Episode 39 – The House of Medici

After the death of Pope Adrian IV, the young kings of Spain, France and England seemed to be less interested in manipulating the election of the next pope. Perhaps because they realized that they could not predict the behavior of a pope. 

The disinterest of the kings allowed the cardinals to maneuver amongst themselves for the position of pope, leaving Leo X cousin, Giulio de Medici with a distinct advantage. 


The papal elections are a really good window into 16th century politics. 

When Leo X died in December 1521, the logical replacement was his cousin, Giulio. Giulio was Leo’s Vice-Chancellor (2nd in command of the church) since March, 1517, just a few months before Luther posted his 95 theses. Effectively, Giulio was Leo’s right-hand-man from the beginning of his pontificate in 1513. But he couldn’t be officially Leo’s Vice-Chancellor. He was the illegitimate son of Leo’s uncle, Giuliano de’ Medici. Since he was illegitimate, he was not allowed to hold high ranking positions within the church. Leo’s first acts as pope was to declare that his cousin’s birth was legitimate because his parents were “wed according to the word of the those present.”

Nobody knows if this was true, but it opened the door for Giulio to become a Cardinal. He was immediately recognized as an unusually skilled statesman. In January, 1514, Henry VIII named him the Cardinal protector of England. Cardinal protector was responsible for representing England in the Roman Curia, or as Henry VIII said, “for the defense of us and our realm in all matters of the Curia.”

Francis I of France also recognized Giulio’s unusual skills and appointed him to the Cardinal protector of France in 1516. Amazing since Henry and Francis hated each other. Having Giulio as the French Cardinal Protector didn’t work out well for Francis, though. When the personal rivalry between Francis and Emperor Charles V broke into war in northern Italy, Giulio Medici sided with Charles.

Giulio distrusted Francis because he was selecting French bishops who were more loyal to the king than to the church. Francis gained the ability to name bishops when he defeated the pope in the battle of Merignano in 1515. The agreement between Francis and the church was called the concordant of Bologna. 

Giulio’s betrayal of France left Francis furious. When Leo died in 1521, Francis made it clear that he would leave the church if Giulio was elected pope, leading to the election of Adrian. After Adrian died in Sept 1523, the Roman people were excited to have a new pope named. They were tired of Adrian and wanted to have a new leader who would better understand them. 

The conclave opened on Oct 1. 

When the Roman leadership started to complain shortly after the conclave opened, the cardinals played for time, telling the Roman leadership that the entire French party had not yet arrived. 

The French party finally settled on Cardinal Gianmaria del Monte. Cardinal Medici promised that he would give up 3 votes if Cardinal Monte could get 18 votes, which would have given Cardinal Monte 21 votes. It also would have given a green light to the Medici party to vote for Monte in the next round (scrutiny). 

Monte originally got 16 votes, but when the members of the French party saw that he was gaining traction, three of them changed their vote to get him to 19. Medici said that Monte would have had to have gotten 18 votes the first time around, so his offer was rescinded. This further infuriated the French party, so no progress was made for a few days. 

 To try to get things moving again, Medici suggested that the French party agree on one name. (Assume it was implied that he would support who ever they agreed on, if they could all agree.)

 The French party was broken up into two groups. 

 ◦ The juniors, who were willing to work together.

 ◦ The seniors, who were all trying to get themselves elected. 

Medici’s proposal caused even more internal strife between the junior members of the French party and the senior members. 

Beer break

Ballast Point Brewing Co – Victory at Sea


They started out in 1996 as a small group of San Diego home brewers who simply wanted to make a better beer. In our exploration, they became obsessed with ingredients—tinkering, testing and tasting to find the perfect balance of taste and aroma. That adventurous spirit leads to award-winning beers in classic and unique styles while challenging their own tastes and expanding yours.


Robust coffee, sweet caramel, and aromatic vanilla.


The Ballast Point Victory at Sea Imperial Porter is a bold, smooth brew with just the right amount of sweetness. They infused this robust porter with vanilla and San Diego’s own Caffe Calabria coffee beans. The subtle roasted notes and minimal acidity of the cold brewed coffee, balances perfectly with the sweet caramel undertones of the malt, creating a winning combination for your palate.

Time for the election to be over

There were two main groups battling for the papacy.

  • The imperialists, who had about 16 votes and were supporters of Giulio Medici.
  • The French, who had about 19 votes, and were only committed to having somebody other than Medici. 

Up until now, we’ve been highlighting the problems with the French as being between the juniors, who were willing to work together, and the seniors, who were trying to get themselves elected. This is a very simplified view of the French politics. It’s a little difficult to figure out what exactly was happening in the French party, but we’re going to have to give it a try to untangle what happens next. 

First, Alberto Pio, an ambassador of the king of France, showed up in late October. He was a friend of Medici. He tried to convince the French party that Medici would be as good for France as anybody. Although he wasn’t immediately successful, he softened them up a little. 

On November 11, the Roman magistrates threatened to reduce the food for the cardinals to just bread and water.  At this point, Cardinal Farnese, made his move. He approached the Duke of Sessa, to make a deal. The Duke of Sessa was a Spanish noble who was closely aligned with the emperor. 

Cardinal Farnese offered to give the Duke substantial amount of money and a cardinalate for the duke’s brother if the duke would support giving the imperial votes to Farnese. This seems like it worked, because shortly afterward, one of the leaders of the French party, Cardinal Colonna, proposed Farnese as the next pope.

We are starting to see the French block breaking up. Several cardinals objected to Farnese on moral grounds. He was well known to have mistresses and children. Sort of a throwback to the pre-reformation popes. 

There were a couple of versions of what happened next in the literature. Both have to do with Colonna, one of the leaders of the French party. 

  •  One version says that Colonna, claimed he was frustrated that the French had turned against his candidate Farnese, so gave his support to Medici. 
  •  Another source says that when the Farnese proposal fell apart, the majority of the French said they supported Cardinal Orsini. 

 The Colonna and Orsini families hated each other. So Colonna, who only controlled 4 votes, realized that he would be more appreciated in the Medici camp. He threw his four votes over to Medici. After the election, Colonna received a palace and the position of second in command (Vice-Chancellor) of the Vatican in return. 

We have a pope

Either way – on November 19, 1523, Giulio de’ Medici became Pope Clement VII

Clement inherited a mess from his cousin, Leo X, and things didn’t get any better under Adrian VI. 

Now we’re caught up with the popes.

For our next episode, we’ll get back to Luther. 

Sign off

Thanks to our listeners.

Thanks to Josh

Recognition of source materials


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.