The Cardinals of the Holy Roman Church

Biographical Dictionary
Pope Julius II (1503-1513)
Consistory of May 1507 (IV)


(17) 1. JIMÉNEZ DE CISNEROS, O.F.M.Obs., Francisco (1436-1517)

Birth. 1436, Torrelaguna, archdiocese of Toledo, Spain. Son of hidalgos Alfonso Jiménez y María de la Torre, from the villa of Cisneros, Palencia. His baptismal name was Gonzalo. His last name is also listed as Ximénez. He was called Splendor Hispaniæ. In Spain, he is better known as Cardinal Cisneros.

Education. Destined to the ecclesiastical state, he did his initial studies in Roa, with an uncle who was a clergyman; later, he went to Alcalá de Henares, and attended the Estudio Viejo, attached to the Franciscan convent; finally, he attended the University of Salamanca, obtaining a bachelor's degree in law in 1456. With intention of training himself in the ecclesiastical administration and to find better fortune, he went to Rome in 1459; he probably practiced as consistorial lawyer; he had to return soon because of the death of his father and the need to tend to his family's matters.

Early life. On January 22, 1471, he was named by Pope Paul II archpriest of Uceda, to the surprise and disgust of Alfonso Carrillo, archbishop of Toledo. The pope made this appointment after having been informed by Cisneros of a serious infraction of the ecclesiastical jurisdiction made by his predecessor Pedro García de Guaza; Cisneros strongly defended his right to occupy the post against the opposition of the archbishop, who had promised it to a relative; for this, he was sanctioned to long years of imprisonment by the prelate; at the end of the period in 1479, he succeeded in his quest; fearing more reprisals, he decided, with the protection of Cardinal Pedro González de Mendoza, bishop of Sigüenza, to go to the diocese, where he became major chaplain in 1480; in 1482, he was appointed vicar general of Sigüenza. In 1484, he discovered his vocation to the religious life in retirement and entered the order of the Friars Minor Observants, probably at the convent of San Juan de los Reyes, Toledo; changed his name to Francisco; lived in the convents of El Castañar and La Salceda; for ten years he enjoyed the solitude of a hermit, which ended in 1492 when he was named confessor to Queen Isabel I of Spain. Elected provincial of his order in Castilla in the Spring of 1494. By a personal and surprising decision, the queen asked the pope to name Fr. Cisneros archbishop of Toledo; when he learned from the queen that the pope had promoted him to the primatial see, he did not accept; a second bull from the pope ordering him to obey and accept the promotion was necessary.

Priesthood. Ordained (no further information found).

Episcopate. Elected archbishop of Toledo, February 20, 1495. Consecrated, October 11, 1495, chapel of La Piedad, Franciscan convent of Tarazona, in the presence of the Catholic Monarchs (no further information found). He prepared an ample program for the renewal of his archdiocese as well as for the entire province of Toledo; he obtained far reaching faculties from Pope Alexander VI, who on July 5, 1495 charged him with the visitation and reform of the religious orders of this archdiocese; on December 26, 1496, the pope constituted him visitor to the Spanish Franciscans; and on September 1, 1499, the pope named him visitor and reformer of the Mendicant Orders in Spain. The archbishop convoked diocesan synods in Alcalá in 1497; and in Talavera the following year; he promulgated new constitutions inspired by pastoral criteria; organized a series of visits to the arciprestazgos; and promulgated important practices to improve the pastoral care; these were clear precursors of the Tridentine constitutions that regulated the pastoral life of the church. From 1499, the archbishop, following the instructions of the Catholic Monarchs, personally directed a campaign for the evangelization of the Moors of Granada; the method to pressure them into receiving the baptism included gifts, punishments and threats, all very common, and even theoretically justified, at the time, especially because of its immediate result; but it provoked tumults and risings in Granada and las Alpajurras; the riots almost cost him his life; surrounded in his house of the Alcazaba, he fought together with his servants all night and immediately after he had to leave the city; in his letters, the archbishop compared this experience to the problems of the primitive church; because of the thousands of conversions, the pope congratulated the archbishop. In 1502, after controlling the insurrection, the archbishop obtained from the monarchs that the mudéjares of Castilla were obligated to convert or forced to emigrate. After the death of Queen Isabel on November 26, 1504, the archbishop continued to support the regent, King Fernando, and through his mediation the Concordia de Salamanca of September 24, 1505 was reached between Fernando and King Felipe I resolving the issues between them; the agreement clearly favored Fernando. Don Felipe passed away on September 25, 1506; his death worsened the already tense Castilian atmosphere; a regency presided over by Archbishop Cisneros was constituted immediately with ample faculties granted by Queen Juana, the widow of King Felipe; the task of the archbishop was then to maintain the order threatened by the factions of the nobility and to accelerate the return to Castilla of King Fernando who was in Naples; the latter, to compensate the archbishop for his loyalty and support, brought him the red hat.

