Jubilees throughout History

In ancient Judaism, the Jubilee Year (which was called the year of the yōbēl, "of the goat", because the holiday was proclaimed by the sound of a goat's horn) was a year that was declared holy. During this period, the Mosaic law prescribed that slaves could regain their freedom, and that land, (of which God is the sole master), should be returned to its former owners. A jubilee year was typically celebrated every 50 years.

In the Christian era, after the first Jubilee of 1300, Pope Boniface VIII fixed the frequency of Jubilee celebrations to every 100 years. Following a plea from the people of Rome to Pope Clement VI (1342), the frequency was reduced to every 50 years.

In 1389, in remembrance of the number of years in the life of Christ, Urban VI chose to set the Jubilee cycle to every 33 years and called for a Jubilee in 1390—though it was only celebrated after his death by Pope Boniface IX.

Despite this, in 1400, at the end of the previously fixed 50-year period, without having declared a Jubilee ahead of time, Boniface IX granted a Jubilee indulgence to the pilgrims who had flocked to Rome.

In 1425, Martin V celebrated a new Jubilee, opening the holy door of St John Lateran for the first time.

The last to celebrate a Jubilee on the 50-year cycle was Pope Nicholas V in 1450. Paul II extended the inter-jubilee period to 25 years, and in 1475 a Holy Year was celebrated by Sixtus IV. From then on, ordinary Jubilees were held at regular intervals. Unfortunately, the Napoleonic wars prevented the celebrations of the Jubilees of 1800 and 1850.

The Jubilees were resumed in 1875, after the annexation of Rome to the Kingdom of Italy, although that year it was celebrated without the traditional solemnity.

  • 2015
  • 2000
  • 1983
  • 1975
  • 1950
  • 1933
  • 1925
  • 1900
  • 1875
  • 1825
  • 1775
  • 1750
  • 1725
  • 1700
  • 1675
  • 1650
  • 1625
  • 1600
  • 1575
  • 1550
  • 1525
  • 1500
  • 1475
  • 1450
  • 1390
  • 1350
  • 1300
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2015: Francis

With the Bull Misericordiae Vultus of 11 April 2015, Pope Francis declared a Jubilee for the 50th anniversary of the end of the Second Vatican Council. The Jubilee was dedicated to mercy. Before the official opening, as a sign of the Church's closeness to the civil war-stricken Central African Republic, Pope Francis opened the holy door of the Cathedral of Notre-Dame in Bangui on 29 November, during his apostolic trip to Africa, anticipating the start of the Extraordinary Jubilee. The holy door of St Peter's Basilica was opened on 8 December 2015, the feast of the Immaculate Conception. For the first time a ‘door of mercy’ was opened in the world's cathedrals, sanctuaries, hospitals and prisons. For the occasion, the Pope established a group of priests known as Missionaries of Mercy to whom he entrusted the power to forgive sins usually reserved to the Holy Father.

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2000: John Paul II

The same Pope, on 29 November 1998, with the Bull Incarnationis Mysterium, proclaimed the Great Jubilee of the Year 2000. In the course of the year, St John Paul II made several pilgrimages and symbolic gestures not included in the usual celebratory practices. These included a public request for forgiveness for sins committed in history, and the publication of a Martyrology of Christians killed in the 20th century. One of the main events of the Jubilee was the holding of World Youth Day in Rome: more than two million young people participated. The Pope also made a pilgrimage to the Holy Land, encouraging dialogue between the Catholic Church, Islam and Judaism.

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1983: John Paul II

With the Bull Aperite Portas Redemptori, dated 6 January 1983, John Paul II proclaimed a Jubilee to celebrate the 1950th anniversary of the death and resurrection of Jesus

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1975: Paul VI

Pope Paul VI decided that this Holy Year should be dedicated to reconciliation. He called it with the Bull Apostolorum Limina of 23 May 1974. At the opening of the Holy Door on Christmas night 1974, Buddhist monks were also present. It was the first Jubilee to be broadcast worldwide and saw the lifting of historic excommunications with the Church of Byzantium and the participation of the Patriarch of Alexandria Melitone. During the Holy Year Rome was threatened by drought, and in view of the large influx of pilgrims to the city, water rationing was imposed.

