft large enough for a prisoner to enter. Stealing a carborundum abrasive cord from the prison workshop, the prisoners then removed the rivets from the grill. In their beds, they placed papier-mâché dummies made with human hair stolen from the barbershop. Over many weeks, the escapees also made an inflatable raft from over 50 stolen raincoats, which they prepared on the top of the cell block, concealed from the guards by sheets which had been put up over the sides. They escaped through a vent in the roof and departed Alcatraz.[6][24]

The FBI investigation was aided by another prisoner, Allen West, who was part of the escapees' group but was left behind. West's false wall kept slipping so he held it in place with cement, which set. When Morris and the Anglins accelerated the schedule, West desperately chipped away at the wall, but by the time he got out, his companions were gone. Hundreds of leads and theories have been pursued by the FBI and local law enforcement officials in the ensuing years, but no conclusive evidence has ever surfaced favoring the success or failure of the attempt. The FBI's investigation was eventually closed in December 1979.[25] The official report on the escape concludes that the prisoners drowned in the cold waters of the bay while trying to reach the mainland, it being unlikely that they made it the 1.25 miles to shore due to the strong ocean currents and the cold sea water temperatures ranging between 50 to 55 °F (10 to 13 °C).[6][24]

The U.S. Marshals Service case file remains open and active. Morris and the Anglin brothers remain on its wanted list.[26] Circumstantial evidence uncovered in the early-2010s seemed to suggest that the men had survived, and that contrary to the official FBI report of the escapee's raft never being recovered and no car thefts being reported, a raft was discovered on nearby Angel Island with footprints leading away, and a 1955 blue Chevrolet had been stolen on the night of the escape by three men, who could have been Morris and the Anglins, and that officials then engaged in a cover-up.[27] Relatives of the Anglin brothers presented further circumstantial evidence in the mid-2010s in support of a longstanding rumor that the Anglin brothers had fled to Brazil following the escape; a facial recognition analyst concluded that the one piece of physical evidence, a 1975 photograph of two men resembling John and Clarence Anglin, did support that conclusion.[28][29]


The admin offices of Alcatraz

The prison initially had a staff of 155, including the first warden James A. Johnston and associate warden Cecil J. Shuttleworth, both considered to be "iron men".[11] None of the staff were trained in rehabilitation but were highly trained in security.[11] The guards' and staff's salaries varied. A new guard arriving in December 1948 was offered $3,024.96 per year, but there was a 6% deduction for retirement taxes a year (amounting to $181.50).[30] The guards typically worked 40-hour weeks with five 8-hour shifts.[30]

Guards who worked between 6 pm and 6 am were given a 10% increase and guards doing overtime had to be reported and authorized by the warden.[30] Officers generally had to pay 25 cents for meals and were charged $10 to rent an apartment on the island, to include laundry service, although larger families were charged anything from $20–43 a month for larger quarters and charged additional for laundry.[30] In 1960, a Bureau of Prisons booklet revealed that the average prison population between 1935 and 1960 was 263; the highest recorded was 302 in 1937 and the lowest recorded was 222 in 1947.[31]

A casefile of a prisoner from the Warden's notebook

The main administration center was at the entrance to the prison, which included the warden's office. The office contained a desk with radio and telegraph equipment, typewriter, and a telephone.[32] The administrative office section also had the offices of the associate warden and secretary, mail desk, captain's desk, a business office, a clerk's office, an accounting office, a control room which was added with modern technology in 1961, the officer's lounge, armory and vault, and a visiting area and restrooms. The basement of Alcatraz prison contained dungeons and the showers. The main stairway to the dungeon lay along Sunrise Alley at the side of A-Block, but the dungeons were also accessible by a staircase in a trapdoor along the corridor of D-Block. All visits to Alcatraz required prior written approval from the warden.[33]

A hospital had originally been installed at Alcatraz during its time as a military prison in the late 19th century.[34] During its time as a federal penitentiary, it was located above the dining hall on the second floor. Hospital staff were U.S. Public Health Service employees assigned to the Federal Prison Service at Alcatraz.[35] Doctors often lasted fewer than several days or months at Alcatraz, because few of them could tolerate the violent inmates who would often terrify them if they failed to be given certain drugs.[35] Prisoners in ill health were often kept in the hospital, most famously Stroud and Al Capone, who spent years in it.[36][37]


Gun Gallery

When the Bureau of Prisons established the Federal Penitentiary on 1 January 1934, they took measures to strengthen the security of the prison cells to make Alcatraz "escape-proof", and also to improve living conditions for their own staff. Up-to-date technologies for enhancing security and comfort were added to the buildings. Guard towers were built outside at four strategic locations, cells were rebuilt and fitted with "tool-proof steel cell fronts and locking devices operated from control boxes", and windows were made covered with iron grills. Electromagnetic metal detectors were placed at the entrances of the dining hall and workshops, with remote controlled tear gas canisters at appropriate locations, remote controlled gun galleries with machine gun armed guards were installed to patrol along the corridors.[38]

Improvements were made to the toilet and electricity facilities, old tunnels were sealed up with concrete to avoid hiding and escape by prisoners, and substantial changes and improvements were made to the housing facilities of guards, wardens and captain to live with their families, with quality relative to rank. Warden Johnston, U.S. Attorney General Homer Cummings, and Sanford Bates, first director of the Bureau of Prisons, collaborated very closely to create "a legendary prison" suited to the times, which resulted in the Alcatraz Island Federal Penitentiary being nicknamed "Uncle Sam's Devil's Island."[38]

Guards of Alcatraz

Despite Alcatraz being designed to house the "worst of the worst" of criminals who caused problems at other prisons, under the guidelines and regulations set by the strict prison administrators, courts could not direct a prisoner to be directly sent to Alcatraz, however notorious they were for misbehavior and attempted escape from other prisons.[38] Prisoners entering Alcatraz would undergo vigorous research and assessments prior to their arrival. Security in the prison was very tight, with constant checking of bars, doors, locks, electrical fixtures, and other physical security.[39]

Prisoners were normally counted 13 times daily, and the ratio of prisoners to guards was the lowest of any American prison of the time.[40][41] The front door was made of solid steel, virtually impossible for any prisoners to escape through.[42] The island had many guard towers, most of which have since been demolished, which were heavily guarded at various points in the day at times when security may have been breached. For instance, there were guard towers on each of the industry buildings to ensure that inmates didn't attempt to escape during the work day shifts.[12]

The recreation yard and other parts of the prison had a 25-foot fence around it topped with barbed wire,[12] should any inmates attempt to escape during exercise. One former employee of the jail likened his prison job to being a zoo keeper or his old farm job, due to the fact that prisoners were treated like animals, sending them out to "plow the fields" when some of them worked during the day, and then counting them up and feeding them and so on.[39] He referred to those four years of his life working in the prison as a "total waste of his life".[39] The corridors were regularly patrolled by the guards, with passing gates along them. The most heavily trafficked corridor was "Broadway" between B and C Block, due to its being the central corridor of the prison and passed not only by guards but other prison workers.[43]

At the end of each 20-minute meal in the dining hall, the forks, spoons and knives were laid out on the table and carefully counted to ensure that nothing had been taken as a potential weapon. In the earlier years as a prison, prisoners were forbidden from talking while eating, but this was later relaxed, provided that the prisoners communicated quietly.[39] [44]

The gun gallery was situated in the Recreation Yard and mounted on one of the dining hall's exterior walls.[45] There was a metal detector outside of the dining hall for security purposes. The dining hall had tear-gas canisters attached to the rafters of the ceiling which could be activated by remote control, should prisoners riot or attempt to escape.[46][13] The first warden, James A. Johnston, always entered the dining hall alone and unarmed, due to heavy guarding around him.[47] Several riots did break out in the dining hall during Alcatraz's history. Those prisoners who were not involved in the fighting hid under the dining hall tables to escape possible gunfire.[48]


