The Cardinals of the Holy Roman Church

Biographical Dictionary
Pope Clement VII (1523-1534)
Consistory of February 21, 1533 (XII)
Celebrated in Bologna

(28) 1. MERINO, Esteban Gabriel (ca. 1472-1535)

Birth. Ca. 1472, Santisteban del Puerto, diocese of Jaén, Spain. Of a family of the lowest condition (1). Son of Alonso Merino and Mayor de Amorcuende.

Education. (No information found) (2).

Early life. His father died when he was very young. Went to Rome with a priest friend of the family. Entered the household of Cardinal Ascanio Sforza, where he held minor positions; with time, he obtained better positions. He decided to enter the ecclesiastical state and was granted dispensation by Pope Alexander VI for having caused the death of a cleric while playing with a sword. In the Spring of 1500, he was with Cardinal Sforza in Lombardy, in the second French invasion, and with the cardinal he ended up in prison in Bourges, where he learned French; freed on January 3, 1502, he was sent to Rome by his protector to arrange an important matter, acting as his procurator before the Fugger Bank on July 25, 1503. He participated as conclavist of the cardinal in the elections of Popes Pius III and Julius II in 1503. Around this time he became the cardinal's secretary and in 1504, he was named protonotary apostolic. After the death of his protector on May 28, 1505, he gained the trust of Cardinal Francesco Alidosi and of Pope Julius II, who sent him to Florence to ask for military assistance in the enterprise of Bologna, August 1506. He attended, along with Cardinals Francesco Soderini and Alidosi, the first colloquy in Nepi between Pope Julius II and the Florentine envoy, Nicolò Machiavelli. A month later the pope ordered him to meet King Fernando I of Spain in Naples. The same pope gave him a canonship and the dignity of archdeacon of Baeza in the diocese of Jaén, and named him his chamberlain and nuncio. In July 1507, he complimented King Fernando in Civitavechia and negotiated the league against Venice. In the summer of 1509 he accompanied Cardinal Alidosi in a diplomatic mission before King Louis XII of France in Milan and later he remained with him in the legation of Bologna. From Bologna he returned to Rome with a letter of recommendation of this cardinal to the datary, dated February 24, 1511, which obtained for him the appointment of apostolic scriptor (writer). After the death of his protectors and benefactors, Cardinal Alidosi and Pope Julius II, he entered the service of Cardinal Marco Cornaro and was his conclavist in 1513. The new Pope Leo X immediately took him into his household and tried to obtain for him the see of Leyden but could not accomplish his wish. Shortly after, the pope elevated Merino to the episcopate and named him to the see of Bari in southern Italy.

Episcopate. Elected archbishop of Bari, retaining the office of apostolic scriptor and with license to receive other benefits, May 9, 1513. Since the rents of the see of Bari were not very high, he received from the pope a total of eleven benefices. By the end of 1513, he had not yet received the episcopal consecration and a document of April 26, 1514 still called him scriptor of apostolic letters. The archbishop of Bari attended all the sessions and two general congregations of V Lateran Council celebrated after his promotion to the episcopate; therefore, he was in Rome in the following dates: June 17, 1513; May 5, 1514; May 4 and December 15, 1515; December 19, 1516; and February 27 and March 16, 1517. On May 1, 1514, he was named palatine count. In September 1514 he visited the archdiocese for the first time; he had governed it through his vicar general Luis de Mexia; also at this time, he asked King Fernando to secure for him the future succession to the diocese of Jaén but the king died before fulfilling the archbishop's wishes.

