Francisco Jiménez de Cisneros was a religious and political figure, who, during the reign of the Catholic Monarchs, held the positions of Cardinal, Archbishop Primate of Toledo, Third General Inquisitor of Castile and twice Regent of the kingdom of Castile.
He was born in Torrelaguna (Madrid) in 1436 and lived in Alcalá de Henares, Salamanca and Rome, where he was ordained a priest. He came back from Rome to Spain to become Archpriest of Uceda and subsequently became Senior Chaplain of the Cathedral of Sigüenza.
A spiritual crisis led to him joining the Franciscan order and he withdrew to a monastic life of prayer, fasting and penance. He would go on to reform the order to strictly comply with the rule of its founder, St. Francis of Assisi.
Queen Isabella the Catholic chose Cisneros as her confessor. After the death of Cardinal Mendoza, Cisneros was ordained Archbishop Primate of Toledo and was also named Senior Chancellor of Castile by the Catholic Monarchs. Despite the power he held, he led an ascetic life, eating frugally, staying away from women and sleeping on a straw mattress that he stored under his bed.
In 1499, he moved to Granada, entrusted by the Royal Family to convert the last Muslim stronghold in the Iberian Peninsula to Christianity. At the same time, he set about reorganising the native American mission and started sending missionaries to the new world to convert them to Christianity, actively defending the rights of the natives, who were to be treated as free vassals of the Crown of Castile, according to Queen Isabella’s instructions.
Cisneros understood the importance of education and culture in the progressive development of peoples, which inspired him to found the University of Alcalá de Henares and published the polyglot Bible in its original Hebrew, Greek and Aramaic versions, along with the translation into Latin.
The ordinance issued by Cisneros made it compulsory for people to take on their father’s surname. Following the death of Queen Isabella, her daughter, Joanna (Joanna the Mad), was named Queen of Castile.
In view of her inability to reign, a Regency Council was set up, presided over by Cisneros, awaiting the return of her father King Ferdinand the Catholic from Naples to take over the government of Castile.
In return, Cisneros was named Inquisitor General of Castile and was also awarded the Cardinal cloak. In 1509, Cisneros would finance and personally conquer the city of Oran in Algeria, which would remain under Spanish rule for almost 300 years.
After the death of King Ferdinand the Catholic, Cisneros was appointed Regent of Castile for the second time, at the age of 80, awaiting the arrival of the new king. Cisneros did not get the opportunity to meet Prince Charles, who was on his way from the Netherlands to be crowned King of Castile and Aragon, under the name of Charles I, because he was already very ill and died on the way to welcome him in 1517.