Venice: December 1521

Pages 191-196

Calendar of State Papers Relating To English Affairs in the Archives of Venice, Volume 3, 1520-1526. Originally published by Her Majesty's Stationery Office, London, 1869.

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December 1521

Dec. 2. Contarini's Original Letter Book, Letter no. 105, St. Mark's Library. 372. Gasparo Contarini to the Signory.
Announces the capture of the town and castle of Tournai by Mons. de Nassau.
Oudenarde, 2nd December 1521.
[Italian, 2½ pages.]
Dec. 3. Sanuto Diaries, v. xxxii. pp. 201–203. 373. Francis I. to Mons. de Lautrec.
(Copy transmitted to the Signory by Proveditor General Gritti.)
“I have in like manner sent to England, despatching thither again La Bâtie and Poillot, (fn. 1) counsellor of my Grand Council [Parliament ?], to acquaint the King of England with what has occurred at Milan, and with what I have consequently done and am doing, giving him a full account of the position of my affairs.”
Written at Compiegne on the 3rd of December 1521.
(Signed) Francois. (Countersigned) Robertet.
Registered by Sanuto, 29th December.
Dec. 4. Sanuto Diaries, v. xxxii. p. 139. 374. Last News of Cardinal Adrian Castellesi, Bishop of Bath and Wells.
Cardinal Adrian, by reason of his having been deprived of the hat and excommunicated by this Pope Leo, (fn. 2) has been living hitherto very privately (secretissimo) in this city in the house (according to report) of the Bishop of Paphos, Pesaro, (fn. 3) in Cà Bernardo, on the Grand Canal at S. Polo, but no one visited him. He studied and wrote. He had a very trusty friar with him. On hearing of the Pope's death, he departed rejoicing on his way to Rome, but nothing more was ever heard of him. It is supposed he was murdered on the road.
[Note by Sanuto.]
Dec. 9. Contarini's Original Letter Book, Letter no. 108, St. Mark's Library. 375. Gasparo Contarini to the Signory.
Conversation held by his (Contarini's) secretary with the Bishop of Palencia, who said,—“The Venetian Signory is most sage; as the opportunity is offered to her, let her not lose it. The Emperor has no other enemy than the King of France, who being vanquished, his Imperial Majesty will turn his thoughts to the affairs of the Infidels; and as we know that the Signory is a good instilment for aiding this excellent desire, we wish to see a good understanding between them and the Emperor. We shall have the Switzers, who for 100,000 ducats will engage themselves; and then perhaps the King of England will also be on our side.”
Oudenarde, 9th December 1521.
[Italian, 4 page.]
Dec. 17. Contarini's Original Letter Book, Letter no. 111, St. Mark's Library. 376. The Same to the Same.
As ordered by the State, will communicate the advices from Hungary to the Emperor, who last Sunday received news of the Pope's death on the 2nd instant. This unexpected intelligence will doubtless much disturb him, as it seems greatly to interfere with all his projects. The Imperialists however hope and trust that their ambassador, Don Emanuel, will do his utmost to obtain the Papal tiara for Cardinal de' Medici, though this was not credited by persons acquainted with the Court of Rome, and the majority anticipates the election of the Cardinal of Sienna. (fn. 4)
Ghent, 17th December 1521.
[Italian, 2 pages.]
Dec. 18. Contarini's Original Letter Book, Letter no. 112, St. Mark's Library. 377. The Same to the Same.
Has been told today by the Bishop of Palencia that they did not expect Cardinal de' Medici to be elected Pope, but rather some individual as his nominee, through the favour and assistance of the other Imperial cardinals.
Ghent, 18th December 1521.
[Italian, 1 page.]
Dec. 23. Contarini's Original Letter Book, Letter no. 113, St. Mark's Library. 378. The Same to the Same.
A few days ago the Emperor sent Mons. de Castro to the King of England. Has been unable to ascertain the cause of this mission, but believes it to relate to some treaty with England.
