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].

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 was 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.  The rigors of the conclave as envisioned by Gregory, with their monastic enclosure, dormitory sleeping arrangements, and simplicity of diet,  did not appeal to aristocrats and ecclesiastical politicians.  In July, certainly before the 22nd, he travelled to Viterbo, partly for the climate and partly to attend to some differences between the Church and Emperor Rudolph of Habsburg.  Death interrupted Pope Adrian's brief reign 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, 1276, the College of Cardinals wrote to the Emperor Rudolph [Cristofori, Tombe, p. 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 18, 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; Potthast 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 was not present, due to illness, at the Consistory in August, 1276, when Adrian V revoked the Constitution of Gregory X   Ubi periculum. 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).  Ciaconius-Olduin (II, 193, 214) report is death in 1276, between the death of Adrian V and the election of Johannes XXI, on VIII Idus Septembris (September 6, 1276), according to a "Diario vetustissimo" of the Cathedral of Piacenza.
  3. Bertrand de Saint Martin, born in Arles, Benedictine, Archbishop of Arles in 1266, Cardinal Bishop of Sabina in 1273. Legate in Lombardy, perhaps at the time of his creation in June, 1273 [Annales Veronenses, in Antiche croniche Veronesi  I ed. C. Cipolla (Venezia 1890) p. 416]. He participated as cardinal in the Second Council of Lyon, and signed a bull on March 23, 1275 [Potthast 21008].  On June 7, 1275, at Bellicadri, he was assigned the church of S. Marcello in commendam [Posse, no. 848].   Innocent V states that Gregory X was accompanied in his journey back to Italy from Lyon, in continuatione laborum ... nobis, tunc Ostiensi episcopo ac aliis fratribus nostris, quos tam in Urbe quam circa eius finia [sic], iam diversa loca receperant, tribus tantum ex illis existentibus circa ipsum de ultramontana redeuntibus regione.... [Bullarium Romanum  IV (Augustae Taurinorum 1853) p. 35]; Sternfeld (p. 239) takes this to include Bertrand de Saint Martin, without warrant.  Bertrand and Cardinal Giacomo Savelli of S. Maria in Cosmedin were assigned by Pope Adrian V to meet and negotiate with King Charles I of SIcily  [Letter of the College of Cardinals during the Sede Vacante (July 27,1276): Cristofori, Tombe, p. 175].  On September 30, 1276, Bertrand was appointed by the bull Crescit facile to be the leader of an inquisition into the persons responsible for the disorders during the Sede Vacante of August-September, 1276 [Baronius-Theiner 22, pp. 377-378, nos. 31-33; Potthast 21152].  He was later present at the Conclave of 1277 May 20—November 25 in Viterbo   [Annales Placentini Ghibellini, in  MGH SS XVIII, p. 569]: Episcopus vero Sabinensis cardinalis tenet mediam viam, nec declinat ad unam nec ad aliam.     The date sometimes given for his death, March 28, 1277 at Avignon, is manifestly wrong. (Cardella, 8, says 1275, equally manifestly wrong).    He is spoken of as deceased in a letter of Nicholas III of April 5, 1278 [Registres de Nicolas III, no. 51, p. 13]

  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. On December 13, 1276, King Edward of England was ordered to admit the agents of Cardinal Simon who were being sent to claim several benefices there [Potthast 21203]  He died in 1276 or the beginning of 1277, before February 12 [Sternfeld, 287, citing E. Cadier, Les registres de Jean XXI [1898] no. 80;  Annales Veronenses, in Antiche croniche Veronesi  I ed. C. Cipolla (Venezia 1890) p. 419, reports his death in February of 1277—which was still 1276 in the Roman calendar].

