#35 The Avignon Popes – Part I
December 1, 2018
#37 The Avignon Popes – Part III
December 13, 2018

#36 The Avignon Popes – Part II

  • After the death of Clement V, Dante wrote to the Italian cardinals and urged them to hold out for an Italian pope who would return the papacy to Rome.
  • But only six of the 23 cardinals were Italian.
  • And when they met just outside Avignon in their conclave to decide the new Pope, there were people outside shouting “Death to the Italian cardinals!”
  • And then the mob set fire to the building where the conclave was meeting.
  • So the cardinals made a run for out through a passage in a rear wall and there was no conclave for two years.
  • When they finally met again in Lyon, under the protection of French soldiers, they made Jacques Duèze the pope.
  • He was already 72 years old and not expected to live long.
  • But he survived 18 years and had huge influence in affairs.
  • But he was French.
  • The son of a cobbler.
  • Had been the teacher of the children fo the French king of Naples, Robert.
  • And it was Robert who bribed the Italian cardinals to make John pope.
  • John XXII had a great skill for making money.
  • He sold benefices – a permanent Church appointment, typically that of a rector or vicar –  like his predecessors, but, like Trump telling a huge lie, he did it without blushing.
  • When he died, the papal treasury had 18 million gold florins, est $4.1 billion and 7 million florins value ($1.6 billion) in plate and jewellery.
  • The buying or selling of ecclesiastical privileges – is called simony which comes from Simon Magus (Acts 8:18).
  • Who tried to buy the secret to conferring the Holy Ghost from Peter.
  • He is also remembered for being the guy who made witchcraft something that could be tried under the Inquisition.
  • Before then, witchcraft was either ignored as being an old, harmless pagan superstition – and bit like we think of Christianity.
  • Then John was apparently the victim of an assassination attempt using poison and magic and he suspected witchcraft, so he went after them.
  • The Inquisition started in 12th-century France to combat religious dissent, in particular the Cathars.
  • The Cathars believed there were two gods – the good one of the NT and the evil one of the OT.
  • They also didn’t believe in killing, so they were vegetarians.
  • And they were against war and capital punishment.
  • Which made them very unusual in the Middle Ages.
  • They were also against reproduction, because they believed that continued the suffering and the chain of reincarnation – makes them sound a lot like Buddhists.
  • And they allowed women to be leaders of their churches, so that didn’t go down well with the Catholics.
  • Pope Innocent III launched a crusade against them in 1208.
  • This is where the famous story comes from, where the Crusaders were laying siege to a city and a commander was asked how to tell Cathars from Catholics.
  • He replied “Kill them all, the Lord will recognise His own”
  • The doors of the church of St Mary Magdalene were broken down and the refugees dragged out and slaughtered.
  • Reportedly at least 7,000 innocent men, women and children were killed there by Catholic forces.
  • Elsewhere in the town, many more thousands were mutilated and killed.
  • Prisoners were blinded, dragged behind horses, and used for target practice.
  • What remained of the city was razed by fire.
  • Arnaud-Amaury wrote to Pope Innocent III, “Today your Holiness, twenty thousand heretics were put to the sword, regardless of rank, age, or sex.”
  • ANYWAY…. John XXII was also accused of heresy during his lifetime for making the claim that people who died did not see the presence of God – known as the beatific vision – until the Last Judgment.
  • When John died in 1334, he was replaced by Jacques Fornier, aka Benedict XII, the son of a baker.
  • Another Frenchman.
  • The conclave were ready to elect another guy, the Bishop of Porto, if he would only swear in advance to agree not to return the Papacy to Rome, but he refused to make any promises in order to get elected.
  • So they elected Fornier instead.
  • He clamped down on some of the excesses of John – there was less bribery and corruption.
  • It’s said that Benedict was happy to live a simple life.
  • But he also built a palace for himself and future popes in Avignon.
  • He invited Giotto to come and cover it with frescos, but Giotto died before he could get there.
  • So he invited Giotto’s pupil Simone Martini instead.
  • Martini was a friend of Petrarch and, according to Vasari, painted two portraits of Laura for him.
  • The next pope was born Pierre Roger – Clement VI.
  • He came from French nobility and liked luxury.
  • He didn’t understand why a pope should live a simple life when the papal treasury was fully stocked.
  • He gave out benefices to everyone who asked for one.
  • He said he didn’t like people to leave disappointed.
  • Especially his own family.
  • His nepotism was ultimately reflected in the 44 statues of relatives which surrounded his sarcophagus.
  • At one point he said he would give gifts to any clergyman who came to see him within the following two months – 100,000 came.
  • He also gave out expensive gifts to artists and poets.
  • And liked to surround himself with beautiful women.
  • The Romans and Petrarch invited him to move the papacy back to Rome.
  • He declined, but did decided to celebrate the jubilee every 50 years instead of 100.
  • Rome was so happy at the news that they deposed Rienzo and renewed the political submission to the popes.
  • Clement VI built a massive administrative machinery around himself at Avignon.
  • While it was Benedict who had started work on the palace of the popes, Clement was used to a grander scale of luxury, and he expanded the works program.
