Ximenes, Francisco De Cisneros

Ximenes, Francisco de Cisneros cardinal-archbishop, grand-inquisitor of Castile, and regent of Spain, was descended from a family belonging to the inferior nobility of Castile, and originally resident in the town from which its appellative was derived. He was born in 1436, and named Gonzales, the name Francisco being a later monastic substitute. Early destined for the Church, he studied ancient languages at Alcala, at the age of fourteen entered the University of Salamanca, and six years later became bachelor of both civil and canon law. He was driven by poverty to engage in the practice of law at Rome.

On the death of his father, however, he returned home, having in the meantime obtained a papal brief assuring to him the first benefice which might become vacant in the archdiocese of Toledo; but the archbishop took offence at the interference of the pope in the affairs of his see, and had, besides, another candidate for the benefice. He accordingly imprisoned Ximenes to compel a renunciation of his claim, and did not liberate him until after six years. In 1480 a chaplaincy was obtained which removed him from under the jurisdiction of the archbishop and afforded him opportunity for the study of theology and also of the Hebrew and Chaldee languages; and soon afterwards he became vicar to Mendoza, bishop of Siguenza, and administrator of the estates of Court Cisuentes, who was a captive among the Moors. His fortunes seemed to be assured for life when he suddenly renounced all his emoluments and entered himself in the order of Franciscan Observants at Toledo as a novice, and devoted himself to ascetical practices excelling in rigor the harsh requirements of the monastic rule. Ere long he had won extraordinary fame as a preacher and confessor, and multitudes thronged to his confessional; but he turned away from these vibrant prospects also, and buried himself in the hermitage of the Madonna of Castannar in a hut erected with his own hands. Three years afterwards he was ordered by his superiors to the monastery of Salzeda, where he soon became guardian, and stimulated the monks by his example to strict performance of their vows.

In 1492 he was made confessor to the queen, Isabella, but with the proviso, insisted on by himself, that he should be allowed to fulfill his monastic obligations and reside in his convent. Two years later he was chosen to be provincial of his order for Castile, and after a visitation of the convents made on foot, in which he noted the lax discipline everywhere prevailing, he induced the queen to procure a brief from pope Alexander VI directing a reformation. In 1495 the archbishop of Toledo died, and Ximenes was promoted to his post, an appointment from which he vainly sought to escape by flight, and which had no effect whatever over his ascetical habits after it was accepted. He was ultimately ordered from Rome, under date of Dec. 15, 1495, to live in a style comporting with his rank; but, though he obeyed in outward appearance, he persisted in wearing the coarse gown and cord of St. Francis and in sleeping on a bench by the side of his luxurious bed. In the influential position he now held, he was able to prosecute the reformation among the monks and secular clergy more energetically, and to compel its success despite the violent opposition raised against it. He caused Albornos, a delegate to Rome who was to accuse him to the pope, to be arrested by the Spanish ambassador at Ostia and returned as a prisoner of state. Several thousand Franciscans are said to have sought relief from his rigorous rule in other lands. The general of the order invited Castile and complained bitterly, but to no purpose, against Ximenes. After his return to Rome, he caused the appointment of a number of coadjutors to share with Ximenes in the work of reform; but the latter paid no attention to this commission, and was even able, through the influence of the queen, to evade a papal bull, dated Nov. 9, 1496, which prohibited their Catholic majesties from proceeding with the reform until its operation had been investigated by the curia.

A like spirit of unfaltering sternness was exhibited by Ximenes in connection with the conversion of the Moors. Talavera, archbishop of Granada, was distinguished for liberality of view and for zealous interest in the peaceful conversion of the Moors; but Ximenes, acting as the leader of the fanatical party, insisted upon more energetic measures. He attempted, indeed, at first to convince the Moorish scholars by way of argument and also by donations, and so successfully that he was able to baptize three thousand Saracens on a single occasion; but when he encountered opposition, his violent spirit asserted itself. He disregarded all pledges, burned all Arabic books he could seize, though he saved three hundred medical works for his University of Alcata, and irritated the Mohammedans beyond endurance and until they rebelled. Talavera and others persuaded them to lay down their arms; but the revolt was punished, nevertheless, by a revocation of all pledges previously given them, and by compelling them to choose between conversion or banishment. About fifty thousand Moslems submitted to baptism on these terms, and all the land was astonished at the ability with which Ximenes had been able to convert a hostile people to Christianity in so short a time. The character of the conversions will appear most clearly in the light of the fact that Ximenes rabidly opposed the publication of even fragmentary portions of the Scriptures or of expositions of the mass in the Moorish language. He insisted that the Scriptures should be preserved within the three languages in which, by the order of God, the inscriptions at the head of Christ's cross were written, urging that the common people despise what they understand, but venerate what is hidden from them and beyond their reach, and that wicked persons would bring the Catholic Church low whenever the Bible should be spread among the people in a form intelligible to them.

