August 18 , 1276—September 8, 1276

Death of Pope Adrian V

Ottobono Fieschi, who had been a cardinal for twenty-five years, and who had recently helped bring an end to the civil strife in Genoa, was elected pope on July 11, 1276. He took the name Adrian V, and ruled the Church for 39 days. According to Bernardo Guidonis, nondum promotus in sacerdotem nec coronatus nec consecratus Viterbi moritur ("He was never ordained priest, consecrated bishop or crowned pope.") (Muratori, Rerum Italicarum Scriptores III, 605; Novaes, 261).

In August he travelled to Viterbo, partly for the climate and partly to attend to some differences between the Church and Emperor Rudolph of Habsburg. It was noted by Cardinal Peter Julian that, in the days after the Conclave, when the Curia was still in Rome, Pope Adrian held a Consistory, at which three cardinals were not present due to illness. The ten days he and the other cardinals spent in the conclave must have had their effect;  but also Rome in the summer is not a pleasant place, with malaria and other fevers spread widely.  At the request of the cardinals in consistory, he suspended the operation of Gregory X's constitution on conclaves, Ubi Periculum, intending to make some alterations and improvements. Death supervened on August 18, 1276, while he was at Viterbo. He had created no cardinals. He was buried in the Church of S. Francesco—not in the Cathedral or in the Convent of the Friars Minor (Cristofori, 180).

The Cronica S. Petri Erfordensis Moderna (Monumenta Germaniae Historica SS 30, 413) remarks that both Pope Adrian and Cardinal Annibaldi had been posioned:

Hoc anno, quod mirabile dictu est, tres pap(a)e, videlicet Gregorius papa X et Innocencius papa quintus et Adrianus papa quintus, infra dimidium annum immatura morte defuncti sunt. Sed iste predictus Adrianus papa et Richardus cardinalis [Annibaldi] pariter intoxicati sunt.

Negotiations with King Charles I over the oath of fealty

On August 27, the College of Cardinals wrote to the Emperor Rudolph (Cristofori, 175. Reg. Vat. 29 B, Epistola CXXI):

Miseratione divina etc..... (Cardinales)... Excellenti et magnifice Principi Domino Rudolfo Regi Romanorum illustri carissimo ipsius ecclesiae filio salutem in Domino. Quamquam de vacatione . . . . Insuper pie recordationes Adrianus PP V, eidem Pontifici Innocentio in apostolatus succedens officio, voluit ut idem Rex (Carolus Siciliae) se conferret Viterbum pro memoratis tractatibus prosequentis ubi Ven(erabiles) fratres Sabinensem Episcopum Ioannem S(an)c(t)i Nicolai in Carcere Tulliano et Iacobum S(an)c(ta)e Mari(a)e in Cosmydin Diac(onym) Card(inalem) super prosecutionem huiusmodi deputavit, sed quia predictus pontifex Adrianus post promotionem suam brevissimo tempore supervixit assumpta prosecutio ad id quod prosequentium intendebat instantia non pervenit . . . Datum Viterbii VI Kal. Aug. An(no) D(omi)ni MCCLXXVI apostolica Sede vacante.

Shortly after his accession Pope Adrian V had wanted King Charles I of Sicily to come to Viterbo to carry out the usual business (fealty), and sent the Suburbicarian Bishop of Sabina [Bertrand de Saint Martin]; Cardinal Giovanni (Orsini), Cardinal Deacon of Saint Nicholas in Carcere Tulliano; and Cardinal Giacomo (Savelli), Cardinal Deacon of Santa Maria in Cosmedin, to effect his wishes. Charles arrived from Rome on July 24. Unfortunately, as the letter of the cardinals indicates, Adrian died, on August 15, leaving his negotiations with King Charles unfinished. Charles finally swore fealty to Pope John XXI on October 7.

