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An article from the Nuova Enciclopedia Italiana (1875), now in the public domain.
This English translation, © William P. Thayer.

Vol. I
Gil Albornoz​a

Albornoz (De), Gil Carrillo (biogr.). — He was born in Cuenca around the turn of the 14c to an illustrious and wealthy family. He was educated at Zaragoza under the supervision of his uncle Ximeno, archbishop of that city, and read law at Toulouse. Alfonso XI appointed him to his private Council and made him archdeacon of Alcantara; at the insistence of the king, the Chapter of Toledo then elected him archbishop of that city. In 1340 he accompanied the king in his expedition against the Moors of Tarifa, and saved his life during the battle. Three years later he was at the siege of Algeciras, was knighted by the king himself and sent on an important mission to France. The successor of Alfonso was his son Peter the Cruel, with whom Albornoz was unable to enjoy the same degree of favor. The worthy prelate charged him openly with his love affair with Maria de Padilla; but the king, instead of listening to his admonishments, tried to sacrifice him to the vengeance of his favorite. Albornoz sought refuge at Avignon, where Clement VI, who then occupied the papal see, received him with the greatest demonstrations of esteem and respect, and created him cardinal. He then renounced the archbishopric of Toledo, saying: "I would be worthy of blame for having a spouse with whom I can no longer live, just as King Peter is to be blamed for having abandoned his legitimate consort in order to live with a concubine."

In 1353 he was made legate and entrusted with the important mission of reconquering the Papal States. With a small number of men, and having pawned his own plate and his jewels, he left Avignon. On entering Italy he treated the inhabitants with so prudent a policy that he drew them to his party. He obtained free passage thru Tuscany and brought the republic of Florence to his side. He then entered the Papal States, and with the help of Cola di Rienzo, whom he had brought with him from Avignon, and by publishing indulgences for those who had remained faithful and excommunications against the rebels, he had the Romans running to his camp in droves. He made triumphal entries in Montefalcone and Montefiascone, gained the adhesion of Gentile Magliano, the tyrant of Fermo, and reduced to obedience the Malatestas. In 1357 an intrigue hatched against him in Avignon induced the pope to recall him; but the truth was discovered, the order revoked, and Albornoz, continuing the conquest, defeated Francesco Ordelaffi of Forlì, the most powerful of all the petty tyrants of Romagna, and after a long war he returned the popes to the possession of their State by right of conquest. When Urban V came to Italy, Albornoz went to meet him in Viterbo, where the pope invited him to render accounts of his administration. The cardinal ordered a cart loaded with old keys and bolts hauled into the courtyard of the house, and drawing it to the attention of the plaintiff, said: "I have used all I own to put Your Holiness in possession of all the cities and all the castles, the keys to which I present to you." The pope, repenting of his mistrust of a man who had done so much for him, embraced him cordially and from that moment on professed for him the greatest esteem. Having been named legate in Bologna, he gave that city new statutes and founded there at his own expense a college for Spaniards, composed of a rector, thirty students and four chaplains, all of them Spanish, allowing the admission of one lone Portuguese. All were subject to the rector in both civil and criminal matters, and all were to enjoy the same privileges as those enjoyed by the nobility.

Cardinal Albornoz died at Viterbo in 1364. The pope felt his loss so strongly that for three days he did not want to see anyone. The cardinal's remains were transported to Toledo, where he had longed to be buried. The pope granted a plenary indulgence, as in time of Jubilee, to whoever should assist in transporting the litter on which the body was borne: the people ran en masse from cities and villages to meet the funeral convoy of the illustrious deceased; so that it might be said that his body was carried on the shoulders of men from Viterbo to Toledo. Albornoz left to posterity a work now very rare: Sulla Costituzione della Chiesa Romana (On the Constitution of the Roman Church), printed at Jesi in 1473. Sepulveda, one of the Spanish collegians of Bologna, published a life of Albornoz there in 1623, in Latin, bearing no date. Mariana, speaking of this figure, expresses himself as follows: "In every circumstance of his life he was equally inflexible in justice, disdainful of riches, firm without weakness in difficult times, and it is not easy to say whether he was more illustrious for his prudent government in time of peace, or for his valor in war."

See also his biographers Porreño and Lescale.

Thayer's Note:

a The article Gil Alvarez de Albornoz of the 1911 Encyclopaedia Britannica has some additional information.

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Page updated: 30 Jan 13