Sacred orders. Towards the end of 1514, he wrote from Bari to the Spanish king promising to him to pray to God for him in his first mass; it seems, then, that it was then when he was ordained a priest and received the episcopal consecration (3) (no details about the ordination and consecration have been found). Named bishop of León, retaining the see of Bari, December 17, 1516; he took possession of the diocese on April 11, 1517; occupied the see until June 12, 1523. In 1517, Archbishop Merino was a help to the pope; he arranged an agreement with Cardinal Alfonso Petrucci, center of the intrigues against the papale-mediceo power in Florence and Siena; and he instilled new enthusiasm to the bishop and the city of Siena in the war of Urbino. When the see of León was conferred to him, a condition was put to him that he had to go to reside in it for the term of two years; when the term passed, the king of Spain reminded him on June 18, 1519 of the promise he had made; Bishop Merino showed the pope the letter from the king and the pontiff, who was greatly appreciative of his services, did not allow him to depart at that moment and excused this bishop before the sovereign. Nevertheless, some months later, the bishop left with the intention, not to reside, but to visit his diocese, March 1520; but the situation got complicated in a way that he could not return to the papal court for thirteen years, except for a brief visit. During the Guerra de las Comunidades (War of the Communities), he maintained the city of León in the obedience of the king all the time that was possible to him. He later went to Ubeda to see his mother, who died not much later, and his presence contributed to maintaining the loyalty of Murcia, Ubeda and Baeza. The bishop of Jaén passed away on November 5, 1520. The city council, the cathedral chapter and other people of the city wrote to the cardinal of Tortosa, Adrian of Utrecht, requesting his intercession before King Carlos I so that he would give them for bishop Gabriel Merino, who was a native of that land and had a dignity in the church of Jaén; but the king was not in a hurry and he utilized the appointments to reward his supporters. Nuncio before the king of France, with faculties to go to England if necessary, 1522; his mission was to negotiate the peace between King François of France and Holy Roman Emperor Charles V; on April 30, 1522, the French king extended the safe conduct to the nuncio to enter France; later, the nuncio accompanied Pope Adrian VI in his trip from Vitoria to Tortosa; during his mission in France, he acted more like an imperial agent than as papal nuncio. After repeated requests, both in writing and in person, and the support of several intermediaries, King Carlos I finally named him to his native diocese. Named bishop of Jaén, retaining the see of Bari, June 12, 1523; Cardinal Luis de Aragón resigned the see in his favor thanks to an economic agreement; retained the see of Bari until September 2, 1530. Pope Adrian VI, threatened by a new French invasion in Italy, adhered to the imperial league on August 3, 1523; then, King Carlos I thought that Nuncio Merino could be more useful in Rome than in France and was going to transfer him; but his plan failed with the death of the pope on September 14, 1523, and the consequent ceasing of the nunciature; the nuncio then passed openly to the service of the king and from November 1523 to May 1524, he was the principal negotiator between the two sovereigns. Admitted for a time to the Council of State, July 1, 1526. He was named supplier general of the armada that had to take the emperor and his army to Italy; On August 2, 1529, he embarked in Barcelona in the retinue of the monarch and ten days later arrived in Genoa; on October 8 of the same year he was accredited as imperial ambassador before Pope Clement VII ; the object of his mission was to accelerate the imperial coronation; to prepare arrangement of Italy; and to obtain economic aid in favor of Fernando of Austria in his fight against the Turks. On November 5, 1529, the emperor entered Bologna with Nuncio Merino; the coronation took place on February 24, 1530. At the end of the following month of March, he left Bologna accompanying the emperor in his trip to Germany. Named patriarch of the West Indies, September 2, 1530. On June 3, 1531, Bishop Merino was ill in Gent, suffering from dropsy. In the Spring of 1532, he settled down with the imperial court in Ratisbon, general headquarters of the new war against the Turks; in spite of his repugnancy, he was designated general supplier of the enterprise, and assiduously attended the meetings of the military councils. During the second interview of Bologna with Pope Clement VII, he was one of the three imperial ministers who dealt with the religious matters of Germany and with the subject of the general council with Cardinals Alessandro Farnesio, seniore, and Paolo Emilio Cesi. At the request of the emperor, he was elevated to the cardinalate.

Cardinalate. Created cardinal priest in the consistory of February 21, 1533; received the red hat and the title of S. Vitale, March 3, 1533. In Rome, he took the representation of the imperial interests in the Sacred College of Cardinals, replacing Cardinal Garcías de Loaysa y Mendoza, O.P., who had returned to Spain. Cardinal Merino had to take care of two main subjects: to obtain the papal sentence that would declare valid the marriage of King Henry VIII of England with Catalina de Aragón, aunt of the emperor; and to impede the encounter between Pope Clement VII and King François I of France for the weddings of Catarina de' Medici with Prince Henri de Orléans; the cardinal was successful in the first subject, but failed in the second; he also failed in his aspirations to be promoted to the primatial see of Toledo and to the throne of Saint Peter at the death of Pope Clement VII. Opted for the title of Ss. Giovanni e Paolo, September 5, 1534. Participated in the conclave of 1534, which elected Pope Paul III. During his last stay in Rome, under the direction of his secretary Iacopo Bonfadio, he dedicated several hours every day to the study of letters, which had been interrupted in his early adolescence. Named bishop of Gaeta, February 17, 1535. Named administrator of the see of Bovino, April 15, 1535.