Cardinalate. Created cardinal priest in the consistory of May 1507; received the red hat and the title of S. Balbina, May 17, 1507. He was named inquisitor general on June 15, 1507. In that year, the cardinal set in motion a project that he had had for a long time: the conquest of North Africa. In 1507, an expedition conquered Mazalquivir; the following year, he personally directed the conquest of Orán and of the kingdom of Tremecén; he was accompanied by Pedro Navarro, one of the most famous captains of the time; the city was taken in 1509; the campaigning did not continue because the cardinal intercepted letters from the king to Navarro that made him suspicious; the king wanted to make the cardinal exchange the see of Toledo for Zaragoza with his natural son Alfonso de Aragón; the conquered territories were organized ecclesiastically and Orán became a collegial church of the see of Toledo. Opened the University of Alcalá de Henares in 1508 (1). Prepared the edition of the Biblia Sacra Polyglota, called Complutense (2). Regent of Spain at the death of King Fernando I of Spain, by a disposition in the king's will, January 23, 1516; he kept his post in spite of the opposition of the nobility and even of Infante Don Fernando. Cardinal Cisneros obtained that Prince Carlos, the heir to the throne, confirmed his appointment as regent. The cardinal's great enemy was the nobility; against it, he organized a citizens' military service destined to constitute a body of 30,000 men who would impose the authority of the crown everywhere. The nobles tried to hinder it, and even fomented rebellions in some cities, the main one of all in Valladolid. Cardinal Cisneros dominated the riots, and imposed to the nobles the recognition of Carlos as king, and not only of the regency. He had to fight two foreign wars: one in Navarra, where Juan de Albret returned with the intention of recovering his kingdom; and another one in the Mediterranean against the pirate Horuc Barbarroja; the first was a victory for Castilla; the cardinal took the measures to destroy all the Navarrese fortifications, with the exception of Pamplona; the second one was a defeat. The organization of the new territories in America was another of the great concerns of the cardinal. From 1500 he had promoted several missionary expeditions, especially Franciscans, in 1500, 1502, 1508, etc.; he even sent some of his closest collaborators like Fray Francisco Ruiz, who went as a missionary to the Antilles. The episcopal sees and the organization of the religious destined to the vanguard of missionary work were main part of his care. Did not participate in the conclave of 1513, which elected Pope Leo X. In 1516, trying to find a solution to the problem of the encomiendas, he sent three religious of the Order of Saint Jerome, Bernardino de Manzanedo, Luis de Figueroa and Alonso de Santo Domingo, with precise instructions to reorganize the Indian villages and the administration of the new territories. Prince Carlos was in a hurry to become a king; his advisors were not because from Flanders they granted the favors that seemed to them opportune; only to counter the effective work of Cardinal Cisneros, they sent three personages successively: Adriaan Florenszoon Dedel, dean of Louvain and future Pope Adrian VI; La Chau; and Amerstoff; they did not get to have any influence; finally, the prince himself went to Spain disembarking in Tazones, Asturias, on September 19, 1517. The cardinal went to his encounter, which was to take place in Mojados, near Valladolid; but the old cardinal did not get to know the monarch whose crown he had so loyally safeguarded because on the way, he died.