Image Name Term Summary
James A. Johnston.jpg James A. Johnston 1934–48 James Aloysius Johnston (1874–1954) (nickname "Old Saltwater") [49] was the first warden of Alcatraz. The former warden of Folsom and San Quentin, Johnston was instrumental to the creation of Alcatraz Federal Penitentiary from conception to design. He was considered to be a highly strict disciplinarian and a devout reformist who imposed a number of rules upon the prison including a strict code of silence, which led to him being nicknamed the 'Golden Rule Warden' from his San Quentin days.[49] He was relatively popular among inmates and guards, known as "Old Saltwater" to the inmates, and is credited with challenging the barbaric tactics used in the prison when he was there, including strait jackets and solitary confinement in darkness and working towards the general improvement of the lives of prisoners. In 1937 he was attacked by Burton Phillips from behind in the dining hall who beat him in anger at a worker's strike, but he continued to attend meals unguarded.
Edwin B. Swope.jpg Edwin B. Swope 1948–55 Edwin Burnham Swope (1888–1955) (nickname "Cowboy") was the second warden of Alcatraz. His earlier posts as warden included New Mexico State Prison and Washington State's McNeil Island Federal Penitentiary. He was described as being approximately 1.73 meter (5 feet 9 inches) tall, of slender build, and was a fan of horse racing who dressed like a cowboy off-duty.[50] He was a strict disciplinarian but unlike his predecessor was considered the most unpopular warden of Alcatraz with his officers and the inmates.[51]
Paul J. Madigan.jpg Paul J. Madigan 1955–61

Paul Joseph Madigan (1897–1974) was the third warden of Alcatraz. He had earlier served as the last Associate Warden during the term of James A. Johnston. He was the only warden who had worked his way up from the bottom of the ranks of the prison staff hierarchy, having worked originally as a Correctional Officer on Alcatraz from the 1930s.[52][51] On 21 May 1941, Madigan was the key to quashing an escape attempt after being held hostage in the Model Industries Building, which later led to his promotion as associate warden.[53] He was a stout, ruddy-faced, pipe-smoking, devout Irish Catholic.[54] Unlike his predecessors, Madigan was known for being more lenient and softer in his approach to administering the prison and was better liked by the prison staff.[52]

Olin G. Blackwell.jpg Olin G. Blackwell 1961–63

Olin Guy Blackwell (1915–1986) was the fourth and final warden of Alcatraz. Associate Warden to Paul J. Madigan from April 1959,[53] Blackwell served as warden of Alcatraz at its most difficult time from 1961 to 1963, when it was facing closure as a decaying prison with financing problems, coinciding with the timing of the infamous June 1962 escape from Alcatraz. At the time of the 1962 escape he was on vacation in Lake Berryessa in Napa County, and he didn't believe the men could have survived the waters and made it to shore.[55] Blackwell was considered to have been the least strict warden of Alcatraz, perhaps in part due to him having been a heavy drinker and smoker, nicknamed "Gypsy" and known as "Blackie" to his friends.[53] He was said to have been an excellent marksman who had earlier served as Associate Warden of Lewisburg Federal Penitentiary.

Prison life and the cells

Side of cellhouse
Chiseled cell air vent in Alcatraz
Band practice in the dining hall in the 1950s

An inmate register reveals that there were 1,576 prisoners in total held at Alcatraz during its time as a Federal Penitentiary, although figures reported have varied and some have stated 1557.[56][57] The prison cells, purposefully designed so that none adjoined an outside wall,[13] typically measured 9 feet (2.7 m) by 5 feet (1.5 m) and 7 feet (2.1 m) high.[58] The cells were primitive with a bed, a desk and a washbasin and toilet on the back wall and few furnishings except a blanket.[58] An air vent, measuring 6 inches (150 mm) by 9 inches (230 mm), covered by a metal grill, lay at the back of the cells which led into the utility corridors. [58] Prisoners had no privacy in going to the toilet and the toilets would emit a strong stench because they were flushed with salt water. Hot water faucets were not installed until the early 1960s, shortly before closure.[58]

The penitentiary established a very strict regimen of rules and regulations under the title "the Rules and Regulations for the Government and Discipline of the United States Penal and Correctional Institutions" and also a "Daily Routine of Work and Counts" to be followed by the prisoners and also the guards. Copies of these were provided to the prisoners to read and follow. Inmates were basically entitled to food, clothing, shelter, and medical attention. Anything else was seen as a privilege. Inmates were given a blue shirt, grey pants (blue and white in later years[56]), cotton long underwear, socks and a blue handkerchief; the wearing of caps was forbidden in the cellhouse.[58]

Cells were expected to be kept tidy and in good order. Any dangerous article found in the cells or on inmates such as money, narcotics, intoxicating substances or tools which had the potential to inflict injury or assist in an escape attempt was considered contraband and made the prisoners eligible for disciplinary action.[56] It was compulsory for prisoners to shave in their cells three times a week. Attempting to bribe, intimidate, or assault prison officers was seen as a very serious offense.[56] African-Americans were segregated from the rest in cell designation due to racial abuse being prevalent.[59]

Toilet paper, matches, soap, and cleanser were issued to the cells on Tuesdays and Saturdays, and inmates could request hot water and a mop to clean their cells.[56] The bars, windows and floors of the prison were cleaned on a daily basis.[59] In earlier years there was a strict code of silence but by the 1950s this had relaxed and talking was permitted in the cellhouse and dining hall provided conversations were quiet and there was no shouting, loud talking, whistling or singing.[56]

Plan of the main cellhouse
A page from the "Institution Rules and Regulations of the United States Penitentiary, Alcatraz Island," (1956)

Prisoners would be woken at 6:30 am, and sent to breakfast at 6:55 am. After returning to the cell, inmates then had to tidy their cell and place the waste basket outside.[56] At 7:30 am, work started in the shifts for those privileged enough to do so, punctuated by a whistle, and prisoners would have to go through a metal detector during work shifts.[39] If assigned a job, prisoners had to accept that line of work; prisoners were not permitted to have money in their possessions but earnings went into a prisoner's Trust Fund.[56]

Some of the prisoners were assigned duties with the guards and foremen in the Laundry, Tailor Shop, Cobblers Shop, Model Shop etc. and in gardening and labor. Smoking, a privilege, was permitted in the workplace providing there wasn't any hazardous condition, but inmates were not permitted to smoke between the recreation yard and work. Lunch was served at 11:20 am, followed by a 30-minute rest in the cell, before returning to work until 16:15.[39]

Dinner was served at 16:25 and the prisoners would then retire to their cells to be locked in for the night at 16:50. Lights went off at 21:30.[39][60] After being locked in for the night, 6 guards usually patrolled the four cell blocks.[59] Many prisoners have compared their duration at Alcatraz to hell and would have preferred death to continued incarceration.[61]

Alcatraz Library was located at the end of D-Block. Upon entering Alcatraz, every inmate was given a library card and a catalog of books found in the library. Inmates could place orders by putting a slip with their card in a box at the entrance to the dining hall before breakfast, and the books would be delivered to and from their cell by a librarian.[62][63][60] The library, which utilized a closed-stack paging system, had a collection of 10,000 to 15,000 books, mainly left over from the army days.[64][63][60]

