Time Travel: Papal Residence

Paushuize 1
It’s been ages since I’ve done one of my Time Travel posts! Why not bring the theme back in a big way, going all the way to the top! This, my dear readers, is the Paushuize, a home built by Adrian VI, the only pope from the Netherlands.

This papal residence was built in 1517, a few years before Adrian VI, AKA Adriaan Florenszoon Boeyens, became pope in 1522. Unfortunately, he never got the chance to live in the residence. Still, Adrian was a native of Utrecht, born in 1459, most likely in a house on the corner of Brandsteeg and the Oudegracht. He was of modest means, with his father having worked as a carpenter and shipbuilder. Adrian became a scholar, with Erasmus counted among those who attended his lectures. He also became tutor to the man who would go on to become Emperor Charles V.

This is where my European readers can skip ahead, as I’m about to become giddy in a way that only an American history buff can. You see, for me, the Holy Roman Empire is something from history books, seeming almost mystical, as if coming from a fairy tale. Despite the fact that I’m well aware that the Netherlands as a nation state didn’t really exist until the 1800s — much as Italy, as a nation, didn’t exist until the 1800s either — it’s still kind of thrilling to realize that Utrecht, as the capital of the Bishopric of Utrecht, was a part of the Holy Roman Empire. Squeeee! I live in what used to be the Holy Roman Empire! As I said, I’m American. I’m easily impressed by history.


Anyway, this is where my love of Italian Renaissance history collides with my ever-growing fascination with Utrecht’s history. You see, Adrian became pope after the death of Leo X, the infamous Medici pope. Leo X is one of the few pope’s I remember, specifically because he was a Medici and I learned a great deal about them as I was studying art history. Amusingly, considering the machinations that took place any time one of the ruling families managed to get a family member elevated to the papal position, Adrian seemed determined to try to rule impartially and to rein back on the abuses of the system, including indulgences and matrimonial dispensations. But then, as now, money talks and I don’t think he had much luck.

To bring this post back around to papal residences, it seems that Adrian had never actually visited Rome before being named head honcho of the Catholic church. Sort of like me not having visited the Netherlands before moving here. One of the concerns for every expat is finding somewhere to live when you get to your new land. In this case, despite the lovely house he’d had built here in Utrecht, he was concerned that he’d have nowhere decent to stay in Rome, where he could dispense his papal duties. Fortunately, I think Human Resources managed to sort something out for him.

Pope's House

9 thoughts on “Time Travel: Papal Residence

  1. I love reading your post, even though I was born in Holland and lived there for 22 years, ( now living in Australia) I don’t know much about my own country, I love history and i’m learning so much from your writing about history in Utrecht, ( never been there unfortunately) I love your photos too! Thanks for sharing all your discoveries in Utrecht! I love it all!

    • Thank you! I think it’s easy to not learn as much about your own country, but another country always seems more interesting. I certainly don’t know anywhere near as much about the cities I used to live in in the US. Of course, it’s so much easier to walk around here, with camera in hand, and then go home and look things up. I’m just happy that others are also interested in the things I learn and share!

  2. I know this building very well, as I attended most of my lectures on the Kromme Nieuwegracht locations of the university. I can definitely see how actually living in the places of history is thrilling to an American. Even I, as a European used to living with history all around, get that feeling often, especially when walking through a city like Utrecht. But I never thought of myself as living in the Holy Roman Empire 🙂 Maybe because I studied Medieval History I don’t really see medieval/early modern Europe as such a unity, but more as a lose formation of still rapidly changing and forming nations, with ever-changing borders and monarchies.

    But you’re right, Utrecht was especially well-placed on the map during those times, being the capital of a wealthy and powerful bishopric as well as a city with bustling commerce and one of the oldest universities of this country to boot. All in all not such a bad place to live, then and now!

    • What a great neighborhood to have so many classes in! As you say, I know enough older history to think of city states, rather than nation states, but it’s still kind of thrilling to realize I now live in one of those city states that made up the greater empire. 🙂

  3. o, and if you like those old photographs of the city, at De Slegte (that big second hand bookshop on de Oudegracht) they sell postcard packets with those photo’s, and some books as well. I love comparing the old pictures with the acutal buildings as they look now.

  4. Pingback: Getting a Peek Inside the Pope’s House | A Flamingo in Utrecht

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