August 23 – Cardinal-General

August 20, 2015

Alvarez Carillo Gil de Albornoz

Cardinal AlbornozA renowned cardinal, general, and statesman; born about 1310 at Cuenca in New Castile; died 23 Aug., 1367, at the Castle of Bonriposo, near Viterbo, in Italy.

His father, Don Garcia, was a descendant of King Alfonso V of Leon, and his mother, Teresa de Luna, belonged to the royal house of Aragon. After studying law at Toulouse, he became royal almoner, soon after Archdeacon of Calatrava, and, finally, on 13 May, 1338, Archbishop of Toledo. In 1340 he accompanied King Alfonso XI on his campaign against the Moors, saved the life of the king in the battle of Rio Salado on 30 Oct., 1340, and took part in the siege of Algeciras in 1344.

Gil Álvarez Carrillo de AlbornozAs Archbishop of Toledo he held two reform synods, one at Toledo in May, 1339 (Mansi, XXV, 1143-8), the other at Alcala, in April, 1347 (Mansi, XXVI, 123-6). In March, 1350, Alfonso XI was succeeded by his son Pedro “El Cruel”, whom Albornoz on various occasions severely rebuked for his cruelty and lasciviousness. As a result the king conceived a deadly hatred of him and sought his life. The archbishop fled from Spain and took refuge at the papal court in Avignon, where Clement VI received him kindly and created him Cardinal-Priest of San Clemente, 17 Dec., 1350, whereupon Albornoz resigned as Archbishop of Toledo. Two years and a half later Innocent VI entrusted him with the restoration of papal authority in the ecclesiastical territories of Italy. The Bull appointing him legate and vicar-general of the Papal States with extraordinary powers was issued on 30 June, 1353. During the sojourn of the popes at Avignon the ecclesiastical territories of Italy had, to all intents and purposes, become lost to the popes. The intrepid cardinal set out for Italy in the autumn of 1353 at the head of a small army of mercenaries. After gaining the support of the influential Archbishop Giovanni Visconti of Milan and that of Pisa, Florence, and Siena, he began his military operations against the powerful Giovanni di Vico, Prefect of Rome, Lord of Viterbo and usurper of a large tract of papal territory. The latter was defeated in the battle of Orvieto, 10 March, 1354. A treaty was concluded at Montefiascone on 5 June, whereupon Giovanni di Vico made his submission to the cardinal at Orvieto. In order to gain the support of the prefect for the future, the cardinal appointed him Governor of Corneto for twelve years. Innocent VI was displeased at the easy terms of the treaty, but the cardinal justified his act by pointing out the necessity of prudence for his final success. The pope had already previously sent Cola di Rienzi, the former tribune of Rome, to Italy to be used by the cardinal as he saw fit. The cardinal did not trust the visionary Rienzi, and for a time kept him at Perugia; but upon the repeated request of the Romans and of Rienzi himself, he finally appointed him Senator of Rome, to replace Guido dell’ Isola who showed himself powerless against the intrigues of the Roman nobility. On 1 Aug., 1354, Rienzi entered Rome and was hailed by the people as a liberator. Soon, however, his cruelty, his oppressive taxes, and his costly revelries made him hated, and during a popular tumult on 8 Oct., 1354, he fell a victim to the fury of the mob. After the fall of Rienzi, the cardinal restored order in Rome.

miniature showing Cardinal Albornoz receiving the keys of the subject Italian cities.

miniature showing Cardinal Albornoz receiving the keys of the subject Italian cities.

The submission of Giovanni di Vico resulted in the return of the Papal States (in their narrow sense) and the Duchy of Spoleto to papal authority. Albornoz now turned his attention to the restoration of the March of Ancona and the Romagna. After gaining to his side Gentile da Mogliano of Fermo and Ridolfo da Varano of Camerino, he began military operations against the two powerful Malatestas of Rimini. The Malatestas allied themselves with their enemy, Francesco degli Ordelaffi, who had usurped a large part of the Romagna. They also won over the faithless Gentile da Mogliano. Ridolfo da Varano, to whom the cardinal had given the supreme command of the papal army, gained a signal victory over Galeotto de’ Malatesta near Paterno, and on 2 June, 1355, a treaty was concluded with the Malatestas, which was approved by Innocent VI on 20 June. Henceforth the Malatestas were faithful allies of the papal forces. Their submission was soon followed by that of Montefeltro, which brought the districts of Urbino and Cagli under the power of the cardinal. Shortly after, the cities of Sinigaglia and Ancona, and the two brothers Bernardino and Guido da Polenta, Lords of Ravenna and Cervia, submitted to the cardinal. Towards the end of 1355 Albornoz was appointed Bishop of Sabina. Giovanni and Riniero de’ Manfredi, of Faenza, and Francesco degli Ordelaffi, of the Romagna, stubbornly refused to submit. In 1356 a crusade was preached against them by order of the pope. The Manfredi surrendered Faenza to Albornoz, 10 Nov., 1356, but Ordelaffi and his wife, the warlike Marzia, were still unconquered. The cardinal had repeatedly asked Innocent VI to be recalled to Avignon. Now that all the usurpers of the Papal States with the exception of Ordelaffi had been subdued, the pope granted his request and sent Androin de la Roche, Abbot of Cluny, to replace him in Italy. Before returning to Avignon, the cardinal held a meeting of the vicars of the papal territory on 29 April, 1357, and the two following days. At this meeting he published his famous Constitutions for the Papal States, “Constitutiones Sanctæ Matris Ecclesiæ”, generally known as the “Egidian Constitutions”. When he made known to the assembled vicars his intention to return to Avignon, they all urged him to remain, at least till September. He reluctantly consented and at once began military operations against Ordelaffi. On 21 June he took Cesena, and Bertinoro fell into his hands on 25 July. When the cardinal departed for Avignon in September, Ordelaffi was still master of Forlì and a few other strongholds of the Romagna. On 23 October the cardinal arrived at Avignon, was received with high honours by the pope, and hailed as “Pater Ecclesiæ”.