Inmates were permitted a maximum of three books in addition to up twelve text books, a Bible, and a dictionary.[60] They were permitted to subscribe to magazines but crime-related pages were torn out and newspapers were prohibited.[63] Sex, crime and violence were censored from all books and magazines, and the library was governed by a chaplain who regulated the censorship and the nature of the reading material to ensure that the material was wholesome.[60][64] Failure to return books by the date given made the inmate liable to removal of privileges.[60]

The average prisoner read 75 to 100 books a year.[65] Every evening, inmates would generally read books loaned from the library and usually an hour or 75 minutes was allocated to the practicing of musical instruments, from the guitar to the accordion. A prison band often practiced in the dining room or auditorium above it. Al Capone famously practiced the banjo in the shower block, although most prisoners were limited to playing in their cells alone.[66]



Alcatraz cellhouse had a corridor naming system named after major American streets and landmarks. Michigan Avenue was the corridor to the side of A-Block. Broadway was the central corridor in which the inmates would assemble as they massed through Times Square (an area with a clock on the wall), before entering the dining hall for their meals. Broadway separated Block-B and Block-C and prisoners kept along it had the least privacy in the prison.[67]

The corridor between Block-C and the library was called Park Avenue.[67] The corridor in D-Block was named Sunset Strip. Gun galleries lay at the end of each block, including the West and East Gun Galleries.[4]:76


A-Block was never modernized, so retained its "flat strap-iron bars, key locks and spiral staircases" from the original military prison.[68] No inmates were permanently held there during the years Alcatraz was a federal penitentiary. Several inmates, however, were held briefly in A-Block before a hearing or transfer.[68] In the later years, A-Block was mainly used for storage. A law library was set up at some point, where inmates could type legal documents.[68] A small barber's shop was located at the end of A-block where inmates would have a monthly haircut.[68]


Most new inmates at Alcatraz were assigned to the second tier of B-Block.[69] They had "quarantine status" for their first three months in confinement in Alcatraz, and were not permitted visitors for a minimum of 90 days.[69][70] Inmates were permitted one visitor a month, although anybody likely to cause trouble such as registered criminals were barred from visiting. Letters received by inmates were checked by prison staff first, to see if they could decipher any secret messages.[10][71] Frank Morris and his fellow escapees escaped Alcatraz during the June 1962 escape from Alcatraz by entering a utility corridor behind B-Block.[4]:120



An exterior view looking towards the end of D-Block, the dining hall and kitchen are on the left

D-Block gained notoriety as a "Treatment block" for some of the worst inmates, with varying degrees of punishment, including Isolation, Solitary and Strip.[72] Prisoners usually spent anywhere from 3 to 19 days in Solitary.[72] Prisoners held here would be given their meals in their cells, were not permitted to work and could only shower twice a week. After a 1939 escape attempt in which Arthur "Doc" Barker was killed, the Bureau of Prisons tightened security in the D-Block. The Birdman of Alcatraz inhabited cell 42 in D-Block in solitary confinement for 6 years.


The worst cells for confinement as a punishment for inmates who stepped out of line were located at the end of D-Block in cells 9–14, known as "The Hole".[73] Inmates held in the hole were limited to just one 10-minute shower and an hour of exercise in the yard a week.[74][72] The five cells of "The Hole" had nothing but a sink and toilet and the very worst cell was nicknamed "The Oriental" or "Strip Cell", the final cell of the block with nothing but a hole in the floor as a toilet, in which prisoners would often be confined naked with nothing else for two days.[67][72]

The guards controlled the flushing of the toilet in that cell.[8] After completing the punishment in the hole, the prisoner could then return to his cell but be tagged. A red tag, third grade, denoted a prisoner who was restricted from leaving his cell for perhaps 3 months.[39] At second grade the prisoners could receive letters, and if after 30 days they remained behaved, they would then be restored full prison privileges.[39]

Its size was approximately that of a regular cell-9 feet by 5 feet by about 7 feet high. I could just touch the ceiling by stretching out my arm ... You are stripped nude and pushed into the cell. Guards take your clothes and go over them minutely for what few grains of tobacco may have fallen into the cuffs or pockets. There is no soap. No tobacco. No toothbrush, The smell – well you can describe it only by the word 'stink.' It is like stepping into a sewer. It is nauseating. After they have searched your clothing, they throw it at you. For bedding, you get two blankets, around 5 in the evening. You have no shoes, no bed, no mattress-nothing but the four damp walls and two blankets. The walls are painted black. Once a day I got three slices of bread—no—that is an error. Some days I got four slices. I got one meal in five days, and nothing but bread in between. In the entire thirteen days I was there, I got two meals ... I have seen but one man get a bath in solitary confinement, in all the time that I have been there. That man had a bucket of cold water thrown over him.

— Henri Young testifying his experiences in "The Hole" at Alcatraz during his 1941 trial.[75]


Inmates in the dining hall

Alcatraz Dining Hall, often referred to as the Mess Hall, is the dining hall where the prisoners and staff ate their meals. It is a long wing on the west end of the Main Cellhouse of Alcatraz, situated in the center of the island.[76] It is connected to the block by a corridor known as "Times Square", as it passes beneath a large clock approaching the entrance way to the dining hall.[4]:93 This wing includes the dining hall and the kitchen beyond it. On the second floor was the hospital and the auditorium, which was where movies were screened to the inmates at weekends.[77]

Dining hall protocol was a scripted process, including a whistle system to indicate which block and tier of men would move into and out of the hall at any given time, who sat where, where to place hands, and when to start eating.[78] Prisoners would be awakened at 6:30 am, and sent to breakfast at 6:55 am.[39] A breakfast menu is still preserved on the hallway board, dated 21 March 1963. The breakfast menu included assorted dry cereals, steamed whole wheat, a scrambled egg, milk, stewed fruit, toast, bread, and butter. Lunch was served in the dining hall at 11:20 am, followed by a 30-minute rest in the cell, before returning to work until 16:15.[39]

Dinner was served at 16:25 and the prisoners would then go to their cells at 16:50 to be locked in for the night.[39] Inmates were permitted to eat as much as they liked within 20 minutes, provided they left no waste. Waste would be reported and may make the prisoner subject to removal of privileges if they made a habit of it.[79][40]

Each dining table had benches which held up to six men, although smaller tables and chairs later replaced these which seated four.[44] All of the prison population, including the guards and officials would dine together, thus seating over 250 people.[44][80] The food served at Alcatraz was reportedly the best in the United States prison system.[79]


Recreation Yard

The Recreation Yard was the yard used by inmates of the prison between 1934 and 1963. It is located opposite the dining hall south of the end of D-Block, facing the mainland on a raised level surrounded by a high wall and fence above it.[81][82][83] Guard Tower #3 lay just to the west of the yard.[84] The gun gallery was situated in the yard, mounted on one of the dining hall's exterior walls.[45]

In 1936, the previously dirt-covered yard was paved.[85] The yard was part of the most violent escape attempt from Alcatraz in May 1946 when a group of inmates hatched a plot to obtain the key into the recreation yard, kill the tower guards, take hostages, and use them as shields to reach the dock.[86]

Inmates were permitted out into the yard on Saturdays and Sundays and on holidays for a maximum of 5 hours.[87][88] Inmates who worked seven days a week in the kitchen were rewarded with short yard breaks during the weekdays.[88] Badly behaved prisoners were liable to having their yard access rights taken away from them on weekends.[88] The prisoners of Alcatraz were permitted to play games such as baseball, softball and other sports at these times and intellectual games such as chess.[87]

