Chapter VIII. The Fall of the Mediaeval Church
[This lecture was delivered before the Church Club in New York and published in the Church Club lectures of the year 1894. It is republished here by permission.]
The year 1300 was in more senses than one the golden year of the Roman papacy. The long conflict between the imperial and papal powers had ended in the triumph of the pope. The ruin of the house of Hohenstauffen had involved the ruin of the empire. The last of the seed of Barbarossa, the gallant Conradin, had died upon the scaffold in Naples, bequeathing his wrongs, all that was left him of the vast possessions of his fathers, to his kindred of the house of Aragon.
So low was the imperial power and dignity that the reigning emperor, Adolph of Nassau, poorest and weakest of German princes, was rated by the pope like a school-boy for becoming the hired soldier of Edward of England.
The spiritual, if not the temporal, power of the pope was acknowledged without dispute from one end of Europe to the other. A vast and highly [170/171] organized priesthood looked to him as the sole source of its authority. The regular clergy waited upon his favor for promotion; the monastic orders were, for the most part, under his immediate jurisdiction, while the mendicants of S. Francis and S. Dominic preached him in every hamlet and at every cross-road of Europe. The fear of him and the dread of him was upon all the nations of the West. His curse had ruined an empire and was withering the power of kings.
The Crusades had given into his hand the sword of the flesh as well as the sword of the Spirit. He had but to call a war holy, to grant general indulgence to his soldiers, and to bless their banners, and he was followed by devoted armies that could fight and die, if they could not fast and pray. Failing in his effort to wrest the Holy Land from the infidel, the pope had turned these, his carnal weapons, against heretics and personal enemies nearer home; he preached his crusades indifferently against the Albigenses of Provence and the Colonna of Rome.
And in the year 1300 a new device was found to attract to Rome the homage and wealth of Europe. In some mysterious way the news went abroad that [171/172] whosoever should, in that last year of the old century, visit the holy city and worship at the altars of the Apostles, would receive full indulgence and pardon for all his sin. The consequence of this rumor was a mighty movement toward Rome. On the 22d of February the pope, by special "Bull," confirmed the belief of the people, and the streets of his city were thronged with pilgrims, and the basilicas of the Apostles crowded with worshippers. It is estimated that as many as two hundred and fifty thousand strangers were in Rome on a given day, and more than two millions visited the city during the Jubilee.
The reigning pope was Benedict Cajetan of the town of Anagni. His immediate predecessor was Peter Morrone, that hermit of Abruzzi, whom the cardinals had chosen as if by inspiration, after a disgraceful struggle, which had kept the see of Rome vacant for more than two years, in the hope that the sanctity of Peter would sweeten the air of the Roman court. But no sooner did the hermit take his name of Celestine V. and enter upon his high and holy office, than he found that the papacy [172/173] had passed far out of the regions of piety into that of practical politics. Frightened by his vast responsibilities, instigated by the advice, if not hurried on by the wiles of Cajetan, Celestine resigned the papacy after a reign of six months. This resignation was made in Naples, where the Pope was then residing, and was accepted by the College of Cardinals, who, after a negotiation lasting for ten days, entered into conclave, and, without further delay, elected the ablest of their number, Benedict Cajetan, Cardinal Presbyter of S. Martin, to the vacant see. In a few days the newly elected pontiff was crowned, assuming the name of Boniface VIII., and hurried away to Rome. He carried in his train Charles, King of Naples, and Charles Martel, his son, King of Hungary. As the Pope neared the city, the people came forth to meet him with banners and with music, and his entrance was like an ancient triumph. The two kings led his horse by the bridle and afterward waited on him at table.
The pope was then at the summit of earthly greatness. He was by far the most considerable personage in Europe, if not in the world; his only rival, the emperor, he had reduced to insignificance, while the kings of the West had not yet tried their [173/174] strength against him. But his was not the glory of the morning, it was the passing glory of the evening, the splendor of a sun that was going down.
When Boniface entered upon his office he found three centres of disturbance: In Rome the Colonna stood aloof, the Sicilians were in rebellion, and the King of France was sullen.
From the eleventh century the Colonna had been the strongest and wealthiest of Roman families. The Orsini were its only rivals in riches and in influence: it had its strongholds within and without the city; it allied itself by marriage to royal and imperial blood; it gave popes and cardinals to the Church. At the election of Boniface two cardinals of the family, James, and Peter the nephew of James, had been the last to give their consent; they had even hinted that the election itself might be illegal. The resignation of Celestine was without precedent in the history of the papacy. It was whispered in the conclave and soon came to be the talk of the street that a pope could not resign. Having once clothed himself with the awful power of the vicar of Christ, he could no more resign that power than God Himself could resign His justice [174/175] and his mercy. And the true pope was not in Rome but in Abruzzi.
