Elector of Mainz and archbishop of Magdeburg; b. June 28, 1490; d. at Mainz Sept. 24, 1545. He was the second son of Johann Cicero, elector of Brandenburg, and brother of the future elector, Joachim I. Through family influence he became canon of Mainz, at the age of eighteen. In 1513 he was made archbishop of Magdeburg and administrator of Halberstadt, and in 1514, having received holy orders, archbishop and elector of Mainz. Having promised to pay personally the sum of at least 20,000 gold gulden for the pallium, he was forced to borrow from the Fuggers in Augsburg. To recoup himself, he obtained (Aug.15, 1515) from Pope Leo X. the privilege of preaching indulgences--ostensibly decreed for the building of St. Peter's in Rome--in his province for eight years, making a cash payment of 10,000 gulden and promising for the future one-half of the annual revenues. He admitted that the transaction was a money-making affair, and when the preaching began commissioners representing the Fuggers accompanied the preachers to collect their share.

Albert was a child of the Renaissance, interested in art, with a decided fondness for costly buildings, and deserves praise as a patron of the new literature. He admired Erasmus, protected Reuchlin, and drew Hutten to his court. Nevertheless, on May 17, 1517, he issued an edict against the press and appointed the reactionary Jodocus Trutvetter inquisitor for his entire province. When the way indulgences were preached raised a storm, his action was characteristic. On Oct. 31, 1517, Luther sent to him a respectful letter on the subject, and his ninety-five theses. Albert put the matter aside and left the letter unanswered; he had no conception of Luther's motives and views, and desired not to be troubled. Later, when he tried to interfere, he found that his influence was gone. At the Diet of Augsburg in 1518 he was made cardinal. After the death of the Emperor Maximilian (1519) he worked effectively for the election of Charles V. As regards Luther he continued to follow the advice of Erasmus (in a letter of Nov. 1, 1519), to have as little as possible to do with him, if he cared for his own tranquillity. So long as his personal interests did not suffer, he found it easy to be tolerant. When Luther, at the wish of his elector, wrote a second letter (Feb. 4, 1520), Albert replied quite in the spirit of Erasmus. He did not interfere when Hutten issued his anonymous anti-Roman pamphlets, and he showed himself unfriendly to the mendicant friars. But when papal legates brought him (Oct., 1520) the Golden Rose and definite orders concerning Hutten and Luther, he was ready at once to expel the former from his court and to burn the latter's books.

After the Diet of Worms (1521) Albert pretended to favor certain reforms, and many, like Carlstadt, put confidence in him. Luther, however, addressed to him a letter from the Wartburg (Dec. 1, 1521), threatening to attack publicly his "false god," the indulgences, if the sale did not cease, and to expose him before the world. Albert yielded as a matter of policy, and because no other course was open to him. He was also unable to prevent the introduction of the Reformation into Erfurt and Magdeburg. He was not on good terms with his chapter in Mainz, and during the Peasants' War the city made a compact with the peasants. It was suspected that he had in mind to follow the example of his cousin in Prussia (see ALBERT OF PRUSSIA) and to secularize his bishopric--a course which Luther openly (in a letter of June 2, 1525) called upon him to take. On the same day, however, the peasants were defeated at Konigshofen, and the immediate danger being over, Albert made an alliance with Luther's most determined opponents, Joachim of Brandenburg and George of Saxony, for mutual protection and for the extermination of the Lutheran sect. For a time he continued to oppose the evangelical movement in a half-hearted way, requesting his subjects to abide by the old teaching of the Church. He introduced some outward changes in opposition to the Reformation, but without effect; his territory became smaller; and his influence in the kingdom grew less. The so-called alliance of Halle with his brother Joachim and other Catholic princes in 1533 could not retard the movement. His opposition in Dessau was in vain (1534). Even in Halle, his own city, he could not hinder the victory of the Reformation proved by the call of Justus Jonas in 1541. As early as 1536 Albert anticipated coming events, by removing his valuable collections of objects of art to Mainz and Aschaffenburg; and in 1540 he left Halle forever. In 1541 he urged the emperor at Regensburg to proceed against the Protestants with arms, if he really meant to be emperor; otherwise it were better if he had stayed in Spain. Albert had become, possibly under Jesuit influence, the most violent of the princely opponents of the Reformation. He met with continual disappointments, however, and steadily became more isolated. He took a deep interest in the Council of Trent, and appointed his legates in Apr., 1545, but did not live to see its opening. His last years were harassed by quarrels with his chapter and the importunities of his creditors, and he died, after long sufferings, alone, forsaken, and almost in want. The fine buildings which he erected at Mains and Halle and his monument by Peter Vischer, in the abbey church at Aschaffenburg were the only memorials of his life which he left to posterity.