Pope Adrian VI: Wikis


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Adrian VI
Hadrian VI.jpg
Papacy began 9 January 1522
Papacy ended 14 September 1523
Predecessor Leo X
Successor Clement VII
Personal details
Birth name Adriaan Florenszoon Boeyens
Born 2 March 1459 (1459-03-11)
Utrecht, Bishopric of Utrecht, Holy Roman Empire
Died 14 September 1523 (1523-09-25) (aged 64)
Rome, Papal States
Other Popes named Adrian

Pope Adrian VI (2 March 1459 – 14 September 1523), born Adriaan Florenszoon Boeyens[1], served as Bishop of Rome from 9 January 1522 until his death some 18 months later. He was the last non-Italian pope until John Paul II, 456 years later. He is, together with Marcellus II, one of two 'modern' popes to retain his baptismal name after election. He is buried in the Santa Maria dell'Anima church in Rome.

He was born Adriaan Florisz Boeyens under modest circumstances in the city of Utrecht, which was then the capital of the bishopric of Utrecht, the Burgundian Netherlands. He was the son of Floris/Florens Boeyens van Utrecht, also born in Utrecht, and his wife Gertruid. He is the only Dutchman to have ever become pope.

Adrian VI was known for having launched the Catholic Reformation (or counter reformation) as a response to the Protestant Reformation.


Early life

Pope Adrian VI's birthplace in Utrecht

Adrian was probably born in a house on the corner of the Brandsteeg and Oude Gracht that was owned by his grandfather Boudewijn (Boeyen for short). His father, a carpenter and likely shipwright, died when Adrian was 10 years or younger.[2] Adrian VI studied from a very young age under the Brethren of the Common Life, either at Zwolle or Deventer and was also a student of the Latin school (now Gymnasium Celeanum) in Zwolle.[3]. In June 1476, he started his studies at the University of Louvain, where he pursued philosophy, theology and Canon Law, due to a scholarship granted by Margaret, Duchess of Burgundy, becoming a Doctor of Theology in 1491, Dean of St. Peter's and vice-chancellor of the university. His lectures were published, as recreated from his students' notes; among those who attended was the young Erasmus.

Early career

In 1507 he was appointed tutor to Emperor Maximilian I's (1493 – 1519) seven year old grandson, Charles, who was later to become Emperor Charles V (1519 – 56). In 1515 Adrian was sent to Spain on a diplomatic errand, and after his arrival at the Imperial Court in Toledo, Charles V secured his succession to the See of Tortosa, and on 14 November 1516 commissioned him Inquisitor General of Aragon. The following year, Pope Leo X (1513 – 21) created Adrian a cardinal, naming him Cardinal Priest of the Basilica of Saints John and Paul.

During the minority of Charles V, Adrian was named to serve with Francisco Cardinal Jimenez de Cisneros as co-regent of Spain. After the death of the Jimenez, Adrian was appointed (14 March 1518) General of the Reunited Inquisitions of Castile and Aragon, in which capacity he acted until his departure for Rome. During this period, Charles V left for the Netherlands in 1520, making the future pope Regent of Spain, during which time he had to deal with the Revolt of the Comuneros.

Election as Bishop of Rome

In the conclave after the death of the Medici Pope Leo X, his cousin, Cardinal Giulio de' Medici was the leading figure. With Spanish and French cardinals in a deadlock, the absent Adrian was proposed as a compromise and on 9 January 1522 he was elected by an almost unanimous vote. Charles V was delighted upon hearing that his tutor had been elected to the papacy but soon realised that Adrian VI was determined to reign impartially. Francis I of France, who feared that Adrian would become a tool of the Emperor, and had uttered threats of a schism, later relented and sent an embassy to present his homage. Fears of a Spanish Avignon based on the strength of his relationship with the Emperor as his former tutor and regent proved baseless, and Adrian left for Italy at the earliest opportunity, making his solemn entry into Rome on 29 August. He was crowned in St. Peter's Basilica on 31 August 1522, at the age of sixty-three and immediately entered upon the path of the reformer. The 1908 edition of the Catholic Encyclopedia characterised the task that faced him:

"To extirpate inveterate abuses; to reform a court which thrived on corruption, and detested the very name of reform; to hold in leash young and warlike princes, ready to bound at each other's throats; to stem the rising torrent of revolt in Germany; to save Christendom from the Turks, who from Belgrade now threatened Hungary, and if Rhodes fell would be masters of the Mediterranean-- these were herculean labours for one who was in his sixty-third year, had never seen Italy, and was sure to be despised by the Romans as a 'barbarian'.[4]

His plan was to attack notorious abuses one by one; but in his attempt to improve the system of indulgences he was hampered by his cardinals; and he found reducing the number of matrimonial dispensations to be impossible as the income had been farmed out for years in advance by Pope Leo X.