These evil reports Boniface traced or thought he traced, to the lips of the Colonna. He summoned them to his council. They refused to obey, openly maintaining that he was no true pope; asserting that Celestine was pope and only on the death of Celestine could his successor be elected. The pope answered their defiance by degradation and excommunication; he deprived the cardinals of their hats and cut off the whole Colonna family from the communion of the Church. The Cclonna offered to submit to the pope, but he would not receive their submission, except they would surrender all their strongholds both within and without the city and throw themselves upon his mercy. This, naturally, they refused to do, and Boniface preached a crusade against them, he tore down their houses, stormed their castles, destroyed their chief city, Prenestre, and drove the family to take refuge with the King of France. One member of the family, Sciarra Colonna, was taken captive by the Saracens and he concealed his identity lest they should deliver him to Boniface, as he preferred the galleys of the infidel to the dungeons of the true believer. He finally [175/176] escaped into France, from whence he returned to take vengeance on the persecutor of his family. The pope had made a fatal mistake, he had angered but not destroyed these doubters of his title.
Here is not the place to unravel the interesting and intricate history of Sicily. Its exposed position has always made it an easy conquest. It had seen Carthaginian, Greek, Roman and Saracenic masters. In the tenth century, the Norman added it to the number of his conquests and founded there one of his numerous kingdoms. Early in the thirteenth century the line of Norman kings ended in Constance, wife of the Emperor Henry V., son of Barbarossa. Henry claimed the Island of Sicily, together with the kingdom of Naples, in the right of his wife, and what Henry claimed he conquered. He left the kingdoms of Naples and of Sicily to his wonderful son, Frederick II., who made this home of his mother his home, and ruled Germany and the empire from the shores of the Mediterranean.
It was in their long contest with Frederick that the popes claimed the kingdoms of Naples and Sicily as a fief of the papacy and granted them first to Richard of Cornwall, and afterwards to Charles of Anjou and Provence. After the death of [176/177] Frederick, while his son Conrad was in Germany, striving to secure the empire, and Manfred, natural son of Frederick, had usurped and was reigning over Naples and Sicily, Charles invaded the kingdom, Manfred was defeated and slain, and the power of the French established both on the main land and in the island. But in Sicily that power was of short duration. The extreme and brutal tyranny of the French stirred the southern blood to madness. An insult to a lady of Palermo was the immediate occasion of that terrible uprising known as the Sicilian Vespers, which left not a Frenchman alive on the island, whom the Sicilians could find and kill. Conrad V., son of Frederick II., was dead. His son, the little Conrad, perished in his gallant effort to regain the kingdom of his fathers and there was no heir to the great house of Hohen-stauffen, except Constance, daughter of Manfred, who was married to Peter of Aragon. To Aragon the Sicilian turned for help and offered their crown to Peter, the husband of Constance. He accepted it and granted it in his turn to his brother James, with a reversion in favor of his younger brother Frederick. This Frederick of Aragon was the real ruler of Sicily until his death. James soon [177/178] succeeded his brother Peter on the throne of Aragon and left Frederick to govern Sicily.
When Boniface became pope he succeeded in making peace between James of Aragon and Charles of Naples, one of the conditions of the peace being that James should cede his rights in Sicily to Charles. But in making this peace the pope reckoned without Frederick and the Sicilians. The Sicilians he treated as his vassals, to be granted to whom he would, and Frederick he tried to beguile by offering him, with the hand of the titular Empress of Constantinople, the empire of the East. But Frederick thought a kingdom in the hand worth an empire in the bush, and held fast to his tight little island, while the Sicilians would rather die than admit the French again to their homes.
Frederick defied the pope and the two kings, though one was his brother. His great Admiral Roger Loria defeated the combined papal and Neapolitan fleets and drove them from the sea. And when Loria was seduced from his allegiance by the pope, Frederick, though no longer invincible at sea, was unconquerable on land. The pope thundered out against him every curse to be found in the arsenal of Rome, but Frederick let him curse, and [178/179] went on beating Charles of Naples just the same. The pope called Charles of Valois to aid his feeble kinsman of Naples, but this Frenchman did nothing but devastate Italy, and increase the hatred that was gathering about the head of Boniface, and went home leaving Frederick in secure possession of Sicily.
I have dwelt upon the story of Sicily because in that story is the secret of the papal downfall. In their long effort to wrest Naples and Sicily from the Hohenstauffen, the popes had wasted their spiritual and temporal strength. They delivered themselves from the fear of one master, only to find themselves given over, bound hand and foot, into the keeping of another.
In the break-up of the Frankish empire, which resulted in the foundation of the Kingdom of France, that kingdom was ever the favorite of Rome. In their long and bitter struggle with the empire, it was to France that the popes looked for succor, and that aid was paid for by many special grants and dispensations.
But now that the empire no longer threatened his autocracy, the pope determined to humble this [179/180] growing power in the West, which presuming on his favor had not consulted his dignity.
The reigning King of France was Philip IV., known to history as Philip the Fair. This king was one of those men whose lives strike the midnight hour that marks the beginning of a new day. In his time and under his hand, three institutions which had ruled the life and filled the heart of Christian Europe for three hundred years and more fell into ruin.
