The history of the Jubilee

The Jubilee has Jewish origins, when every 50 years a year of rest of the earth was celebrated (to make crops stronger) and the liberation of slaves to restore equality and reduce the distance between the rich and the poor. The beginning of the Jewish Jubilee was marked by the sound of the ram's horn, in Hebrew jobel, from which the Christian name Jubilee derives.

The Catholic Church began the tradition of the Holy Year in 1300 with Pope Boniface VIII who had foreseen a Jubilee every century. Subsequently it was lowered at intervals of 33 (like the duration of Jesus' earthly life) and from 1450 onwards the cadence of the Jubilee was further reduced and since then it is celebrated every 25 years to allow each generation to experience at least one Holy Year.

The Extraordinary Jubilee is celebrated on the occasion of events of particular importance.

The official birth of the Jubilees is dated 20 February 1300 when Pope Boniface VIII announces the first Jubilee with the bull "Antiquorum habet fida relatio" and the institution of the first Jubilee indulgence.
Boniface was the 193rd pontiff of the Catholic Church and was one of the most controversial popes of his time (for example Dante in the Divine Comedy places him in Hell).

The second Jubilee, that of 1350 had a very long preparation because it was announced seven years in advance. The great expectation, however, was made difficult by catastrophic events such as the great plague of 1348 and a devastating earthquake that struck central Italy in 1349. Rome, among other things, suffered considerable damage in the roof of the Lateran basilica and that of San Paolo.

The Jubilee of 1450 was very rich for the Vatican coffers due to the incredible influx of pilgrims and because it allowed those who could not reach Rome to obtain an indulgence in exchange for money.

In 1600 the Jubilee began a week later (31st instead of 25th December) because Pope Clement VII had been hit by a gout attack.

In the past, the high number of pilgrims created logistical problems due to crowds and problems of hygiene and public health. Numerous jubilees were accompanied by violent epidemics, especially plague.

For political reasons, the Jubilees of 1800, 1850 and 1875 were not celebrated.