Adriano Castellesi

Adriano Castellesi, also known as Adriano de Castello or Hadrian de Castello (c. 1460 – c. 1521) was an Italian cardinal and writer.

Adriano Castellesi
Cardinal Priest of S. Crisogono
In office1503–1521
PredecessorGiovanni Battista Ferrari
SuccessorAlbrecht von Brandenburg
Other postsBishop of Hereford (1502–1504)
Secretary to Pope Alexander VI (1503)
Bishop of Bath and Wells (1504–1518)
Created cardinal31 May 1503
by Alexander VI
Personal details
Bornc. 1460
Corneto, Lazio, Papal States
Diedc. 1521 (aged roughly 61 years)


Castellesi was born at Corneto, and was sometimes known as Adriano Castellesi da Corneto.

He was sent by Innocent VIII to reconcile James III of Scotland with his subjects. While in England, in 1503 he was appointed by Henry VII to the see of Hereford, and in the following year to the more lucrative diocese of Bath and Wells, but he never resided in either. Returning to Rome, he became secretary to Alexander VI and was made by him cardinal (31 May 1503). A man of doubtful reputation, Alexander's confidant and favourite, he paid the pope a large sum for his elevation.[1] Castellesi served as the de facto if not appointed cardinal protector of England.

Castellesi bought a vigna in Borgo near the Vatican, where he built a sumptuous palace designed by Donato Bramante: it is now known as Palazzo Torlonia. In the summer of 1503 he entertained the Pope and Cesare Borgia here at a banquet that went on till nightfall despite the unhealthy season of the year, when ague in its most malignant form was rife. Of the three, Castellesi was the first to fall ill, the Pope succumbing a week after.[1] There is no evidence that suggests the Pope was poisoned.[2]

Soon after the election of Pope Leo X the cardinal was implicated in the conspiracy of Cardinal Alfonso Petrucci against the pope, and confessed his guilt; but, pardon being offered only on condition of the payment of 25,000 ducats, he fled from Rome and was subsequently deposed from the cardinalate. As early as 1504 he had presented his palace to Henry VII as a residence for the English ambassador to the Holy See; and on his flight Henry VIII, who had quarrelled with him, gave it to Cardinal Lorenzo Campeggio. Castellesi fled to Venice, but nothing is known for certain of his subsequent history. It is said that he was murdered by a servant when on his way to the conclave that elected Pope Adrian VI.[1]


As a writer, he was one of the first to restore the Latin tongue to its pristine purity. Among his works are:

  • De Vera Philosophia ex quatuor doctoribus ecclesiae (Bologna, 1507) Digital
  • De Sermone Latino & modis latine loquendi (Basel, 1513)
  • a poem, De Venatione (Venice, 1534).[1]


  1. ^ a b c d   One or more of the preceding sentences incorporates text from a publication now in the public domainChisholm, Hugh, ed. (1911). "Castellesi, Adriano". Encyclopædia Britannica. 5 (11th ed.). Cambridge University Press. p. 471.
  2. ^ Norwich, p. 273: "The fact that father and son [Alexander and Cesare] had collapsed on the same day inevitably aroused suspicions of foul play. It was pointed out that on the third [of August 1503] the two of them had dined with the recently appointed Cardinal Adriano Castellesi in his nearby villa; the rumor rapidly spread around Rome that they had intended to poison their host but had inadvertently drunk the poisoned wine themselves. For some reason this mildly ridiculous story has survived and found its way into a number of serious histories; it ignores the fact that..they had no ascertainable motive to kill Castellesi."

Further readingEdit

  • Wilkie, William E. 1974. The cardinal protectors of England. Cambridge University Press. ISBN 0-521-20332-5.
Catholic Church titles
Preceded by
Edmund Audley
Bishop of Hereford
14 February 1502 – 2 August 1504
Succeeded by
Richard Mayew
Preceded by
Giovanni Battista Ferrari
Cardinal Priest of S. Crisogono
12 June 1503 – December 1521
Succeeded by
Albrecht von Brandenburg
Preceded by
Oliver King
Bishop of Bath and Wells
2 August 1504 – 5 July 1518
Succeeded by
Thomas Wolsey