How Old Was The Youngest Pope In Real Life? Pius XIII Isn't Setting Any Records

Gianni Fiorito/HBO

British actor Jude Law stars as the newly-elected (fictional) Pope Pius XIII In HBO's The Young Pope. The character has an American accent and doesn't seem to have any graying hairs, but an exact "young" age for the character hasn't been confirmed yet. But in real life, the man who was the youngest pope was most likely way younger than Pius XIII might be in The Young Pope. Because birth records in the early centuries don't represent the most accurate ages, there are two men who could possibly hold this title.

Pope Benedict IX was elected to the papacy sometime between ages 11 and 20 in the year 1032, according to Business Insider, but with many sources debating his age at the time of election. And then there was Pope John XII, who became head of the Catholic church at age 18 in the year 955, according to Esquire, and was murdered in the year 964. Either way, these popes were both younger than Law, who is 44 years old in real life, and I think it's safe to assume that his character Pope Pius XIII just might be close in age to his portrayer. Pope Francis, the current Bishop of Rome, is 80 years old. According to Reader's Digest, there are no age requirements to be pope.

The Washington Post reported that 60 is the average age of pontiffs in the 20th Century, because modern popes are chosen from over 100 cardinals who have worked their entire careers in order to become pope. One of the stepping stones on the way to the modern papacy is the position of bishop, a promotion for a priest which requires that they be over 35 years of age, according to the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops.

In The Young Pope trailer, Law's Pope Pius XIII looks like a pontiff unlike this century has seen: he wears sunglasses and cool hats, dismisses gossip, and is called "strange" by the elders. Similarly, real-life young popes seemed to bring some drama to Vatican City. According to Observer, Benedict IX was once called a "demon from hell, in the disguise of a priest" by historian Ferdinand Gregorovius, and Pope John XII was an alleged adulterer who allegedly toasted Satan. Yikes.

According to an interview in The Telegraph, Law said that his character won't be a wild young pope — in fact, Pope Pius XIII (born Lenny Belardo) will be the opposite. "It isn’t trying to shock," Law told The Telegraph in regard to the HBO series. "It would be more shocking if Lenny was having rent boys up to the Vatican and smoking pot. But he’s not. He’s a conservative. In fact, he’s a prude. He’s homophobic, he’s anti-divorce, he’s anti-abortion and all those things are in the scriptures."

It sounds like Law's young pontiff in The Young Pope will be quite an interesting (fictional) addition to Vatican City.