In the oath of King Charles, it is mentioned that some previous arrangements had been reached between the Papacy and the King, in instrumento seu litteris bo(nae) mem(oriae) A(nnibaldi) Basilic(a)e XII Ap(osto)lorum, P(res)b(yte)ri R(icardi) S(an)c(t)i Angeli, et venerabilium patrum Ioannis Sci Nicolai in Carcere Tulliano et Iacobi Sce Mariae in Cosmedin Diaconorum Cardinalium. The remark that Cardinal Annibaldo Annibaldi was dead seems to imply that Cardinal Riccardo Annibaldi was still alive; Cardinal Giovanni Orsini and Cardinal Jacopo Savelli certainly were alive. But in a letter of October 18, 1276, the new Pope, John XXI, writes, Qui nuper in eadem Basilica per obitum bon(a)e memori(a)e Richardi S. Angeli c. d. archipresbyteri Basilicae supradictae vacavit... (Bullarium Vaticanum I, 154; P. 21171). His death, therefore, took place between October 7 and October 18, 1276. His epitaph (quoted by Ciacconius), however, seems to give the date of death as September 4, 1276.

The Cardinals

.At the time of Pope Adrian's death, there were, therefore, twelve or thirteen cardinals, though

There were, therefore, twelve electors present at the Conclave in Viterbo::

  1. Peter Julian (Giampietro Giuliani, or di Giuliano), of a noble family of Lisbon. He studied in Paris, and was adept in Aristotelianism, Astronomy and Medicine. On his return to Portugal, he was made canon and then Archbishop of Braga; Gregory X made him Cardinal Bishop of Tusculum. He participated in the Second Council of Lyon. He was the future Pope John XXI (1276-1277).
  2. Vicedomino de Vicedomini, of Piacenza, Archbishop of Aix, he was in the suite of Charles of Anjou when he first came to Italy. He was the nephew of Pope Gregory X, who made him a Cardinal (December, 1273) and Bishop of Palestrina. He died in Viterbo on September 6, 1276 (Cardella, 2-3; Cristofori, 201, from the Annales of Piacenza) His family had old connections with the Fieschi of Genoa, one of his ancestors having been Podestà of Genoa in 1144 (Muratori Annali 18, 119)
  3. Bertrand de Saint Martin, born in Arles, Benedictine, Archbishop of Arles in 1266, Cardinal Bishop of Sabina in 1273. He participated as cardinal in the Second Council of Lyons. ?† March 28, 1277? at Avignon? (Cardella, 8, says 1275)

  4. Ancherius Pantaleoni, nephew of Pope Urban IV, Cardinal (1261) priest of Santa Prassede   † November 1, 1286, according to his memorial inscription in Santa Prassede (P.Fedele, Archivio della Societa romanà di storia patria 27 (1904), 31).
  5. Guilelmus (Guillaume) de Bray (or Brie), diocese of Reims, Cardinal (1262-1282) priest of S. Marco †1282
  6. Simon Paltanieri, from Monselice near Padua, Cardinal (1261-1276) Priest of S. Silvestro e S. Martino ai Monti †1276 or the beginning of 1277, before February 12 (Sternfeld, 287, citing E. Cadier, Les registres de Jean XXI [1898] no. 80).

  7. Ricardus Hannibaldi (Riccardo Annibaldi, a Roman, Cardinal Deacon of Sancti Angeli in Pescheria (1237-1276). Archpriest of the Lateran Basilica. Ghibelline leader. Opponent of the Orsini. His death is reported in 1274 by the Cardinal's memorial inscription: Petrus Aloysius Galletti, Inscriptiones Romanae Infimi Aevi Romae Exstantes Tomus I (Romae 1760) cxci, no. 3 (Tomb of Cardinal Riccardo Annibaldi de Molaria at S. Giovanni Laterano). But Eubel (Vol 1, second edition, p. 7) indicates, in agreement with the Erfort Chronicle and other documents (above), that he died in 1276.
  8. Ioannes (Giovanni Gaetano Orsini), Cardinal (1244-1277) Deacon of S. Niccolo in Carcere, future Pope Nicholas III (1277-1280).
  9. Godefridus (Geoffroy, Goffredo da Alatri in Lazio), Cardinal (1261-1287) Deacon of S. Giorgio in Velabro †1287.
  10. Hubertus (Uberto D' Elci, of Siena), Cardinal (1261-1276) Deacon of S. Eustachius †1276
  11. Iacobus (Giacomo Savelli), Cardinal (1261-1285) Deacon of Santa Maria in Cosmedin, future Pope Honorius IV (1285-1287)
  12. Matteo Rosso Orsini, nephew of Gian Gaetano Orsini (future Nicholas III), Cardinal (1262-1305) Deacon of Santa Maria in Portico †1305 The Orsini had turned to supporting the claims of Rudolf of Austria to be crowned Holy Roman Emperor (Sternfeld, 225-228).


