Tuesday, April 19, 2022

Renaissance Popes XI: Hadrianus VI

 Birth Name: Adriaan Florensz Boeyens

Lived: 1459-1523

Regnal Name: Adrian VI

Regnal Life: 1522-1523

Adriaan Boeyens was born in Utrecht in the Netherlands (and he usually referred to himself only as 'Adriaan of Utrecht'); he studied under the Brethren of the Common Life and, eventually, the University of Leuven. He knew Erasmus personally; Erasmus had been a student in his classes, and Adriaan later offered him a position at the university, although Erasmus declined. Adriaan was quite successful , btu he eventually had to leave university life when, due to his reputation as a teacher, he began to be appointed tutor to the royal families of the Holy Roman Empire. One of his pupils, in fact, became the Holy Roman Emperor, Charles V. In 1515, while Charles was still Duke of Burgundy and the Lord of the Netherlands, he sent Adriaan to Spain as an ambassador; Charles wanted to convince his uncle Ferdinand that he, Charles, was a better choice to succeed King Ferdinand as ruler of Castile and Aragon than Charles's brother (also called Ferdinand). Adriaan was successful, and as a reward, since King Ferdinand died shortly afterward and Charles became Charles I, King of Spain, Charles had him named Bishop of Tortosa in Spain. Adriaan went to Spain, and gave up all of his benefices in the Netherlands to do so. He seems to have thought it a temporary position, but in 1516, Charles named him Grand Inquisitor of Spain. It was while he was in this position that he was chosen by Pope Leo X to be one of Leo's many new cardinals; Adriaan had a good reputation, but it is also possible that Leo saw him as an obvious way to sweeten relations with Charles.

In 1519, Charles was named the Holy Roman Emperor, now Emperor Charles V, and as he was returning to the Netherlands because of it, he named Adriaan the Regent of Spain. Charles had not been on great terms with the Spanish, and shortly after he left a number of revolts broke out, in what soon became known as the War of the Comunidades of Castile (the comunidades were the Spanish version of local city councils). The rebellion began in Toledo, then spread quickly, and violently, to Segovia, Salamanca, Burgos and elsewhere. It was not entirely focused; some of the rebels, the comuneros, wanted to break into independent city-states, whereas others wanted a monarchy under a Castilian, but the most immediate result, beside the spreading riots, was that many cities across Castile stopped paying any taxes at all. Adriaan sent the royal artillery against Segovia, where the riots were especially bad. The result was devastating; much of the city was leveled and, angered by this outcome, the rebellion began spreading even faster through Spain. Adriaan himself had to flee Valladolid as things continued to get worse, and the Spanish army began falling apart. A new revolutionary government was founded, with Queen Joanna (Charles's not-quite-sane Castilian mother) as a purely ceremonial figurehead. Charles in the meantime kept demanding taxes from Castile, depsite Adriaan's attempts to explain the situation to him. When Adriaan finally got through to him the gravity of the situation, he gave Adriaan Castilian co-regents, to make their complaints about the lack of rule by Castilians moot, and backed Adriaan as the latter spearheaded a recruitment drive among the nobility to build up the royal army again. The comuneros began to fall part; Queen Joanna was not as pliable as they hoped, nor as willing to be a figurehead, and their opponents, recovering from the shock of their early success, began to pull themselves together in effective ways. A series of military defeats tore them apart, and when Charles returned to Spain in 1522, the rebellion was mostly dead. A very large number of people had supported it though, so while examples were made of the worst offenders, Charles issued a general pardon in November of 1522.

