The last non-Italian Pope until St John Paul II and the only Dutch Pope, a strict and pious reformer. Pope Adrian VI succeeded Pope Leo X who died December 1, 1521. To learn about Pope Leo X, click here. To view all the Catholic Link podcasts, click here.
Adrian VI, named Adriaan Florensz Boeyens and born on March 2, 1459, came from a Dutch family. He is the last non-Italian pope until Polish John Paul II, 455 years later, and he is the only Dutchman to become Pope. His family had modest circumstances and he had three older brothers. His father was a carpenter and died when Adrian was 10 years old.
Adrian was a gifted scholar. He studied philosophy, theology, and Canon Law at the University of Leuven. In 1488, the Faculty of Arts chose Adrian to be their representative on the Council of the University.
The future Pope Adrian VI received the Sacrament of Holy Orders on June 30, 1490. He became a Doctor of Theology in 1491 and became the vice-chancellor of the university in 1493.
In November 1506, Margaret of Austria chose Adrian as her advisor and he became a tutor to Emperor Maximilian I’s seven-year-old grandson, Margaret’s nephew who became Emperor Charles V. In 1515, as Charles’s advisor, Charles sent Adrian to Spain on diplomatic matters.
On July 1, 1517, Pope Leo X named Adrian a Cardinal Priest of the Basilica of Saints John and Paul on Coelian Hill.
Papal Election of Adrian VI
Pope Leo X died on December 1, 1521 and a conclave commenced. The Conclave favored Cardinal Giulio de’Medici, but the conclave fell in deadlock, divided between Spanish and French Cardinals. The Conclave elected the absent Cardinal Adrian as a compromise on January 9, 1522. They coronated Pope Adrian VI on August 21, 1522 at St. Peter’s Basilica at the age of 63.
Pope Adrian VI focused on reform, but the Cardinals hampered some of his efforts. He also focused on the Turks who advanced towards Europe. As with Leo X, Adrian did not fully understand the severity of the Lutheran revolt.
Pope Adrian VI died in Rome on September 14, 1523 and buried in Santa Maria dell’Anima. Pope Clement VII succeeded Pope Adrian VI.