King Charles I of Sicily was in Rome from January 8, 1276 through July 20, except for a brief visit to Viterbo on February 9, and to Macerata on June 5. He returned to Viterbo on July 24 and remained there until August 31. After two weeks in Vetralla, from September 1 to 13, he returned to Viterbo on September 14, where he remained until the end of January, 1277, when he returned to Rome (Durrieu, 179-182).

Myth of the Election of Cardinal de' Vicedomini

According to a story retailed by Franciscan historians, Cardinal Vicedomino de' Vicedomini, a Franciscan Tertiary and Protector of the Franciscans, was elected pope and died within twenty-four hours, on September 6, 1276—without doubt this is a pious fiction (Cristofori, Tombe, 185-203). His name does not appear in any official list of popes sanctioned by the Holy See. Indeed Pope John XXI's own election announcement narrates his version of the conclave, and provides no place for Vicedomino, calling Adrian V his predecessor (see below).

Tomb of Vicedomino Vicedomini in Viterbo
Tomb of Cardinal Vicedomini (Viterbo)
from Cristofori

Election of Cardinal Peter Julian of Lisbon

A successful election finally took place on the 8th (or 13th or 15th) of September (see Cristofori, 341).

John XXI (XX) was crowned on September 20 by Cardinal Giovanni Gaetano Orsini, the Cardinal Protodeacon. Ten days later, in his Bull Licet, John XXI cancelled the constitution of Gregory X, Ubi Periculum, regulating conclaves. Ptolemy of Lucca (Demski, 33 n, 3) states that this was done on the advice of Cardinal Orsini:

Hic {Ioannes XXI] statim constitutionem (datam) per Gregorium X de reclusione cardinalium, suspensam per Hadrianum, revocavit, consilio ut fertur, Domini Johannis Gaitani, cuius nutu multa iaciebat, eo quod principalis auctor fuerat suae promotionis.

The full text of the Bull is extant [ Registres de Nicolaus IV, I, 2167; Potthast 21153; Tomassetti, Bullarium Romanum IV, pp. 37-38]:

Iohannes, episcopus, servus servorum Dei, ad perpetuam rei memoriam.

Licet felicis recordationis Gregorius Papa praedecessor noster, pia meditatione considerans quantum sit onusta dispendiis, plenaque periculis Ecclesiae Romanae prolixa vacatio: et vigilanter intendens, super hoc de opportuno remedio providere, quandam super electione Romani Pontificis constitutionem ediderit in concilio Lugdunensi; quia tamen experientia docuit, constitutionem eandem multa intolerabilia, nonnulla obscura et propter hoc accelerationi provisionis eiusdem Ecclesiae valde damnosa, immo etiam provisionis ipsius impedimenta et dilationem ingerentia continere; piae memoriae Adrianus Papa praedecessor noster, diligenter praemissa considerans et residens in camera sua Lateranensi, in consistorio, nobis et aliis fratribus suis, de quorum numero tunc eramus, praesentibus; bonae memoriae V[icedomino de Vicedomini] Praenestino episcopo, V. [Uberto D' Elci] S. Eustachii diacono, et dilectis filiis G[Guillaume de Bray] tit. S. marci presbytero tunc infirmitate detentis, ac S(imon Mompitié de Brie) tituli S. Caeciliae Apostolicae Sedis legato, presbytero, cardinalibus dumtaxat exceptis, constitutionem eandem, quoad omnem ipsius effectum, quidquid posset contingere, solemniter et absolute suspendit; et quamvis post eius obitum nos et dicti fratres, qui tunc supererant, et praesentes etiam in Romana Curia, suspensionem huiusmodi non solum verbis, sed litteris etiam nostro et eorundem sigillis munitis, concorditer testaremur; nonnulli tamen corda contumacia in damnatam superbiam erigentes, adhibere fidem nostro testimonio contempserunt; alias etiam infrunitis animis suggerentes huiusmodi nostro testimonio non esse credendum; quamquam insuper aliquorum habet assertio, eundem praedecessorem Adrianum in lecto aegritudinis decumbentem suspensionem revocasse praedictam; nos tamen et iidem fratres frequentes et diligentes super hoc inter nos collationes habuimus; et non solum ab iis, qui revocationis huiusmodi conscii dicebantur, sed ab aliis eiusdem praedecessoris Adriani familiaribus et aliis etiam studuimus veritatem frequentissime indagare; nec invenimus eundem praedecessorem Adrianum ad revocationem praedictam aliquatenus verbo vel literis processisse.