Adriaan's life was in the meantime changing, although he did not know it at first. Leo had died on December 1, 1521, and the papal conclave began on December 28. It was a tangled affair. The major European powers -- Charles V, Francis I, and Henry VIII -- went all-out in the attempt to get a papal candidate who would be favorable to them. The past several popes had been a thorn in the side of the European kings, and they were not going to let it happen again. They sent huge sums of money in order to try to sway the electors, but they ran into a snag. Leo had massively expanded the College of Cardinals, and so the sums of money, which would have been more than enough before, were now too small for any of the three to buy enough votes, particularly since they were competing against each other. The college, on the other side, ran into the problem that there were now so many papabile that they could not come to any agreements. Giulio Cardinal de'Medici was easily in the best position, since he could sway a majority of the Italian faction, but even he kept coming up short. Recognizing that he could not get the votes, he tried to back several other Italian candidates, but he still always fell short. Finally, he suggested the most important cardinal who was not present at the conclave -- Adriaan of Utrecht. This finally shook things up enough to change the situation, because, of course Cardinal Adriaan, former tutor of the Holy Roman Emperor and current Regent of Spain, could get the support of the Imperial faction, and Cardinal de'Medici could pull a majority of the Italians. This might still not have been enough, except that Tommaso Cardinal Cajetan argued so eloquently for the absent cardinal's good qualities that he was able to sway a number of otherwise uncommitted cardinals. Cardinal Colonna, Cardinal de'Medici's major Italian rival, could see where the winds blew and he put his backing behind Adriaan, as well. Adriaan was elected. When the Romans were told who was pope, they were confused, since Adriaan of course could not come out and meet them, since he was in Spain. As they slowly understood over the next several weeks, they became furious that the cardinals had elected a foreigner rather than an Italian. (A number of Italian cardinals, particularly those who had not voted for him but also a few who did for purely political reasons, were somewhat less than happy at this, as well.) And Adriaan himself arrived in Rome in August, where he took the name Adrian VI.

Adrian's papal tenure started out very rockily. Alexander and Julius had been very good with money, although in different ways, but Leo had no money sense at all. He was extremely generous, and gave help freely to those in need; he continued Julius's large-scale projects, like the new St. Peter's Basilica; he started his own projects (unsurprisingly, since he had the pick of the best artists of the day, including Raphael, Michelangelo, and so forth, who had been coming to Rome through the papal administrations of Alexander and Julius); he fought some very expensive wars; and being a Medici who was used to high life, he lived quite luxuriously. Leo had received a large treasury surplus from Julius, but all of that had long since dissipated, and the debts of the papacy that he left were extraoardinary. One of the first things Adrian had to do was pawn a very large portion of the papal art collections, tapestries, and the like, just to cover the debts.

Nor was money the only problem. The Romans, although they didn't know him, in the xenophobic fashion of Renaissance Italy already hated him. As he began to attempt the reform of a number of practices, he found himself stonewalled and obstructed by a number of cardinals, particularly Italian cardinals. The fact that he saw himself as having a responsibility to do some reforming of the Roman Curia itself, reducing some of the privileges of the cardinals, made things worse. Many of Adrian's ideas for reform were ahead of their time, and would be implemented much later -- but in Adrian's day they were new and foreign ideas. The Holy Roman Empire quite clearly thought of him as a puppet pope, with Charles V sending him a very long wishlist, and the Imperial ambassador kept trying to interfere and meddle even before he was actually crowned pope. One of the things that the Holy Roman Emperor particularly wished was for Adrian to bring the Papal States into the league against the French again; Adrian's refusal put him in an uncomfortable position. 

And, as a man whose lifestyle  was quite simple and plain in comparison with that of Leo (the Italians, of course, regarded him as miserly), he was not the extraordinary patron of the arts that Leo had been. He caused considerable astonishment to the Italians when he started telling people that he did not want to live in the Apostolic Palace because it was too grandiose, and was thinking about building a simpler house. He likewise sharply reduced the papal staff, to the fury of a great many people who had done well under Leo. (While it saved a great deal of money, it also had the unintended consequence of slowing everything down, and a common complaint throughout Adrian's papal tenure is that nothing was ever done efficiently or quickly, either because there weren't enough people working on it or because the people who knew most about this or that were no longer employed in the papal household.) Moreover, he does not actually seem to have had much artistic taste at all; he dismissed the classical statuary as heathen works and began to shut down projects by Raphael and others that were already partly done. Support for poets almost completely collapsed; Adrian liked well-written history, and that was the limit of his literary taste. It was perhaps inevitable that the Italians regarded him as a stingy and uncivilized Dutch barbarian. Nonetheless, while opportunities for artists began to dry up, it wasn't a complete desert; Adrian liked explicitly religious art and continued to give some modest support for that, and he continued the building of St. Peter's.