Death. November 8, 1517, monastery of Roa, Burgos. Buried in the magistral church of San Justo, Alcalá de Henares (3). The cause for his beatification was initiated in Toledo in 1530; it continued with great impetus during the 17th century but did not culminate with the elevation of Cardinal Cisneros to the altar because of objections that today do not have any value; they were above all interpretations of events inspired by very circumstantial criteria (4). His remains were transferred to magistral cathedral of Alcalá de Henares in 1857 and reburied under a simple marble slab in the Capilla de San Pedro (5).

Bibliography. Cardella, Lorenzo. Memorie storiche de' cardinali della Santa Romana Chiesa. Rome : Stamperia Pagliarini, 1793, IV, 325-339; 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. 1380-1381; Coronado, José Lucas. El cardenal Cisneros. Barcelona : Ediciones G.P., 1959. (Colección Quién fue, 58); Eubel, Conradus and Gulik, Guglielmus van. Hierarchia Catholica Medii et Recentioris Aevi. Volumen II (1431-1503). Münich : Sumptibus et Typis Librariae Regensbergianae, 1914; reprint, Padua : Il Messagero di S. Antonio, 1960, p. 252; Eubel, Conradus and Gulik, Guglielmus van. Hierarchia Catholica Medii et Recentioris Aevi. Münich : Sumptibus et Typis Librariae Regensbergianae, 1935; reprint, Padua : Il Messagero di S. Antonio, 1960, III, 11, 60 and 314; García Mercadal, José, 1883- Cisneros (1436-1517). Zaragoza : Ediciones Luz, 1939. Other title: La España imperial. Notes: At head of title: La Espanñ imperial. Bibliografía cisneriana: p. [257]-267; García Oro, José. El Cardenal Cisneros : Vida y empresas. Madrid : Biblioteca de Autores Christianos, 1992. (Biblioteca de autores christianos ; v. 520); García Oro, José. La cruzada del Cardenal Cisneros : de Granada a Jerusalen. Madrid : [s.n.], 1991; García Oro, José. La Iglesia de Toledo en tiempo del Cardenal Cisneros (1495-1517). Toledo : Publicaciones del Estudio Teolsgico San Ildefonso, 1992. (Estudio teológico de San Ildefonso); García Oro, José. Cisneros y la reforma del clero español en tiempo de los Reyes Católicos. Madrid :Consejo Superior de Investigaciones Cientmfícas. Instituto "Jerónimo Zurita", 1971. (Biblioteca "Reyes Católicos." Estudios, no. 13); García Oro, José. Cisneros y la Universidad de Salamanca. Madrid : Instituto Francisco Suárez del C.S.I.C., 1981. (Humanismo, reforma y teología ; cuaderno 29); García Oro, José. "Jiménez de Cisneros, Francisco." Diccionario de historia eclesiástica de España. 4 vols and Supplement. Dirigido por Quintín Aldea Vaquero, Tomás Marín Martínez, José Vives Gatell. Madrid : Instituto Enrique Flórez, Consejo Superior de Investigaciones Científicas, 1972-1975, II, 1238-1239; García Oro, José ; María José. Los Reyes y la Universidad de Alcalá en el Siglo XVI. Santiago de Compostela : Editorial El Eco Francisco, 1999; García Oro, José. La universidad de Alcalá de Henares en la etapa fundacional (1458-1578). Santiago de Compostela : [s.n.], 1992; García Oro, José ; Portela, María José. Visitas a la Universidad de Alcalá en vida del Cardenal Cisneros. Madrid : Editorial Cisneros, 1996; Guitarte Izquierdo, Vidal. Episcopologio Español (1500-1699). Españoles obispos en españa, América, Filipinas y otros países. Rome : Instituto Español de Historia Eclesiástica, 1994. (Publicaciones del Instituto Español de Historia Eclesiástica; Subsidia; 34), p. 311; Igual Úbeda, Antonio. El cardenal Cisneros. Barcelona : Editorial Seix Barral, 1957. (Vidas de grandes hombres); López de Toro, José. Perfiles humanos de Cisneros (trayectoria de una biografía) Discurso leído el día 9 de noviembre de 1958 en la recepción pública del Excmo. Sr. don José de Toro y contestación del Excmo. Sr. don Gregorio Marañón. Madrid : Talleres Gráficos. Escelicer, 1958. At head of title: Real Academia de la Historia; Ruiz-Crespo, Alfredo. Cisneros, cardenal regente : (paradigma de una vida). Madrid : Editorial "Gran Capitán", 1945. (Colección histórica "Gran Capitán"); Vallejo, Juan de; and Torre y del Cerro, Antonio de la. Memorial de la vida de fray Francisco Jiménez de Cisneros. Madrid : Impr. Bailly-Bailliere, 1913.

