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S.A. Bent, comp. Familiar Short Sayings of Great Men. 1887.

Sixtus V.

  • [Felix Peretti; born near Montalto, Italy, 1521; became pope as Sixtus V., 1585; distinguished for his energy and public spirit; founded the Vatican Library and several colleges; built the great aqueduct called by his name; died 1589.]
  • Hitherto I have sought the key of heaven bent over: now I have found it.

  • Or, “If I formerly walked bent over, it was because I was seeking the key of paradise,”—words fitted to the story that Sixtus V., before his election, simulated the infirmities of age so artfully that the other cardinals thought he had not long to live, and therefore elected him to the pontificate; as soon as he became pope he threw away his crutches, and astonished everybody by his vigor. From that anecdote, whether true or false, came the proverb that any cardinal too infirm to walk erect was seeking the keys.—TALLEMANT: Historiettes, X. 74.
  • Before his election Peretti’s motto was, “Panis et aqua, vita beata” (Bread and water is contentment); after his election, “Aqua et panis, vita canis” (Water and bread is a dog’s life).
  • When, soon after his accession, he was asked to pardon four young men convicted of carrying concealed weapons, he replied, “While I live every criminal must die.”