The Cardinals of the Holy Roman Church

Biographical Dictionary
Pope Clement VII (1523-1534)
Consistory of August 13, 1529 (VII)


(18) 1. GATTINARA, Mercurino Arborio di (1465-1530)

Birth. June 10, 1465, Castle of Gattinara, home of his paternal grandfather, podestà of Gattinara. One of the seven children of Paolo Gattinara and Felicita Ranzo, of an illustrious family from Vercelli. He had the title of marquis.

Education. From 1489 to1493 he studied at the University of Turin, where he earned a doctorate in law in 1493.

Early life and career. In 1479, his father and his paternal grandfather died; he had to interrupt his studies; secretly married Andreetta Avogadro, a relative, who as an orphan had been received in his house; he was fifteen years old and she was twenty; when the family found out his secret, it harshly demonstrated its disagreement. In 1480 he was sent to Vercelli to notary Pietro Arborio di Gattinara, cousin of his father. In 1489 he decided to restart his legal studies at the University of Turin although his family was opposed to his decision; he married Andreetta Avogadro officially, and with her dowry he paid for his studies and for the move to Turin to his paternal uncle Giovanni Arborio, who was a judge in that city. After obtaining a doctorate, he practiced law in Turin from 1494 until 1501. In that year, he became counselor of Margherita of Hapsburg, wife of the Filiberto II, reigning duke of Savoy, and daughter of Holy Roman Emperor Maximilian I. Duke Filiberto died in 1504 and Gattinara continued assisting Duchess Margherita in the legal controversies for the allocation of her unearned incomes and the dowry. The following year, Margherita obtained, for life, the administration of the counties of Romont and Villars and of the lands Bresse; she nominated Gattinara fiscal lawyer, as well as president of Bresse.

In 1506, King Felipe of Castilla died leaving six children of a very young age, among them future King Carlos I of Spain and future Holy Roman Emperor Charles V; neither Queen Juana, his mother, sick of an incurable illness; nor his maternal grandfather King Fernando of Aragón, old and far away from Spain; nor his paternal grandfather Emperor Maximilian I Hapsburg, withheld in Germany because of serious state affairs, could take care of the protection of the orphaned grandchildren themselves; the emperor entrusted the care to his daughter Duchess Margherita, with the previous approval of the Parliament of the Low Countries. Gattinara took care of the matter and brought the mission to a successful end in little more than eight months. In 1508, Emperor Maximilian assigned to Duchess Margherita the government of Borgogna, and she, in turn, named Gattinara president of the Parliament of Dôle. In the meantime, he engaged in important diplomatic missions and carried out a prominent role in the negotiations for the League of Cambrai. In 1509, the emperor nominated Gattinara as ambassador before King Louis XII of France with the purpose of inducing him to make an agreement between the Emperor and King Fernando I of Aragón for the succession to the kingdom of Castile of their grandson Carlos. The agreement was signed in October of the same year in Blois. He returned to Dôle in 1510 in order to resume his functions of president of the Parliament of Borgogna, but in the following May, by assignment of the emperor, he returned to Spain in order to speed up the process of the accord of Blois, and in September the agreement was ratified by the Cortes of Castilla. In 1511 he returned to Borgogna, where he set up his residence acquiring the castle and the fief of Chevignl; there was much hostility against him, perhaps for his administrative strictness, and he had to endure numerous judicial disputes with regard to the property of the castle. In 1516, Gattinara, disappointed and bitter, withdrew to the Carthusian monastery of Brussels in order to fulfill a vow and there he wrote an operetta dedicated to the young Charles, in which he presents his theory on the universal monarchy. In that same year, King Fernando I of Aragón passed away and Carlos became king of Castilla and Aragón with the name of Carlos I.