Cardinal Gil Álvarez de AlbornozAlbornoz remained only a short time at Avignon. His successor in Italy, the Abbot of Cluny, lacked the military training to contend successfully with the skilled and valiant Ordelaffi. Moreover, the intrigues of Giovanni di Vico in the Papal States and fresh disturbances in Rome required the presence of Albornoz in Italy. The pope ordered him to return thither in December, 1358. He at once began operations against Ordelaffi, whose endeavours to buy the Condottiere Lando and his Grand Company into his service he frustrated by a contract with Lando. Ordelaffi was finally compelled to surrender, and on 4 July, 1359, the cardinal took possession of Forlì. He allowed Ordelaffi to rule as papal vicar over Forlimpopoli and Castrocaro. In Rome, during the cardinal’s absence, the people had established the septemviri to rule jointly with the senator. Deeming it imprudent to go against the will of the people, he consented to the new arrangement, but reserved the appointment of the senator to the pope. With the exception of Bologna, the entire pontifical territory now again acknowledged the sovereignty of the pope. Giovanni d’Ollegio, who had possession of Bologna, was engaged in a war with Bernabò Visconti of Milan, who attempted to become master of Bologna. Unable to contend with the powerful Bernabò, Giovanni d’Ollegio surrendered Bologna to the cardinal, who tried in vain to arrive at an amicable arrangement with Bernabò. Meanwhile Innocent VI had died (12 Sept., 1362). Albornoz refused the tiara which was offered him, and Urban V was elected pope. Under him Albornoz continued his military operations against Bernabò, whose stubborn resistance was the principal obstacle to the crusade which Urban V intended to undertake against the Turks. When all other attempts failed, the pope published a crusade against, Bernabò in the spring of 1363. In April the cardinal gained a victory at Salaruolo, near Modena, and the complete subjection of this stubborn tyrant was now only a question of time. But the idea of a crusade against the Turks had so completely taken possession of the pope that on 13 March, 1364, a hurried peace was concluded, the conditions of which were extremely favourable to Bernabò, who received 500,000 gold florins for his surrender of the city and principality of Bologna.

Gil_Alvaro_Carillo_de_AlbornozThe cardinal had now completed the difficult task that had been entrusted to him by Innocent VI. He had again subjected the whole pontifical territory to the papal authority and thereby made it possible for the pope to return to Rome. But he did not receive the gratitude which he had so well earned. Urban V gave credence to the cardinal’s enemies who accused him of having misappropriated papal moneys. In consequence the management of the temporal affairs of the Romagna was taken from Albornoz and given to the Bishop of Ravenna. Hereupon the cardinal asked to be recalled from Italy and addressed a letter to the pope in which he gave an account of his management. The pope discovered his mistake and in his answer gave due credit for the inestimable service which Albornoz had performed for the papacy. In 1367 Urban V returned to Rome; Albornoz received him at Viterbo, but died before the pope came to Rome. In accordance with his wish he was buried in the church of St. Francis at Assisi, but four years later his remains were transferred to Toledo. His Constitutions for the Papal States were among the earliest books printed in Italy (Jesi, 1473); they remained in force until 1816. He is also the author of a compilation of all the documents relating to the subjection of the March of Ancona. They are preserved in the papal archives under the title “Codex legationis Cardinalis Egidii Albornotii”. In his will (29 Sept., 1364) he provided for the foundation of the Spanish College of St. Clement at Bologna (Collegium Albornotianum) with 24 Spanish students and 2 chaplains.

Tomb of the Cardinal in the Cathedral of Santa María de Toledo.

Tomb of the Cardinal in the Cathedral of Santa María de Toledo.

Rashdall (Hist. of Universities, Oxford, 1895, I, 200) says that it was the first Continental college “on a scale at all approaching that with which we are familiar in the English Universities”, and was the model of many others in Italy and Spain. It still flourishes upon its ancient site, in sumptuously adorned sixteenth-century buildings, under control of the Spanish Government, which sends thither candidates for the diplomatic service who have the B.A. degree of a Spanish university.


WURM, Cardinal Albornoz, der zweite Begründer des Kirchenstaats (Paderborn, 1892); CHRISTOPHE, Hist. de la papauté pendant le XIVe siècle (Paris, 1853), II; SALVI, Il Cardinale Egidio Albornoz e gli archivi di Sanginesio, documenti originali di sua legazione (Camerino, 1890); MURATORI, Annali d’Italia (Venice, 1823), XIX; WERUNSKY, Italienische Politik Papst Innocenz’ VI. und König Karls IV. (Vienna, 1878); SEPULVEDA, De vitâ, et rebus gestis Ægidii Albornotii Carilli S. R. E. Cardinalis libri tres (Rome, 1521), Sp. tr. by VELA (Toledo, 1566), and DOCAMPO (Bologna, 1612); It. tr. by STEPHANO (Bologna, 1590).

MICHAEL OTT (Catholic Encyclopedia)


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