Because of the small size of the yard and the diamond at the end of it, a section of the wall behind the first base had to be padded to cushion the impact of inmates overrunning it.[89] Inmates were provided gloves, bats, and balls, but no sport uniforms. In 1938, there were four amateur teams, the Bees, Oaks, Oilers, and Seals, named after Minor League clubs, and four league teams named after Major League clubs, the Cardinals, Cubs, Giants, and Tigers.[90] Many of the inmates used weekends in the yards to converse with each other and discuss crime, the only real opportunities they had during the week for a durable conversation.[91]

Other buildings

Warden's House

The Warden's House and lighthouse

The Warden's House is located at the northeastern end of the Main Cellblock, next to Alcatraz Lighthouse. The 3-floor 15-room mansion was built in 1921 according to the Golden Gate National Recreational Area signpost,[92] although some sources say it was built in 1926 or 1929 and had 17 or 18 rooms.[93]

Between 1934 and 1963, the four wardens of Alcatraz resided here, including the first warden, James A. Johnston. A house of luxury, in stark contrast to the jail next to it, the wardens often held lavish cocktail parties here.[94] The signpost at the spot shows a photograph of a trusted inmate doing chores at the house for the warden and that the house had a terraced garden and greenhouse.[92] The mansion had tall windows, providing fine views of San Francisco Bay.[93] Today, the house is a ruin, burned down by Native Americans during the Occupation of Alcatraz on 1 June 1970.[93]

Building 64

Building 64 Residential Apartments was the first building constructed on the island of Alcatraz, intended entirely for the purpose of accommodating the military officers and their families living on the island.[95] Located next to the dock on the southeastern side of the island, below the Warden's House,[96] the three-story apartment block was built in 1905 on the site of a U.S. Army barracks which had been there from the 1860s. It functioned as the Military Guard Barracks from 1906 until 1933. One of its largest apartments in the southwest corner was known as the "Cow Palace" and a nearby alleyway was known as "Chinatown".[95]

Social Hall

The ruined Social Hall of Alcatraz

The Social Hall, also known as the Officers' Club, was a social club located on the northwestern side of the island. Located in proximity to the Power House, water tower and Former Military Chapel (Bachelor Quarters), it formerly housed the post exchange.[97] The club was a social venue for the Federal Penitentiary workers and their families on the island to unwind after a hard week's work dealing with America's most hardened criminals after they'd been locked up at 17:30.[98][99] It was burned down by Native Americans during the Occupation of Alcatraz in 1970, leaving a shell which still remains.

The club had a small bar, library, large dining and dance floor, billiards table, ping pong table and a two-lane bowling alley, and was the centre of social life on the island for the employees of the penitentiary.[100][101][102] It regularly hosted dinners, bingo events, and from the 1940s onwards showed movies every Sunday night after they had been shown to the inmates during the day on Saturday and Sunday.[100][4]:128 The club was responsible for organizing numerous special events on the island (held either in the hall or the Parade Grounds) and the fundraising associated with it, anything from ice cream and watermelon feasts to Halloween fancy dress and Christmas parties.[100][103]

Power House

The Power House is located on the northwest coast of Alcatraz Island. It was constructed in 1939 for $186,000 as part of a $1.1 million modernization scheme which also included the water tower, New Industries Building, officers quarters and remodeling of the D-block.[69] The white powerhouse smokestack and lighthouse were said to give an "appearance of a ship's mast on either side of the island".[104] A sign reading "A Warning. Keep Off. Only Government permitted within 200 yards" lay in front of the powerhouse to deter people landing on the island at the point.

Between 1939 and 1963, it supplied power to the Federal Penitentiary and other buildings on the island. The powerhouse had a tower duty station which was guarded with a "30-caliber Winchester rifle with 50 rounds of ammunition, a 1911 semiautomatic pistol with three seven-round magazines, three gas grenades, and a gas mask."[105]

Alcatraz water tower

The water tower in 2008, visibly rusting.

The water tower is located on the northwestern side of the island, near Tower No. 3, beyond the Morgue and Recreation Yard.[106] The water tank is situated on six cross-braced steel legs submerged in concrete foundations.[dubious ][107]

As Alcatraz had no water supply of its own, it had to import it from the mainland, brought by tug and barge.[108] During the island's military years, there were in-ground water tanks and water tanks were situated on the roof of the citadel.[109] The water tower was built in 1940–41 by the Federal Bureau of Prisons,[110] after the island received a government renovations grant to supply the majority of the island's fresh water.[109][dubious ]

It is the tallest building on the island, at a height of 94 feet (29 m) with a volume of 250,000 US gallons (950 kL) gallons of fresh water. It was used to store potable water for drinking, water for firefighting, and water for the island's service laundry facility.[107][111]

Model Industries Building

The Model Industries Building is a three/four-story building on the northwest corner of Alcatraz Island. This building was originally built by the U.S. military and was used as a laundry building until the New Industries Building was built as part of a redevelopment program on Alcatraz in 1939 when it was a federal penitentiary. As part of the Alcatraz jail, it held workshops for inmates to work in.[112]

Inmates working in the sewing room

On 10 January 1935, the building shifted to within 2.5 feet from the edge of the cliff following a landslide caused by a severe storm. The warden at the time, James A. Johnston, proposed extend the seawall next to it and asked the bureau for $6500 to fund it. He would later claim to dislike the building because it was irregularly shaped.[69] A smaller, cheaper riprap was completed by the end of 1935.[69]

A guard tower and a catwalk from Hill Tower was added to the roof of the Industries Building in June 1936 and the building was made secure with bars from old cells to bar the windows and grill the roof ventilators and to prevent inmates from escaping from the roof.[69] It ceased use as a laundry in 1939 when it was moved to the upper floor of the New Industries Building. Today the building is heavily rusted after decades of exposure to the salt air and wind, and neither the guard tower on top of the building nor the Hill Tower still exist.

New Industries Building

A boat bypassing the watchtower at Alcatraz Island (June 2016).

The New Industries Building was constructed in 1939 for $186,000 as part of a $1.1 million modernization scheme which also included the water tower, power house, officers' quarters and remodeling of the D-block.[8]

The ground floor of the two-story 306 ft long building contained a clothing factory, dry cleaning plant, furniture plant, brush factory, and an office, where prisoners of the federal penitentiary could work for money.[8] They earned a small wage for their labour which was put into an account, known as a Prisoner's Trust Fund, which would be given to them upon leaving Alcatraz.[113] They made items such as gloves, furniture mats, and army uniforms.[112] The laundry room occupied the entire upper floor, the largest in San Francisco at the time.[8][112] Each window has 9 panes and there are 17 bays on each floor on either side.

