The Cardinals of the Holy Roman Church

Biographical Dictionary
Pope Alexander VI (1492-1503)
Consistory of January 16, 1495 (IV)
Celebrated at the Apostolic Palace, Rome


(1) 1. BRIÇONNET, Guillaume (1445-1514)

Birth. 1445 (1), Tours, France. Signeur of Plessis-Rideau. Son of Jean Briçonnet, seigneur of Varennes, treasurer of Spain, and Jeanne Berthelot. He was called the Cardinal of Saint-Malo, of Reims, and of Narbonne.

Education. (No information found).

Early life. He married Raoulette de Beaune and had five children; two of them became bishops: Guillaume of Lodève and Meaux; and Denis of Toulon, Lodève and Saint-Malo. He was général of finances of Languedoc under King Louis XI; and superintendent and counselor under King Charles VIII. After his wife died in 1487, he entered the ecclesiastical state.

Priesthood. Ordained (no further information found). Canon of the chapter of Saint-Martin de Tours.

Episcopate. Elected bishop of Saint Malo, October 2, 1493; resigned the see on August 16, 1514 in favor of his son Denis (2); he had published the synodal ordinances and was admired by his zeal and piety; a manual of prayers, Livres d'Heures, was attributed to him. Consecrated (no information found). Abbot commendatario of the monasteries of Saint-Aubin and Saint-Nicolas, diocese of Angers, October 2, 1493; he loved to officiate with his two sons, one as a deacon and the other as a subdeacon. Abbot commendatario of Grandmont, March 15, 1494 until 1507. On August 25, 1494, he became garde des sceaux of King Charles VIII. As the main adviser of King Charles VIII, he accompanied him in the war of Italy and left his brother Pierre in charge of the finances in Languedoc; and with his son Jean that of Dauphini and Provence. A skillful negotiator, he extorted from the Medicis 17,500 ducats, at the time of the first Naples campaign. His role in the Italian policy of King Charles VIII was decisive and thus he was the instigator of the conquest of the kingdom of Naples. Promoted to the cardinalate at the request of King Charles VIII after the reconciliation between the king and the pope.

Cardinalate. Created cardinal priest in the consistory of January 16, 1495; received the red hat and the title of S. Pudenziana, January 19, 1495 (3); the king of France attended the consistory. He arrived in Rome from Florence on March 5, 1495. Chancellor of France in August 1495. Administrator of the see of Nîmes on October 26, 1496; occupied the post until his death. Promoted to the metropolitan see of Reims, August 24, 1497; succeeded his brother Robert; the election was astutely prepared by the handing-over of one golden écu to each one of the canons; resigned the see on September 16, 1507. Administrator of the see of Toulon, 1497-1501; resigned in favor of his son Denis, bishop of Lodève. The death of King Charles in 1498 marked the beginning of the loss of his influence to the benefit of his compatriot George d'Amboise, future cardinal. On May 27, 1498, he consecrated King Louis XII in Reims, assisted by his two sons, Guillaume, bishop of Lodève, and Denis, bishop of Toulon. Received an indult to be able to confer benefices, September 30, 1506; renewed, 1514. Arrived in Bologna from France right before November 10, 1506. Abbot commendatario of the Benedictine monastery of Saint-Germain des Prés, Paris, August 20, 1501 (4); it had been reserved for him on May 30, 1496; resigned in favor of his son Guillaume on September 24, 1507. Did not participate in the first conclave of 1503, which elected Pope Pius III. Did not participate in the second conclave of 1503, which elected Pope Julius II. With the election of the new Pope Julius II, the relations between King Louis XII and the pontiff worsened. The new pope, alarmed by the Italian policy of France, which was encouraged by Cardinal Briçonnet, obtained the alliance of Ferdinand to whom he gave the nomination of the kingdom of Naples. Named metropolitan archbishop of Narbonne, July 15, 1507; occupied the see until his death. Opted for the suburbicarian see of Albano, September 17, 1507. Lieutenant general of the king in Languedoc, 1507. Opted for the suburbicarian see of Frascati, September 22, 1508. Opted for the suburbicarian see of Palestrina, June 3, 1509; deprived, October 24, 1511.

A French national council was called in Orléans, and then in Tours in 1510; the prelates declared there that the king could fight the pope for the safety of his possessions and that the censures pronounced against him were without value; they freed the kingdom of France from the obedience of Pope Julius II. Cardinal Briçonnet was in Rome in July 1510 when Pope Julius II convoked him to Viterbo; he did not go to the Eternal City and entered into a conflict with the pope; in October he arrived in Milan via Florence and Pavia. On March 1, 1511, the bishops of France, at their meeting in Lyon, called a general council of the church; Cardinal Briçonnet was one of the cardinals who signed the document of May 16, 1511, asking the pope to appear before the schismatic Council of Pisa on September 1, 1511; fourteen cardinals, fifteen bishops, abbots, the deputies of the universities of Toulouse and Poitiers, and some doctors of Paris were present at the opening; Cardinal Briçonnet arrived in Pisa on October 30, 1511 and participated in the sessions of the pseudo council. Pope Julius II put an interdict on the kingdom of France and the Pisans raised against the council; the assembly had to continue its meetings in Milan from January 1512; on April 19th, the pope was asked to appear; the 21st he was declared suspended by contumance; the French troops having had to leave Milan, the council had to be transferred and completed its sessions first in Asti and then in Lyon. The pope deposed him as a cardinal and excommunicated him on October 24, 1511 together with Cardinals Federico di Sanseverino, Francisco Borja, Bernardino López de Carvajal, and René de Prie. The pope decided to call a general council and the V Lateran Council was opened on May 3, 1512 in the presence of Pope Julius II, fifteen cardinals, the Latin patriarchs of Alexandria and of Antioch, ten archbishops, fifty-six bishops, abbots, and the ambassadors of King Ferdinand, Venice and Florence, but in the absence of prelates who were at the meeting in Pisa. Pope Julius II died on February 21, 1513. Did not participate in the conclave of 1513, which elected Pope Leo X. The council was continued by the new pontiff, Leo X, who pronounced it closed on March 16, 1517; the acts of the council of Pisa were canceled and excommunications were confirmed; at the time of the eighth session, on December 17, 1513, an act of King Louis XII was read in which he repudiated the council of Pisa and adhered to the council of the Lateran and supported the return towards unity; at the ninth session, the French prelates made their submission and adhered to the Lateran Council; the pope then pronounced the discharge of the censures; on December 19, 1516, the council condemned and revoked the Pragmatic Sanction of Bourges of July 7, 1438 and approved the Concordat of Bologna of August 1516. Cardinal Briçonnet was absolved and restored by Pope Leo X on April 7, 1514, after having retracted his errors in a public consistory through his son Denis, bishop of Toulon. He did not regain the suburbicarian see of Palestrina. Then he withdrew to his see of Narbonne, where he died. He was called by his contemporaries Oraculum regis, regni columna.