  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.  He was not present, due to illness, at the Consistory in August, 1276, when Adrian V revoked the Constitution of Gregory X   Ubi periculum.  †1276, after the election of Adrian V   [Annales Veronenses, in Antiche croniche Veronesi I ed. C. Cipolla (Venezia 1890) p. 418]
  11. Iacobus (Giacomo Savelli), Cardinal (1261-1285) Deacon of Santa Maria in Cosmedin, future Pope Honorius IV (1285-1287).  Cardinal Bertrand de Saint Martin and Cardinal Giacomo were assigned by Pope Adrian V to meet and negotiate with King Charles I of SIcily  [Letter of the College of Cardinals during the Sede Vacante (July 27,1276): Cristofori, Tombe, p. 175].
  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 and many others, Cardinal Vicedomino de' Vicedomini, a Franciscan Tertiary and Protector of the Franciscans, was elected pope and died within twenty-four hours, on September 5-6, 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, Qui aeternae legis   [Rymer, Foedera I. 2, p. 153.   Cf. Baronius-Theiner 22, sub anno 1276, no. 34, p. 379;  Bullarium Romanum IV (Augustae Taurinorum 1859), p. 38 (October 7, 1276), who only print part of the document], names Adrian V as his immediate predecessor:

... Siquidem felicis recordationis Adriano Papae praedecessore nostro, post promotionem suam ad summi Apostolatus apicem, brevi dierum numero vitae suae tempora consumante, post exhibita eidem in solempnibus exequiis debita humanitatis obsequia, nos et fratres nostri in episcopali palatio Viterbiensi convenimus, electioni substituendi Pontificis....

The story begins with a Canon of the Cathedral of Piacenza, named Pietro Maria Campi.   Iin 1626, according to his own report in his Dell' historia ecclesiastica di Piacenza (Volume II:  Piacenza, 1652, p. 307), he happened to visit Rome.  He brought with him a a manuscript on which he had been working, which eventually became the Dell' historia ecclesiastica di Piacenza.  While in Rome, he showed the text to several scholars, including Andrea Victorelli (author of additions to Ciaconius-Olduin), Luca Wadding (author of the Annales Minorum: see AM V, p. 2 ), and Gabriel Fabri.  He drew their attention to his work on Adrian V and Cardinal Vicedomino Vicedomini, and to a sentence which he had discovered in alcune chroniche di Piacenza   which he respected per la molta antichità loro:

Sunt et in dicta civitate Placentiae Vicedomini: quae est magna domus et nobilis: nam de ista domo fuit unus Papa: qui non stetit in Papam nisi per unum diem, et mortuus est Frater Minor.    

This is the one and only actual source for the papacy of Vicedomino de' Vicedomini. 

Campi was also aware because of his researches in the Calendario del Duomo that Cardinal Vicedomino had died on September 6, 1276, and that he was Bishop of Palestrina, not Bishop of Rome.  He quotes the text [p. 308; also quoted by Lucas Wadding in the Annales Minorum V, p. 2]:

Octavo idus Septemb. [September 6]   Obiit D. Vicedominus quondam Episcopus Praenestinus, MCCLXXVI. Et reliquit huic Ecclesiae anniversarium in die obitus sui, qui fuit die 6. Septembris, ut in archivio.

Campi also published from a ms. of  what calls "certi altri Annali nostri" in his possession, the elogium of Cardinal Vicedomino (which contains no mention of his election to the Throne of Peter):

MCCLXXVI obiit Vicedominus de Vicedominis, de Placentia, Episcopus Praenestinus Cardinalis: qui habuit uxorem et liberos, et famosus Advocatus fuit: qui mortua uxore, propter ejus vitam bonam et scientiam laudabilem, Clericus et Praepositus Grassae eficitur, post episcopus Aquensis [1257-1274]: demum a Gregorio Papa X in dicto Cardinalatu promotus fuit: et in Ecclesia Fratrum Minorum in Viterbio sepelitur.