Notable inmates

Image Inmate Number/Term Summary
Arthur Barker.jpg Arthur R. Barker ("Doc") #268 1935–39 Arthur Barker (4 June 1899 – 13 January 1939) was the son of Ma Barker and a member of the Barker-Karpis gang along with Alvin Karpis. In 1935, Barker was sent to Alcatraz Island on conspiracy to kidnap charges. On the night of 13 January 1939, Barker with Henri Young and Rufus McCain attempted escape from Alcatraz. Barker was shot and killed by the guards.[114]
Acaponeh.jpg Alphonse "Al" Gabriel Capone ("Scarface") #85 1934–39 When Al Capone (17 January 1899 – 25 January 1947) arrived on Alcatraz in 1934, prison officials made it clear that he would not be receiving any preferential treatment. While serving his time in Atlanta Federal Penitentiary, Capone, a master manipulator, had continued running his rackets from behind bars by buying off guards.[38] Capone generated major media attention while on Alcatraz, though he served just four and a half years of his sentence there[38] before developing symptoms of tertiary syphilis and poor mental health before being transferred to the Federal Correctional Institution at Terminal Island in Los Angeles in 1938. He tried his best to seek favors from warden Johnston, but failed, and was given work in the prison performing numerous menial jobs. Capone was involved in many fights with fellow prisoners, including one with an inmate who held a blade to his throat in the prison barbershop after Capone attempted to jump the queue. He was released from jail in November 1939 and lived in Miami until his death in 1947 at 48 years of age.[38][115]
Mickey Cohen.jpg Meyer Harris Cohen ("Mickey") #1518 1961–63 Mickey Cohen (4 September 1913 – 29 July 1976) worked for the Mafia's gambling rackets; he was convicted of tax evasion and sentenced to 15 years in Alcatraz Island.[116] He was transferred to the United States Penitentiary in Atlanta shortly before Alcatraz closed permanently on 21 March 1963. While at Atlanta, on 14 August 1963, fellow inmate Burl Estes McDonald clobbered[117] Cohen with a lead pipe, partially paralyzing the mobster. After his release in 1972, Cohen led a quiet life with old friends.[118]
BumpyJohnsonAlcatrazPrisonCropped.jpg Ellsworth Raymond Johnson ("Bumpy") #1117 1954–63 "Bumpy" Johnson (31 October 1905 – 7 July 1968), referred to as the "Godfather of Harlem", was an African-American gangster, numbers operator, racketeer, and bootlegger in Harlem in the early 20th century. He was sent to Alcatraz in 1954 and was imprisoned until 1963. He was believed to have been involved in the 1962 escape attempt of Frank Morris, John and Clarence Anglin.[119]
Alvin Karpis.jpg Alvin Francis Karpavicz ("Creepy Karpis") #325 1936–62 Alvin Karpis (10 August 1907 – 26 August 1979) was Canadian, of Lithuanian descent. He was nicknamed "Creepy" for his sinister smile and called "Ray" by his gang members. He was known for being one of the three leaders of the Ma Barker-Karpis gang in the 1930s; the other two leaders were Fred and Doc Barker of the Ma Barker Gang. He was the only "Public Enemy #1" to be taken personally by J. Edgar Hoover. There were only four "public enemies" ever given the title of "Public Enemy #1" by the FBI. The other three, John Dillinger, Pretty Boy Floyd, and Baby Face Nelson, were all killed before being captured.[120] He also spent the longest time as a federal prisoner in Alcatraz Prison at 26 years. Karpis was credited with ten murders and six kidnappings apart from bank robbery. He was deported to Canada in 1969 and died in Spain in 1979.[115][121][122]
MachineGunKelly.jpg George Kelly Barnes ("Machine Gun Kelly") #117 1934–51 "Machine Gun Kelly" (18 July 1895 – 18 July 1954) arrived on 4 September 1934. At Alcatraz, Kelly was constantly boasting about several robberies and murders that he had never committed.[123] Although his boasts were said to be tiresome to other prisoners, Warden Johnson considered him a model inmate. Inmate #139, Harvey Bailey was his partner. Kelly was returned to Leavenworth in 1951.
Rafael Cancel Miranda #1163 1954–60 In July 1954, Rafael Cancel Miranda (18 July 1930 – 2 March 2020) was sent to Alcatraz, where he served six years of his sentence. At Alcatraz he was a model prisoner,[124] where he worked in the brush factory and served as an altar boy at Catholic services. His closest friends were fellow Puerto Ricans Emerito Vasquez and Hiram Crespo-Crespo. They spoke Spanish and watched out for each other. On the recreation yard he often played chess with "Bumpy" Johnson.[124] He also befriended Morton Sobell; they developed a friendship that lasts to this day.[124]

His family made trips to San Francisco to visit him, but he wasn't allowed to see his children. His wife was allowed to talk to him through a glass in the visiting room, using a phone. They were not allowed to speak in Spanish and had to speak in English.[125] He was transferred to Leavenworth in 1960.

RobertStroud.jpg Robert Franklin Stroud ("Birdman of Alcatraz") #594 1942–59 Robert Stroud, who was better known to the public as the Birdman of Alcatraz (28 January 1890 – 21 November 1963), was transferred to Alcatraz in 1942. At a young age he took to pimping and was involved in a murder during a drunken brawl. After terms in McNeil Island and Leavenworth Federal Prison, where he had killed Officer Andrew Turner, he was transferred to Alcatraz, with his sentence extended.

A self-taught ornithologist, he wrote several books. His Digest on the Diseases of Birds is considered a classic in ornithology. He was confined to D-Block in solitary confinement for most of his duration in Alcatraz.[126] and after a term in the prison hospital, was transferred to the Medical Center for Federal Prisoners in Springfield, Missouri, due to seriously detioriating health.[6] Although he was given the name "The Birdman of Alcatraz", he was not permitted to keep birds in his prison cell at Alcatraz, as he had at Leavenworth, because it was prohibited. He died in 1963.[6][24][127][128]


Native Americans, known as Ohlone (A Miwok word), were the earliest known inhabitants of Alcatraz island. In Miwok mythology, evil spirits were said to inhabit the island.[129][130] In popular culture, Alcatraz has been listed as among the top 5 allegedly "haunted" spots in California.[131]

In popular culture

See also


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External links

Coordinates: 37°49′37″N 122°25′21″W / 37.82694°N 122.42250°W / 37.82694; -122.42250

21 December 1963

“Bloody Christmas” begins in Cyprus, ultimately resulting in the displacement of 25,000–30,000 Turkish Cypriots and destruction of more than 100 villages.

Bloody Christmas (Turkish: Kanlı Noel) is a term used mainly, but not exclusively, in Turkish Cypriot and Turkish historiography, referring to the outbreak of intercommunal violence between the Greek Cypriots and the Turkish Cypriots during the Cyprus crisis of 1963–64, on the night of 20–21 December 1963 and the subsequent period of island-wide violence[1] amounting to civil war.[2] The violence led to the deaths of 364 Turkish Cypriots and 174 Greek Cypriots.[3] Approximately 25,000 Turkish Cypriots from 104 villages, amounting to a quarter of the Turkish Cypriot population, fled their villages and were displaced into enclaves.[4] Thousands of Turkish Cypriot houses left behind were ransacked or completely destroyed.[5] Around 1,200 Armenian Cypriots and 500 Greek Cypriots were also displaced. The violence precipitated the end of Turkish Cypriot representation in the Republic of Cyprus.

The term Bloody Christmas is not used in official Greek Cypriot and Greek historiography, which contends that the outbreak of violence was a result of a Turkish Cypriot rebellion (Tourkantarsia) against the lawful government of the Republic of Cyprus.[6]


The Republic of Cyprus was established as a bi-communal unitary state in 1960. Neither of the two communities were happy with this situation as Greek Cypriots thought it was their right to unite Cyprus with Greece (enosis) while Turkish Cypriots were striving for partition (taksim). After two relatively peaceful years, in November 1963 tensions skyrocketed when President and Arch-bishop Makarios III proposed 13 constitutional changes which were met with fury by Turkish Cypriots.[7]


21 December: eruption

The incident that sparked the events of Bloody Christmas occurred during the early hours of 21 December 1963. Greek Cypriot police operating within the old Venetian walls of Nicosia demanded to see the identification papers of some Turkish Cypriots who were returning home in a taxi from an evening out. When the police officers attempted to search the women in the car, the driver objected and an argument ensued. Soon a crowd gathered and shots were fired.[8][9] By dawn, two Turkish Cypriots had been killed and eight others, both Greek and Turkish Cypriots, had been wounded.[10]

