Cardinal Adriano of  CASTELLI

Born: ABT 1460, Corneto, Tuscany, Italy

Died: 1521

Also called DE CORNETO, a man of Tuscany born at Corno, which the ancients called Castronovo; a prelate distinguished as a statesman and reviver of learning. His palace in the Borgo Nuovo was a design of the famous architect Bramante Da Urbino (b. 1444 - d. 1514). It was built slowly, and was left unfinished owing to the flight of the cardinal. In 1488 he was sent by Innocent VIII as nuncio to Scotland, but was recalled when the news of the death of James III reached Rome. However, Adriano had arrived in England and gained the favour of Henry VII, who appointed him as his agent at Rome. Adriano subsequently remained in England for several months, and from the beginning of his stay John Morton, Archbishop of Canterbury, strove to treat him with all kindness, for he was attracted by the man’s learning and manners, and he brought it about that he was also in the king’s very good graces. Henry, seeing that the man came recommended by Morton, made no little use of him, and relied on his help in dealing with Innocent, and later with Alexander VI to the extent that he first made him Bishop of Hereford, and, after he vacated that see, Bishop of Bath and Wells. But Adriano soon return to Rome and passed through all the steps of honor until he arrived at the College of Cardinals. In 1489 he returned to England as collector of Peter's-pence and in 1492 obtained the prebend of Ealdland in St. Paul's Cathedral, and the rectory of St. Dunstan-in-the-East.

On the death of Innocent VIII, he returned to Rome, where he acted as a secretary in the Papal treasury and also as Ambassador of Henry VII. In 1502, he was promoted to the Bishopric of Hereford.

Says Francis Bacon in his "Historia Regni Henrici Septimi Regis Angliae" (printed 1638):

"...As for the Pope's ambassy, which as went by Adrian de Castelli an Italian legate, (and perhaps as those times were might have prevailed more,) it came too late for the ambassy, but not for the Ambassador. For passing through Engliand and being honourably entertained and received by King Henry (who ever applied himself with much respect to the see of Rome), he fell into great grace with the King, and great familiarity and friendship with Morton the Chancellor. Insomuch as the King taking a likeing to him and finding him to his mind, preferred him to the bishoprick of Hereford, and afterwards to that of Bath and Wells, and employed him in many of his affairs of state that had relation to Rome. He was a man of great learning, wisdom, and dexterity in business of state; and having not long after ascended to the degree of cardinal, payed the King large tribute of his gratitude in diligent and judicious advertisement of the occurrents of Italy. Nevertheless in the end of his time he was partaker of the conspiracy which cardinal Alphonso Petrucci and some other cardinals had plotted agains the life of Pope Leo. And this offence, in itself so hainous, was yet in him aggravated by the motive thereof; which was not malice or discontent, but an aspiring mind to the papacy. And in this height of impiety there wanted not an intermixture of levity and folly, for that (as was generally believed) he was animated to expect the papacy by a fatal mosckery; the prediction of a sooth-sayer; which was, That one should succeed Pope Leo, whose name should be Adrian, an aged man of mean birth and of great wisdom; by which character and figure he took himself to be described; thoiugh it were fulfilled of Adrian the Fleming, son to a Dutch brewer, cardinal of Tortosa, and preceptor unto Charles the Fifth; the same that, not changing his christen-name, was afterwards called Adrian the Sixth..."

