#36 The Avignon Popes – Part II
December 8, 2018
#38 The Rise Of The Medici (part 1)
January 5, 2019

#37 The Avignon Popes – Part III

  • Against complaints about how much they were demanding, the popes said “hey looking this good isn’t easy!”
  • Clement VI had been forced to lend Philip VI of France 592,000 gold florins – $135 million.
  • And 3,517,000 more to King John II, Philip’s son and heir. Roughly $800 million.
  • Quick quiz – how long did the Hundred Years’ War last?
  • 116 years.
  • Fought from 1337 to 1453 by the House of Plantagenet, rulers of the Kingdom of England, against the French House of Valois, over the right to rule the Kingdom of France.
  • Who was the last Plantagenet king of England?
  • Richard III.
  • A lot of money had to be spent trying to reconquer the lost papal states in Italy.
  • Despite all taxes the popes suffered dire deficits.
  • John XXII rescued the papal treasury by paying into it 440,000 florins from his personal funds;
  • Innocent VI had to sell his silver plate, his jewelry and works of art;
  • Urban V had to borrow 30,000 florins from his cardinals;
  • Gregory XI owed 120,000 francs when he died.
  • Some people said the huge deficits were caused mostly by the worldly luxury of the papal court.
  • Clement VI was surrounded by male and female relatives attired in precious stuffs and furs; by knights, squires, sergeants at arms, chaplains, ushers, chamberlains, musicians, poets, artists, doctors, scientists, tailors, philosophers, and chefs who were the envy of kings—all in all, some four hundred persons, all fed, clothed, lodged, and salaried by a lovably lavish Pope who had never known the cost of money.
  • Clement thought of himself as a ruler who had to awe his subjects and impress ambassadors by “conspicuous consumption” after the custom of kings.
  • The cardinals too, as the royal council of a state as well as the princes of the Church, had to maintain establishments befitting their dignity and power; their retinues, equipages, banquets were the talk of the town.
  • Perhaps Cardinal Bernard of Garves overdid it, who hired fifty-one dwellings to house his retainers; and Cardinal Peter of Banhac, five of whose ten stables sheltered thirty-nine horses in comfort and style.
  • Even bishops fell in line, and, despite remonstrances from provincial synods, kept rich establishments with jesters, falcons, and dogs.
  • Avignon assumed the morals as well as the manners of royal courts.
  • One bishop wrote: “That the whole Christian folk take from the clergy pernicious examples of gluttony is clear and notorious, since the said clergy feast more luxuriously and splendidly, and with more dishes, than princes and kings”
  • And Petrarch had this too say about Avignon:
  • the impious Babylon, the hell on earth, the sink of vice, the sewer of the world. There is in it neither faith nor charity nor religion nor the fear of God…. All the filth and wickedness of the world have run together here…. Old men plunge hot and headlong into the arms of Venus; forgetting their age, dignity, and powers, they rush into every shame, as if all their glory consisted not in the cross of Christ but in feasting, drunkenness, and unchastity…. Fornication, incest, rape, adultery are the lascivious delights of the pontifical games.
  • Of course, Petrarch was biased.
  • He was pissed that the papacy had vacated Rome.
  • But even St. Catherine of Siena, who was declared patron saint of Rome in 1866, and of Italy in 1939, and patron saint of Europe in 1999 by Pope John Paul II, told Gregory XI that at the papal court “her nostrils were assailed by the odors of hell.”
  • BTW – Christ’s foreskin is known as the “Holy Prepuce”.
  • St Catherine claimed to wear Christ’s foreskin as an invisible wedding ring.
  • Charlemagne gave it to Pope Leo III when was crowned Emperor.
  • It’s last known location was the village of Calcata, north of Rome.
  • Unfortunately it was reported stolen in 1983 – which happened to be the same year Bowie released “Let’s Dance”. Coincidence? You tell me.
  • All of this undermined the prestige and authority of the church.
  • In the 80 years they were in Avignon, the popes named 113 Frenchmen as new cardinals – out of a total of 134.
  • As a result, the Germans decided the popes would have no more role in the election of their kings and emperors.
  • In 1372 the abbots of the archdiocese of Cologne, in refusing the tithe to Pope Gregory XI, publicly proclaimed that “the Apostolic See has fallen into such contempt that the Catholic faith in these parts seems to be seriously imperiled. The laity speak slightingly of the Church because, departing from the custom of former days, she hardly ever sends forth preachers or reformers, but rather ostentatious men, cunning, selfish, and greedy. Things have come to such a pass that few are Christians in more than name.”
  • The status of the Church in Italy was terrible.
  • Louis of Bavaria had invaded Italy, marched to Rome, and declared himself the Holy Roman Emperor, Louis IV, in 1328.
  • Despite Pope John XXII being against it.
  • The Pope had actually excommunicated Louis a few years earlier but he didn’t care, because, as a German, he saw the Pope as the tool of the French king.
  • Three months after being crowned, Louis published a decree declaring Pope John XXII deposed on grounds of heresy.
  • He then installed a Franciscan, Pietro Rainalducci as Nicholas V, the antipope, but both left Rome in August 1328.
  • The idea of an antipope goes way back to Hippolytus of Rome (d. 235)
  • Can you guess how many antipopes there have been?
  • 42!
  • The secret of the universe, life and everything.
  • On 19 February 1329 Nicholas V presided at a bizarre ceremony in the Duomo of Pisa, at which a straw puppet representing Pope John XXII and dressed in pontifical robes was formally condemned, degraded, and handed over to the secular arm (to be “executed”).
  • One of Louis’ friends, who also hated the Pope, was the English Franciscan friar William of Ockham.
  • He of Ockham’s razor.
  • “law of parsimony”
  • the simplest solution tends to be the correct one.