In combining these bits of information together, Campi could only fit in Pope Vicedomino for a single day during the Conclave of August 18, 1276—September 8, 1276, specifically on September 6.  Campi, however, believed or decided—he does not quote a source—that John XXI was elected on September 13, not September 8,  which gave him plenty of room for election–death–burial–regrouping–election of Julian of Lisbon as John XXI.  That makes a more satisfying scenario than: election on the 5th or 6th—death on the 6th—burial on the 7th—election on the 8th.  And yet is the Annales Placentini Ghibellenses (MGH SS XVIII, 564) that gives the date of September 8.   It is Bernardus Guidonis, in his life of Pope John, who gives the date of September 13 (which was the Ides of September—it is easy for a copyist to omit the number before Idus].  However Bernardus, also says that the Sede Vacante lasted twenty-eight days, which makes the election of Vicedomino a chronological impossibility [Cristofori, 200]. The annals of Orvieto, however, opt for September 14 [MGH SS XIX, 270];  Fra Salimbene prefers the 17th [Chronica, pp. 269-270].   And, Pope John XXI states that he was elected on the first day of the Conclave, which had been delayed for some time by disorders in the city of Viterbo; he does not mention the election of Vicedomino.


Tomb of Vicedomino Vicedomini in Viterbo    Tomb of Card. Vicedomino (Papebroch)
Tomb of Cardinal Vicedomini (Viterbo)                               Tomb of Cardinal Vicedomini (Viterbo)
from Cristofori                                                           from Papebroch


Campi goes into a long disquisition to the effect that the patruelis of Cardinal Vicedomo, named Cardinal Joannes de Vicecomitibus, a nephew of Gregory X, was a participant in the Conclave.  He was supposed to have been Bishop of Sabina.  However, in the year 1276, the actual Bishop of Sabina was Cardinal Bertrand de Saint Martin, Bishop of Sabina (from 1274 to perhaps 1277). This relative of Vicedomo, then, is an imaginary cardinal (His tale can be found in Campi's Dell' historia ecclesiastica di Piacenza (Volume II:  Piacenza, 1652), p. 308, and in Ciaconius-Olduin, whence it was adopted by Wadding; but the cardinalate of Giovanni Visconti is rejected by Eubel I, p. 9 n. 3).  Guilelmus Burius, [Romanorum Pontificum brevis notitia, ritus ecclesiastic. a singulis institutos praecipue declarans... (Patavii 1741), no.194] even provides a throne name, Gregory IX,  for Cardinal Vicedomino; it is a not unreasonable conjecture, the uncle having been Gregory X, but it is made with no evidence whatever.  The tomb of Cardinal Vicedomino, as the illustration in Papebroch (above) indicates, presents an inscription which states successit Petro, "he was a successor of Peter".  However, no name is given, and certainly not "Gregory XI".  One must also notice, however, that the stemma above the reclining image shows only a clerical hat, not the papal tiara or the crossed keys.  The inscription is certainly later, despite Papebroch's thought that it was contemporary.  Cristofori [Tombe, 185-203] indicates that the tomb has been rebuilt or refurbished several times, and what now appears is an amalgam of bits from various restorations.  It is interesting to watch one fantasy being built on top of another, but the result is bad history.  The story of Pope Vicedomino, therefore, descends from a single sentence in the ecclesiastical history of Piacenza by Pietro Maria Campi.  It is endlessly repeated by readers of Ciaconius and Wadding.  Daniel Papebroch, Conatus chronico-historicus (1685), pp. 58-59, reveals the weakness of the source materials, and warns against adopting the theory.  "Popes', he says, "are not to be multiplied beyond necessity."  The story is rejected by Henricus Spondanus [Annalium Ecclesiasticorum ... Baronii continuatio   Tomus I (Ticini 1675), sub anno 1276. vi., p. 295],  and nearly everyone else.

On his membership in the Franciscan Order, see Conrad Eubel, OM.Conv., "Bischöfe, Cardinale, und Papste aus dem Minoritenorden von seiner Stiftung bis zum Jahre 1305," Römische Quartalschrift 4 (1890) 185-258, at 193-194.