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1950: Pius XII

On 26 May 1949, the Holy Year of 1950 was proclaimed with the Bull Jubilaeum Maximum. During the Jubilee celebrations Pope Pius XII proclaimed the dogma of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary into Heaven and transformed the College of Cardinals into a sort of universal representation of the Catholic world, drastically reducing the Italian presence and increasing the number of cardinals from other nations. During the year, modern mass religious tourism really manifested itself for the first time. The De Gasperi government of Italy worked hard to ensure proper facilities were put in place for millions of pilgrims, who were given a ‘Pilgrim Card’ which was recognised as having the same validity as a passport within Italy.

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1933: Pius XI

Pius XI proclaimed an ‘extraordinary Jubilee’ on 6 January 1933, with the Bull Quod Nuper, to mark the 1900th anniversary of the death of Jesus. The event was celebrated with particular grandeur. The Pope gave as many as 620 speeches and more than 2 million pilgrims poured into Rome. Over 500 railway carriages were used to transport the faithful from all over the world.

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1925: Pius XI

Pope Pius XI, emphasising the commitment of the Church and all Christians to a better society, proclaimed the Jubilee of 1925 with the Bull Infinita Dei Misericordia on 29 May 1924. He gave an impetus to missionary activity around the world, which earned him the title ‘Pope of the Missions’. The Pope banned political symbols in the Vatican but was nevertheless the first to bless the Unified Italian State. 

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1900: Leo XIII

Properante ad Exitum Saeculo was the Bull with which, on 11 May 1899, Leo XIII proclaimed the universal Holy Year of 1900. For the first time since the unification of Italy, the King also announced the Jubilee in his ‘Speech of the Crown’. The Pope sent out an appeal for a reawakening of faith in the Christian people throughout the world. The main intention was to meet the twin challenges of the modernisation of Christian life and the Christianisation of modern life. Responsibility for welcoming pilgrims fell for the first time to the Italian authorities. The mountains of Italy also reflected the Holy Year: monuments to commemorate the Jubilee were erected on peaks from Piedmont in the north to Sicily in the south to pay homage to the Redeemer.

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1875: Pius IX

After returning from exile and resuming the government of the Papal States, Pius IX was able to proclaim a Jubilee on 24 December 1874 with the Bull Gravibus Ecclesiae. The troops of King Victor Emmanuel II occupied Rome, however, and because of this it was not possible to hold the opening and closing ceremonies of the Holy Door.

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1825: Leo XII

During the Jubilee of 1825, proclaimed on 24 May 1824 with the Bull Quod Hoc Ineunte, Leo XII did his utmost, despite his illness, to establish a closer bond between the Pope and the Christian people, through a programme that aimed to involve all the resources of the Church in the struggle against the errors that threatened the faith. More than 325,000 pilgrims from all over Europe came to Rome. Since the basilica of Saint Paul Outside the Walls (destroyed by fire in 1823) was unusable, the Pope substituted it with the basilica of Santa Maria in Trastevere, for the Jubilee visits of the faithful.

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1775: Proclaimed by Clement XIV, presided over by Pius VI

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This Jubilee was proclaimed on 30 April 1774, with the Bull Salutis Nostrae Auctor, by Pope Clement XIV, but unfortunately on 22 September that year he died of natural causes.

Pius VI was elected Pope on 15 February 1775 and a few days later, on 26 February, he solemnly inaugurated the Holy Year, which could not be opened as usual on Christmas Eve because the Papal See was vacant.

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1750: Benedict XIV

On 5 May 1749, the Holy Year 1750 was proclaimed with the Bull Peregrinantes a Domino. Records from the time state that more than a million pilgrims flocked to Rome, including several ambassadors, and groups from as far afield as the West Indies, Egypt and Armenia. The influx was so large that Roman charitable and hospital institutions were forced to rent royal palaces to cope with the number of pilgrims. For the first time, St. Peter's dome and Bernini's Colonnade were illuminated by thousands of flaming torches. 3000 crosses were built all over the city. Pope Benedict XIV also instituted the Good Friday Via Crucis at the Colosseum, thus consecrating the iconic amphitheatre as a sacred space set aside to honour the memory of the martyrdom of the early Christians.

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1725: Benedict XIII

During the Holy Year of 1725, proclaimed with the Bull Redemptor et Dominus Noster of 26 June 1724, Pope Benedict XIII regularly visited the Roman basilicas himself, travelling in modest carriages and taking part in the various practices required to obtain the indulgences. On 15 April 1725, he inaugurated the Roman Synod in St John Lateran’s Basilica, whose deliberations ran to 32 volumes. During this year the steps at Piazza di Spagna (the Spanish Steps) were opened to connect the square with the Church of Santissima Trinità dei Monti (Holy Trinity of the Mountains). 