The stars in their courses fought with Philip in his work of destruction. Victory and defeat alike helped him off with the old and on with the new. His armies met with a terrible disaster under the walls of Courtrai and more than two-thirds of the nobility of France perished on that field of spurs. But the death of the nobility was the life of the king. The wars with England and with Flanders did for France what the Wars of the Roses did for England. In those wars the great families were swept away, and with them that institution which was the source of their power and which they, in turn, upheld by their strength. That graded system which came in [180/181] with the Goth and the Frank, in which the king was only a chief of chieftains, his power resting on that of the great nobles next below him, did not survive the fatalities of the fatal fourteenth century. In England, France and Spain, the king and the people absorbed the power of the nobles; in Italy and Germany the nobles and the cities seized upon the power of the king. After Courtrai, the King of France could no longer rest upon the great feudal lords, for the heads of their houses were for the most part little boys and girls. Tt was no longer a high-spirited and reluctant nobility whom the king led to the battle, it was a hired and professional soldiery. From that day to this, the battles of Europe, with rare exceptions, have not been fought with love and loyalty, but with muscle and money. Philip found the feudal system old and weak, he left it a ruin.
Chivalry was in his day already a matter for sport. The knight errant was the favorite butt of the court fool. What little life was left in that one time beautiful institution found shelter in the great lay orders of the Knights of the Temple and the Knights of the Hospital of S. John. But these orders were themselves falling into dissolution; they [181/182] were no longer fulfilling the purpose of their creation. It is not necessary nor possible to believe the awful charges which were brought against the Templars by the king. One charge was sufficient. They were rich and the king was poor, and Philip was not at all nice in his ways of getting money; he would debase the coin, draw the teeth of a Jew, or burn a Templar, so only he might have the money to carry on his wars. And because the Templars were false to their ideal they fell an easy prey to the rapacious tyranny of the king. The destruction of the order of the Temple was the last of Chivalry. It perished in the ashes of Molay.
But it was in the order of Providence that Philip should fight a fiercer battle and win a more far-reaching victory. He was the avenger of emperors and kings upon popes and priests.
It was a question of money that led to the quarrel between Philip and Boniface which ended in the captivity of the papacy. Philip's empty treasury was ever crying for more, and he looked with envious eyes upon the vast possessions of the Church and grieved his heart over the stream of gold and silver that flowed from France to Rome. After taxing everything else he determined to tax the Church, [182/183] and demanded of the clergy a fiftieth of their revenues. This act of the king the pope considered to be an invasion of his rights, and in his wrath he issued his "Bull" Clericis Laicos, in which he asserted the broad principle that no temporal ruler had any right to impose any tax upon the property of the Church, and he excommunicated every prince or State that should levy such a tax, and every ecclesiastic who should presume to pay it without the permission of the pope. This "Bull" was couched in language insulting to the laity in general and to the King of France in particular. The king answered the papal "Bull" with a decree no less peremptory, forbidding the export from his kingdom of gold and silver coin and military stores without the king's consent. This cut off a chief source of papal revenue, and the pope was forced to temporize. Philip could get along more easily without the pope's communion than he without Philip's gold. The pope hastened to explain that he did not mean to forbid the payment of feudal imposts or voluntary donations of the clergy, or taxes imposed with the pope's consent. He still held that the pope had exclusive jurisdiction over all Church men and Church property, and declared Philip excommunicate for [183/184] intruding into that jurisdiction. Philip answered with force, that if he were to fight the battles and defend the property of the Church, the Church must in all justice pay part of the expense. And there the quarrel rested. Philip had his money and the pope did not enforce his excommunication, and there was truce between France and Rome. But it was only that the combatants might breathe themselves for the death-struggle. Between these there was an irrepressible conflict. Philip was set with all the force of his arrogant will upon being sole master in France, while Boniface with fiercer will was determined to be master of France, Philip and all the world.
In the year 1300, when pilgrims from every land did him homage, the heart of Boniface was filled with that desire for universal dominion which makes men mad. If he was the vicar of God on earth, he was the vicar of God, with divine right to rule over both the bodies and souls of men, and he could not bear that the eldest son of the Church should dispute his right to dominion, and he was minded to punish that son and make him obedient to his spiritual father.
 But Philip was in no filial nor compliant mood. He demanded homage of the Vicomte of Nar-bonne and the Bishop of Magelounne, both liegemen of the pope, and when they refused he cast them into prison. Enraged at this, Boniface sent his legate, the Bishop of Pamiers, to rebuke the king for his rebellious conduct. The Bishop was insolent and Philip placed him under arrest and sent him to keep company with Narbonne and Magelounne. The pope then issued his "Bull" Ausculta Fili, upbraiding Philip in the stern tones of a master. This "Bull" Philip burned amidst the applause of his people in the streets of Paris.
In his contest with the pope the king was forced to appeal to the people. For the first time he assembled the States General, calling representatives of the common people--men of the third estate--to sit with the nobles in the council of the king. There were three new-born forces fighting with and for Philip that Boniface knew not of. They were the spirit of nationalism, the power of secular learning and the might of worldly wealth. Philip set the nation against the Church; the lawyer against the clergy; the merchant against the monk; and under his leadership these gained a victory which has [185/186] given them the dominion of the world even to this day.
