Albert of Brandenburg

1490-1545. Elector of Mainz and cardinal. Younger son of the elector of Brandenburg, he is a notorious example of the multiplication of ecclesiastical benefices in one person. Before becoming archbishop of Mainz (1514) and later cardinal, he had held two bishoprics and a number of rich abbeys. To meet his debts, Pope Leo X permitted Albert to sell indulgences in his diocese, the proceeds to be divided between him and the pope, and this work, entrusted to John Tetzel,* led to Luther's historic protest. Yet there were times when Albert seemed well-disposed to the work of reformation. He had many friends among the humanists, notably Ulrich von Hutten, and up to the time of the Peasants' War it seemed possible that he might be won over to the Reformed faith. As late as 1532 he accepted and rewarded the dedication of Melanchthon's commentary on Romans, but from 1525 he had ranged himself definitely on the side of the papacy. He was one of the princes who met at Dessau in 1525 to unite in the defense of Romanism, and he was a member of the League of Nuremberg which was formed in 1538 to counteract the Smalcald League. Realizing the threat posed by the Reformation, he helped to muster the forces against it, and particularly in his later years lent his support to the new Jesuit order in its work of counter- Reformation.