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1700: opened by Innocent XII, concluded by Clement XI

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This Jubilee was proclaimed by Innocent XII on 18 May 1699, with the Bull Regi Saeculorum. At the opening the Pope, due to his precarious state of health, was unable to preside personally. On Easter Sunday of that year, however, despite being seriously ill, he imparted the solemn blessing from the balcony of the Quirinale on account of the large number of pilgrims who had gathered there. He died shortly afterwards  on 27 September 1700 without being able to conclude the year

The conclusion of the Jubilee year was presided over by Clement XI (elected Pope in November 1700). It was the first time that the Holy Door had been opened by one Pope and then closed by another. The influx of pilgrims in the city was such that some writers of the time compared Rome to Paris in terms of visitor numbers.

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1675: Clement X

During this Holy Year, proclaimed by Clement X with the bull Ad Apostolicae Vocis Oraculum of 16 April 1674, the Colosseum was reconsecrated, and the permission granted in 1671 to hold bull fights there was rescinded. One of the most prominent pilgrims was Queen Christina of Sweden, who had abdicated her throne in 1655, converted to Catholicism, and moved to Rome to take up residence at the Palazzo Farnese. About one and a half million pilgrims came to Rome this year.

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1650: Innocent X

To mark this Holy Year, proclaimed by the bull Appropinquat Dilectissimi Filii of 4 May 1649, Innocent X had the basilica of St. John Lateran restored by the famous architect Borromini. A novelty was introduced for this Jubilee: the Jubilee indulgence was extended to the Belgian provinces and the West Indies thanks to the Bull Salvator et Dominus of 8 and 12 January 1654. About 700,000 pilgrims arrived in Rome, mainly from the areas around the city. Numerous Protestants also converted to Catholicism during the year. 

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1625: Urban VIII

On 29 April 1624, with the Bull Omnes Gentes, Urban VIII proclaimed the Jubilee of 1625. On 28 January 1625 he extended the Jubilee indulgence to those who were unable to travel to Rome, as well as to prisoners and the sick (Bull Pontificia sollicitudo). On 30 January, with the papal encyclical Paterna dominici gregis cura, given the danger of the plague that was threatening Rome, the traditional visit to the Basilica of St Paul was dispensed with for safety reasons to be replaced with a visit to the more central church of Santa Maria in Trastevere. Additionally, he decreed that for the traditional pilgrimage to the seven Churches of Rome, three churches inside the walls (Santa Maria del Popolo, Santa Maria in Trastevere and San Lorenzo in Lucina) could be substituted fpr those outside the city walls (San Sebastiano, San Paolo and San Lorenzo). About half a million pilgrims came to Rome that year.

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1600: Clement VIII

The Holy Year was proclaimed by the Bull of 19 May 1599, Annus Domini Placabilis. During this Jubilee Clement VIII offered good example by hearing confessions during Holy Week, climbing the Scala Sancta on his knees, serving meals to pilgrims who had come to Rome, and eating with 12 of the city’s poor each day. Likewise the cardinals renounced wearing their traditional red regalia as a sign of penitence. Many flocked to help the Pope's jubilee efforts. The Jewish community in Rome, for example, provided him with 500 bed blankets for pilgrims. On 31 December 1600 more than 80,000 people attended the opening of the Holy Door and millions of pilgrims came to Rome for the Jubilee year.

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1575: Gregory XIII

The Jubilee of 1575 was announced on 10 May 1574 with the Bull Dominus ac Redemptor. Celebrated after the turmoil of the Protestant reformation, it was an excellent opportunity for Gregory XIII to renew Catholicism in accordance with the decisions of the Council of Trent. This Holy Year gave the Pope the opportunity to highlight the renewed role of the Church in the modern world. The Church's model of a devout life combined the service of God with the fulfilment of the duties of one's own state in life and service of one's neighbour. He cancelled the budget which had been set aside for the carnival celebrations that year, reallocating the money to the establishment of a Pilgrims' Hospital under the care of Philip Neri. The total number of pilgrims for the Holy Year of 1575 was estimated by the authorities to be around 400,000 people—a significant total given that the city of Rome only had a population of about 80,000 at the time. 

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1550: Proclaimed by Paul III, presided over by Julius III

A few days after his election, Pope Julius III opened the Holy Year promulgated by his predecessor Paul III, with the issuing of the Bull Si pastores ovium, dated 24 February 1550. He also announced the resumption of the Council of Trent for May of the following year.