The emperors were feeble in the presence of the pope because they had no firm foundation to rest upon. Their empire was an idea rather than a fact; their dominion in the air rather than upon the earth. They were titular lords over many nations and hardly masters of one. They could not appeal to love of home and country, because they themselves had no home nor country. The Swabian emperor was a stranger in his own capital city of Rome. But not so the King of France; he was a Frenchman who ruled over Frenchmen and he could cry to them in their own tongue, Shall we the people of France be subject to an Italian priest? And with one consent the people answered, No--we will be ruled by our own king and by our own laws. The nation became conscious of itself in this quarrel with Boniface.
The very clergy yielded to the new spirit that was abroad in the earth. They had to yield because virtue had gone out of them. They were no longer what they had been. Once they were the only men of learning in the world; their lips kept knowledge and the people came to them for wisdom. They had created and then interpreted that vast volume of [186/187] canon law by which the popes ruled in the earth. But in the days of Philip they were opposed by a body of men as learned and far more eager than themselves. The University of Bologna had sent into every nation the students and the advocates of the civil law. These found in the institutes and pandects of Justinian every warrant for the king as the head of the State and no warrant for the pope's temporal authority. In the days of Justinian the pope had nothing to do with the taxes. And the lawyers, being the new men were stronger and fiercer than the clergy and beat them in their own chosen field.
And then this king had with him the merchants, the men of wealth. Before the crusades there had been little or no wealth in Western and Northern Europe. There had been a rude plenty to eat and drink, but no luxuries or refinements of life. But the crusades opened the East to the West, and silks and spices came from the Levant to Venice and from thence were sold to the nations of the North. And then the cities which were the home of the merchant began to grow stronger than the castle of the noble and the convent of the monk, and the purse of the merchant to outweigh the sword of the knight [187/188] and the missal of the priest; and the merchant in this fight was with the king.
Ignorant of the new and mighty forces arrayed against him, Boniface chose this moment to make such claims for himself and for his office as had never been made in the earth. To settle at once and forever the unlimited power of the pope over all men both in things spiritual and things temporal, he issued his famous bull Unam Sanctam Ecclesiam. [Henderson Doc. Middle Ages, pp. 434, 435.] In this bull he claims for himself and for his office absolute dominion over the lives and thoughts of men. He was nothing else than God on earth; whom he would he set up and whom he would he cast down. He commanded the two swords, the sword of the flesh as well as the sword of the spirit. The one he wielded directly; the other indirectly, the one by his own hand, the other by the hand of princes subject to his will.
Boniface and his immediate predecessors were all or nearly all that he claimed them to be. But the days of Cajetan were not as the days of Hildebrand, as Boniface found to his cost. Having published the bull Unam Sanctam the pope retired to Anagni that he might prepare and fulminate against the [188/189] King of France the last terrors of the Church; the excommunication, the interdict and the crusade.
News of these his hostile intentions reached France, and two of the king's partisans, Sciarra Colonna and William of Nogaret, without waiting for instructions from Philip, hurried over the Alps and down through Italy with three hundred horse at their back, and before the people of Anagni knew what was going on had taken the city and seized the person of the pope. Boniface did not quail before them. Dressed in his full pontificals, he received them with an angry dignity that became his office and his character. But his enemies hated the man too deeply to be awed by the pope. They treated him with great violence. Nogaret demanded a full release for the king from all censures of the Church, which, when the pope refused, it is said that Sciarra Colonna smote him in the face. For three days Anagni was given over to violence, and the pope was a prisoner in his own house. On the third day the people rose up and drove the invaders from the city and delivered the pope. Boniface went immediately to Rome; meditating vengeance, but only to die in a rage; and with him died forever the political and spiritual supremacy of the Bishop [189/190] of Rome. From that day to this the pope has been a disturbing, but never controlling, power in the political life of Europe. Little by little his dominion has been taken away, until he is nothing else than a private citizen of the kingdom of Italy, and his spiritual supremacy is denied and rejected by the most powerful and intelligent of his former subjects.
Ten days after the death of Boniface the frightened cardinals got together and elected Nicholas Boccasini, Cardinal Bishop of Ostia, to the vacant see.
Nicholas assumed the name of Benedict XL, which was the Christian name of Boniface; the new pope thus declaring his purpose of sustaining the policy and avenging the wrongs of his predecessor.
All the princes wrote to congratulate the pope upon his promotion, none more cordially than Philip; and it seemed as if there might be peace between the pope and the king. The pope quietly retired from the advanced position of Boniface; he did not reaffirm the bull Unam Sanctam, and he did release Philip from the censure of the Church. But with this the king was not satisfied. He wanted not pardon but justification. To justify himself he must [190/191] condemn Boniface. If Cajetan were a good pope, exercising lawful authority, then Philip had been guilty of a great crime, he had outraged and slain the Lord's annointed.
Philip pressed the pope for the condemnation of Boniface.