21 December to 23 December

After the shooting, crowds of Turkish Cypriots gathered in the northern part of Nicosia, often led by the Turkish Resistance Organisation (TMT). On 22 December, the funerals of the two Turkish Cypriots killed were held without incident.[11] However, shooting broke out on the evening of 22 December. Cars full of armed Greek Cypriots roamed through the streets of Nicosia and fired indiscriminately, and Turkish Cypriots fired at patrolling police cars. Turkish Cypriot snipers fired from minarets and the roof of the Saray Hotel on Sarayönü Square. Some shooting spread to the suburbs and to Larnaca.[2] The Greek Cypriot administration cut off telephone and telegraph lines to Turkish Cypriot quarters of the city of Nicosia and the police took control of the Nicosia International Airport.[11] Greek paramilitary groups led by Nikos Sampson and Vassos Lyssarides were activated.[2]

On 23 December, a ceasefire was agreed upon by Makarios III and Turkish Cypriot leadership. However, fighting continued and intensified in Nicosia and Larnaca. Machine guns were fired from mosques in Turkish-inhabited areas. Later on 23 December, Greek Cypriot irregulars headed by Sampson committed the massacre of Omorphita: they attacked the suburb, killing Turkish Cypriots, including women and children, "apparently indiscriminately".[12] The Turkish Cypriot residents of the quarter were expelled from their homes.[13]

Later events

A number of Turkish Cypriot mosques, shrines and other places of worship were desecrated.[14]

Greek Cypriot irregulars attacked Turkish Cypriots in the mixed villages of Mathiatis on 23 December and Ayios Vasilios on 24 December.[15] The entire Turkish Cypriot population of Mathiatis, 208 people, fled to nearby Turkish Cypriot villages.[16]

, a reporter in Cyprus at the time, reported the murder of 21 Turkish Cypriot patients from the Nicosia General Hospital on Christmas Eve. This is taken as a fact in the Turkish Cypriot narrative, but is disputed in the Greek Cypriot narrative. An investigation of the incident by a "highly reliable" Greek Cypriot source found that three Turkish Cypriots died, of which one died of a heart attack and the other two were shot by a "lone psychopath".[17]

A joint call for calm was issued on 24 December by the governments of Turkey, Greece and the United Kingdom.[18]

As Cyprus was falling into havoc, Greece, Turkey and Britain, with Makarios's approval, created a Joint Truce Force under the command of General Peter Young, whose goal was to maintain, or rather re-establish, law, order and peace in Cyprus. By 31 December, 49 Turkish Cypriots and 20 Greek Cypriots were killed and 30 and 4, Turkish and Greek Cypriots respectively, were missing. Moreover, some Turkish Cypriots who had fled their homes to avoid the deadly Greek Cypriot paramilitary gangs and found shelter in Turkish only villages of the north side of Cyprus – one of the first steps towards partition.[19]

A conference held in London in January among the protagonists of the events, failed because of the maximalist positions of the leadership of Greek and Turkish Cypriots.[20]

The Republic of Cyprus states that between 21 December 1963 and 10 August 1964, 191 Turkish Cypriots were killed and 173 went missing, presumed killed, while Greek Cypriots suffered 133 killed and 41 missing, presumed killed.[21] Overall, 364 Turkish Cypriots and 174 Greek Cypriots were killed in the 1963–64 conflict.[3] Around 25,000 Turkish Cypriots from 104 different villages abandoned their homes. These consisted of 72 mixed and 24 Turkish Cypriot villages that were completely evacuated and 8 mixed villages that were partially evacuated. The displacement amounted to a quarter of the Turkish Cypriot population. Approximately 1,200 Armenian Cypriots and 500 Greek Cypriots were also displaced.[22]

Most of the property abandoned by Turkish Cypriots was ransacked, damaged, burned or destroyed by Greek Cypriots. A 1964 United Nations report that used aerial photographs determined that at least 977 Turkish Cypriot homes had been destroyed and that 2,000 Turkish Cypriot homes had suffered severe damage and ransacking.[23] The report by the UN Secretary General on 10 September 1964 gives the number of destroyed houses as 527 and the number of looted houses as 2,000. This included 50 totally destroyed and 240 partially destroyed houses in Omorphita and the surrounding suburbs, and 38 totally and 122 partially destroyed houses and shops in the town of Paphos.[24]

Mass grave of Agios Vasilios

A mass grave was exhumed at Ayios Vasilios on 12 January 1964 in the presence of foreign reporters, officers of the British Army and, officials from the International Red Cross. The bodies of 21 Turkish Cypriots were found in this grave.[25] It was presumed that they had been killed in or near Ayios Vasilios on 24 December 1963. It was verified by the observers that a number of the victims appeared to have been tortured, and to have been shot after their hands and feet were tied.[15][26]

An investigating committee led by independent British investigators then linked the incident to an ostensible disappearance of Turkish Cypriot patients in the Nicosia General Hospital, but it was not determined until decades later that many of the bodies had been murdered elsewhere, stored in the hospital for a while and then buried in Ayios Vasilios.[25] However, several of the village's residents were also amongst those killed by Greek Cypriots.[27] The exhumed bodies were interred by the Turkish Cypriot authorities to the yard of the Mevlevi Tekke in Nicosia. The bodies were exhumed in the 2010s by the Missing Persons Committee, the eight villagers of Ayios Vasilios identified and buried individually.[28]


It is generally accepted on both sides of the island that the event is clearly not an occasion for celebration, less importantly by association with the issue of inter-communal violence and what that led to, and more so by its own string of tragic events.[29] It is also often considered to contribute to reflections that the island of Cyprus is still divided more than 50 years later, which is a constant reminder to both sides that there has hardly been any joint communal achievement since, and is therefore seen by many as a time for reflection and trying to find a solution for future generations.[30]

Turkish Cypriots annually, and officially, commemorate 1963 as ‘Kanlı Noel’ (Bloody Christmas) on 21 December, as a collective tragedy, for which Greek Cypriots have no official commemoration.[31] The anniversary is commemorated by Turkish Cypriots as the 'week of remembrance' and the 'martyrs' struggle of 1963–1974', and follows the TRNC's Independence Day, which is on 15 November and is marked by protests in the south.

There are those on both sides that view these commemorations or lack thereof as issues for contention during Cyprus peace talks. It is often the case that the few public gestures made by Turkish and Greek Cypriot officials that signal possible reunification are often contradicted by these elements which have the effect of reinforcing the conflict mentality.[32]

Greek Cypriot official view

Anthropologist Olga Demetriou has described the Greek Cypriot official discourse regarding the events of Bloody Christmas as one that "in a sense, parallels denialist strategies that, for example and albeit in cruder form, draw on the battle of Van in 1915 to present Armenians as aggressors against Turks and deny the genocide."[33] According to Demetriou, this is still reflected in the Greek Cypriot history textbooks today, and has the effect of presenting the Greek Cypriots as the victims of Turkish Cypriot aggression, although the majority of the victims were Turkish Cypriot. According to Yannis Papadakis, Greek Cypriot schoolbooks describe the 1960s as "a period of aggression by the 'Turks' (Turkey and Turkish Cypriots) against the 'Greeks'", though the Turkish Cypriots suffered heavier losses in the conflict.[34] This has been used by the Republic of Cyprus to legitimise human rights violations against Turkish Cypriots, the suspension of their political rights, and, until 2003, the exclusion of Turkish Cypriots from the framing of the missing people by the Republic of Cyprus.[35] In 2004, Greek Cypriot President Tassos Papadopoulos said in an interview that no Turkish Cypriots were killed between 1963 and 1974. Reaction to this claim appeared in the Greek and Turkish Cypriot media,[36] with some Greek Cypriot media calling Papadopoulos's claim a blatant lie.[37]