Death. December 14, 1514, Narbonne. Buried in the tomb of black and white marble that he had built in the metropolitan cathedral of Saint-Just, Narbonne.

Bibliography. Anselme de Sainte-Marie ; Dufourny, Honoré Caille ; Ange de Sainte-Rosalie ; Simplicien. Histoire g én éalogique et chronologique de la maison royale de France, des pairs, grands officiers de la couronne & de la maison du roy: & des anciens barons du royaume: avec les qualitez, l'origine, le progres & les armes de leurs familles; ensemble des statuts & le catalogue des chevaliers, cammandeurs, & officiers de l'ordre du S. Esprit. Le tout dresse sur titres originaux, sur les registres des des chartes du roy, du parlement, de la chambre des comptes & du chatelet des Paris ... & d'autres cabinets curieux. 9 vols. Paris : La Compagnie des libraires, 3. éd., rev., corrigée & augmentée par les soins du P. Ange & du P. Simplicien, 1726-1733, II, 48-49; Berton, Charles. Dictionnaire des cardinaux, contenant des notions générales sur le cardinalat, la nomenclature complète ..., des cardinaux de tous les temps et de tous les pays ... les détails biographiques essentiels sur tous les cardinaux ... de longues études sur les cardinaux célèbre ... Paris : J.-P. Migne, 1857 ; Facsimile edition. Farnborough ; Gregg, 1969, col. 598; Cardella, Lorenzo. Memorie storiche de' cardinali della Santa Romana Chiesa. Rome : Stamperia Pagliarini, 1793, III, 268-270; Chacón, Alfonso. Vitæ, et res gestæ Pontificvm Romanorum et S. R. E. Cardinalivm ab initio nascentis Ecclesiæ vsque ad Vrbanvm VIII. Pont. Max. 2 volumes. Romae : Typis Vaticanis, 1630, II, col. 1331; Chevalier, Bernard. Guillaume Briçonnet (v. 1445-1514) : un cardinal-ministre au début de la Renaissance : marchand, financier, homme d'État et prince de l'Église. Rennes : Presses universitaires de Rennes, 2005. (Histoire. Presses universitaires de Rennes; Variation: Collection "Histoire" (Rennes, France); "Essai de liste générale des cardinaux. VIII. Les cardinaux du XVIe siècle". Annuaire Pontifical Catholique 1935. Paris : Maison de la Bonne Presse, 1935, p. 123; Eubel, Conradus and Gulik, Guglielmus van. Hierarchia Catholica Medii Aevi. Volumen II (1431-1503). Münich : Sumptibus et Typis Librariae Regensbergianae, 1914; reprint, Padua : Il Messagero di S. Antonio, 1960, pp. 23, 64, 183, 201, 223 and 252, ; Eubel, Conradus and Gulik, Guglielmus van. Hierarchia Catholica Medii Aevi. Volumen III (1503-1592). Münich : Sumptibus et Typis Librariae Regensbergianae, 1935; reprint, Padua : Il Messagero di S. Antonio, 1960, pp. 55, 57, 58, 231, 253, 255, 284.

Webgraphy. Biography, in English; biography, in French; his genealogy and biography in French, in "V" under and "BRICONNET (Tours)"; biography in French; his engraving; his arms on a stone in the church of Saint-Sylvestre; his tomb in the cathedral of Narbonne.

(1) This is according to his second and third biographies in French, linked above, and Chevalier, Guillaume Briçonnet (v. 1445-1514) : un cardinal-ministre au début de la Renaissance : marchand, financier, homme d'État et prince de l'Église; "Essai de liste générale des cardinaux. VIII. Les cardinaux du XVIe siècle". Annuaire Pontifical Catholique 1935, p. 123, says that he was born in 1451.
(2) This is according to all the sources consulted except his first biography in French, linked above, which indicates that he kept the see until his death.
(3) This is according to "Essai de liste générale des cardinaux. VIII. Les cardinaux du XVIe siècle". Annuaire Pontifical Catholique 1935, p. 123; Chacón, Vitæ, et res gestæ Pontificvm Romanorum et S. R. E. Cardinalivm, II, col. 1331, says that he received the title and the ring in the secret consistory of January 21, 1495.
(4) This is according to "Essai de liste générale des cardinaux. VIII. Les cardinaux du XVIe siècle". Annuaire Pontifical Catholique 1935, p. 123; his first biography in French, linked above, says that he was named in 1504; and his second biography in French, also linked above, says that he was elected in September 1503.

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