Not only did the pope refuse this, but he proceeded to anathematize in the strongest language known to spiritual censure all who were in any way concerned in the affair of Anagni. This placed Philip again under condemnation, and another bitter war would have followed had Benedict lived. But this mild man was not equal to the task of reconstituting the papacy. It was too much for his physical strength. He died after a pontificate of eight months.
The first terror of Anagni having passed away, the cardinals gave free play to their political passions in the election of his successor. The college was equally divided between the French and Roman interest, and for ten months no election was possible. The student of papal history must remark with curiosity these vacancies in the papal office and wonder how the body survived so long without its head. After this delay an agreement was made by [191/192] the contending parties, looking to a close of the contest. It was decided that the Roman party should choose the names of three Churchmen from beyond the Alps, and for one of these the French party would vote and so put an end to the scandal of a prolonged vacancy.
Among the names chosen was that of Bernard de 1 Goth, Archbishop of Bordeaux, a creature of Boniface, and a sworn enemy of Philip. But the Frenchmen knew their man. They sent a secret message, post haste to Philip, and Philip sent word to Bernard to meet him for a private interview in an abbey, in a wood near S. John De Angelli. Then Philip made known to the astonished archbishop that he had it in his power to make him pope. But before he could do this he must be assured of the loyalty and fidelity of the man who was now his subject, but who might upon promotion deem himself his master. The archbishop made every protestation of utter devotion to the person and interests of the king, and these two made a compact. Philip would use his interest and secure the election of Bernard, on condition: First, that Bernard, when pope, should release Philip from all censures which he had incurred in his dispute with Boniface; [192/193] second, that he should restore to his favor all who had in any way been concerned in the proceedings against that pope; third, that he should condemn the memory of Boniface; fourth, that he should restore the Colonna to their dignities, and promote to the college of cardinals such persons as the king should name; fifth, that he should give to the king a tenth of the revenues of the Church for five years. A sixth condition was kept secret to be demanded of the pope at the pleasure of the king. This agreement made, the king sent his messenger with all speed back to Rome, and upon his arrival Bernard de Goth, Archbishop of Bordeaux, was chosen pope, and so became the successor of S. Peter and the vicar of Christ on earth.
The new pope summoned the cardinals to cross the Alps and meet him in Lyons, where he was crowned, taking the name of Clement V. Clement made haste to carry out his contract with the king: he released Philip from all the censures of the Church; he granted him a tenth of the Church's revenue; he restored to papal favor all engaged in the outrages at Anagni, except Sciarra Colonna and William of Nogaret, upon whom he laid a slight penance; but he would not condemn the memory of [193/194] Boniface, and his whole pontificate was spent in a miserable struggle to avoid that fatal blow to the pretensions and power of the papacy.
To escape from the immediate jurisdiction of Philip, Clement transferred the papal residence from Lyons to Avignon. The poor priest had in his heart that love for France which is the strongest passion with every Frenchman, and he had also that love of ease and pleasure which is so natural to the Gascon. He could not bear to exile himself from France, still less could he bear the turbulence of Rome. So he chose for the spiritual capital of Christendom the softest and lovliest spot in the world.
Just outside the boundaries of France, in the country of Provence, which was under the rule of Charles of Naples, the pope found his Zoar, his little city of refuge. Avignon lay upon the left bank of the Rhone, in the midst of a large and fruitful plain. Except for the bitter winds that sometimes come to it, it was, and is, an earthly paradise; there the skies are clear and the air is soft. Like Israel's promised land, it was a land of oil and wine, a land flowing with milk and honey.
During the period of papal residence in Avignon, [194/195] the French influence was supreme. Himself a Frenchman, the pope lent himself easily to French interests. Clement, to his eternal shame, surrendered the Templars to the rapacity and cruelty of Philip the Fair. He did, indeed, avoid the last degradation, the condemnation of Boniface; but he escaped it only by the skin of his teeth. Philip, worn out and nigh unto death, dropped the persecution.
When Clement died, which he did after a reign of nearly nine years, there was an interregnum of more than two years. There was now no great question dividing the conclave: it was a mere matter of spoils that delayed the election. At last the cardinals were driven together in Carpentras, by the sword of Philip of Orleans, and compelled to a choice. They chose James of Cahors, Cardinal D'Eusa, Bishop of Porto. This man had vowed that if elected he would never mount horse until he set out for Rome; and he did not. After his coronation, when he took the name of John XXII., he walked from his house in Carpentras to the river, took a boat and sailed down to Avignon, walked from the shore to the palace, and never left it during the eighteen years of his pontificate.
 At the death of John, the cardinals after long balloting chanced to throw their votes to James Fournier, the least conspicuous member of the college, and to his and their astonishment, elected him to the see of Peter. He took the name of Benedict XII., and during his episcopate of ten years, did all that he could to reform the Church. But the abuses were too much for one old man and he left the Church as he found it.
After him came Peter Roger, Clement VI., the Limousian noble, of whom it is written that he was free with the company of women, a gentleman of wealth, of leisure and magnificence.
After Clement VI. came Stephen Aubert, Innocent VI., a good old man, who, in his reign of ten years, did what he could to curb the growing evils of the Church.