Death. July 28, 1535, in his palace in piazza di Pasquino, Rome. Buried, on the side of the Gospel, in the main chapel of the church of S. Giacomo degli Spagnoli; when this church was sold, the sepulchre was transferred to the cloister of the church of S. Maria in Montserrato degli Spagnoli, Rome. His epitaph evokes his merits of profane order, not of religious or cultural type: the pacification of the communities, privy counselor of the emperor, supplier of the armada that lead the emperor to Italy and supplier of the armada against the Turk. He named as heirs his nephew Alfonso de Guzmán, archdeacon of Baeza; he left valuable offers to the cathedrals of Bari, León and Jaén and to the church of Ubeda; a legacy of 2,000 ducats for its old and meritorious servants and assistants; another one of 500 ducats to the church of Santiago and another one of 300 ducats to the hospital of Santiago, Rome. His last teacher Bonfacio, not contented with the part that corresponded to him in the 2,000 ducats, requested the personal library of the deceased cardinal, which consisted of about 60 volumes.

Bibliography. Caballero, M. "El gran Esteban Gabriel Merino, arzobispo de Bari y obispo de Jaén (1472?-1533)." Boletín del Instituto de Estudios Giennenses, 11-44 (1965) 21-100; 11-45 (1965) 9-65; Cardella, Lorenzo. Memorie storiche de' cardinali della Santa Romana Chiesa. Rome : Stamperia Pagliarini, 1793, IV, 129-131; 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. 1479; 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, 21, 63, 71, 129, 135, 200, 203, 213 and 221; Goñi Gaztambide, José. "Merino, Esteban Gabriel." 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, III, 483-489; 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. 29; Martínez Rojas, Francisco Juan. "Cardenal Don Esteban Gabriel Merino (1523-1535) in "Anotaciones al episcopologio giennense de los siglos XV y XVI", Boletín del Instituto de Estudios Giennenses, Nº 177 (2001), 322-336.

Webgraphy. Biography, in Spanish; another biography, also in Spanish; his tomb by Juan Juni, convent of S. Maria in Monserrato, Rome; detail of the head of his statue on his tomb; and his epitaph, arms and detail of his jacent statue.

(1) Goñi, "Merino, Esteban Gabriel." Diccionario de historia eclesiástica de España, III, 484, says that some Spanish historians, like Chacón and González Dávila, say that at 7, Gabriel started studying Latin; at 14, graduated in arts in Salamanca, where he started studying theology and canons; that he then went to Italy when he learned military arts; and from there, he went to Flanders and then to Germany, where his demonstrated his knowledge in the schools of war. Goñi adds that this version has only one inconvenience: su absoluta gratuidad (its absolute gratuity).
(2) This is according to Goñi, "Merino, Esteban Gabriel." Diccionario de historia eclesiástica de España, III, 483; and Cardella, Memorie storiche de' cardinali della Santa Romana Chiesa, IV, 129, which says that he was of a family molto oscura (very obscure); his first biography, linked above, says that he was born of a family afincada in Jaén, but originally from the Kingdom of León; that his father had gone to serve the Spanish monarchs in the frontier of Granada; and that his mother also came from the Montañas (Mountains); Risco, España Sagrada, vol. XXXVI, denies the cardinal's original low condition and says that his father, originally from the Kingdom of León, had gone to Andalucía to fight in the wars of Granada; and that he married his wife, a resident of Santisteban althogh she was originally from Santander (montañesa); the source adds that it was the early death of her husband which motivated the poverty of the family, not its origin.
(3) Goñi, "Merino, Esteban Gabriel." Diccionario de historia eclesiástica de España, III, 484.

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