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Pope Adrian VI : biography

2 March 1459 - 14 September 1523

Pope Adrian VI ( , ), born Adriaan Florenszoon BoeyensDedel, according to Collier's Encyclopedia. (2 March 1459 – 14 September 1523), was the head of the Catholic Church from 9 January 1522 to his death in 1523. Pope Adrian VI was born in the Prince-Bishopric of Utrecht in the Netherlands, and he was the last non-Italian Pope until Pope John Paul II, 455 years later, and is, together with Pope Marcellus II, one of only two modern popes to retain his baptismal name after election, as well the most recent pope to date to take the name "Adrian" upon being elected Pope.

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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) made 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 Cardinal Francisco Jimenez de Cisneros as co-regent of Spain. After the death of 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 63, 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'.

His plan was to attack notorious abuses one by one; however, in his attempt to improve the system of indulgences he was hampered by his cardinals. He found reduction of 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.

Pope Adrian VI in popular culture

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

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

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