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Lorenzo Campeggio

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Cardinal, an eminent canonist, ecclesiastical diplomat, and reformer, b. 1472 (1474) at Bologna, the son of Giovanni Campeggio, a famous civil lawyer; d. at Rome, 25 July, 1539. He studied civil law under his father at Padua and Bologna, and in due course married and had a family of five children. After the death of his wife (1509), he entered the ecclesiastical state. In 1512 he was appointed to the Bishopric of Feltre by Julius II, and was made auditor of the Rota, at that time the supreme court of justice in the Church, and the universal court of appeal. Thenceforth till his death he took a leading part as papal representative in some of the greatest events of the Reformation, especially in Southern Germany and England. In 1513 he was sent by Leo X as Nuncio to Maximilian I, to bring about peace among the Christian princes and unite them in a crusade against the Turks. While still in Germany he was nominated cardinal (1 July, 1517), at first of the Title of San Tommaso in Parione, afterwards of Sant' Anastasia, and finally of Santa Maria in Trastevere. Returning to Rome, he was sent as cardinal legate to England for the purpose of engaging Henry VIII in the crusade. He set out on his journey in the middle of April, 1518, but was not allowed to enter England until the end of July. The delay arose from Henry's objection to the presence of a foreign legate within his dominions. The pope agreed that Campeggio should share the legatine powers with Wolsey, who was his senior in the Sacred College. Accordingly the two cardinals worked together, though Wolsey managed to secure the precedence. The main object of Campeggio's mission was not accomplished; instead of a universal league against the Turk, Wolsey arranged an alliance between France and England. He also contrived to obtain an extension of his legatine powers for three years and afterwards for life. Campeggio made a favourable impression on Henry, who bestowed upon him the Bishopric of Salisbury (which he held until 1534) and the Roman residence now known as the Giraud-Torlonia palace, then recently built from Bramante's designs.

On his return to Rome (28 November, 1519), Campeggio was appointed to the Segnatura, at that time a post of the highest dignity and power. When Adrian VI was elected pope (1522), many plans for reform of the abuses in the Church were submitted to him. One of the best and most thorough-going of these was that of Campeggio. He boldly declared that the chief source of all the evils was the Roman Curia, of which, as has been stated, he was himself a most influential member. He recommended that the powers of the Dataria, whose officials he styled "blood-suckers", should be greatly curtailed; that benefices should not be combined, or reserved, or held in commendam; and that none but able and virtuous men should be appointed to them. He bewailed the fact that the Holy See had, by means of concordats, surrendered the rights of the Church to the secular powers. He spoke strongly against the reckless granting of indulgences: especially against those of the Franciscans, and those connected with the contributions towards the building of St. Peter's in Rome. As one who had held high diplomatic posts, he urged the importance of peace between the Emperor Charles V and Francis I of France, so that these two great monarchs might join hands against the common enemy, the Turk. He also pleaded strongly for the extirpation of the Lutheran errors by the enforcement of the Edict of Worms. Adrian's pontificate was too short to enable him to carry out any of the proposed reforms. His successor, Clement VII, appointed Campeggio to the See of Bologna and sent him to Germany as cardinal legate (8 January, 1524).

Campeggio soon had reason to note the vast changes which had taken place since his former visit. At Augsburg he was grossly insulted by the populace; at Nuremberg he was obliged to dispense with the ceremonies of a public entry. He adopted a conciliatory attitude at the diet which was being held at the latter city, but he insisted that the Edict of Worms should be carried out. The members of the diet demanded that a national council should be held at Speyer, but he induced the emperor to veto this, on condition that a general council should be summoned at Trent. Moreover he obtained from Charles a promise that the Edict of Worms should be enforced. Campeggio, however, saw clearly that the spread of the Lutheran errors could be checked only by a reform of the German clergy. For this purpose he held an assembly of twelve bishops, with the Archduke Ferdinand and the Bavarian dukes. The outbreak of the Peasants' War (November, 1524) destroyed all hope of a peaceful solution of the difficulties with the Reformers. Campeggio was recalled because his efforts had not met with the success which the pope had expected, and also because he was said to be on too friendly terms with the emperor. He was back in Rome 20 October, 1525, and was made a member of the papal commission on the affairs of the Teutonic Knights. During the sack of Rome by the imperial troops (1527), he remained with Clement in Castel Sant' Angelo, and after the escape of the pontiff was left behind as legate.

The next year (1528), at Wolsey's request, he was sent to England to form, jointly with Wolsey, a court to try the so-called divorce suit of Henry VIII. (For a complete account of the case see article HENRY VIII.) Here we need only refer to Campeggio's conduct in it. He did his best to escape the responsibility which the pope thrust upon him, for he knew well the difficulties both of law and fact connected with the case; and he thoroughly realized, from his intimate acquaintance with Henry and Charles (Catherine's nephew), that, whichever way it was decided, a great nation would be lost to the Church. His instructions were to proceed with extreme slowness and caution; to bring about if possible the reconciliation of Henry with Catherine; and under no circumstances to come to a final decision. In spite of all Wolsey's wiles and the bribes held out to him by the king, he refused to express any opinion and adhered strictly to the orders which he had received. He did, indeed, try his best to induce Catherine to enter a convent, but when she with much spirit declined to do so, he praised her conduct. In the trial (June-July, 1529), it should be noted, Campeggio treated Wolsey as a subordinate and as the king's advocate rather than as a judge. On the last day (23 July), when everyone expected the final decision, he boldly adjourned the court. Some days later the news arrived that Catherine's appeal had already been received in Rome and that the case was reserved to the Holy See. On his way back to Italy Campeggio was detained at Dover, while his baggage was searched by the king's officials in the hope of finding the decretal Bull defining the law of the divorce. But the prudent legate had already destroyed the document, and the search only proved that he left the country poorer than when he had entered it.

We next find Campeggio at Bologna, his episcopal city, present at the coronation of Charles V by the pope (24 February, 1530), and afterwards accompanying the emperor to the Diet of Augsburg as legate. His influence was now greater than ever. He wrote triumphantly to Clement, assuring him that all would soon be made right in Germany. He opposed the holding of a council, because he did not believe in the good faith of the Protestants, and relied chiefly on the exercise of the imperial authority to put down Protestantism, if necessary by force. After Clement's death (25 September, 1534), Campeggio returned to Rome and took part in the conclave in which Paul III was elected. By him he was appointed to the suburbicarian See of Praeneste (Palestrina), and was sent to Vicenza for the opening of the council. His death took place, as above stated, at Rome, and he was buried at Bologna.

About this page

APA citation. Scannell, T. (1908). Lorenzo Campeggio. In The Catholic Encyclopedia. New York: Robert Appleton Company.

MLA citation. Scannell, Thomas. "Lorenzo Campeggio." The Catholic Encyclopedia. Vol. 3. New York: Robert Appleton Company, 1908. <>.

Transcription. This article was transcribed for New Advent by Gerald M. Knight.

Ecclesiastical approbation. Nihil Obstat. November 1, 1908. Remy Lafort, S.T.D., Censor. Imprimatur. +John Cardinal Farley, Archbishop of New York.

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