In 1518 Carlos, invited Gattinara, through Emperor Maximilian I, to assume the office of grand chancellor of the Spanish court; he obtained the consent of the duke of Savoy and left for Spain, where he assumed his new post on October 15. Emperor Maximilian died in 1519 and Gattinara, convinced supporter of the universal monarchy, insisted on the necessity to secure for Carlos the support of the Prince Electors for his ascension to the imperial throne. He succeeded in obtaining for Carlos the election of emperor as Charles V, after having spent an enormous sum of fiorini. In 1521, the French invaded Navarra and Calais; the latter was at that time an English possession; Gattinara led the negotiations for an alliance between England, the Holy See and the Empire against France. In the Diet of Worms, Gattinara acted with great determination trying a conciliation with the rebellious movement, and advised Charles V to make Martin Luther to take part in the assembly in order to explain in front of the Diet his religious theory; he was convinced and hoped that a frank dialog could lead the majority of the Protestants to return to the Church. In 1522 a conflict between King François I of France and Holy Roman Emperor Charles V erupted. Gattinara strove for the triumph of imperial politics and in 1525 the French were defeated in Pavia and King François fell captive of the Spanish and was brought to Madrid. In spite of the contrary opinion of Gattinara, who feared that the French king would not respect the agreements, François was freed in 1522. As soon as he re-entered his country, the king resumed the hostilities against Spain. In the course of the new war, the League of Cognac was formed by France, the Republic of Venice, Pope Clement VII, Florence, and the duke of Milan, Francesco II Sforza, against the emperor. In May of 1527, the imperial troops attacked Rome and after they stormed it, they plundered it (the Sack of Rome). As a result of the successes of the imperial armies, King François I concluded the Peace of Cambrai on August 5, 1529. The diplomatic activity of the grand chancellor was frenetic; he assumed a role of great importance in all the negotiations. Around 1529, he wrote his autobiography, entitled Historia vitæ et gestorum per dominum magnum cancellarium, in which he said that Pope Leo X had offered him the cardinalate. In 1529 Gattinara led and concluded with great skill and competence the Conference of Bologna, in which the order of the Italian States was regulated. When the grand chancellor went to Italy with the Emperor, Pope Clement VII promoted him to the cardinalate. In the same Conference of Bologna, Gattinara strove so that Emperor Charles V granted to the Military Order of Saint John of Jerusalem the Island of Malta, to compensate for the loss of Rodi and Tripoli to Soliman the Magnificent. In that same year the knights could return to that island.

Sacred orders. (No information found).

Cardinalate. Created cardinal priest in the consistory of August 13, 1529; received the red hat and the title of S. Giovanni a Porta Latina, September 3, 1529. At the time of his promotion to the cardinalate, he was a layman. In 1530, after the coronation of the emperor in the cathedral of San Petronio of Bologna, he left Italy to go to the Diet of Augsburg but he died in Innsbruck before reaching the Diet. A humanist and a scholar, the cardinal had great influence on Emperor Charles V and urged him to create a dynastic empire.

Death. June 5, 1530, Innsbruck. Acording to his will of July 23, 1529, his remains were brought to the Castle of Gattinara and buried in the parish church of S. Pietro, of the Canons Regular Lateranensi, which he had built (1). They still repose in that church.

Bibliography. Avonto, Luigi. Mercurino Arborio di Gattinara e l'America : documenti inediti per la storia delle Indie Nuove nell'archivio del gran cancelliere di Carlo V. Vercelli : [s.n.], 1981. (Biblioteca della Società storica vercellese); Bornate, Carlo. Ricerche intorno alla vita di Mercurino Gattinara, gran cancelliere di Carlo V. Novara : [s.n.], 1899; Cardella, Lorenzo. Memorie storiche de' cardinali della Santa Romana Chiesa. Rome : Stamperia Pagliarini, 1793, IV, 112-114; Carlo V e Mercurino di Gattinara suo Gran Cancelliere : Convegno internazionale 9-11 giugno 2000, Malta Forte Sant'Angelo. Malta : Accademia internazionale melitense, 2001. (Peregrinationes. Acta et documenta; t. 2); 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, cols. 1472-1473; Czernin, Ursula. Gattinara und die Italienpolitik Karls V. : Grundlagen, Entwicklung und Scheitern eines politischen Programmes. Frankfurt am Main ; New York : P. Lang, 1993. (Europäische Hochschulschriften. Reihe III, Geschichte und ihre Hilfswissenschaften; Bd. 559 ; Publications universitaires européennes. Série III, Histoire, sciences auxiliaires de l'histoire ; vol. 559; European university studies. Series III, History and allied studies ; vol. 559; Variation: Europäische Hochschulschriften.; Reihe III; Geschichte und ihre Hilfswissenschaften ; Bd. 559); 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, 20 and 64; Gattinara, Mercurino. Historia vite et gestorum per dominum magnum cancellarium (Mercurino Arborio di Gattinara), con note, aggiunte e documenti [da] Carlo Bornate. Torino, Fratelli Bocca Librai di S.M., 1915. (Miscellanea di storia italiana.; 3. ser. t. 17 (48 della raccolta); Headley, John M. The emperor and his chancellor : a study of the imperial chancellery under Gattinara. Cambridge [Cambridgeshire] ; New York : Cambridge University Press, 1983; Mercurino Arborio di Gattinara, Gran Cancelliere di Carlo V : 450º anniversario della morte, 1530-1980 : atti del convegno di studi storici, Gattinara, 4-5 ottobre 1980. Convegno di studi storici su Mercurino Arborio di Gattinara ; (1980 :; Gattinara, Italy) [Gattinara?] : Comitato organizzatore delle Celebrazioni commemorative del 4500 anniversario della morte di Mercurino Arborio di Gattinara, 1982. At head of title: Associazione culturale di Gattinara; Società storica vercellese; Rivero Rodríguez, Manuel. Gattinara : Carlos V y el sueño del imperio. Madrid : Sílex, 2005.