The absence of the popes from Rome was now a scandal that threatened the papacy itself. But the cardinals were native and to the manner born. Avignon was their home and they hated to think of a change. After the death of Innocent, the college elected William Grimoardi Abbot of the Monastery of S. Victor, in Marseilles. He had said he would die happy, could he but see the pope restored to [196/197] Rome. The cardinals did not know this when they elected him, else had he not been chosen.
And the new pope was as good as his word. Urban V., for so he called himself, did try to restore the residence of the popes to Rome. He was crowned at Avignon. But after a while, in the midst of weeping cardinals, he set out for Italy, sailing from Marseilles. He came to Corneto, from where he went to Viterbo, which he made his temporary residence, and where he received the submission of Rome. But the change was too much for the old man. Homesickness overcame him, and he returned to Avignon to die.
To his successor, Peter Roger, the younger Gregory XI., belongs the honor of the permanent restoration of the papacy to Rome.
Nephew of Clement VI., cardinal at eighteen, a close student, of severe life, he would not endure the looseness of the clergy. To an idle bishop in Avignon he said, "Why are you not in your diocese?" The pert answer was, "Why are you not in yours?" The answer smote him in the face, and he at once decided to go where he belonged, to sit in his seat, which was the seat of St. Peter and St. [197/198] Paul. Resisting the pressure that was brought upon him by the cardinals and the court of France, he went sadly back to desolated Rome. He, too, sickened of that turbulent city, and was ready to forsake it and return to Avignon, but death stepped in and prevented his desertion. He died in Rome in the 9th year of his pontificate, the 47th year of his age and in the 72d year of the captivity.
While Gregory was on his death-bed the banner-bearers of the city came to the cardinals and told them that it was the will of the people that they should elect a Roman or an Italian pope. The cardinals answered that such things were not spoken of out of conclave, and they would at the proper time choose a pope after their own conscience and for the good of the whole Church. The banner-bearers told them that their lives were in danger unless they complied with the wishes of the people. The cardinals again answered that an election under duress would be null and void, and one so chosen be an usurper and no true pope. When Gregory died, the magistrates came again seeking some assurance from the cardinals that they would elect a Roman to the Roman See. But the cardinals answered them [198/199] after the former manner; they would elect whom they would elect.
Then the magistrates determined to force an election; they guarded the gates of the city; expelled the nobles and all partisans of the cardinals; filled the streets with peasants and mechanics, who hooted the cardinals and followed them into the very conclave itself, crying "a Roman pope or death." All day the crowds surged about the place of the conclave, and all night a frightful cry went up of Romano lo Volemo lo papa. Romano lo Volemo. The banner-bearers sent word into the conclave that they could not restrain the people much longer; the cardinals must elect a Roman or Italian pope or die.
In their consternation the cardinals cast their eyes hastily upon Bartholomew Pignano, Archbishop of Bari, a man of ability, who was well learned in the canon law, and so would know the invalidity of his election. The cardinals did not know that Pignano was a secret instigator of the riot with a view to his own election. In fright and fear they gave their votes to him, and he was chosen pope. This fact was proclaimed from a window of the palace where [199/200] the conclave was assembled, and the people with a great shout ran to build fires and to ring bells.
The next day Pignano was enthroned and assumed the name of Urban VI. Knowing the irregularity of his election, he began at once to suspect the cardinals of an intention to declare that election illegal. So he watched them with suspicious closeness, and treated them with great rigor. He developed at once a most violent and tyrannical temper.
So long as they were in Rome the cardinals did not dare to question Urban's title. But twelve of them escaped to Anagni, and there made oath before the Chamberlain of the Holy See that the election of Urban was forced and not free. They communicated this fact to the cardinals which were at Avignon, and warned all Christendom of the illegality of the election.
They were joined by the cardinals at Avignon, and enticed away the only two cardinals who were true to Urban by promising secretly to elect each of them pope, and proceeded with great formality to declare the nullity of their former action and to call upon Urban to give up an office and a title which were not rightly his. Urban raged against them [200/201] like a wounded bear. He sent soldiers to take them and bring them in chains to Rome. The cardinals fled from Avignon to Fondi in the kingdom of Naples, and there they elected Robert of Geneva, one of their own number, to the papacy.
And so began the great schism, which lasted from the year 1378 to the year 1414. During all these six and thirty years there were two popes in western Christendom, each with his own obedience, each with his bitter partisans. The garment of the Church's unity was torn to shreds, and these contending priests were shaking the rags in each other's faces. With Urban went the better part of Italy, England, Sweden, Norway, Denmark, Hungary and Bohemia. With Robert of Geneva, who took the name of Clement VII., went France and Savoy, Naples and afterwards Spain. After a short sojourn in Naples, Clement retired to Avignon.
The question of the rightful title to the papacy has not been settled to this day. Saints differed from saints and doctors from doctors. The Councils of Pisa and of Constance could not decide the perplexing question. Roman writers tell us that while it is necessary to salvation to believe that there is an infallible head of the Church on earth, it is [201/202] not necessary to know who that head is. So to this day we do not know which was the voice from heaven, the voice of Urban who condemned Clement, or the voice of Clement who condemned Urban.