Demetriou further contends that the use of the term "Turkish mutiny" (Tourkantarsia) to describe the events of 1963–64 contributes to the Greek Cypriot narrative that the Cyprus problem started in 1974, under which the Greek Cypriot and Armenian Cypriot people displaced in 1963–64 are not classified as "refugees" but as "those struck by the Turks" (Tourkoplihtoi).[38]

See also


  1. ^ Hadjipavlou 2016, p. 2017; Hazou 2013.
  2. ^ a b c Richter 2010, p. 120.
  3. ^ a b Oberling 1982, p. 120.
  4. ^ Bryant 2012, p. 5–15; Hoffmeister 2006, p. 17–20; Risini 2018, p. 117; Smit 2012, p. 51; United Nations 1964: "The trade of the Turkish community had considerably deciined during the period, due to the existing situation, and unemployment reached a very high level as approximately 25,000 Turkish Cypriots had beccme refugees"
  5. ^ Bryant 2012, p. 5–15; United Nations 1964.
  6. ^ Tzermias 2001, pp. 60–62.
  7. ^ Richter 2010, pp. 106–115.
  8. ^ Richter 2010, p. 94.
  9. ^ Havadis 2014.
  10. ^ Ker-Lindsay 2009, p. 24.
  11. ^ a b Borowiec 2000, pp. 56–57.
  12. ^ Borowiec 2000, pp. 56–57; Richter 2010, p. 121.
  13. ^ Lieberman 2013, p. 264.
  14. ^ The Guardian 1999.
  15. ^ a b Patrick 1976.
  16. ^ "Mathiatis". PRIO Cyprus Displacement Centre. Retrieved 21 December 2017.
  17. ^ Bryant & Papadakis 2012, p. 249.
  18. ^ Richter 2010, p. 120; Goktepe 2013, p. 130.
  19. ^ Richter 2010, pp. 121–122.
  20. ^ Richter 2010, p. 122.
  21. ^ Soulioti 1996, pp. 275–281, 350.
  22. ^ Bryant 2012, pp. 5–15; Hoffmeister 2006, pp. 17–20.
  23. ^ Bryant 2012, pp. 5–15.
  24. ^ United Nations 1964.
  25. ^ a b O'Malley & Craig 1999, p. 93.
  26. ^ The incident at Ayios Vasilios is described in the Special News Bulletin, issues 6, 19, 20, 21, 25 and 38. Secondary sources include H.S. Gibbons, 1969, pp. 114–117, 137–140; and K.D. Purcell, 1969, p. 327.
  27. ^ "AGIOS VASILEIOS". PRIO Displacement Centre. Retrieved 22 November 2018.
  28. ^ Bayrak 2018.
  29. ^ Keser 2013.
  30. ^ Hazou 2013.
  31. ^ Demetriou 2006.
  32. ^ Yakinthou 2009.
  33. ^ Demetriou 2014:This, in a sense, parallels denialist strategies that, for example and albeit in cruder form, draw on the battle of Van in 1915 to present Armenians as aggressors against Turks and deny the genocide.
  34. ^ Papadakis 2008, pp. 133–134.
  35. ^ Kovras 2014, p. 51; Demetriou 2014.
  36. ^ Stavrinides 2009.
  37. ^ Charalambous 2004; Stavrinides 2009.
  38. ^ Demetriou 2014; Kovras 2014, p. 51; Papadakis 2005, p. 149.


23 November 1963

The Beatles release With the Beatles.

With the Beatles
A black-and-white photograph of the Beatles' faces on a black background with the band members wearing black turtleneck sweaters
Studio album by
Released22 November 1963 (1963-11-22)
Recorded18 July – 23 October 1963
StudioEMI, London
ProducerGeorge Martin
The Beatles chronology
Please Please Me
With the Beatles
A Hard Day's Night
Alternative covers
Australian cover
Australian cover
Alternative cover
Canadian cover
Canadian cover
The Beatles North American chronology
Beatlemania! With the Beatles
Introducing... The Beatles
The Beatles Canadian chronology
Beatlemania! With the Beatles
Twist and Shout

With the Beatles is the second studio album by the English rock band the Beatles. It was released on 22 November 1963 on Parlophone, exactly eight months after the band's debut Please Please Me. Produced by George Martin, the album features eight original compositions (seven by Lennon–McCartney and "Don't Bother Me", George Harrison's first recorded solo composition and his first released on a Beatles album) and six covers (mostly of Motown, rock and roll, and R&B hits). The cover photograph was taken by the fashion photographer Robert Freeman and has since been mimicked by several music groups over the years. A different cover was used for the Australian release of the album, which the Beatles were displeased with.

In the United States, the album's tracks were unevenly split over the group's first two albums released on Capitol Records: Meet the Beatles! and The Beatles' Second Album. It was also released in Canada under the name Beatlemania! With the Beatles. The album was ranked number 420 on Rolling Stone magazine's list of The 500 Greatest Albums of All Time in 2003,[4] and was included in Robert Dimery's 1001 Albums You Must Hear Before You Die.[5] It was voted number 275 in Colin Larkin's All Time Top 1000 Albums.[6] It was rated the 29th greatest album in the book Paul Gambaccini Presents the Top 100 Albums. This book "canvassed a panel of experts in seven countries" to determine the greatest albums.[7]


Unlike Please Please Me, the bulk of whose tracks (10 of the 14, excluding previously issued singles) were recorded in one day,[8] With the Beatles was recorded over seven sessions across three months, from 18 July to 23 October. None of its 14 tracks were issued as singles in the UK. In between sessions, as Beatlemania took off across the UK, the group were busy with radio, TV, and live performances.


Impressed with Robert Freeman's black-and-white pictures of John Coltrane, Brian Epstein invited the photographer to create the cover image.[9] George Harrison later said that, whereas the cover of Please Please Me had been "crap", their second LP was "the beginning of us being actively involved in The Beatles' artwork ... the first one where we thought, 'Hey, let's get artistic.'"[10] The group asked Freeman to take inspiration from pictures their friend Astrid Kirchherr had taken in Hamburg between 1960 and 1962, featuring the band members in half-shadow and not smiling.[11] To achieve this result, on 22 August 1963, Freeman photographed them in a dark corridor of the Palace Court Hotel in Bournemouth, where the band were playing a summer residency at the local Gaumont Cinema.[12] To fit the square format of the cover, he put Ringo Starr in the bottom right corner, "since he was the last to join the group. He was also the shortest".[13] Paul McCartney described the result as "very moody", adding: "people think he must have worked at [it] forever and ever. But it was an hour. He sat down, took a couple of rolls, and he had it."[12] The original concept was to paint the picture from edge to edge, with no bleeding, title or artist credit – a concept that went against music industry practice and was immediately vetoed by EMI. The first album to carry an edge-to-edge cover was the Rolling Stones' self-titled debut, released five months later.[14] EMI also objected to the fact that the Beatles were not smiling; it was only after George Martin intervened, as head of Parlophone, that the cover portrait was approved.[14] Freeman was paid £75 for his work, which was three times the fee first offered by EMI.[12]

Music critic John Harris finds the cover most reminiscent of the photos Kirchherr took in Hamburg of Lennon, Harrison and Stuart Sutcliffe using the "half-lit technique" and says that, together with songs such as "Roll Over Beethoven" and "Money (That's What I Want)", With the Beatles thereby represents "a canny repackaging of their early '60s incarnation: Hamburg shorn of Prellies and leather, and sold to their public as a mixture of accomplished rock 'n' roll and art-house cool". Harris also sees the LP cover as a "watershed" design that encouraged other acts to eschew "the more cartoonish aspects of pop photography" and continued to exert an influence in the 1970s on covers such as those for Lou Reed's Transformer, Patti Smith's Horses and various punk rock albums.[14]

