Episode 38 – A Failed Pope

The sudden death of Pope Leo X sparked one of the most openly political papal conclaves in history. Each of the three major political powers of the 16th century made clear who they wanted to replace Leo, and they didn’t want. The most competent man for the job, Leo’s cousin Cardinal Giulio de’ Medici, was strongly opposed by King Francis I of France. King Henry VIII of England advocated for his right hand man, Cardinal Wolsey, and struck a deal with Emperor Charles V of Spain to support him. Wolsey came close to getting the required votes, but fell short because he couldn’t get the support of the French delegation who worried it would give too much power to the English. 

The issue was finally resolved when it was suggested to give the papacy to Adrian of Utrecht, a Dutch scholar who was liked and respected by all the kings.

When Pope Leo X died suddenly (and suspiciously!) in December of 1521, he left the papacy deeply in debt, to the point where his funeral needed to borrow candles from a previous funeral. 

The papal conclave that followed was one of the most openly political events in Roman Catholic history, with the papacy eventually being decided in favor of Adrian of Utrecht.

Although Adrian was almost completely unknown in Rome, he had been the tutor for Charles since Charles was seven-years-old.

For all of his political experience, Adrian wasn’t a very political person. Rather, he was a pious, thoughtful, intelligent, professor, which is what he remained as pope. 

Adrian’s piety wasn’t just a problem with the princes of the era. When Adrian arrived in Rome, he openly expressed his disdain for the ancient art from before the Christian era. The leadership of Rome was insulted, and became convinced he was truly a barbarian. 

 He didn’t make friends with the cardinals, either. When a new pope was installed in Rome, it was customary for him to grant petitions to powerful people to build relationships. Ascanio Colonna, a nephew of one of the Cardinals, came and asked for a pardon for a friend who had been convicted of homicide. Adrian refused, saying, “We cannot pardon without hearing both sides.” The Cardinals were heartbroken. 

Beer break

Greenbush Brewing Co. is situated 12 miles across the Michigan border from Indiana, in Sawyer. While the proximity to Chicago makes for a convenient homeward-bound pit stop along I-94 – the excellent food, constantly rotating tap list, and friendly atmosphere are reason enough to make Greenbush a required ‘Michiana’ destination. 

Headbrewer Peter Hasbrouck is charged with concocting the bevy of brewery year-rounds, seasonals, and one-off beers that can be sampled in an increasing footprint throughout the Midwest.

Pete, thanks for meeting us on your day off. So, how does a fella such as yourself end up brewing here in Sawyer, Michigan?

I have a food background. I went to culinary school up in Grand Rapids. I made my way around in the food industry for a bit. I went to Oregon for a few months for an internship also. Then, I made my way around Grand Rapids and got a chance to work about town and eat everywhere. Part of ‘eating’ is drinking. When I was in Oregon, the sous chef I was working for was home brewing. In Oregon, everyone brews. I was like “Man you got to show me how to do that, I’ve always wanted to learn.” He showed me how to extract-brew and then I bought all of his equipment off of him and drove it back home. This was five or six years ago.

After, I took a culinary job just up the road in Sawyer. And three weeks after that, Greenbush opened [in 2011]. Naturally, I became a patron. It was really small back then. The bartenders were the brewers and the cellermen; they did everything. I brought in some ciders and meads and they thought they were really good. In the wintertime, when things slowed down, I asked if there was any way I could come in and just watch from the corner. They said if I wanted to come by and help, that I just to swing in here. So I started to come in every Monday at 6am. A little bit later they needed a brewer and they were like “You already know the job, so do you want it?”  – Yeah, sure!

As for day to day, I deal with raw material stuff all the way through to carbonation. Ryan Beach is basically my other half. He deals with everything from carbonation to packaging. Labels, kegs, 6-pack holders, talking to sales guys: that’s all him.

Broken Promises

Greenbush Brewing Company

IPA – American

In the land of hop contracts, you can’t always get what you want. Lucky for us, when brewing our Wheat IPA we found Zythos hops, which lend a serious citrus burst to this fine brew. 

 There were four main problems Adrian wanted to address

  1.  Reform the curia
  2.  Free the papacy from politics
  3.  Unite Christendom in Europe
  4.  Resist the Turks. 

No Luther?? There’s no doubt Adrian thought Luther was a heretic. He was consulted by the theological faculty of Louvain before they condemned Luther’s writings. Adrian answered, “Not even a novice in theology could make such mistakes.” When Luther met with the emperor at Worms, Adrian wrote to Charles that it would be agreeable to God, and necessary for his reputation as the emperor, to condemn Luther as a heretic.