Nolentes itaque, nec valentes, urgente conscientia, quae nos maxime in tali ac tanto articulo veritatem occultare non sinit, praefatam suspensionem dictae constitutionis ratam, ut expedit, non haberi; vel ipsam de caetero quomodolibet in dubium revocari; suspensionem ipsam ab eodem praedecessore Adriano factam fuisse, ut praemittitur, praesentium tenore testamur; ac ipsam nihilominus ratificantes et ratam haberi volentes, revocatione praedicta, cum nulla de ipsa fides haberi potuerit, nonobstante, constitutionem eandem, quoad omnem suum effectum, de fratrum ipsorum consilio decrevimus esse suspensam. Caeterum aperte praedicimus, quod nec nostrae, nec fratrum ipsorum intentionis existit, ut solum eiusdem constitutionis suspensione seu abolitione sistamus; sed ad tollendas occasiones diffusae vacationis eiusdem Ecclesiae, ac celeritatem provisionis ipsius, prout eadem intendebat constitutio, competenter inducendam, sic intendimus praefatae constitutioni et dicti praedecessoris Gregorii, conditoris eiusdem, intentioni concurrere, ac Deo ductore fratrum ipsorum consilio salubriter in proximo providere, quod cum dispositione divina casus emerserit eidem Ecclesiae, sublatis impedimentis quibuslibet, celeriter desiderata provisio, prout mundi necessitas exigit, valeat provenire....

Datum Viterbii secundo kalendas octobris, pontificatus nostri anno 1   [September 30, 1276]

There was considerable disbelief in the revocation,  casting doubt even on the rectitude of the testimony of the nine Cardinals who were present at the Consistory in which the revocation was announced.  Adrian V, however, had made no further moves toward emending the Constitution of Gregory X, either verbally or in writing.  It was incumbent on John XXI, therefore, to publish a declaration leaving no doubt that the Constitution of Gregory X had been revoked.

On October 7, the new pope issued an encyclical letter, announcing his election and describing the recent conclave (Bullarium Romanum Turin Edition Volume IV, p. 38; Cristofori, 196-197):

Ioannes Episcopus Servus Servorum Dei.
Felicis recordationis Hadriano Papa praedecessore nostro, post promotionem suam ad Summi Apostolatus apicem, brevi dierum vitae suae tempore consummante, post exhibita eidem in solemnibus exequiis debita humanitatis obsequia, nos et fratres nostri in episcopali palatio convenimus, electioni substituendi pontificis, juxta necessitatis instantiam, et fervens nostrum desiderium vacaturi et licet diebus aliquibus, per importunitatem Viterbiensium Civium, tractatui electionis instantis nec dare possemus initium postquam tamen illi vacare potuimus astitit, ut credulitas devota supponit. Sapientiae Spiritus ex more a Nobis et fratribus ipsis suppliciter invocatus et prima die, de ipsorum fratrum concordi voto parique concordia processit de nobis tunc episcopo Tusculano, impraemeditatis et insciis, ad Petri cathedram electio canonica communis et concors. In iis itaque stupemus non immerito pariter et terremur....