As long as these two lived the war went on, and the papacy sank lower and lower in the estimation of mankind. Clement and Urban each promoted cardinals. So now it was pope against pope and college against college. With Urban there was no thought of compromise. His reign was one of violence, and it was wittily said that he should have called himself Turbanus instead of Urbanus. When Urban died men hoped for the healing of the schism. It was a scandal that was threatening the whole existing order. The popes were in such danger as they had never been before. The people were beginning to laugh at them, and a laugh is the end of all pretension. The danger of the pope was the danger of the hierarchy. So the priesthood took alarm and began to work for the peace of the Church.
The princes and the prelates besought the cardinals of Urban not to enter into a new election. But fearing for their cardinalate, they would not listen. First taking an oath that bound whosoever was [202/203] elected to resign as soon as the pope at Avignon should resign, they chose Peter Thomacelli, Boniface IX., in the room of Urban; this process was repeated upon the election of Innocent VII., and again swearing on holy Gospel, they chose Angelus Corarius, who assumed the name of Gregory XII.
In Avignon, where Clement died, his cardinals taking the same oath and making the same protestations, as if to bring the papacy into utter contempt, proceeded to elect the impossible Peter De Luna to the vacant see, who called himself Benedict XIII. Christendom now saw two old men, each claiming to be vicar of Christ on earth; each excommunicating the other, and the sight was not edifying.
Churchmen in every part of the Catholic world began to bestir themselves. The University of Paris under the lead of Peter d'Ailly and John Gerson called for a council to reform the Church and its head and members. All Europe responded to the call. Every effort was made to have both popes resign as the easiest way of ending the schism. They both swore that this was the very thing they wanted to, but they backed and filled and did nothing.
At last the patience of their very partisans was [203/204] worn out. France withdrew from the obedience of Benedict and the king made him a prisoner in his palace. He excommunicated the king and all the king's men and escaped into Spain.
The majority of his cardinals forsook him, and joining with a majority of the cardinals of Gregory called a council to end the schism. This council met in Pisa, in the year 1409. It was largely attended by prelates of every degree. It summoned both claimants to the papacy to appear for judgment, that the council might decide between them. On their failing to do so, the council excommunicated and degraded both Benedict and Gregory, and commanded the cardinals to elect a new pope. This they did, choosing Peter Candia, a mild Muscovite friar, of feeble health and great age, who took the name of Alexander V. After his election the council dispersed and the schism was not healed. Spain was still true to Benedict and parts of Italy to Gregory. So the Council of Pisa did nothing but make matters worse. After it, there were three popes instead of two.
And now comes upon the stage a character who sums up in himself all the wretchedness of this wretched period. At the Council of Pisa none was [204/205] more busy, none made himself more agreeable than Balthazar Cossa, Cardinal Legate of Bologna. He looked after everybody's welfare; arranged for all meetings and brought about the election of good old Peter Candia. And he was chief adviser to Alexander during his pontificate. For his advantage, Alexander died in ten months and eight days from the day of his coronation. Then Cardinal Cossa, being in his own city of Bologna, terrorized the cardinals and compelled his own election. He assumed the name of John XXIII., the most infamous name in the long line of popes.
The Council of Pisa had directed that another council should assemble in three years, to take up' the work of reforming the Church in its head and members. The continuance of the schism and the character of John made that council an imperative necessity.
The Emperor Sigismund demanded of John that he should summon the council. After long hesitation the pope consented, on the condition that the council should be called in his name and acknowledge his title. The emperor insisted on joining his name to that of the pope and having the choice of the place of meeting. To these terms the pope at last agreed, and a decree went forth calling a council  to meet in the city of Constance, in the fall of 1414. Meantime the mind of the Church was prepared for radical action. Gerson wrote pamphlet after pamphlet, asserting the right of a council to judge and depose a pope. He stood on old Catholic ground. The Church was the head of the pope, not the pope the head of the Church. He was servant not master.
And now the city of Constance was the center of interest to Christendom. The little town was all astir. Servants of the great prelates and princes came to make ready for their masters, every inn was occupied and every house was an inn. And after the servants came the masters, the emperor and the princes, the pope and the cardinals, the archbishops, bishops, and priests, and a host of doctors and divines. It was the largest and most dignified council that had met in the Church for centuries.
The great assembly was opened with all splendor and solemnity by the pope, but his heart misgave him as he looked over the vast gathering. He knew that he was in the power of the council, and the council was there to judge him.
 To protect itself from being overborne by a host of Italian prelates in the interest of the pope, the council decided to vote by nations--Italy, France, Germany and England, and afterward Spain, each having one vote, and so once more nationalism triumphed over universalism, and the national churches of the next century cast their shadows before. The first business of the council was the healing of the schism. John XXIII. was pope in possession, should the council judge his claim. The council did not judge his claim; but it did judge his character, and condemn him as unfit to reign.