 Have to remember that Adrian was the Inquisitor-General in Spain. This was at the height of the infamous “Spanish Inquisition”. All the more curious why Luther didn’t make his short list of major issues. The answer can be found in a letter from Aleander to Adrian.

Aleander wrote: “The axe is laid at the root of the tree, unless we choose to return to wisdom. There is no need of issuing new laws and fulminating Bulls; we have the canons and institutes of the fathers, and if they are only observed, the evil may be arrested. Let the pope and the curia do away with their errors by which God and man are rightly offended… If the Germans see this done, there will be no further talk of Luther.”

 Adrian seemed to take Aleander’s advice. Unfortunately for Adrian, reforming the Curia wasn’t going to be easy. The way Leo had managed the papacy left a large group of bishops and cardinals dependent on the income from the abuses. 

So Adrian had a two prong approach to stopping Luther. First, reform the Curia. Second, follow his inquisitor instincts and come down hard on anybody who he thought was a heretic. 

When the reformation of the Curia didn’t work, Adrian began to push for something like a German version of the Spanish Inquisition. According to Adrian, Luther was even worse than the Turk. 

Mandell Creighton sums it up nicely in “A history of the papacy from the great schism to the sack of Rome”

 “He might have impressed the Romans with the power of holiness, and might have substituted for the worldly policy of his predecessors the ideal of the Christian bishop; but he shut himself up in the Vatican and led the retired life of a studious monk. Secure in his good intentions, absorbed in his plans for the future, he lacked that quick sympathy with actual human needs which alone can make abstract plans intelligible. He was content to make his purposes clear, without seeking how he could give them effective expression. He trusted logic and did not strive to awaken enthusiasm. He was more anxious to keep clear from doing evil than to do good. His attitude was negative rather than positive.”

  Most historians will say that Adrian’s inability to make political alliances was a major contributor to the fall of Rhodes and the rise of the Ottomans. 

 In early September of 1523, only a year and a half after he was installed as pope, it became clear that Adrian was very sick. On September 14, the Cardinals rushed to his bedside when they heard he was at his final hour. 

 They were not interested in carrying out his plans. They were not interested in the welfare of the church. They wanted to know where he hid all the money. He raised taxes, but lived very frugally. They were certain that he was a miser. He answered that he didn’t have anything but small savings. They refused to believe him and grilled him like a criminal. When Adrian died, the people of Rome were so happy, they put up a wreath on the door of the doctor who treated Adrian as he died. The wreath, “To the deliverer of his country” 

 Unfortunately, Adrian wasn’t the right man to pull away the attention of the masses from the interests of politics to the real issues. Adrian would be the last non-Italian to be elected pope until John Paul II’s election to the papacy in 1978.


Thanks to our listeners

Thanks to Josh

Recognition of source materials

 A history of the papacy by Mandell Creighton

 Modern Europe Vol 1, 1453 – 1530, by Thomas Dyer


 Contact us

 Let us know if you’d like to host a roadtrip.


Episode 37 – The New Pope

As the cardinals gathered in Rome in early 1522 to elect a new pope after the unexpected death of Pope Leo X in December 1521, they all recognized that the world had changed dramatically since Leo’s election in 1513.

Not only did Martin Luther challenge the authority of the church and the pope, the Turks were traveling up the Danube River, threatening the eastern regions of Europe, there were three new young kings making dangerous threats against each other and, most urgently, the church was deeply in debt.

The cardinals recognized they needed somebody learned enough to engage in the theological battles, but they also needed someone with experience in the politics of the day and able to calm the warrior princes. They were initially thrilled when they finally settled on Cardinal Adrian Boeyens, the scholar who was first selected to tutor Emperor Charles when he was young, then subsequently selected by the Emperor to manage Spain while the emperor was in Germany.

Within minutes of announcing the selection, the cardinals got their first indication that they had made a mistake when the people of Rome almost rioted after hearing the news.


We’ve spent quite a bit of time talking about the rise and fall of Thomas Müntzer and the Peasants Revolt of 1524 and 1525. This episode goes back to December of 1521.

Luther started December of 1521 in the Wartburg castle, hiding from his enemies, and increasingly concerned about the rumors he had begun hearing about growing Reformation excesses back in Wittenberg.

Pope Leo X

Meanwhile, on December 1, 1521 in Rome, Luther’s primary opponent, Pope Leo X, died (supposedly of pneumonia) at age 46. Leo died suddenly, and wasn’t even given last rites, one day after he complained about the wine that had been handed to him. The pope’s cup-bearer was arrested the next morning, but was released by the pope’s cousin, Cardinal Giulio de’ Medici before any inquiry could be made. The reason the cardinal gave for releasing the cup-bearer was, “lest some great prince should be found mixed up in the matter, and he should thus acquire an implacable enemy.”

