Pope Adrian VI

Pope Adrian VI was the 218th pope of the Catholic Church and the sixth man to choose the name, Adrian.

He was pope for a total of 613 days and is the only Dutch pope in the history of the Church.

This article looks at Adrian and his life both before and after becoming pope.

Before Becoming Pope

Known by the name Adriaan, the man who would later become pope was born in Utrecht, which was then part of the Holy Roman Empire. His parents were Florens and Geertruid who already had three sons. His father worked as a carpenter, but the family lived with his paternal grandfather.

Adrian struggled in his early years due to the untimely death of his father when the future pope was only 10. To prepare for the future, Adrian studied at the Latin School and in the Roman Catholic community called the Brethren of Common Life.


The Duchess of Burgundy, Margret of York, granted Adrian a scholarship, which helped him attend the University of Leuven. Though he accepted a position as a faculty member for the university in 1488, he became a priest just two years later. Adrian continued working for the university after obtaining a doctorate in theology. He would also spend some time in Spain before becoming Pope Adrian VI.

Election and Time as Pope

Due to issues between the French and Spanish men in charge of the papal election, Adrian became the next pope as a compromise that both sides agreed upon. He became known for the reformation work he did, which included limiting the benefits available to cardinals.

Adrian faced problems as other religious movements became more popular, but his work kept the Church strong. He left behind a small portion of land for the University of Leuven, which the university used to build the Pope’s College, a school that opened in 1523.

Quick Facts About Pope Adrian VI

  • The man who would become Pope Adrian VI was born on March 2, 1459, in Utrecht.
  • He was given the name Adriaan Floriszoon Boeyens at birth.
  • Adrian VI died on September 14, 1523, in Rome.
  • He was 64 at the time of his death, which likely occurred because of natural causes.
  • The papacy of Pope Adrian VI began on January 9, 1522.
  • Following his death on September 14, the reign of the pope ended.
  • Clement VII became the next pope.

Interesting Facts About Pope Adrian VI

  • Most of the popes through history were born in Italy. Adrian VI was the last pope born outside of Italy until the election of Pope John Paul II, which occurred in 1978.

  • Adrian VI was one of the only popes to use his birth name or a variation of that name after becoming pope. He chose to change the spelling of his name though.

  • Cardinal Giulio de’ Medici was one of the top choices to become pope after the death of Leo X, but the French and Spanish leaders in charge of the election could not come to a unanimous agreement. They instead chose Adrian, who was the cardinal’s cousin.

  • Most of the papal bulls and other official documents written by the man disappeared after his death. One of the only remaining documents is one that states popes can make errors.

  • Christopher Marlowe added Adrian as a character in his work “The Tragical History of Doctor Faustus.” He also appeared in “The Masks,” a modern novel written by Luigi Malerba and published in 1995.

  • Pope Adrian VI was buried in Santa Maria dell’ Anima Church in Rome, Italy. A memorial to him sits on the left side of the sanctuary.

More Popes Named “Adrian”

There has has been 7 Popes that have taken the name Adrian. Below are links to all of them. Also check out all of the other Popes the begin with the letter A.

Adrian I (#96) (772 – 795)
Adrian II (#107) (867 – 872)
Adrian III (St.) (#110) (884 – 885)
Adrian IV (#170) (1154 – 1159)
Adrian V (#187) (1276)
Adrian VI (#219) (1522 – 1523)