Links. Biography by Giampiero Brunelli, in Italian, Dizionario Biografico degli Italiani - Volume 52 (1999), Treccani; portraits and arms, Araldica Vaticana; his portrait (1540-1560), diocese of Vercelli, Beni Ecclesiastici in Web (BeWeb); commemorative monument (1899-1924), diocese of Vercelli, Beni Ecclesiastici in Web (BeWeb); his tombstone (1899-1924), church of S. Pietro, castle of Gattinara, diocese of Vercelli, Beni Ecclesiastici in Web (BeWeb).

(1) This is the text of his epitaph transcribed by Ferdinando Ughelli, Cist., in his addition to Chacón, Alfonso. Vitæ, et res gestæ Pontificvm Romanorum et S. R. E. Cardinalivm, II, cols. 1472-1473: MERCVRINVS ARBORENSIS de Gattinara post multos honores, rarissimaq; dignitatum insignia, quæ summa virtutem fide apud omnes fere Christianum Principes prorservit, sedatis tandem suo consilio totius Christianitatis tumultibus, firmato fortunatissimi Caroloi pero coronationis triumphum Cesareo sceptro, pl--da in pace in ------ natura concedens in patriam cineres referri iussit suorumq; paucis bis monumenta laborum posteris adnotari. Vixit Annos LXV. Illustrissimi Ducis Sabaudia annos novem Consiliarius i annos totidem Magnæ Burgundiæ Præsidens. Annos duodecim supremus, acceptissimus Cæsari Cancellarius. Postremo ad Cardinalatum evectus Gattinariæ, Valentiæ, ac Sartinaræ Comes, Marchio Romagnianis, Heros Monti Ferratis, ac viriusque Siciliæ 5. Iunii diem felix clausit extremum, qui vivens publicis semper negociis oppressus extitit moriens publicis etiam pedibus conculcari statuit.
Following is the inscription on the base of his statue next to the altar, taken from the same source:

Quis sum, qui tegor hic humilis suo marmore fossa
Nesso cupis vitæ. disce, peracta meæ
Sanguinis Arborei sum Mercurinus ab ipsis
Progenitus cunis, legibus ; & studiis
Prima meos vidit Sabaudia clara labores
Cum Princeps lateri iussit adesse suo
Exin Burgundis Præses maioribus, inde
Cæsaris accitu sum datus officio
Quicquid in Hispanis, quicquid Borealibus actum
Sive Italis nostri cura laboris erat,
Non aurum, nec vis potuit pervertere mentem,
Iura nec in tacta fallere Iustitiæ
Me duce per Ligures per docta Bononia coepit
Hinc Clemens Regni tradidit imperium.
Reddita pax cunctis, optata ad foedere duxit
Francisum, ac Venetos, Ferreriæq; Ducem
Hinc pileo ornatus, Cæsar diademate cinctus,
Sumpsimus in Rhesos, Vindelicosq; viam,
Carolus hic Lutheri dum dogmata foeda corcet,
Dumq; paro in Turcas protinus en morior.
Non tamen ingratum Patriæ sensere nepotes
Queis manus ingentes nostra reliquit opes
Denique bina Deo Coenobia sacra dicavi
Canonics pro me soluiste rite prces.
VIXIT. ANN. LXV. MORITVR. IN. ISPRVCH. DIE V. IVNII. MDXXX.

According to Ughelli, the cardinal himself composed the eulogy.

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