Besides the reform of the Curia, Adrian's other major goal for reform was to unite the Christian princes of Europe against the Turks. If there was any time to do it, then was the time. Suleiman the Magnificent in 1520 and under him the Ottoman Empire was having a very good period. He had seized Belgrade to the north, and then turned his attention to the island of Rhodes in the south, which under the Hospitaller Knights stood as a major block against Ottoman movement in the Mediterranean. He massively built up his logistical capabilities for naval battle and laid siege to Rhodes. It was a hard, difficult battle, with the Ottomans losing tens of thousands of soldiers and sailors, but the Knights Hospitaller, having no significant help, found themselves in a hopeless position, and negotiated to hand over the island and leave for Malta. Thus Rhodes fell in 1522, and now the Ottomans had far greater power over the whole Mediterranean than they had ever had before, giving them a vast power to interfere with the shipping of Christian Europe. But, as usual, actually organizing anything to do about it was infinitely harder than recognizing that something probably should be done about it. Plague hit Rome in 1522, as well, bringing almost everything to a standstill for several months.

The expansion of the Lutheran reform movement, as an increasingly dangerous rival of the Renaissance reform movement, continued. In December 1522, the Diet of Nuremberg opened, and Adrian sent a representative to the Diet to promise that the Roman Curia was being reformed and to insist that the edict against Lutheranism that had been passed by the Diet of Worms should be implemented. Although Worms had called for Luther's arrest, nothing had even been done about it, and outside of some places in the Low Countries, there was not much of an interest in the local princes and magistrates in actually enforcing the Edict of Worms. The Diet declined, however, to do anything about the matter, and the Edict of Worms continued to be unenforced. The Lutherans actively abused Adrian as the mouthpiece of Satan, and many German princes, already inclined to be anti-clerical, were at least not willing to press the matter, and in some cases were actively sympathetic. In the meantime, due to Olaus Petri, Lutheranism had begun to spread in Scandinavia, and due to the work of Ulrich Zwingli, Switzerland was beginning to pull away from Rome, as well. The dilatory Renaissance reformation was finding itself suddenly, and more and more alarmingly, outpaced by the swift-moving Lutheran counter-reformation.

In the meantime, Adrian had other things on his plate. During the reign of Leo X, the Papal States had come to be in considerable disorder. Adrian throughout the rest of 1522 and into 1523 worked to set things straight, making peace with local governors, establishing treaties that strengthened alliances, and so forth. He was extraordinarily successful at this, even reconciling Francisco Maria della Rovere. Adrian hoped that this would put him in a better position to pull together a crusade against the Ottoman Empire. He was sorely mistaken. As word of the fall of Rhodes spread -- and more slowly, was believed -- his position became a bit stronger, and he was finally able to push through some (very unpopular) tax collections in the States of the Church to raise money for an expedition. But the powers of Europe were still caught up in the endless jockeying among the Empire, France, and England. When Adrian tried to impose a truce, France threatened that if he continued, they would seize him and elect an antipope, and then stopped sending any revenue to Rome. Adrian throughout everything had been trying to put off the Emperor's demands that he join the anti-French league, but this made it impossible for him not to do so.

Adrian, however, had begun to be unwell. He received unction and died on September 14, having been pope for just over twenty months. The Romans rejoiced at his death. Thus ended the sober-minded academic who had done so well as a teacher, and then, once he was raised out of the academic life to rule, found himself saddled with endless unhappiness and misfortune. Dealt many bad hands in a very short period of time, he played them well, yet every small problem solved seemed to be replaced only by bigger problems with no obvious solution.

But he had avoided disaster. The next pope would not be able to do so.