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George Martinuzzi

Monk, bishop, cardinal, b. at Kamicac, Dalmatia, 1482; d. December 16, 1551

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Martinuzzi, GEORGE, monk, bishop, cardinal, b. at Kamicac, Dalmatia, 1482; d. December 16, 1551. His real name was George Utjesenovic. His mother, a native of Venice of the name of Martinuzzi, had a brother who was a bishop, and, out of regard for his mother and uncle, George preferred to be called Martinuzzi (Latin Martinuzius). His father died in battle against the Turks. At the age of eight, George came to the court of Duke John Corvinus, in whose service he remained at the Castle Hunyad 15 years under hard conditions. Then he entered the service of the Duchess Hedwig, the widow of Count Stephan Zapolya, by whom he was well treated. A year later (1504), at the age of 22, he entered the Pauline monastery of St. Laurentius near Ofen, where his unusual intellectual gifts soon attracted attention. A monk taught him writing and reading; later, he studied philosophy and theology and was ordained priest. Owing to his talent, skill, and zeal, his superiors appointed him prior of the monastery of Czenstochau in Poland, and later of the monastery of Sajolad, near Erlau in North Hungary. Here the Hungarian pretender, John Zapolya, found him, when, after the battle of Kashau, 1527, he was compelled to flee before King Ferdinand, and discovered in the prior “Frater Georgius”, an acquaintance from the court of his mother Hedwig. Recognizing the prior’s ability and energy, the prince requested him to enter his service. Moved by ambition as well as patriotism, Martinuzzi left his monastery to go with the fugitive prince to Poland, and to defend with tact and energy the prince’s cause. During the unfortunate troubles brought upon Hungary by the war between the two pretenders, John Zapolya and Ferdinand of Austria, and by the Turkish conquests, Martinuzzi was prominent in Hungarian politics. He went from Poland to Hungary, organized the adherents of Zapolya, secured financial support from Magyar nobles, and raised an army which defeated Ferdinand’s general, Ravay (1528). In 1529, Zapolya entered Ofen. He appointed Martinuzzi royal counselor and treasurer, and in 1534 conferred on him the diocese of Grosswardein, though the newly nominated bishop did not receive papal approbation until five years later. Meanwhile, he ruled his diocese, but not being consecrated bishop, all the episcopal functions were performed by auxiliary bishops.

John Zapolya died July 21, 1540. He left only one young son, John Sigmund, who was born nine days before Zapolya’s death. The deceased monarch in his will had appointed Martinuzzi and Peter Petrovich guardians of the child. They proclaimed him king and the Sultan Suleiman promised to recognize him. But Ferdinand, who had the support of several Magyarian nobles, demanded the fulfillment of an agreement concluded between him and John Zapolya, according to which, Hungary after the latter’s death, was to be ceded to him. His demand proving ineffectual, Ferdinand sent a new army to Hungary which occupied several cities and laid siege to Ofen. In the meantime, he negotiated with Isabella, to whom Martinuzzi was chief adviser. On one occasion Martinuzzi even placed himself at the head of an army and repulsed an attack on his city. Meanwhile, the Sultan Suleiman declared war against Ferdinand, and in person led a formidable army into Hungary. He occupied Ofen, and turned the lands along the Danube into a Turkish province. But he respected the territory of Isabella and her son which was to be governed during the latter’s minority by Martinuzzi and Petrovich. The war between Ferdinand and the Sultan continued, while Isabella governed the principality of Siebenburgen for some years in peace. There was a powerful cabal among the nobles vehemently hostile to Martinuzzi, who governed with an autocractic firmness that brought him many enemies. He had also disagreements with Isabella, who permitted herself to be swayed by his opponents. Martinuzzi now began secretly negotiating with King Ferdinand, and in 1549 an agreement was come to by which Isabella had to give up Siebenburgen. In return she was to receive the principality of Opelln in Silesia, and in addition all that had been left her by her husband. Ferdinand was also to provide for her son John Sigmund, and later to marry him to his daughter. Martinuzzi was to be made Archbishop of Gran, and to receive the cardinal’s hat. As soon as this contract became known, a quarrel broke out between Isabella and the minister. The latter, however, had the upper hand, and the queen was compelled to come to an agreement (1551); this agreement however did not allay the mistrust between the two.

In the meantime the astute Martinuzzi treated with the Sultan, and succeeded for a time in deceiving him regarding the fate of Siebenburgen and his own relations with King Ferdinand. Ferdinand sent his general, Castaldo, Margrave of Cassiano, with an army to Siebenburgen to discuss the agreement made with Martinuzzi. Castaldo was told to keep on good terms with the minister; but having little faith in Martinuzzi, he was eager to settle the matter with Isabella as soon as possible. In accordance with a previous arrangement made with Martinuzzi, a treaty was concluded by which Isabella agreed to give up, under certain conditions, Hungary and Siebenburgen, and to hand over to Ferdinand the crown and insignia of the Kingdom. When the Sultan learned this, he sent a new, army against the king. Castaldo at once suspected that Martinuzzi was in secret alliance with the Turks and that the negotiations were directed against him and king Ferdinand. Castaldo told the king of his suspicion and was told to deal with Martinuzzi in such a way as he thought the country’s need and the well being of its people demanded. Whether Castaldo’s suspicion was well founded, or whether he wished to rid himself of a rival is a difficult question to decide Older historical authority considered Martinuzzi’s secret negotiations with the Sultan as treason against Ferdinand. Modern historical research, however, scouts these accusations, and maintains that Martinuzzi cannot be convicted of any treason against Ferdinand. (Danko in the “Kirchenlex”, s.v.) Castaldo brought about the assassination of Martinuzzi. The order was executed on the night of December 16th 1551, by Sforza Pallavicini and several accomplices. The body remained unburied until February 25th, 1552, when it was interred in St. Michael’s church at Karlsburg. Although Ferdinand and Castaldo endeavored to justify themselves to the pope, Julius III excommunicated the murderers and instigators of the crime. In 1555 however the punishment was withdrawn. Though Martinuzzi’s fame lies mainly in the political sphere, he was also largely occupied with ecclesiastical affairs. He exerted himself greatly in resisting the invasion of Protestantism. But a measure with the same object which passed the legislative assembly of Siebenburgen in 1544 had little result, for the reason that Petrovich, the second guardian of the king, was on the side of the new doctrine. In his own diocese of Grosswardein, Martinuzzi battled energetically with the innovations, though he could not prevent their progress in Siebenbürgen. A reliable historical account of this remarkable man has not yet been compiled.



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