Ghent, 23rd December 1521.
[Italian, 2 pages.]
Dec. 24. Contarini's Original Letter Book, Letter no. 114, St. Mark's Library. 379. The Same to the Same.
Arrival at Ghent on the preceding morning of Richard Pace, chief secretary of the King of England.
At 9 p.m. Pace sent to his (Contarini's) lodging, desiring to see his secretary, to whom he said that he was going to Rome by order of his King, and required a passport through the Venetian territories for one of his attendants, who was to precede him, riding post.
The secretary replied that, although unnecessary for an English subject in the Venetian dominions, by reason of the love which the State bore his King, yet the passport should be given, and its bearer receive as good treatment as if he were a born subject of the Signory's. The secretary remained some while in conversation with Pace, having known him at Rome; (fn. 5) and returned home accompanied by the person for whom the passport was required. He (Contarini) gave the passport, and this morning visited Pace. Received from him assurances of his constant affection for the State, and was urged by him to let the Signory know as speedily as possible that the King of England desired nothing but the preservation of Venice. Pace knew the Emperor likewise to be of the same mind, and that this bias would continue unless the State sought its own ruin. He added that the State, having hitherto assisted the King of France in virtue of the obligation contracted with him, should now attend to its own affairs.
Returned becoming thanks for the assurances of goodwill on the part of Pace and his King, and attributed the policy of the Signory in favour of the French to the oath and promise given by them, no advantage having accrued to Venice, whereas the expense incurred was immense, so that the hostilities, especially in Italy, had been most injurious to the State individually, irrespectively of the interests of Christendom, which might suffer very seriously from the present wars.
Assured Pace, after alluding to the Turkish news, that Venice did the utmost for peace according to the example of the King of England. Endeavoured to ascertain the cause of Pace's mission to Rome, but all he could elicit was that it concerned the negotiations of his King with the new Pope.
The Papal Nuncio had sent to tell him, as a very great secret, that the treaty between the Emperor and the King of England might be considered settled.
Ghent, 24th December 1521.
[Italian, 3 pages.]
Dec. 25. Sanuto Diaries, v. xxxii. p. 317. 380. Antonio Surtan to the Signory.
The French ambassadors have had audience of King Henry, who delayed his reply until after consultation with the ministry. He is sending two ambassadors, one to the Emperor, the other to the Switzers to persuade them not to stir. Cardinal Wolsey is exasperated against France, because she sent the Duke of Albany to Scotland. Requested Wolsey to write again to the Emperor, and assure him the galley detained in Biscay went to St. Sebastian's, not to do any mischief, but from stress of weather. The Cardinal told him to draw up the minute, and that he would have the letter written.
London, 25th December 1521. Registered by Sanuto, 17th February 1522.
Dec. 27. Sanuto Diaries, v. xxxii. pp. 276,277. 381. Vincenzo Priuli, Captain of the Flanders Galleys, to his Brothers Hironimo and Francesco.
After having shaped his course so as to cross from Laredo, when in the Bay of Biscay, on St. Nicholas' Eve, 6th December, he was compelled by a violent storm either to make for the coast of France or proceed with his consort to St. Sebastian's, as they did. Having then determined to cross from that port, made Plymouth on 18th December. But the third galley, Antonio Donado master, in order not to follow them, entered the harbour of St. Sebastian's, and when they landed the magistrates of the place arrested the master and other officers, and seized the sails, rudder, and guns, alleging that the truce with the Emperor had been violated, and that the galley was bound for Fonterabia, to succour that place, which holds for France. On hearing this he (the captain) wrote immediately to the ambassador Surian, to take precautions and send the copy of the safeconduct.
Plymouth, 27th December 1521. Registered by Sanuto, 24th January 1522.
Dec. 30. Contarini's Original Letter Book, Letter no. 117, St. Mark's Library. 382. Gasparo Contarini to the Signory.
The Imperialists are awaiting the election of the future Pope, which will enable them to base their projects much better, but it is asserted that the Emperor will proceed to Spain by way of England.
