Thursday, September 22, 2011

Girolamo Aleandro

Aleandro, Girolamo (1480–1542), Italian humanist, papal diplomat, and cardinal. Born of reportedly noble lineage at Motta di Livenza in the Venetian Republic, he was trained in the humanities at Motta, Venice, Pordenone, and Padua and demonstrated a great facility with languages, eventually learning Latin, Greek, Hebrew, Syriac, and Chaldean. He taught Latin and Hebrew in Venice, where he briefly served in 1501 as secretary to the papal nuncio and joined the academy of Aldo Manuzio. At the academy in 1508 he became a friend of Erasmus of Rotterdam, who urged him to seek his academic fortunes in France. His public lectures in Greek (1509–1513) drew large numbers of students in Paris, where he was elected principal of Lombard College (1511) and eventually rector of the university (1513). Unhappy with his income as a teacher, he decided to pursue an ecclesiastical career.

Aleandro advanced his career by serving important churchmen. In 1513–1514 he was secretary to Etienne Poncher, bishop of Paris. He then transferred his services to Erard de le Marck, prince-bishop of Liège, who in 1516 sent him to Rome to secure for Erard promotion to the cardinalate, which he obtained in 1520. In Rome Aleandro became in 1517 secretary to cardinal Giulio dei Medici (later Clement VII) and two years later papal librarian, a post he held under both Leo X and Adrian VI. In 1524 Gian Pietro Carafa (later Paul IV) resigned to him his archbishopric of Brindisi, in which Aleandro resided only from 1527 to 1529. Paul III named him a cardinal in pectore in 1536 and published the appointment in 1538 with the title cardinal-priest of S. Ciriaco. He owed this promotion to his many years of service—next to Lorenzo Campeggio, he was considered the most important papal diplomat of his generation.

Aleandro was entrusted with a number of important nunciatures. In 1520 Leo X charged him with publishing and enforcing the bull Exsurge Domine against Luther and his followers in the Rhineland and Low Countries. He won Charles V's support for the condemnation, helped to write the Edict of Worms, and secured its approbation and finally its publication on 26 May 1521. He suspected Erasmus of supporting Luther, and their relationship became one of guarded suspicion and hostility. In 1524–1525 Clement VII appointed him as nuncio to Francis I, and he was captured with the French king at the Battle of Pavia on 24 February 1525. The same pope sent him in 1531–1532 to Charles V to assist the sickly papal legate Lorenzo Campeggio in urging the emperor to be vigorous in his opposition to the Lutherans and Turks. As nuncio in Venice (1533–1535) Aleandro also worked to combat Protestant influences. In 1538 Paul III dispatched him to Vienna to watch over the negotiations between the emperor, supporting the Catholic party, and the Protestants. Rome considered Aleandro knowledgeable on Protestant affairs because of his contacts in the north and his large library of Protestant writings. Aleandro's opposition to Protestantism was apparently based on his conviction that it was a threat to traditional church order and that its political leaders were eager to confiscate church property. He was unsympathetic to its particular piety and sought to combat it by a combination of repressive measures, support of Catholic rulers, ecclesiastical politics (including a council), and the elimination of scandalous abuses in the church.

Under Paul III, Aleandro often sat on commissions to reform the church. He was a member of the group of reforminded prelates that drew up the famous Consilium de emendanda ecclesia (1537). He then worked on a reform of the datary (1537) and of the chancellery (1539) and was part of the planning for the abortive council called to meet in Vicenza. Never enjoying robust health, he died in Rome on 1 February 1542, having resigned his diocese of Brindisi to his nephew Francesco and having provided in his will for his only surviving, illegitimate son, Claudio.

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