Antonius Gratiadei - An Admont abbot in imperial service
Among the Admont abbots who served as counsellors to Emperor Frederick III and Maximilian I, Antonius Gratiadei, who came from Venice, occupies a special position. He is considered one of the most controversial figures in the history of the Benedictine abbey, as he was not elected by the convent but appointed by the emperor and thus virtually imposed on the monks. In the Chronicon Admontense, the abbatial office is described in less than favourable terms: Antonius is said to have embezzled monastery goods and finally attempted to flee in 1491. Shortly after his alleged escape, however, Antonius was apprehended and imprisoned in Gallenstein, where he died a short time later without being rehabilitated. Nevertheless, he was also considered to be particularly fond of art and education, as the Admont Abbey Library owes him 46 incunabula, which he acquired in various offices in Europe and in some cases had additionally furnished, and at least 12 manuscripts. Antonius Gratiadei was originally a Minorite and studied theology in Paris. It is not documented when he came into contact with the imperial family; some writings refer to him as Maximilian's tutor, but this cannot be proven.
From 1 October 1478, he taught as an associate professor at the theological faculty of the University of Leuven.2 Gratiadei then worked for Archduke Maximilian in a number of diplomatic missions in Italy. At the end of 1480, he was sent to Florence to try to unite the Christian powers against the Turks. During his stay in the city, he was highly regarded for his oratorical qualities. On 28 January 1481, he was in Rome, where he came into contact with humanist circles and in particular with Bartolomeo Manfredi (Aristophilus). On behalf of Pope Sixtus, Gratiadei mediated at the Council of Basel in 1482 and was able to dissuade Emperor Frederick III from supporting the reform-minded prelate Andreas Jamometić, who had proclaimed the Council. The emperor decided to reward him. As he had notorious money problems, the transfer of ecclesiastical benefices, which he could dispose of as sovereign prince, was the only possible form of "remuneration" for him: Gratidei received the income from the parish of Gars in Lower Austria. However, as this proved to be too little to cover his costly expenses, Frederick III made him abbot of the Benedictine monastery of St Trudpert in the southern Black Forest.4 In some documents from 1483, Gratiadei refers to himself as abbas sancti Trudperti. However, this abbacy was ended very quickly by Archduke Siegmund of Tyrol. He pointed out that the convent there had already elected an abbot and that he himself had confirmed this election. Emperor Frederick III gave in and naturally had to find another monastery for his favourite quickly. He took advantage of the disagreement that had arisen among the monks of the Benedictine Abbey of Admont in Styria after the death of John III of Trauttmannsdorf and appointed Gratiadei as abbot.
The convent complied, but not without being assured of certain rights. Gratiadei had to sign an electoral capitulation, according to which he was not allowed to sell or confer offices or benefices without the consent of the convent. Nor was anyone "from a foreign nation or tongue" allowed to be admitted to the order. Before Christmas of that year, on 21 December 1483, Gratiadei was appointed Count Palatine and Imperial Advisor by Frederick III. Following this recognition, a second medal with his likeness was engraved by Giovanni di Candida at the beginning of 1484. During his abbacy, Antonius took on numerous diplomatic tasks on behalf of Frederick III and, from 1486, also for King Maximilian, at whose coronation in Frankfurt he was personally present. Further journeys took Gratiadei to the Netherlands for a time and to his former
He moved to the university town of Leuven. There, on 22 October 1486, he made use of his official powers as "Count Palatine" and legitimised an illegitimate pair of brothers. In October 1487, Gratiadei was commissioned to conduct preliminary negotiations for a truce with the Hungarian king Matthias Corvinus in St. Pölten. Due to these missions, the head of the monastery was only very rarely present in his abbey. Although he also took care of internal monastic matters, he often left the abbey to travel to the imperial court via St. Gall to Linz. Gallenstein Fortress, situated on the border with Lower and Upper Austria, was a meeting place for discussions between a notary with special powers and the prelates and nobility from the two neighbouring countries.
Three years after his death, Emperor Maximilian wrote to the Doge of Venice at the request of his successor to reclaim the allegedly stolen Admont Abbey treasures. Unfortunately, it remains unclear whether anything was ever returned.