Links. Biography, in English; biography, in Spanish; biographies, in Spanish; his chronology, in English; engraving and biography, in English; his tomb, church of San Justo, Alcalá de Henares, Spain; his effigy in wood; his bust by Juan Alonso Villabrile y Ron, toward the end of the 17th century, Universidad Complutense, Madrid, Spain; portrait, sepulchre, bibliography and biography, in Spanish; his portrait, Sala Capitular, metropolitan cathedral of Toledo, Spain; another view of the same portrait; bass relief in wood, Museo de la Fundación Lázaro Galdiano, Madrid, Spain; his statue, Alcalá de Henares, Spain; another statue, Roa del Duero, Burgos, Spain; engravings; twelve portraits of the cardinal, Biblioteca Nacional de España, Madrid, Spain; and his autograph.

(1) The University of Alcalá de Henares was started on March 14, 1498 and it opened its doors in 1508. At the head of the institution was Colegio Mayor de San Ildefonso, whose director was ipso facto the rector of the university. Next to the colegio mayor was the collegiate of Santos Justo y Pastor, reorganized and equipped by the archbishop so that it would be constituted a center of sacerdotal life. The plan would have to be completed altogether with the creation of eighteen major and minor schools, but it could not be completed during the life of the cardinal. Being inspired by the University of Paris, from which most of the Complutensian senior instructors came, the cardinal set out to turn Alcalá into a humanistic-theological academy, of a renewed theology in direct contact with the sources in its original texts. The colleges were granted ample freedom of opinions, providing a generous home to the three most popular schools of thought of the time, Thomism, Scottism and Nominalism.
(2) It is considered the most representative work of the Spanish Renaissance. The accomplishment was the responsibility of a group of humanists, philologists and Orientalists, who worked directly on original texts, using the codices that Cardinal Cisneros could gather. It was published in six volumes that offer original texts parallelly in Greek, Hebrew and Chaldean, with interlinear Latin translation and a Hebrew dictionary with its corresponding grammar (vol. VI). The impression was entrusted to Guillén de Brocar, resulting into a splendid typographical monument. The cardinal had the joy to see this work, that was the dream of his life, finished.
(3) This is the text of his epitaph, taken from his first biography in Spanish, linked above:

Yo, Francisco, que hice edificar a las Musas un Colegio Mayor,
Yazco ahora en este exiguo sarcófago.
Uní la púrpura al sayal, el casco al sombrero,
Fraile, Caudillo, Ministro, Cardenal,
Junté sin merecerlo la corona a la cogulla
Cuando España me obedeció como a Rey.

(4) García Oro, "Jiménez de Cisneros, Francisco." Diccionario de historia eclesiástica de España, II, 1239.
(5) This is the text of the inscription on his tomb, kindly provided by Mr. Eman Bonnici, from Malta:

AQUI YACE
EL VENERABLE
FRAY FRANCISCO
JIMENEZ DE CISNEROS
CARDENAL ARZOPBISPO DE TOLEDO
PRIMADO DE LAS ESPAÑAS
REGENTE DEL REINO
FUNDADOR DE LA UNIVERSIDAD
COMPLUTENSE Y DE ESTE TEMPLO
MAGISTRAL
NACIO EN TORRELAGUNO 1436
MURIO EN ROA 8 DE NOVEMBRE 1517
INHUMADO EN ESTE TEMPLO
EL 26 DE ABRIL DE 1857

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