Election of Cardinal Peter Julian of Lisbon

The Conclave took place in the episcopal palace in Viterbo.  Since Pope Adrian had died on August 18,  the Conclave would have begun on August 28 or 29—if the Constitution Ubi Periculum of Gregory X had been in effect, or if its provisions were being observed, even though the Constitution had been suspended. A successful election finally took place on the 8th (or 13th or 15th) of September [Annales Placentini Gibellini, in MGH 18, 564].   According to the Electus himself, in his electoral manifesto, Qui aeternae legis   [Rymer, Foedera I. 2, p. 153.   Cf. Baronius-Theiner 22, sub anno 1276, no. 34, p. 379;  Bullarium Romanum IV (Augustae Taurinorum 1859), p. 38 (October 7, 1276), who only print part of the document; Potthast II, 21160], the beginning of the electoral process had been delayed for several days due to the behavior of the people of Viterbo:

... Siquidem felicis recordationis Adriano Papae praedecessore nostro, post promotionem suam ad summi Apostolatus apicem, brevi dierum numero vitae suae tempora consumante, post exhibita eidem in solempnibus exequiis debita humanitatis obsequia, nos et fratres nostri in episcopali palatio Viterbiensi convenimus, electioni substituendi Pontificis, iuxta 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 order to calm the uproar the Cardinals sent a delegation to the crowd to read them a clear statement from the Cardinals as to the points at issue.  They sent three members of the Order of Preachers: the Archbishop of Corinth, the Master General of the Dominicans, and the Procurator General.  It is odd and no doubt significant that three Dominicans were chosen.  Were they the most reliable or the most acceptable to the mob?  Or were they among the agitators who needed to be disciplined, by being made to repudiate their own complaints?

Once the trouble had been settled, though, and the Conclave had begun, the election was completed on the first day.  Of the eleven surviving cardinals, ten came to an agreement on the eleventh. Cardinal, Peter of Lisbon was elected, and chose to be called John XXI (even though there had been no John XX).  John XXI (XX) was crowned in the Cathedral of St. Lorenzo in Viterbo on September 20, 1276, by Cardinal Giovanni Gaetano Orsini, the Cardinal Protodeacon.



The disorder that had caused the delay in the beginning of the Conclave was not, however, to be treated as a moot issue. In the new Pope's opinion there was sedition involved, and he wanted to discover and to punish the ringleaders.   Ten days after his coronation, on September 30, Pope John issued another statement, which went into detail, not about the behavior of the people of Viterbo, but about the iniquities of members of the Curia as they urged on the people of Viterbo.   His extensive document, the bull Crescit facile, was an excellent testimony to his preaching abilities [Baronius-Theiner 22, pp. 377-378, nos. 31-33; Potthast 21152]:

Crescit facile in immensum impunita temeritas, cum frequenter indebita unius impunitas in aliis etiam ausum parere soleat ausus excessum.  Quantae autem audaciae, quantaeque temeritatis fuerit iis diebus nonnullorum, ut dicitur praelatorum, ac aliorum inferioris conditionis et status novissimae vacationis Ecclesiae Romanae tempore in curia nostra praesentium; ac specialiter scriptorum nostrorum,et procuratorum, aliorumque curiam ipsam sequentium, effrenata praesumptio, ne dicatur effrenis insania; series infrascripta, ne subditorum culpas referre delectabiliter videamur, succincto sermone percurrat.  Cum enim nos et fratres nostri sanctae Romanae Ecclesiae cardinales, de quorum numero tunc eramus, convenissemus in Viterbiensi palatio, pro electione de summo Pontifice celebranda; et studeremus solertius obicem impedimenti submovere cujuslibet, ut favente Domino celerius proveniret, quod exigebat mundi necessitas, et fervens nostrum ac ipsorum fratrum desiderium exquirebat; incohataque per Viterbienses cives immanis arctatio, usque adeo tolerantiae metas excederet, quod nobis et ipsis fratribus salutis dispendium minaretur, ac electionis processui dispendiosam ingereret tarditatem; dicti praelati et alii non solum ad nostra et ipsorum fratrum pericula, quibus durius angebamur, compassionis non habuerunt effectum; sed a se potius omnis humanitatis et reverentiae debito relegato, grassantes, in superiores suos crudeliter saevientes, satagendo irreverenter persequi, quos reverenter prosequi tenebantur, Viterbienses ipsos ad arctationem eamdem aggravandam acerbius, instantius accendebant; et Apostolica doctrina contempta, plus sapere quam oportet sapere gestientes imprudentius, seque rei ad se non pertinenti temere immiscentes nec verentes, quod sicut scriptum est, bestia quae montem tetigerit, lapidabitur; in tantam prorupere temeritatis audaciam, ut in dubium acutoritatem et jurisdictionem collegii ejusdem Ecclesiae revocarent, et de illis in derogationem ipsarum disputantes ubilibet, enervare, imo et vacare pro viribus niterentur inanibus argumentis: falso insuper asserentes Constitutionem felicis recordationis Gregorii papae X praedecessoris nostri super electione hujusmodi editam, per piae memoriae Adrianum papam praedecessorem nostrum, suspensam aliquatenus non fuisse; id non sunt veriti nefariis ausibus disseminare per terram, et auribus etiam officialium civitatis ejusdem dolosis labiis instillare, in electionis, nostrum et fratrum nostrorum periculum et evidens detrimentum.


Cumque ipsius collegii consulta circumspectio decrevisset, ut suspensionem hujusmodi, quantum ut praemittitur, nonnullorum assertio in dubium diversimode revocabat, per venerabilem fratrem nostrum Corinthiensem archiepiscopum [Petrus de Confluentia, OP]  et dilectos filios fratres I[ohannes Vercellensis] magistrum et I[oannes Vereschi] Procuratorem Ordinis Praedicatorum facerent publicari; dictique archiepiscopus, et alii vellent in loco ad hoc electo commissionem super hoc sibi factam exequi reverenter; procuratores et alii, eamdem sequentes curiam, malitiose, ut exitus indicat, in loco convenientes eodem, assumpto superbiae spiritu, obturantes more aspidis aures suas; ejusdem collegii litteras nostro et singulorum eorumdem fratrum sigillis munitas testimonium de suspensionis ejusdem veritate reddentes, audire penitus contempserunt: quinimo exaltatis stolide vocibus in clamores, ac aliis diversis strepitibus tumultibusque commotis, furori data licentia, lorisque insaniae relaxatis, ut iniquitatem parerent, qui dolum iniquum conceperant et dolorem; in eundem archiepiscopum, qui litteras easdem in manibus legendas assumpserat, nequiter irruentes, nonnullis ex eisdem litteris sigillis manibus praesumptulsis avulsis, in eumdem archiepiscopum fustes inhumane jecerunt, exertis nihilominus gladiis, ut perderent innocentem. Suntne ista filialis devotionis indicia, quae dictis fratribus nostris, columnis Ecclesiae, non indigne debentur?  Suntne ista obedientiae signa, reverentiae operea, tantis patribus nobiscum mundi supportantibus onera, exhibenda?  Profecto aliud exigunt eorum labores et merita, aliud eorum dignitati et auctoritati debetur.  Ne igitur tam detestandi et enormes excessus, absque debita castigatione pertranseant, cum ad eos compescendos ne periculose in alios exemplari alveo deriventur, exerendus sit potius Ecclesiasticae gladius ultionis, nos zelo justitiae, quantum ex officii debito exequi tenemur ad omnes, nec volentes, nec valentes conniventibus oculis pertransire, omnes excessuum hujusmodi patratores, cujuscumque sint dignitatis, ordinis, conditionis, aut status praesentium auctoritate monemus, et eis in virtute obedientiae districte praecipimus, ut infra octo dies a publicatione praesentium numerandos, excessus hujusmodi venerabili fratri nostro episcopo Sabinensi [Bertrand de Saint Martin], et aliis, quos ad id idem episcopus deputabit, non in confessionis foro, sed tanquam ad hoc specialiter deputatos a nobis spontanei fateantur.  Alioquin scriptores et procuratores eosdem, aliosque praefatos, ut praedicitur, eamdem sequentes curiam, quos praemissorum excessuum culpa commaculat, ex nunc a perceptione proventuum beneficiorum, si quae obtinent, suspendentes, aperte praedicimus, tam praelatis quam omnibus aliis supradictis, quod cum cordi hujusmodi negotium habeamus, diligentem inquisitionem super praemissis fieri faciemus; processuri gravius, contra illos, quorum reatum non humilis eet spontanea oris confessio, sed habendae inquisitionis assertio relevabit.