Datum Viterbii Nonis Octobris Pontificatus nostri anno primo.

On October 7 (or 17) he received the fealty of King Charles I for the Kingdom of Sicily (Moroni, 59 says October 17; the text of the oath, quoted by Cristofori, 343-348, has the date of October 7). He died in Viterbo on May 16, 1277, and was buried in the cathedral there.


modern medal by J. DaSilva of John XXI
Modern art medal depicting John XXI
by Joao da Silva, 1953


Onuphrio Panvinio, Epitome Pontificum Romanorum a S. Petro usque ad Paulum IIII. Gestorum (videlicet) electionisque singulorum & Conclavium compendiaria narratio (Venice: Jacob Strada 1557). Platina, 3, 134-136. Lorenzo Cardella, Memorie storiche de' cardinali della Santa Romana Chiesa Tomo primo Parte secondo (Roma: Pagliarini 1792).  Ludovico Antonio Muratori, Annali d' Italia Volume 18 (Firenze 1827). Giuseppe de Novaes, Elementi per la storia de' Sommi Pontefici terza edizione Volume III (Roma 1821).   G. Moroni, Dizionario di erudizione storico-ecclesiastica Volume 31 (Venezia 1840) 59-60.

Paul Durrieu, Étude sur les registres angevines du Roi Charles Ier Tome second (Paris 1888), 179-180. Richard Stapper, Papst Johannes XXI (Münster 1898) [Kirchengeschichtlisches Studien, IV. Band, Heft 4].  F. Gregorovius, History of Rome in the Middle Ages, Volume V.2 second edition, revised (London: George Bell, 1906) 475-477. Richard Sternfeld, Der Kardinal Johann Gaetan Orsini (Papst Nikolaus III.) 1244-1277 (Berlin: E. Ebering 1905) 267-275. N. Schopp, Papst Hadrian V (Heidelberg 1916).

On Bernard Ayglier, OSB, abbot of Montecassino, see: Luigi Tosti, OSB, Storia della Badia di Monte-cassino Tomo III (Napoli 1843) 6-32; 65-89

On the Annibaldi: Fedele Savio, SJ, "Gli Annibaldi di Roma nel secolo XIII," Studi e documenti di storia e diritto 17 (1896) 353-363. Francis Roth, OESA, "Il Cardinale Riccardo Annibaldi, Primo Prottetore dell' Ordine Agostiniano," Augustiniana 2 (1952) 26-60. M. Dikmans, "D' Innocent III à Boniface VIII. Histoire des Conti et des Annibaldi," Bulletin de l' Institut historique belge de Rome 45 (1975) 19-211.

On Vicedomino de' Vicedomini, and the myth of his one-day papacy, see:  F. Cristofori, Le tombe dei pape in Viterbo (Siena 1887), 185-202. Cardella II, 2-3. Novaes, 262. Moroni Dizionario di erudizione storico ecclesiastica 32, 279-280. Cardella states that the story derives from a necrology kept in Piacenza and some 'ancient manuscripts' of the city, referred to by the chronicler of the Friars Minor, Vadingo in the seventeenth century.

Suspension of Gregory X's constitution on papal elections: Adrian V (Ottobono Fieschi) suspended the arrangements of Pope Gregory orally in a consistory: Giordano, quoted in Reynaldi, Annales Ecclesiasticae sub anno 1276. They were officially cancelled by the Bull Licet of Pope John XXI on September 30, 1276. A. Ceccaroni Il conclave (Roma 1901) 57.

On Simon de Brie and the Council of Bourges in September, 1276, see Carl Joseph von Hefele, Conciliengeschichte nach dem Quellen bearbeitet second edition Volume VI (Freiburg im Breisgau: Herder 1890) 176-177.

November 15, 2013 4:41 AM

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