In 1503 Alexander VI raised him to the cardinalate with the title of St. Chrysogonus. On 6 Aug, 1503, the Pope, with Cesare Borgia and others, dined with Cardinal Adriano in a villa belonging to the Cardinal and very imprudently remained in the open air after nightfall. The entire company paid the penalty by contracting the pernicious Roman fever. Actually, some historians hold that Alexander had held out a psuedo olive branch to Cardinal Giuliano della Rovere's ally Cardinal Adriano da Corneto, inviting him to the Vatican for a reconciliation dinner at which were present the Pope's evil son Cesare. They had intended to poison the cardinal's wine cup but, in what could only be called "poetic justice" or, should we say "Divine Justice," someone confused the cups and it is believed both Alexander and Cesare drank from it, but not Cardinal Corneto. There is also speculation that della Rovere had an inside man in the Holy See who warned the Cardinal Corneto and switched the poisonous cups. However these mysterious events transpired, the facts are that Alexander drank heartily of the poison and died that evening of Aug 18, 1503. Historians claim his body was swollen grotesquely from the toxic substance. Cesare did not die but was never the same after his devious plan backfired and his father was gone, soon any power he enjoyed would be gone as well, thanks to the vindictive nature of della Rovere once he assumed the papacy as Julius II.

Nothing is more certain than that the poison which killed him was the deadly microbe of the Roman campagna.

After the death of Alexander VI, Adriano's influence in Rome declined. In 1504 he was translated to the Bishopric of Bath and Wells, but never occupied the see.

He was long associated with the scholar Polydore Vergil, who was his sub-collector of Peter's-pence in England. Polydore Vergil was Prebendary of Brent in Wells Cathedral, and Archdeacon of Wells, six miles from Glastonbury. In 1504 he was actually enthroned Bishop of Bath and Wells as proxy for his foreign non-resident kinsman, Adriano de Castelli, and acted for him. He was a very liberal-minded man. In 1547 he signed a declaration in favour of the Communion in both kinds. He was born at Urbino in Italy about 1470. He came of a literary family for four generations. One brother was a Professor of Philosophy at Pavia; another, Jerome, was a London merchant. He himself, after studying at Bologna and Padua, and acting as Chamberlain to Pope Alexander IV (1492-98), came to England as Sub-Collector of Peter’s Pence, and for some time he led a literary life in London, and Henry VII asked him to write an English History. Such was Polydore Vergil who bore the above testimony. The testimony of a learned Italian steeped in English history, resident in England, well-versed in the lore of Glastonbury, that England was the first country to receive the Gospel is particularly valuable. About Adriano, Vergil said:

'...He was deeply learned in literature, classical but not vernacular, and he was a lover of fastidiousness in diction, the first man of our age, after that very learned epoch of Cicero, who by his writings has inspired men to adopt a pure style by going back to the sources of the most learned authors, and he taught a manner of pure, neat, and elegant writing, with the result that, by his instruction, nowadays Latinity has been wholly reborn the world over...'

In 1509, fearing the displeasure of Julius II, Adriano left Rome for Venice, and later for Trent, where he remained until the death of Julius and the election of Leo X, when he returned to Rome (1511). He was again, in 1517, implicated in a charge of conspiring with Cardinal Petrucci to poison the Pope, and confessed to having been privy to the affair. He was forgiven by Leo, but found it safer to escape from Rome to Venice. He never appeared in Rome again. He had previously been deprived of his office of collector of Peter's-pence, and on 5 Jul, 1518, was degraded from the cardinalate and his Bishopric of Bath given to Cardinal Wolsey. Among his writings are a poem in elegant Latinity, entitled "Venatio" (Aldus, 1505), and treatises, "De Verâ Philosophiâ" (Bologna, 1507; Cologne, 1548, Rome, 1775); and "De Sermone Latino et modo Latine loquendi" (Baste, 1513).

Pastor, History of the Popes, tr. Antrobus, V 144 146; VI, 56, 129, 132, 179, 281, 353. 363, 376, 380 (London, 1891-98 St. Louts, 1902); VACANT in Dict. théol, cath., s.v.; STEPHENS, Dict. Nat. Biog., s. v.; POLYD. VERGIL, Hist. Anglic.; HURTER, Nomenclator literarius, IV, 940; WHARTON, Anglica Sacra, I 576; Calendar of State Papers, Henry VII, I and II; Calendar of Venetian Sate Papers, I-V. See the letter by Cardinal Adriano to Henry VII.
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