Pope Adrian VI (Latin: Hadrianus VI; Italian: Adriano VI; Dutch: Adrianus/Adriaan VI), born Adriaan Florensz Boeyens (2 March 1459 – 14 September 1523), was head of the Catholic Church and ruler of the Papal States from 9 January 1522 until his death on 14 September 1523. The only Dutchman to become pope, he was the last non-Italian pope until Polish John Paul II 455 years later.
Born in the Episcopal principality of Utrecht, Adrian studied at the University of Leuven in the Low Countries, where he rose to the position of professor of theology, also serving as rector (the equivalent of vice-chancellor). In 1507, he became the tutor of the future Holy Roman Emperor Charles V, who later trusted him as both his emissary and his regent.
In 1516, Charles, now King of Castile and Aragon, appointed Adrian bishop of Tortosa, Spain, and soon thereafter Grand Inquisitor of the kingdoms of Aragon and Castile. Pope Leo X made him a cardinal in 1517 and after Leo's death he was elected pope in 1522 as a compromise candidate.
Adrian came to the papacy in the midst of one of its greatest crises, threatened not only by Lutheranism to the north but also by the advance of the Ottoman Turks to the east. He refused to compromise with Lutheranism theologically, demanding Luther's condemnation as a heretic. However, he is noted for having attempted to reform the Catholic Church administration in response to the Protestant Reformation. Adrian's admission that the Roman Curia itself was at fault for the turmoil in the Church was read at the 1522–1523 Diet of Nuremberg.
His efforts at reform, however, proved fruitless, as they were resisted by most of his contemporaries, and he did not live long enough to see his efforts through to their conclusion. He was succeeded by the second Medici pope, Clement VII.
Adrian VI and Marcellus II are the only popes of the modern era to retain their baptismal names after their election. Adrian VI is the last pope to date to take on the pontifical name "Adrian".
Pope Adrian VI's birthplace in Utrecht
Adriaan Florensz was born on 2 March 1459 in the city of Utrecht, which was then the capital of the Prince-Bishopric of Utrecht, a part of the Burgundian Netherlands in the Holy Roman Empire. He was born into modest circumstances as the son of Florens Boeyensz, also born in Utrecht, and his wife Geertruid. He had three older brothers, Jan, Cornelius, and Claes. Adrian consistently signed with Adrianus Florentii or Adrianus de Traiecto ("Adrian of Utrecht") in later life, suggesting that his family did not yet have a surname but used patronymics only.
Adrian was probably raised in a house on the corner of the Brandstraat 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. Adrian 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.
Pope 218: Hadrian VI, 1522 to 1523
February 8, 2021