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1525: Clement VII

The Bull of proclamation, Inter Sollucitudines, issued by Clement VII, was published on 17 December 1524.

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1500: Alexander VI

A special effort was made to mark the Jubilee Year of 1500, given the extra significance of the turning of the new century. On 12 April 1498, the Bull Consueverunt Romani Pontifices suspended all further indulgences for that year, and this was later confirmed by the Bull Inter multiplices of 28 March 1499. The Bull of 20 December 1499, Pastores Aeterni Qui, established that only the penitentiaries of St. Peter's Basilica were granted the faculty to absolve sins. In this year Alexander VI definitively established the complex ceremony of the opening and closing of Holy Years, which until then had not followed any specific liturgical rites. The Pope wanted the beginning to be marked by an event with a powerful impact and he thus implemented the tradition of the opening of a Holy Door. This ceremony is an explicit reference to the words of St John’s Gospel: “I am the door. Whoever passes through me will be saved.” Alexander VI also ordered that the custom of setting aside a door for Holy Year pilgrims should be extended to the other three Patriarchal Basilicas, with the understanding that such doors should be bricked up for the rest of the time. The opening of St Peter's Holy Door was only to be carried out by the reigning Pontiff, while the doors of the other three Basilicas were to be unsealed by his legates. The Holy Doors were to remain open night and day, guarded by four clerics in turn throughout the Jubilee year.

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1475: Proclaimed by Paul II, presided over by Sixtus IV

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On 19 April 1470, the Bull Ineffabilis Providentia, expressly established that the Jubilee pilgrimage should include visits to the basilicas of St. Peter's, St. Paul's, St. John Lateran, and St. Mary Major, and stated that from 1475 onwards, jubilees should be celebrated every 25 years at the behest of Pope Paul II.


With the Bull of 29 August 1473 Quemadmodum operosi, Sixtus IV confirmed the Jubilee proclaimed earlier by Paul II, who had in the meantime died.

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1450: Nicholas V

Nicholas V proclaimed the next Holy Year in 1450 with the Bull Immensa et Innumerabilia, dated 19 January 1449. This brought the jubilee tradition back to celebrations every 50 years. Thanks also to the Pope's canonisation of the great Franciscan preacher, St Bernardine of Siena, the number of pilgrims to Rome increased dramatically. 

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1390: Proclaimed by Urban VI, presided over by Boniface IX

On 8 April 1389, the Bull Salvator noster Unigenitus of Urban VI established that the celebration of the Jubilee should take place every 33 years, thus bringing forward the celebrations to 1390 (they would have been set to take place in 1400). Unfortunately, the schism which was happening in 1390, with Antipope Clement VII taking refuge in Avignon, greatly affected the number of pilgrims flocking to Rome, since he had forbidden French, Spanish, Catalan, Scottish, southern Italian and all those who followed him from paying homage at the tombs of the Apostles in Rome.

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1350: Clement VI

With the Bull Unigenitus Dei Filius, in 1343, Clement VI, after having received a delegation representing the people of Rome asking him to bring the Apostolic See back to the city and to hold a Jubilee before the typical 100-year period, proclaimed a Holy Year for the year 1350. Despite the scourge of the plague and a disastrous earthquake that struck the Eternal City in 1349, more than one and a half million pilgrims poured into the city for the celebrations. This was thanks, in large part, to the intercession of the Pope, who had managed to obtain a truce in the war between France and England to ensure the safety of pilgrims making their journey to Rome.

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1300: Boniface VIII

With the Bull Antiquorum habet, of 22 February 1300, Boniface VIII proclaimed 1300 as a Jubilee year, decreeing that Romans who visit the basilicas of St. Peter and St. Paul 30 times within the year would be granted a plenary indulgence, while pilgrims arriving from outside Rome would only need 15 visits.
At least two million faithful arrived in Rome that year. Giotto, who at that time was commissioned to paint the frescoes in the Loggia delle Benedizioni—or balcony of the blessings—in the Vatican, was one of the prominent figures who took part in the Jubilee with the celebrated artist Cimabue. Giotto's ancient fresco commemorating this event is preserved in the Basilica of St. John Lateran.
Finally, among other significant figures who came to Rome that year was almost certainly the great poet Dante Alighieri, who in some passages of the Divine Comedy makes reference to the Jubilee.