The pope’s cousin was the lead candidate for the papacy. The respected 19th century historian, Thomas Dyer, believed the cardinal shut down the inquiry mostly because he didn’t want to lose votes for the papacy. (Sorta hard to campaign for votes from somebody who killed your cousin.)

There was a full agenda left by Leo.

The Turks were threatening Hungary; The young kings of France, England and Spain were ready and anxious for war; Lutheranism was a continually growing irritation.

Most urgently, the church was completely broke. Leo’s “table” alone cost about 100,000 ducats per year (around $15 M in 2018 dollars). Upon his death, Leo had debts of about 850,000 ducats (~$127 M), with no money in the papal treasury to pay.

Leo’s friends, who had loaned him all this money, took whatever wasn’t nailed down at the Vatican to try to recoup their losses. They were so broke, the Vatican couldn’t afford new candles for Leo’s funeral. They had to reuse the candles from the recent funeral of Cardinal Riario.

After the death of Leo, the Roman church engaged in one of the most open and politically motivated papal conclaves in all of history. There were three strong factions, trying to manipulate the voting for their own benefit. So the conclave was stuck in a deadlock.

  • Thomas Wolsey, supported by Emperor Charles and King Henry VIII didn’t have enough votes.
  • Tomasso Soderini, supported by Francis I, king of France, also didn’t have enough votes.
  • Giulio de’ Medici, who was the most qualified, was opposed by Francis, who threatened to leave the Catholic church if another Medici was elected.

Suddenly, out of the blue, Cardinal Medici suggested Adrian of Utrecht.

Adrian of Utrect, Pope Adrian VI

Who was Adrian? He was the tutor to the emperor from the time the emperor was 7 years old. As the emperor grew in power, he gave Adrian more important positions of authority. In 1515, Charles wanted to be the ruler of Spain, instead of his younger brother, Ferdinand. Adrian was sent to Spain to negotiate with Charles’ father. Adrian succeeded and Charles was made the ruler of Spain when his father died. Charles then appointed Adrian Bishop of Tortosa. The appointment was approved by Pope Leo X in Aug of 1518.

When Charles left Spain to become the emperor, he left Adrian in charge.

Almost immediately after Adrian was suggested, he was elected to be the next pope on January 9, 1522.

Beer break

Schlenkerla has a quite extensive description of each of their beers and the processes used to brew them on their website—in English, no less. Just visit

Schlenkerla claims to smoke their own malt, so maybe Weyermann supplies Spezial, which is the other Bamberg brewery that makes Rauchbier.

There are also a couple of breweries in neighboring villages that make Rauchbier. Schlenkerla, which is the most smoky of the three, to be the most widely distributed.

Don’t be offended if you don’t like it.

Back to Adrian

When Adrian arrived outside the walls of Rome, on Aug 29, the cardinals greeted him with a speech about the kinds of reforms they hoped he would implement. Adrian answered that they must first stop sheltering evil-doers in their palaces, and allow the police free access to make arrests. The cardinals were stunned.

One of them didn’t get the memo, and came forward with a request for a pardon for someone convicted of murder. Adrian said, “We cannot pardon without hearing both sides.” The cardinals were devastated.

On August 31, almost nine months after his election, Adrian walked into Rome. He traveled by foot as a sign of his humility. When he arrived at the Roman gate, he took off his shoes and hose as a sign of respect for the city

This made a great impression on the general populace who immediately respected Adrian.

Things didn’t go as well with the higher classes.

He didn’t speak Italian. He had no understanding of Italian manners. Most significantly, he had no appreciation of art. When he saw some of the Roman art from the time of Christ, he turned in horror and cried out, “These are pagan idols!”

This was one of the few times Adrian was passionate about anything. Adrian was almost always relaxed, peaceful, quiet and easy going. The upper classes of Rome even hated this. Before Adrian, Leo was like a never-ending party. Before Leo, Julius was providing all sorts of excitement by continually starting wars with his enemies. They hated that Adrian was boring.

Adrian had arrived in Rome.

We’ll be covering the pontificate of Adrian in our next episode.

Thank You

  • Thanks to our listeners and thanks to Josh our sound engineer.

Recognition of source materials

  • Thomas Henry Dyer – Modern Europe Volume 1 (1453 -1530)
  • Mandell Creighton – A History of the Papacy from the Great Schism to the Sack of Rome
  • Vatican website
  • Wikipedia
  • Contact us
    • Let us know if you’d like to host a roadtrip.
  • We would appreciate any reviews you could post on iTunes. Helps to get the word out.