Et ne diutius tantae praesumptionis audacia occultetur, aut sine vindicta remaneat, ad faciendam inquisitionem eamdem, ex nunc, dilectos filios magistros Petrum [de Mediolani] ipsius Romanae Ecclesiae vicecancellarium, G. litterarum nostrarum contradictarum auditorem , et Joannem de Roccha capellanum nostrum, auctoritate Apostolica deputamus; ipsis inquirendi de omnibus et singulis supradictis et referendi nobis, quae invenerint; necnon contra rebelles, eadem auctoritate per censuram Ecclesiasticam compescendo, potestatem plenariam concedentes: non obstante si aliquibus cujuscumque dignitatis, praeminentiae, ordinis, conditionis, aut status existant, a Sede Apostolica sit indultum, quod interdici, suspendi, vel excommunicari non possint per litteras Apostolicas non facientes plenam et expressam, ac de verbo ad verbum de indulto hujusmodi mentionem; et qualiber alia praefatae sedis indulgentia, cujuscumque tenoris existat, per quam praesentius non expressam, aut totaliter non insertam, effectus earum impediri valet, vel differri; et de qua in eis expressa mentio sit habenda.


Dat. Viterbii  II kal. Octob. Pontificatus nostri an. 1.

The new Pope's solution was to set up an inquisition, with the Bishop of Sabina, Bertrand de Saint Martin, in charge, to demand confessions (not sacramental confessions, but public confessions) from the guilty parties.  They had one week from the publication of the decree (September 30) to turn themselves in.  Otherwise they faced suspension from their benefices.  He also appointed his Vice-Chancellor and his Auditor and one of his chaplains to launch an investigation, the results of which could lead to excommunication.  The most interesting feature of the incident is the nature of the targets of the inquiry.  The Pope is particularly angry at the scriptores and other curiales: nonnullorum, ut dicitur praelatorum, ac aliorum inferioris conditionis et status novissimae vacationis Ecclesiae Romanae tempore in curia nostra praesentium; ac specialiter scriptorum nostrorum,et procuratorum, aliorumque curiam ipsam sequentium.  This was a revolt of the bureaucrats, it seems.  Why were they insisting on a proper enclosed Conclave, according to the Constitution of Gregory X?  Perhaps they wanted a quick result, so that they could get back to the lucrative business of producing papal documents.  If there were to be another Conclave like 1268-1271, then the entire papal machine would grind to a halt, no benefices, no preferments, no petitions, no bulls, no graces, no annulments, no money.  Moreover, the Curia had been peripatetic for an entire year,  which cannot have been a pleasant experience, especially given the weather conditions.

