Gregorio Cortese

1483-1548. Benedictine prior and cardinal. Baptized Joannes Andrea, he shared in many important Catholic reforming attempts. Having been secretary to the future Leo X and then canon of the Modenese cathedral after 1503, he entered the monastery of Polirone near Mantua in 1507. His vast patristic learning was used for personal reform. In 1513 he urged Leo X to restore Christian morality. At the island monastery of Lérins (1516-24) he also studied Protestant writings, since Sadoleto* mentions on a visit in 1518 and again in 1523 the Lutheran works in Cortese's possession. In 1522 he used all this to refute the Bohemian writer Ulrich Velenus, who in 1519 published a treatise denying that Peter was ever in Rome. Cortese's response, dedicated to Adrian VI, defended papal authority by answering Velenus's eighteen “persuasions.” In so doing he cited Epiphanius's Against Heresies long before the manuscript in Melanchthon's possession became the editio princeps. Conrad Gesner listed Cortese's treatise as a manuscript in a Roman library before its first printing in 1573.

As abbot of Lérins and then at Modena and Perugia (1529), Cortese became a monastic examiner for the Cassinese congregations. In 1532 as abbot of San Giorgio Maggiore, Venice, he took part in a brilliant study circle with Pole,* Contarini, and other scholars. In 1537 he joined these and six others on Paul III's reform commission. After drafting the famous Consilium de Emendanda Ecclesia he returned to Polirone as abbot. In 1542 Paul III made him a cardinal, partly to help stem heresy in Modena. As an intimate of Catholic reforming cardinals, staunch defender of the papacy, and learned scholar, he looked for “a beautiful and new form of the holy Church.” He died before his monastic simplicity could be corrupted by the Baroque papacy.