  • The Pope was, after all, a sovereign, and Clement intended to live and work in an appropriate state.
  • He kicked out clergymen he didn’t like to make room for the ones he did.
  • When someone pointed out that his predecessors hadn’t done that, he replied “Our predecessors did not know how to be pope.”
  • He appointed a bunch of new French cardinals, including three nephews, and the sons of various French nobility.
  • He also purchased the sovereignty of Avignon from Queen Joan I of Naples in 1348 for the sum of 80,000 crowns.
  • Clement VI had the misfortune to be on the papal throne when the Black Death first struck Europe in 1347.
  • Clement attributed the plague to divine wrath, as might be expected of a theologian.
  • But he also sought the opinions of astrologers for an explanation.
  • Johannes de Muris was among the team “of three who drew up a treatise explaining the plague of 1348 by the conjunction of Saturn, Jupiter, and Mars in 1341”  Clement VI’s physicians advised him that surrounding himself with torches would block the plague.
  • However, he soon became skeptical of this recommendation and stayed in Avignon supervising sick care, burials, and the pastoral care of the dying.
  • Clement continued the struggle of his predecessors with Holy Roman Emperor Louis IV.
  • On 13 April 1346, after protracted negotiations, he excommunicated the Emperor, and directed the election of Charles IV.
  • After the death of Louis in October 1347 Charles received general recognition, ending the schism which had long divided Germany.
  • Clement proclaimed a crusade in 1343, but nothing was accomplished beyond a naval attack on Smyrna on 29 October 1344.
  • He also had a role in the Hungarian invasion of the Kingdom of Naples, namely a papal fief; the contest between Louis I of Hungary and Joanna I of Naples, accused of ordering the assassination of her husband and the former’s brother, concluded in 1348 in a trial held in Avignon, at which she was acquitted.
  • Popular opinion blamed the Jews for the plague, and pogroms erupted throughout Europe.
  • Clement issued two papal bulls in 1348 (6 July and 26 September), the latter named Quamvis Perfidiam, which condemned the violence and said those who blamed the plague on the Jews had been “seduced by that liar, the Devil.”
  • He went on to emphasise that “It cannot be true that the Jews, by such a heinous crime, are the cause or occasion of the plague, because through many parts of the world the same plague, by the hidden judgment of God, has afflicted and afflicts the Jews themselves and many other races who have never lived alongside them.”
  • He urged clergy to take action to protect Jews as he had done.
  • He claimed to have “lived as a sinner among sinners” in his own words.
  • The huge palace the Popes built in Avignon – which also contained living chambers, council halls, chapels, offices, two courts, massive towers for protection, must have cost a fortune to build and maintain.
  • And several sources of income had dried up.
  • Italy had been deserted by the papacy and didn’t feel obliged to send anything.
  • Germany sent half its annual tribute.
  • France held the church at its mercy and borrowed huge sums from it to finance the Hundred Years’ War.
  • England didn’t feel like sending money when the church was effectively an ally of France.
  • So the Avignon popes were forced to squeeze every florin they could out of every crevice.
  • Every bishop or abbott had to pay one third of his annual income to the pope.
  • He also had to pay ongoing bribes to the people who voted for his election.
  • If he became an archbishop, he had to pay a huge fee to the pope for the circular band of white wool that he wore as his insignia of office.
  • When a new pope was elected, every benefice or office sent him its full revenue for one year and thereafter a tenth of its revenue in each year.
  • And they were also expected to make further voluntary donations from time to time.
  • If a cardinal, archbishop, bishop or abbot died, his personal possessions and effects belonged to the papacy.
  • In the interim between the death of one and the appointment of the next, all of the revenue for his zone went to the papacy.
  • And they were accused of dragging out the process of appointing new people for that reason.
  • As many bishops and Abbotts were feudal proprietors who got their estates from the king, they had to pay HIM tribute as well and provide him with soldiers.
  • And they were hard pressed to pay both the king and their spiritual masters.
  • Sometime that meant them supporting their king AGAINST the pope.
  • Basically everything was for sale.
  • The Avignon Popes ran a huge business.
  • And the kings and merchants of Europe started to get pissed at how much of the wealth was being extracted by the church.
  • Even churchmen themselves were sickened and annoyed by how much wealth the church was amassing.
  • One Spaniard, loyal to the papacy, wrote “Wolves are in control of the Church, and feed on the blood” of the Christian flock.
  • Cardinal Napoleone Orsini was disturbed to find that nearly all the bishoprics of Italy were the object of barter or family intrigue under Clement V.
  • Edward III of England, himself adept in taxation, reminded Clement VI that “the successor of the Apostles was commissioned to lead the Lord’s sheep to the pasture, not to fleece them,” and the English parliament passed several statutes to check the taxing power of the popes in Britain.
  • In Germany papal collectors were hunted down, imprisoned, mutilated, in some cases strangled.
  • Once the Black Death hit, plus war,  and the papal tributes, many pastors just walked away from their parishes.
  • Fuck it, I’m Audi 4000.

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