On the same day,  John XXI issued another bull, addressing the matter of the Conclave.  The Bull itself, dated September 30, 1276, makes it clear: (1) that Adrian V had suspended Pope Gregory's bull Ubi periculum; (2) that five cardinals, including Peter himself, had vouched for the fact in writing; (3) that some persons had dared to reject their testimony.  He therefore announced that Adrian V had indeed revoked the bull and that the revocation was valid [Registres de Nicolaus IV, I, 2167; Potthast 21151; Tomassetti, Bullarium Romanum IV, pp. 37-38]:

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....

Ptolemy of Lucca [Demski, 33 n, 3] states that this revocation—on whatever date it was issued—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.


On the expiration of the week of grace, on October 8, 1276,  viii idus octobris, according to the Continuatio Sanblasiana of Otto of Freising's chronicle [MGH XX, 337; Potthast 21162],  John XXI definitively revoked the constitution of Gregory X, Ubi Periculum, regulating conclaves;

... quam sanctam constitutionem [Ubi periculum] revocavit cum magno scandalo Iohannes papa XXI. in consistorio Viterbiensi, anno Domini 1276 8 Idus Octobris. Unde ut creditur ultio divina secundo anno sui papatus, trabe de suo solario VIterbii super eum ruente et obruente, tulit miserabiliter de hac vita, et sic qui revocando tam utilem toti ecclesie constitutionem ipsam scandalizavit, cum totius ecclesie scandalo est defunctus....

Potthast accepts the entry, but refers back to the bull Licet of September 30; one may infer that he is questioning whether the two events are one.  It is easy to conjecture that a German chronicler got the date wrong. And yet, there may perhaps have been a Consistory on October 8 (or was it on October 7? We have only the Continuatio Sanblasiana as witness to the date of October 8), but not to issue a bull, but rather to deal with some of the culprits who had challenged the authority of Adrian V and six cardinals. On October 7 the Pope did certainly hold an important Consistory. He received the fealty of King Charles I for the Kingdom of Sicily (the text of the oath, quoted by Cristofori, Tombe, 343-348, has the date of October 7).   Copies of Qui aeternae legis  for various Church leaders were also signed and dated on October 7 [Potthast 21160].



But on October 15, Pope John appointed one of his conclave inquisitors, John of Vercellae, OP, as well as Hieronymus, the Minister General of the Franciscans, as Apostolic Legates to go to France to arrange a peace between King Philip and King Alfonso of Castile [Potthast 21165; and see Baronius-Theiner 22, sub anno 1277, no. 47, p. 402].  The Pope died on May 16, but during the following Sede Vacante, the College of Cardinals wrote to the two legates and encouraged them to carry out their mandate [Potthast 21253]. 

On October 18, Cardinal Giovanni Gaetano Orsini was appointed Archpriest of St. Peter's, in place of the late Cardinal Riccardo Annibaldi [Potthast 21171].


John XXI 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





The Brother of Mateo de Romano: Monumenti storici publicati dalla R. Deputazione Veneta di storia patria. Serie terza. Cronache e diarii, Vol. II. Antiche Cronache Veronesi (Venezia 1890), pp. 409-469 "Annales Veronenses"

J. Guiraud and L. Cadier (editors), Les registres de Grégoire X et de Jean XXI (1271-1277)  (Paris, 1892-1898) [BEFAR 2 série, 12].

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.  Daniel Papebroch, Conatus chronico-historicus ad Catalogum Romanorum Pontificum (Antverpiae: apud Michaelem Knobbarum 1685).  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.  Augustin Demski, Papst Nikolaus III, Eine Monographie (Münster 1903) 34-37.   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).

Otto Posse, Analecta Vaticana (Oeniponti 1878).

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 Cardinal Orsini: Augustin Demski, Papst Nikolaus III, Eine Monographie (Münster 1903) 34-37. Richard Sternfeld, Der Kardinal Johann Gaetan Orsini (Papst Nikolaus III.) 1244-1277 (Berlin: E. Ebering 1905).

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; a more complete story is told by Papebroch and by Luca Wadding.

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.


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