  • When presented with competing hypotheses to solve a problem, one should select the solution with the fewest assumptions.
  • Ockham claimed the Pope was a heretic.
  • ‘Our faith is not formed by the wisdom of the Pope. For no one is bound to believe the Pope in matters which are of the faith, unless he can demonstrate the reasonableness of what he says by the rule of faith.’
  • This was because John had cracked down on the Franciscans for making him look bad.
  • The Franciscans, like Francis of Assisi – believed in poverty.
  • They said ‘hey Jesus had nothing, the early disciples had nothing, so we should have nothing too”.
  • Of course, this was taken as a criticism of the church.
  • And John ruled that this position was a heresy.
  • He said Jesus LOVED the bling.
  • Nicholas V fled Rome, aware that in his patron’s absence, the goodwill of the people of Rome would not give him claim over the Christian church in Italy, let alone the world.
  • Instead, he made his way to Avignon and asked John XXII for absolution.
  • John XXII granted it, and Nicholas V faded gratefully into obscurity.
  • In 1342 Benedict XII, to weaken the power of Louis IV the Holy Roman Emperor, confirmed to all the despots of the Lombard cities the authority they had assumed in defiance of Imperial claims;
  • Louis, in revenge, gave the Imperial sanction to the despots who had seized the Papal States.
  • Milan openly flouted the popes.
  • When Urban V sent two legates to Milan (1362), bearing bulls of excommunication to the Visconti, Bernabò Visconti, Lord of Milan, compelled them to eat the bulls—parchment, silken cords, and leaden seals.
  • Clement VI sent an army to recapture the Papal States, but it was his successor, Innocent VI, who became Pope in 1352, who won them back.
  • For a while.
  • Another Frenchman.
  • He tried to reform the church.
  • And In 1355, Charles IV, Holy Roman Emperor, was crowned in Rome with Innocent’s permission, after having made an oath that he would quit the city on the day of the ceremony.
  • The Papacy under Innocent was pretty broke.
  • A combination of Clement’s extravagance, the wars in Italy and the plague, had emptied the papal treasury.
  • Instead of commissioning works of art, he sold them.
  • By 1357, he complained of poverty.
  • He played a large role in The Treaty of Brétigny between England and France in 1360, which marked the end of the first phase of the Hundred Years’ War.
  • But he intended to return the papacy to Italy.
  • He knew that was the only way to restore authority to the church.
  • But he faced two major problems.
  • One – all of his funds were coming from France.
  • If he pissed off the French king, he’d lose that too.
  • Second – the Papal States had been overrun by other forces.
  • So he decided to go to war to get them back.
  • The man Innocent put in command of his war was a Spanish Cardinal – Gil Álvarez Carrillo de Albornoz – The Albatross
  • He was a brilliant general who came from a noble family.
  • His uncle was the archibishop of Toledo  before he held the same position age 28.
  • A couple of years later he fought off a Muslim invasion from Morocco.
  • But when the king of Spain, Alfonso XI of Castile, died, Albornoz left Spain, out of fear of the new king, Pedro of Castile aka Peter the Cruel.
  • He resigned his archbishopric.
  • But soon after Pope Clement made him a cardinal.
  • And then in 1353, Innocent sent him as legate into Italy, with a small mercenary army, to win back the Papal States.
  • He started with a campaign against Giovanni di Vico, the lord of Viterbo, who had taken control over much of Umbria and Latium.
  • After defeating di Vico, he moved on to the other states.
  • Over the next few years, he conquered all of them except Milan, still ruled by the brutal tyrant Bernabò Visconti.
  • He was a member of the House of Visconti that ruled Milan from 1277 to 1447.
  • Their coat of arms was a dragon, wearing a crown, swallowing a man whole.
  • When Albornoz attack against the Visconti failed, Innocent proclaimed him a heretic and the new Pope Urban V launched a crusade against him.
  • But Visconti and Urban signed a peace treaty.
  • And so Italy was now open again to the return of the Popes.
  • All it took was ten years of bloodshed.
  • Urban V, who was pope from 1362 to 1370, was from the Order of Saint Benedict.
  • Another Frenchman.
  • Still based in Avignon.
  • Even after his election as pontiff, he continued to follow the Benedictine Rule, living simply and modestly.
  • He also worked hard to clean up the corruption of the church.
  • Urban V’s greatest desires were to return the papacy to Rome – and that of a crusade against the Turks.
  • In 1363, King John II of France and Peter I, the King of Cyprus promised to lead one – but then John returned to England to be a prisoner and the whole thing fell apart.
  • In April 1367, after pleas from Petrarch and others, he sailed from Marseille and arrived in Rome in October.
  • The first Pope to set foot in his own diocese in 60 years.
  • Of course he found a Rome which looked like shit.
  • Half of its churches were deserted and decayed.
  • St Paul’s was in ruins.
  • St Peter’s threatened to collapse at any minute.
  • Palaces looked like tenement buildings.
  • Rubbish was lying in the streets.
  • He provided funds to rebuild the papal palace
  • And went to live in Cardinal Albornoz’ old palace in Montefiascone.
  • But he missed Avignon
  • Even though he was a Benedictine, he still missed the luxury.
  • And he was getting pressure from the French cardinals to return.
  • They didn’t want to have to go to Rome.
  • So in Sept 1370, he left Italy for France.
  • St. Bridget of Sweden predicted that he would die soon if he left Italy.
  • And she was right.
  • A few days after arriving back in Avignon he fell ill.
  • And died not long after.
  • The next Pope was Gregory XI.
  • Nephew of Clement VI.
  • Who made him a cardinal at 18.
  • He was ordained a priest on December 29, 1370.
  • And elected Pope the next day.
  • Aged only 39.
  • He was the seventh and last Avignon pope.

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