EMI Australia did not receive the cover art, and used different shots of the band in a similar style to the black-and-white photograph on other releases. The Beatles were unaware of this until fans showed them the cover during their only Australian tour, and informed the EMI publicity staff that they were not pleased with the substitution.[15]

Release and reception

Professional ratings
Review scores
AllMusic5/5 stars[16]
The A.V. ClubA[17]
Blender4/5 stars[18]
Encyclopedia of Popular Music4/5 stars[19]
Record Collector4/5 stars[23]
Rolling Stone5/5 stars[24]
The Rolling Stone Album Guide4.5/5 stars[25]

The album became the first Beatles album released in North America when it was released in Canada on 25 November 1963 under the augmented title Beatlemania! With the Beatles, with additional text on the album cover, and issued only in mono at the time, catalogue number T 6051 (a stereo Canadian release would come in 1968, catalogue number ST 6051). For the United States release, the original running order of With the Beatles was unevenly split over the group's first two Capitol albums: nine tracks were issued on Meet the Beatles! (the eight original compositions plus "Till There Was You"), while the remaining five songs, all cover versions, were placed on The Beatles' Second Album.

The LP had advance orders of a half million and sold another half million by September 1965, making it the second album to sell a million copies in the United Kingdom, after the soundtrack to the 1958 film South Pacific.[26] With the Beatles remained at the top of the charts for 21 weeks, displacing Please Please Me, so that the Beatles occupied the top spot for 51 consecutive weeks. It even reached number 11 in the "singles charts" (because at the time UK charts counted all records sold, regardless of format). No other group or singer has achieved 51 consecutive weeks at number 1 in the album charts. However, the soundtrack for the South Pacific movie did achieve 70 consecutive weeks at number one in the album charts.[27]

On 26 February 1987, With the Beatles was officially released on compact disc (in mono only, catalogue number CDP 7 46436 2). Having been available only as an import in the US in the past, the album was also issued domestically in the US on LP and cassette on 21 July 1987. Along with the rest of the Beatles' canon, it was re-released on CD in newly re-mastered stereo and mono versions on 9 September 2009.

Track listing

All tracks are written by Lennon–McCartney, except where noted.

Side one
No.TitleLead vocalsLength
1."It Won't Be Long"Lennon2:13
2."All I've Got to Do"Lennon2:02
3."All My Loving"McCartney2:07
4."Don't Bother Me" (George Harrison)Harrison2:28
5."Little Child"Lennon with McCartney1:46
6."Till There Was You" (Meredith Willson)McCartney2:14
7."Please Mr. Postman" (Georgia Dobbins, William Garrett, Freddie Gorman, Brian Holland, Robert Bateman)Lennon2:34
Total length:15:24
Side two
No.TitleLead vocalsLength
1."Roll Over Beethoven" (Chuck Berry)Harrison2:45
2."Hold Me Tight"McCartney2:32
3."You Really Got a Hold on Me" (Smokey Robinson)Lennon and Harrison3:01
4."I Wanna Be Your Man"Starr1:59
5."Devil in Her Heart" (Richard Drapkin)Harrison2:26
6."Not a Second Time"Lennon2:07
7."Money (That's What I Want)" (Janie Bradford, Berry Gordy)Lennon2:49
Total length:17:38


According to Mark Lewisohn:[28]

The Beatles

  • John Lennon – lead, harmony and backing vocals; rhythm and acoustic guitars; handclaps; harmonica on "Little Child"; nylon-string acoustic guitar on "Till There Was You"; tambourine on "Don't Bother Me"
  • Paul McCartney – lead, harmony and backing vocals; bass guitar and handclaps; piano on "Little Child", claves on "Don't Bother Me"
  • George Harrison – lead, harmony and backing vocals; lead and acoustic guitars; handclaps; nylon-string acoustic guitar on "Till There Was You"
  • Ringo Starr – drums, tambourine, maracas, handclaps; lead vocals on "I Wanna Be Your Man", Arabian loose-skin bongo on "Till There Was You" and "Don't Bother Me"


Charts and certifications

Release history

Region Date Label Format Catalogue
United Kingdom 22 November 1963 Parlophone Mono LP PMC 1206
Stereo LP PCS 3045
16 February 1987 CD CDP 7 46436 2
United States 26 February 1987 Parlophone CD CDP 7 46436 2
21 July 1987 Capitol Records Mono, LP CLJ-46436
Worldwide re-release 9 September 2009 Apple Records Remastered stereo CD 0946 3 82420 2 4
Remastered mono CD
13 November 2012 Remastered stereo LP 0094638242017


  1. ^ O'Dell, Denis; Neaverson, Bob (2002). At the Apple's core: the Beatles from the inside. Peter Owen Limited. p. 27. the first truly convincing British rock and roll album, With The Beatles
  2. ^ Harrington, Richard (6 February 2004). "It was 40 years ago ..." The Washington Post. Archived from the original on 30 May 2013. Retrieved 5 January 2013.
  3. ^ Howlett, Kevin; Heatley, Mike (2009). With the Beatles (CD historical notes). p. 12.
  4. ^ "The 500 Greatest Albums of All Time". Rolling Stone. 2007. Archived from the original on 18 November 2007. Retrieved 19 November 2007.
  5. ^ ^ Robert Dimery; Michael Lydon (23 March 2010). 1001 Albums You Must Hear Before You Die: Revised and Updated Edition. Universe. ISBN 978-0-7893-2074-2.
  6. ^ Colin Larkin, ed. (2000). All Time Top 1000 Albums (3rd ed.). Virgin Books. p. 119. ISBN 0-7535-0493-6.
  7. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 5 May 2017. Retrieved 17 June 2020.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  8. ^ Lewisohn 1988, p. 24.
  9. ^ Canton, Naomi (14 March 2013). "Beatles fans eye rare display of Fabs photos". CNN. Archived from the original on 18 August 2016. Retrieved 31 July 2016.
  10. ^ The Beatles 2000, p. 107.
  11. ^ Carlin, Peter Ames (2009). Paul McCartney: A Life. Touchstone. p. 91. ISBN 978-1-4165-6209-2. Archived from the original on 13 April 2021. Retrieved 31 July 2016.
  12. ^ a b c Miles 2001, p. 104.
  13. ^ Lewisohn, Mark (1996). The Complete Beatles Chronicle. Chancellor Press. ISBN 0-7607-0327-2.
  14. ^ a b c Harris, John (2002). "Snapper's Delight". Mojo Special Limited Edition: 1000 Days of Beatlemania (The Early Years – April 1, 1962 to December 31, 1964). London: Emap. p. 59.
  15. ^ Baker & Dilernia 1985.
  16. ^ Erlewine, Stephen Thomas. "With the Beatles – The Beatles". AllMusic. Archived from the original on 27 April 2021. Retrieved 2 May 2021.
  17. ^ Klosterman, Chuck (8 September 2009). "Chuck Klosterman Repeats The Beatles". The A.V. Club. Chicago. Archived from the original on 22 May 2013. Retrieved 26 May 2013.
  18. ^ Du Noyer, Paul. "The Guide: The Beatles – With the Beatles". Blender. Dennis Digital. Archived from the original on 4 May 2006. Retrieved 25 December 2008.
  19. ^ Larkin, Colin (2006). Encyclopedia of Popular Music. 1. Muze. pp. 487–489. ISBN 978-0-19-531373-4.
  20. ^ Graff, Gary; Durchholz, Daniel (eds) (1999). MusicHound Rock: The Essential Album Guide (2nd ed.). Farmington Hills, MI: Visible Ink Press. p. 88. ISBN 1-57859-061-2.