Portrait of Albert of Brandenburg (1490-1545), Margrave of Brandenburg (1499-1513), Archbishop of Magdeburg and Bishop of Halberstadt (1513-1545), Archbishop-Elector of Mainz (1514-1545), Cardinal of the Holy Roman Church (1518), 1520
Cardinal Albert of Brandenburg (German: Albrecht von Brandenburg; 28 June 1490 – 24 September 1545) was Elector and Archbishop of Mainz from 1514 to 1545, and Archbishop of Magdeburg from 1513 to 1545. His involvement in the sale of indulgences to fund his debt was to prompt Martin Luther, a friar in his diocese to complain about the abuse. His subsequent failure to meet with and take seriously the complaints from Luther, his failure to inform Rome of the seriousness of the situation and finally Rome’s refusal to act properly faced with the situation, forced Luther to more serious action. These failures to respond adequately make him notable for his failure to prevent the Reformation. Born in Kölln on the Spree, Albert was the younger son of John Cicero, Elector of Brandenburg and of Margaret of Thuringia. After their father's funeral, Albert and his older brother Joachim I Nestor became margraves of Brandenburg in 1499, but only his older brother held the title of an elector of Brandenburg. Having studied at the University of Frankfurt, Albert entered the ecclesiastical profession, and in 1513 became archbishop of Magdeburg at the age of 23 and administrator of the Diocese of Halberstadt. In 1514 he obtained the Electorate of Mainz, and in 1518, at the age of 28, was made a cardinal. Largely in reaction to the commerce in indulgences, Martin Luther wrote his famous 95 Theses, which led to the Reformation. Luther sent these to Albert on 31 October 1517, and according to a false tradition nailed a copy to the door of Castle Church in Wittenberg. Albert forwarded the theses to Rome, suspecting Luther of heresy. When the imperial election of 1519 drew near, partisans of the two leading candidates (King Charles I of Spain and Francis I of France) eagerly solicited the vote of the Prince-Archbishop of Mainz, and Albert appears to have received a large amount of money for his vote. The electors eventually chose Charles, who became the Emperor Charles V. Albert's large and liberal ideas, his friendship with Ulrich von Hutten, and his political ambitions, appear to have raised hopes that he could be won over to Protestantism; but after the German Peasants' War of 1525 he ranged himself definitely among the supporters of Catholicism, and was among the princes who joined the League of Dessau in July 1525. Albert's hostility towards the reformers, however, was not so extreme as that of his brother Joachim I, Elector of Brandenburg; and he appears to have exerted himself towards peace, although he was a member of the League of Nuremberg, formed in 1538 as a counterpoise to the League of Schmalkalden. The new doctrines nevertheless made considerable progress in his dominions, and he was compelled to grant religious liberty to the inhabitants of Magdeburg in return for 500,000 florins. During his later years showed more intolerance towards the Protestants, and favored the teaching of the Jesuits in his dominions.
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