Ghent, 30th December 1521.
[Italian, 1 page.]
Dec. 31. Sanuto Diaries, v. xxxii. p. 210. 383. Luther.
Copy of an anonymous letter, giving an account of the pernicious novelties which have taken place at Wittemberg owing to the errors of Luther disseminated there.
A volume, still more a letter, would be insufficient to give an account of a new order or usage of the Christian faith, commenced at Wittemberg, but I write as follows, translating from the German:—
The friars hermits of St. Austin, have proved by Holy Writ that to celebrate masses as now practised is a great sin. This doctrine they have preached daily from Michaelmas Day 1521 to the present time. They continue firm in their opinion, and demonstrate it practically, for since Michaelmas Sunday they have not said mass in the church of their monastery. On this account there has been a great contest between the people, the doctors, the canons, spiritual and temporal, and other learned men, who were induced to debate with the friars; but the latter would not be convinced by argument, and remain firm in their determination. They will not celebrate masses in the form hitherto observed, and celebrate but one sort of mass.
Subsequently the doctors of divinity assembled and sent a letter to the Duke of Saxony, acquainting him with what the friars are doing, and asserting that it is in accordance with the Christian faith. This took place on the day of All Saints (1st of November). The letter purported that they intend to abolish the masses said for the dead, and the anniversaries and vigils in commemoration of departed souls; and all the doctors who are of this opinion signed the letter. The Duke's reply is said to be to the following effect,—that they must be well grounded and thoroughly understand Holy Writ with regard to these points of doctrine, so as not to cause disturbance amongst the people in course of debate, and be able to afford fundamental proof and to present it in writing; requesting them not to set a bad example to the people.
The head of that church is a provost, (fn. 6) who preached in person both on All Saints' eve and on the day itself, when a great number of strangers came into the town for the plenary indulgence (perdon plenario), which cost the Elector (fn. 7) many thousands of ducats. The preacher impugned the indulgence, and proved by Holy Writ that the custom of masses for the dead and the indulgence likewise were abuses and false. He threw down the money box, and scattered its contents (et sfondrò el fundo de la cassa). They have abolished the custom of inflicting penance on sinners in public, declaring that these penances and pardons are diabolical inventions; and by specious doctrine, based on Holy Writ, the preacher showed that the true Christian penitent should perform satisfactory penance by doing as David says in the Psalms.
The Austin friars have recently made a fresh innovation with regard to their prior, who gives the rules and orders to be observed by them. They replied that they are solely bound to observe the commandments of God; that their salvation is impossible so long as they obey their superiors, because the superior commands them at stated times to sleep, rise, read, eat, drink, speak, and be silent; that by doing so they are unable to obey the commandment of God in the matter of faith, and to serve others for love and charity, by assisting, counselling, and teaching; and that the neglect of these precepts is immaterial, whereas to disobey the orders and regulations of the prior subjects them to the loss of everything.
This they proved most ably (bellissimamente) by Holy Writ, and priests and friars preach publicly from the pulpit, praying and commanding one-half of the friars, for the love of God, if such be their fantasy, to throw off their copes, and depart thence, relying on their merit with God (et retenir al merito de Dio).
In consequence of this proceeding another great popular commotion (murmuration) took place, and the friar fell ill, but on the following Sunday he again preached and read the Gospel, though from weakness he could scarcely stand; and he besought the people by Christ's passion, as before, [telling them] that whosoever took a friar or nun out of a monastery would rescue a soul from the devil's claws, as there was no hope of improving the monasteries; that the friars should be freed from the rules of their orders, including such as relate to apparel; that those who tell them otherwise could not substantiate their doctrine; (fn. 8) and that should they live to the extremity of human life they would never be good for anybody but the devil, as by external acts and works and by their apparel they make a [false] profession, (fn. 9) and cause the loss of so many souls The preacher's doctrine relative to false faith, obedience, poverty, and chastity were so edifying (bella), that many persons shed tears from devotion. He declared that if there were no other sin in the world but the hypocritical professions of the friars and nuns, it would be no marvel were God to punish all Christendom. He said plainly that they [the Austin friars] intended to depart this week, and should any of them return, he requested the council and superior of the town [of Wittemberg] to expel them. To the friars who remain they were to give a thousand florins; the University was to take their dormitory, and found a college. On the following Thursday I went into the monastery to the prior, who complained to me of his distress, and said that on that same day one-half of the friars, in number 25, had departed, as many more remaining; and he had not the courage to give them any commands, but remained among them like a lamb.
