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Pope Adrian VI


Adrian VI (also known as Hadrian VI or Adriano VI), born Adrian d'Edel (March 2, 1459 - September 14, 1523), pope from 1522 to 1523, was born in Utrecht, the Netherlands, and studied under the Brethren of the Common Life either at Zwolle or Deventer.
(Some texts mention his name as Adrian or Adriaan Florisz, A. Florisz Boeyens, A. Florens or any other combination. 'Florens' or 'Florisz' means 'Floriszoon' - son of Floris.)

At Louvain he pursued philosophy, theology and canon law, becoming a doctor of theology in 1491, dean of St Peter's and vice-chancellor of the university.

In 1507 he was appointed tutor to the seven-year-old Charles V. He was sent to Spain in 1515 on a diplomatic errand; Charles secured his succession to the seat of Tortosa, and on the 14th of November 1516 commissioned him inquisitor-general of Aragon.

During the minority of Charles, Adrian was associated with Cardinal Jimenes in governing Spain. After the death of the latter, Adrian was appointed, on the 14th of March 1518, general of the reunited inquisitions of Castile and Aragon, in which capacity he acted till his departure from Tarragona for Rome on the 4th of August 1522: he was, however, too weak and confiding to cope with abuses that Jimenes had been able in some degree to check.

When Charles left for the Netherlands in 1520 he made Adrian regent of Spain: as such he had to cope with a very serious revolt. In 1517 Pope Leo X had created him cardinal priest SS. Ioannis et Pauli.

On the 9th of January 1522 he was almost unanimously elected pope. Crowned in St Peter's on the 31st of August at the age of sixty-three, he entered upon the lonely path of the reformer. His programme was to attack notorious abuses one by one; but in his attempt to improve the system of granting indulgences he was hampered by his cardinals; and reducing the number of matrimonial dispensations was impossible, for the income had been farmed out for years in advance by Leo X.

The Italians saw in him a pedantic foreign professor, blind to the beauty of classical antiquity, penuriously docking the stipends of great artists. Musicians such as Carpentras, the composer and singer from Avignon who was master of the papal chapel under Leo X, left Rome at this time, due to Adrian's indifference or outright hostility to the arts. Musical standards at the Vatican declined significantly during his tenure. As a peacemaker among Christian princes, whom he hoped to unite in a protective war against the Turks, he was a failure: in August 1523 he was forced openly to ally himself with the Empire, England, Venice, etc., against France; meanwhile in 1522 the sultan Suleiman I had conquered Rhodes.

In dealing with the early stages of the Protestant revolt in Germany Adrian did not fully recognize the gravity of the situation. At the diet which opened in December 1522 at Nuremberg he was represented by Chieregati, whose instructions contain the frank admission that the whole disorder of the church had perhaps proceeded from the Curia itself, and that there the reform should begin. However, the former professor and inquisitor-general was stoutly opposed to doctrinal changes, and demanded that Luther be punished for heresy.

The statement in one of his works that the pope could err in matters of faith (haeresim per suam determinationem aut Decretalem assurondo) has attracted attention. Catholics claim that it was just a private opinion, not an ex cathedra pronouncement, therefore it doesn't conflict with the dogma of papal infallibility, while others claim that the concept of "ex cathedra" was only invented in the 19th century. On the 14th of September 1523 he died, after a pontificate too short to be effective.

Adrian VI was the last non-Italian pope until Pope John Paul II was elected in 1978.

Most of Adrian VI's official papers disappeared soon 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., Louvain, 1515).

This article incorporates text from the public domain 1911 Encyclopædia Britannica.

Preceded by
Leo X
Succeeded by
Clement VII

Last updated: 02-10-2005 18:31:04
Last updated: 02-26-2005 20:52:47