In other respects the work of Ximenes was often beneficial to the world, e.g. when he protected the poor and discharged unworthy officials, and when he remodeled the financial system of Castile, whose grand-chancellor he was, so that taxation became at once more tolerable to the subject and more remunerative to the State. He was the faithful spiritual adviser of the queen while she lived, and after her death secured to Ferdinand the government of Castile, a favor which was rewarded by the bestowal upon him of a cardinal's hat and of the post of general-inquisitor (1507). He had already begun the erection of buildings for the University of Alcala in 1498, which were completed ten years later, and had given to it a faculty of forty- two professors, the ablest men to be found, and set apart fourteen thousand ducats for its annual support. His greatest literary undertaking was the Compluteansian Polyglot, begun in 1502 by the accumulation of available manuscripts. The Old-Test. portion of the materials upon which that work was based have recently been transferred to the University of Madrid (see Tregelles, Account [1854], p. 12-18). The Polyglot (in 6 vols.) was finished in 1517. SEE POLYGLOT BIBLES. Ximenes was also engaged in the preparation of an edition of the works of Aristotle, which was interrupted by his death, and he labored for the preservation of the Mozarabic liturgy.

Ximenes was not possessed of uncommon learning, and his instincts were rather those of a soldier than a scholar. He wished to renew the Crusades, and actually did bring about the capture of the piratical harbor of Mozarquivir and of the town of Oran, being personally present at the storming of the latter place. He has been credited with having originated the Inquisition in Castile, and charged, on the other hand, with having opposed its rule. Both statements are, however, erroneous. He came to the court twelve years after the Inquisition was introduced, and he protected Talavera, archbishop of Granada, against the charge of heresy by appealing the case from the Inquisition to the pope. As grand-inquisitor he issued instructions, to enable new converts to protect themselves against the suspicion of relapse, and even provided for their education in Christian knowledge. He also restricted the authority of subordinate inquisitors. On the other hand, he refused to allow causes before the tribunal of the Inquisition to be tried in public, and in general showed himself to be in thorough harmony with the spirit of that institution. A moderate estimate fixes the number of persons burned at the stake during the ten years of his supreme administration at above two thousand He also erected a new tribunal of the Inquisition and transplanted the Inquisition itself to Oran, the Canary Isles, and America. He was unable to attend the Lateran Synod held under Leo X, but counseled the pope by letter, and promulgated the decisions of the synod before its members had dispersed. He also endorsed Leo's plan for improving the Julian calendar. But he did: not, on the other hand, hesitate to condemn the sale of indulgences as involving an enervation of the discipline of the Church and a dangerous liberality. When king Ferdinand died (1516), Ximenes was made regent of Castile until Charles (V) should reach his majority, a position which he filled during twenty months with great ability. He preserved for the crown, against the opposition of the nobility, the grand-mastership of the order of Sandiago di Compostella; transferred the seat of government to Madrid; had Charles proclaimed king over the votes of the assembled council; restrained the nobles by organizing an armed militia throughout all Spain, and deprived them of a portion of the property they had acquired by violence or fraud. With this money he paid all debts incurred by Ferdinand and Isabella, strengthened the army and navy, erected fortifications and established arsenals, and supplied the mercenary greed of the court with funds. He took measures to improve the condition of the natives of America, and appointed Las Casas to be protector over the American colonies. The introduction of African slavery into the colonies, which was proposed by some, was positively forbidden by him. On the return of Charles to Spain, he found Ximenes dying. The end came Nov. 8, 1517.

The principal source for Ximenes' life is Gomez, De Reb. Gestis a Fr. Ximenio Cisnero. Libri Octo, in Rerum Hisp. Scriptores Aliquot (Frankf. 1581), vol. 2. Other Spanish works on Ximenes are given in Prescott. A French life was written by Flechier, bishop of Nismes. See also Hefele, Der Cardinal Ximenes, etc. (1844); Prescott, Ferdinand and Isabella; Saint- Hilaire, Hist. d'Espagne depuis les Premiers Temps Historiques' jusqua la Mort de Ferdinand VII (new ed. 1852, 6 vols.); Lavergne, Le Cardinal Ximenes, in Rev. des Deux Mondes, 1841, 2, 221 sq.; Herzog, Real- Encyklop s.v.


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