On the day of All Saint's the vicar (pievano) announced publicly from the pulpit that the sacrament is of two kinds, namely, bread and wine, and that such as wished to take it for their salvation and remission of sins would receive it under both forms, because Christ gave it. Many persons went therefore and communicated under both species. He said that henceforth he purposed celebrating one mass, together with a sermon, and that he would administer the communion in this form.
The masses for the souls of the dead and other ceremonies are abolished.
At this very moment a man-at-arms on horseback has well nigh killed a Franciscan friar with an iron mace, and rode over him. The Franciscans are likewise preparing for departure, some having already gone away this week. One of them came to my house in a doublet and slashed hose with a cod piece (bragetto) in the Swiss fashion. (fn. 10)
Undated. Registered by Sanuto. 31st December.


  • 1. “Polleto “in MS.
  • 2. Leo X. died on the 1st of December 1521.
  • 3. Whilst Cardinal Adrian was the guest of the Bishop of Paphos, Titian commenced that prelate's famous altar-piece at the “Frari,” which he finished in May 1526. It is supposed by some persons that the figure of St. Peter in that picture (which was commenced on the 28th April 1519) represented the lineaments of Adrian Castellesi, Bishop of Bath and Wells. Ca Bernardo at S. Polo (a Gothic building of the 15th century) may still be seen on the Grand Canal, and belongs, as in 1521, to the Bernardo family.
  • 4. Raffaello Petrucci. He had been named Cardinal by Leo X., A. D. 1517, July 1st, and died A. D. 1522, at the age of 50.
  • 5. The secretary, Lorenzo Trevisan, had probably known Pace at Rome in 1514, at the time of the death of Cardinal Bainbridge. (See Ellis, series 1, vol. i. p. 108.)
  • 6. “Uno preposito,” qu. archdeacon, i. e., Andrew Bodenstein, better known by the name of Carlostadt or Carlostadius, assumed by him from the place of his birth. In 1519 he was archdeacon of the cathedral of Wittemberg, and having embraced the opinions of Luther, published a thesis in their defence, but subsequently, in August 1524, he quarrelled with Luther. See an article about him in the Dictionary of Bassano.
  • 7. Qu. Albert of Brandenburg, Elector of Mentz, brother of Frederick, Duke of Saxony. See Roscoe's Life of Leo X. (vol. iii. p. 153, ed. London, 1805).
  • 8. “Et chi li informasse altramente non staria saldo.”
  • 9. “Con atti et opere exteriori et vestimenti demonstrano, et fanno perder,” &c.
  • 10. In Roscoe's Life of Leo X., vol. 4, pp. 40, 41, it is stated that Luther, after his departure from the diet of Augsburg in April 1521, remained in the castle of Wartburg, until after the death of Leo X., which took place on the 1st of December 1521. From a passage in Mosheim (vol. 2, p. 29, English transation) it may be inferred that the demonstrations made at Wittemberg in November 1521 proceeded chiefly from Carlostadt, alias Bodenstein, whose impetuosity was disapproved of by Luther. Mosheim styles him “Professor at Wittemberg.” Roscoe adds that he was “Archdeacon of Wittemberg Cathedral in 1519,” and doubtless he still filled that post in 1521, but I do not believe that anything has been printed about his doings in that year. Sanuto's letter is also valuable, as it gives details of the Lutheran movement during Luther's retirement in the castle of Wartburg.