Adrian, who had never before been to Rome, was so ignorant of affairs that he had written asking that some suitable lodgings be obtained for him in Rome whence he could discharge his duties as pope.


Papal styles of
Pope Adrian VI

Emblem of the Papacy SE.svg

Reference style His Holiness
Spoken style Your Holiness
Religious style Holy Father
Posthumous style None

The Italians saw in him as a pedantic foreign professor, blind to the beauty of classical antiquity. Musicians such as Carpentras, the composer and singer from Avignon who was master of the papal chapel under Leo X, left Rome due to Adrian VI's indifference to the arts.

Adrian was not successful as a peacemaker among Christian princes, whom he hoped to unite in a war against the Turks. In August 1523 he was forced into an alliance with the Empire, England, Venice, against France; meanwhile in 1522 the Sultan Suleiman I (1520 – 66) had conquered Rhodes.

In his reaction to the early stages of the Lutheran revolt, Adrian VI did not completely understand the gravity of the situation. At the Diet of Nuremberg which opened in December 1522 he was represented by Francesco Chiericati, whose private instructions contain the frank admission that the disorder of the Church was perhaps the fault of the Roman Curia itself, and that it should be reformed. However, the former professor and Inquisitor General was strongly opposed to any change in doctrinal, and demanded that Luther be punished for teaching heresy.

The pope was mocked by the people of Rome on the Pasquino.

The statement in one of his works that a pope may err, privately or in a minor decree, including matters of faith, attracted attention. Catholics claim that it was a private opinion, not an official pronouncement and therefore does not conflict with the dogma of papal infallibility. Catholic apologists point to the fact that Adrian VI merely theorised about the issue.


The funeral monument for Adrian VI in Santa Maria dell'Anima in Rome

Adrian VI died in Rome, on 14 September 1523, after a somewhat brief tenure as pope. Most of his official papers were lost after his death. He published Quaestiones in quartum sententiarum praesertim circa sacramenta (Paris, 1512, 1516, 1518, 1537; Rome, 1522), and Quaestiones quodlibeticae XII. (1st ed., Leuven, 1515).

The Romans, who had never taken a liking to a man they saw as a "barbarian", rejoiced at his death, declaring that a statue ought to be erected to his doctor.

Pope Adrian VI was a character in Christopher Marlowe's theatre play The Tragical History of Doctor Faustus (1604).

Italian writer Luigi Malerba used the confusion among the leaders of the Catholic Church, which was created by Adrian's unexpected election, as backdrop for his 1995 novel, Le maschere (The Masks), about the struggle between two Roman cardinals for a well-endowed church office.


  • Luther Martin. Luther's Correspondence and Other Contemporary Letters, 2 vols., tr.and ed. by Preserved Smith, Charles Michael Jacobs, The Lutheran Publication Society, Philadelphia, Pa. 1913, 1918. vol.I (1507-1521) and vol.2 (1521-1530) from Google Books. Reprint of Vol.1, Wipf & Stock Publishers (March 2006). ISBN 1-59752-601-0
  • Gross, Ernie. This Day In Religion. New York:Neal-Schuman Publishers, Inc, 1990. ISBN 1-55570-045-4.
  • Malerba Luigi. e maschere, Milan: A. Mondadori, 1995. ISBN 88-04-39366-1


  1. ^ Dedel, according to Collier's Encyclopedia.
  2. ^ Gerard Weel Life and times of Adrian of Utrecht (in Dutch)
  3. ^ Coster, Wim. "De Latijnse School te Zwolle" (in Dutch). Metamorfoses. Een geschiedenis van het Gymnasium Celeanum. Zwolle: Waanders. pp. 17 and 19. ISBN 90-400-8847-0. 
  4. ^ Catholic Encyclopedia (1908)

The Bad Popes, E.R. Chamberlin, 1969.

External links

Catholic Church titles
Preceded by
Leo X
Succeeded by
Clement VII


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