Welcome to the Explore Utrecht Mini Tours! In the next six weeks, together with our photographer Daniel , I will take you in a discovery journey in our beloved city, through pictures and words. We will go to certain places, which we believe is interesting and deserves more appreciation.
Pope Adrian VI (Adriaen Floriszoon Boeyens) was the only Dutch Pope in history and was the last non-Italian who filled the highest function in the Catholic Church, until the Polish Cardinal Karol Josef Wojtyla (John Paul II) was elected in 1978. Adrian had an extraordinary life, but it was not without challenges. In this mini tour, we will ‘travel back in time’, to learn more about him and about Utrecht in the 15th and 16th century.
We will start our tour at the intersection between the Oudegracht and the Brandsteeg; the location of Adrian’s birth home, Oudegracht 265. His father, Florens Boeyens, was a shipwright and his mother’s name was Geertruid. Adrian’s father passed away when he was very young. But somehow he got the opportunity to pursue an education at a school that was connected to one of the churches in the city (read more about this in the previous mini tour on the Romanesque style). Between Brandsteeg and the Wed, there was a patchwork of monastery and immunities, such as the Regulieren monastery, Catherijne convent and Paulusabdij (St Paul’s Abbey). At Wed 1, which is now part of Oudegracht 168, there used to be a collegiate school, which belonged to the Oudmunster, also known as the Sint Salvatorkerk (St Salvator’s Church), which used to be located at the Dom square.
Adrian turned out to be a bright student and went to a Latin school in Zwolle. At the Kromme Nieuwegracht, nearby the Hieronymusplantsoen, there used to be a Latin School which was founded on 1474 and called Sint Hieronymus School. Just like in Zwolle, the school was founded by Broeders der Gemene Leven (the Brethren of Common Life), a religious group which practiced their beliefs according to “Devotio Moderna” (the Modern Devotion). This movement called upon their followers to reinvigorate their connection with God through genuine pious practices, such as humility, hard work, obedience, and by leading a simple life. This movement had a great influence on Adrian in his personal development.
From the moment he was ordained a priest in 1490, Adrian’s career rose quickly. In 1492, he became a pastor in Zeeland and got connected with the church and the Universities in Antwerp and Leuven. In 1515, he left University of Leuven and in 1507 he was appointed to be a teacher, preceptor and diplomat to the future Emperor, Charles V, and his family. It’s possible that he, due to his good work, was appointed as Bishop of Tortosa in East of Spain in 1517, where he acted as substitute to the Head of the Government in Spain. It was in the same year that he gave an order to build the Paushuize (The Pope’s House) on the Pausdam, where, unfortunately, he never got to live in.
Following the sudden death of Pope Leo X (Giovanni de Medici) in 1521, the Cardinals were not able to conclude the conclave. They did not really trust one another and went on to elect a benevolent man who they believed would serve as a good pope: the absentee, Cardinal of Tortosa, Adriaen Floriszoon Boeyens.
Perhaps it was his gloomy and severe appearance or the massive cutbacks he implemented. Or perhaps it was the daunting growth of Prostentantism that made Adrian rather unpopular among the Cardinals and the Roman Catholic followers. Just a year after his election, Pope Adrian VI got ill and passed away on 14 September 1523.
To honor him, a statue of was erected in from of the Pope’s House in 2015. So, go have a walk along the Kromme Nieuwegracht and take a good look at the cloisters on the Domplein and its surrounding. There is still a lot to discover!