- Ximénes de Cisneros, Francisco
- (1436-1517)Castilian friar, archbishop, cardinal, church reformer, and statesman; in mod-ern Spanish, the patronymic is often spelled Jiménez. Born into an impoverished family of the lower nobility, he was early intended for the church. Educated under the direction of an uncle and sent to grammar school at the town of Alcalá de Henares, he proceeded to the University of Salamanca, where he graduated as a bachelor of laws in 1460. He then pursued a career in the secular clergy, suc-cessfully cultivating patrons and accumulating valuable benefices. About 1484, however, Ximénes underwent a spiritual conversion and renounced his pursuit of high office and wealth by entering the Ob-servant (that is, reformed and strict) branch of the Franciscan order. Although he lived an isolated life as a friar, he maintained some con-tact with the royal court and his former ecclesiastical patrons and thus attracted the attention of Queen Isabella of Spain, who in 1492 summoned him to be her confessor.Even at court Ximénes led a highly ascetic life, but his position as the queen's spiritual adviser made him an influential figure and even-tually led him to high offices of the sort he had rejected when he be-came a friar. His initial use of his new influence was in reform of his own order, the Franciscans. In 1495 the queen enhanced his ecclesi-astical authority by having him appointed archbishop of Toledo, the primatial see of Spain and reputedly the richest bishopric in Chris-tendom. In 1496 Ximénes became visitor of the entire Franciscan or-der, and the preceding year, a papal bull had authorized him to visit (that is, inspect) and reform all regular clergy in his diocese, a power extended in 1499 to cover all parts of Spain. He strove to compel undisciplined mendicant communities to return to strict observance of their original rules, though his ruthless energy in pushing such changes aroused bitter opposition. His religious zeal for conversion of non-Christians and his great influence over the pious queen sug-gest that he probably was a major force in the ruler's infamous deci-sion in 1492 to expel all Jews from Spain unless they converted to Christianity. After the conquest of the Muslim kingdom of Granada in 1492, he also began bringing such great pressure on the Muslim population that he precipitated rebellions.The death of Queen Isabella in 1504 and then of her son and heir Philip in 1506 left the unified Spanish monarchy in jeopardy since King Ferdinand of Aragon had no legal claim to personal rule in the Castilian half of the country. The archbishop brokered a dynastic agreement under which Ferdinand became regent of Castile until his and Isabella's grandson Charles, prince of the Netherlands (the future Emperor Charles V, born in 1500), attained his majority. Grateful to Ximénes for pushing through this arrangement against the opposition of many Castilian nobles, Ferdinand had Ximénes made a cardinal and appointed him inquisitor general (head of the Spanish Inquisi-tion) in 1507. When Ferdinand himself died early in 1516, the nobles again made a bid for power until Prince Charles, now king of both Castile and Aragon, should reach his majority, but Ximénes main-tained control, created a powerful military force to preserve order, and prepared the way for Charles to take power as soon as he reached Spain. The cardinal himself died in November 1517 while on his way to meet the young king upon his landing in Spain.Ximénes was not only a vigorous church reformer and a shrewd and loyal servant of the Spanish monarchs but also a patron of Re-naissance learning. He wanted the secular clergy of Spain to undergo the same kind of sweeping disciplinary reform that he had struggled to impose on the monastic orders. But he was convinced that the Spanish church could not be effectively reformed unless it had a new leadership based not on aristocratic kinship and court intrigue but on personal competence, learning, and spiritual devotion. In 1499 he be-gan the creation of the new University of Alcalá, which he con-ceived as a center for the training of future leaders for the church (and also for the secular administration). He created within the university a well-endowed institute, the College of San Ildefonso, where stu-dents not only would receive book-learning but also would live un-der close moral supervision in an atmosphere intended to produce pi-ous as well as learned graduates.
Historical Dictionary of Renaissance. Charles G. Nauert. 2004.