He was from a wealthy and aristocratic family. After being educated at Milan and Pavia, he got his doctor's degree at age 22.
His uncle Cardinal de'Medici was elected Pope, taking the name Pius IV, and he became Charles' patron. Charles supported Pius IV in re-opening the Council of Trent for the final session, and was in part responsible for the Council's continuance and conclusion.
In 1564, he was ordained priest and almost immediately consecrated as bishop. He was the papal legate for Italy, and in this capacity he held a council at Milan which promulgated the Tridentine reforms. Pope Pius V gave him the opportunity to reside in his diocese, and he became the first resident bishop at Milan in 80 years .
He was created cardinal, and was appointed titular priest of Santa Prassede, which he restored.
He adopted a simple way of living, and gave much of his funds to the poor. Working for a moral reform among the clergy, he found support from the Jesuits and the Barnabites. In 1569, a discontented friar tried to assassinate him because of his reforms. In 1570, he helped feeding many citizens of Milan during a famine, and in 1576 he nursed the sick during a plague in the city. He also supported the English Catholic priests and the English College at Douai; Sts Ralph Sherwin and Edmund Campion visited him on their way back to England.
His work Instructiones fabricae et supellectilis ecclestiasticae, containing instructions for builders and decorators of churches, was published in 1577. It became something of a manual for Counter-Reformation church architecture.
He died at Milan on the night of 3 November 1584, only 46 years old, worn out by his energetic zeal to protect the Faith and the Church. He was buried in the cathedral in Milan. A cult arose at once, and he was canonized in 1610. Of the Counter-Reformation saints, he is parallelled only by St Ignatius of Loyola and St Philip Neri.
Churches connected to St Charles BorromeoEdit
- San Carlo ai Catinari
- San Carlo al Corso
- San Carlo alle Quattro Fontane
- Chapel of St Charles Borromeo in Santa Prassede
- Altar in Santa Maria in Aracoeli
- Church of St Charles Borromeo in New York
- His heart is preserved in the ambulatory behind the sanctuary in San Carlo al Corso