Nearly one hundred charges were brought against him. Into many of these, such as incest, rape and murder, the council refused to enter, as their discussion would but scandalize the more an already scandalized Christendom. The council decided to judge him on the ecclesiastical charges of heresy and simony. Every effort was made to compel the pope to cede the papacy.
This the pope at first consented to do. But he repented of his good resolution, escaped in the disguise of a groom to Schaffhausen, a stronghold of his friend Duke Albert of Austria, and from there he dissolved the council. But the council stood firm. [207/208] It made its great declaration of rights in these memorable words: "That the present council, lawfully assembled in the city of Constance, and representing the whole Church Militant, holds its power immediately from Jesus Christ, and all persons, of whatever state or dignity (the papal not excepted), are bound to obey it, in what concerns the faith, the extirpation of the schism and the reformation of the Church in its head and members." It went on with the trial of the pope, and condemned and deposed him.
Albert of Austria surrendered him to Sigismund, and Sigismund gave him up to the council. He was thrown into a dungeon; his spirit broken; he submitted to the council; he confessed his crimes; he ceded the papacy. And so ended in shame the shameful schism.
Gregory XII., by two of his cardinals, ceded his right to the papacy for a cardinal's hat.
The emperor went a long journey into Spain to procure like action from Benedict; but he could do nothing with that old termagant; pope he was, and pope he would be. The emperor left him in Pensicola with his two cardinals--one to hold his candle and the other to hold his book, while he [208/209] himself rang the bell and cursed the council and all the adherents of the council: he cursed Balthazar Cossa and Angelus Corarius; he cursed the emperor and the empire; he cursed the king of France and all the French people; he cursed England's king and England's folk, Castile, Aragon and the whole peninsula and all the islands of the sea. And then, in one comprehensive swoop, he cursed the whole world except himself and the two cardinals of his obedience, and he remained in that attitude of cursing until the day of his death.
But if Sigismund did not bring the cession of Benedict, he brought something of greater value to the council: he brought the accession of Spain. Representatives of the various Spanish kingdoms came with the emperor, and in public assembly renounced the obedience of Benedict and gave their consent to the acts of the Council of Constance. This made the council supreme in Western Christendom. It proceeded at once to anathematize and depose Peter De Luna, calling himself Benedict XIII. It left him to wither in the heat of his own curses in his own little town of Perpignan, while it declared the papacy vacant. The polity of the Church had now undergone a complete revolution: [209/210] a revolution as complete as that of the French government, when, on the 10th of August, 1792, the Constituent Assembly deposed Louis XVI. and declared the throne vacant. That the revolution in ecclesiastical polity was not permanent was owing entirely to the weakness of the Council of Constance. That council was called for the defence of the Faith, for the extirpation of the schism, and for the reformation of the Church in its head and members. It accomplished only one of these purposes: it did heal the schism--after Constance there are no more antipopes--but it did not reform the Church either in its head or members.
It did indeed reform the head of the Church for a moment by the simple and summary process of cutting off one head and putting on another; but it left the great body of abuses just as it found them. The Emperor Sigismund besought the council to proceed with the reformation of the Church before the election of a pope. But to this the council would not listen. It was an assembly of ecclesiastics eager for place and power. Every cardinal aspired to be pope. Every bishop hoped to be a cardinal; every priest a bishop. The one thought in everybody's mind was, Who will be the new pope?
The impatience of this thought hurried the council on to an election. The council, however, would not trust the election to the cardinals. It created a special electoral body. To the college of cardinals were joined thirty representatives from the council: six from each of the five nations. It was supposed that conflicting interests would make the contest a tedious one, but to the astonishment of all the conclave elected almost at once Otto, Cardinal Colonna, to the papal see. The election was received with joy by the whole council and city. The new pope was a prince of the Roman city as well as of the Roman Church; he was a man of irreproachable morals and of considerable learning. He was crowned in Constance in the midst of the rejoicing of the people. He assumed the name of Martin V., and in him was hailed the beginning of a new era. And it was a new era. The great mediaeval papacy was gone, never to come back again. [Milman, Latin Christ, bk. 13, chaps, viii., xx. M.] With Martin V. begins the purely Italian papacy. He was the beginning of a line of popes which ended with the pontificate of Leo X. These popes were Italian princes whose sole end and purpose was not to rule the Church, but to enrich their own families and to [211/212] beautify their own city of Rome. This line of popes contains one or two names of repute: the lovely name of Thomas of Zarzanna, Nicholas V., creator of the papal city, so dear to the tourist; and the gentle name of Aeneas Silvius Piccolomini, Pius II., last preacher of crusades. But the papacy declined with frightful rapidity from Martin V., until it became the prey of the licentious and rapacious Rodrigo Borgia, Alexander VI., and the plaything of Giovanni de Medici, Leo X.
And for this decline the Council of Constance was to blame. Never did an assembly of men fail so miserably in the main purpose that called them together. They took from the papacy all that made it great, and left it all that made it mean and miserable. Much of its power was gone, but all its stealings were left it. The pope was turned loose, not to rule the world any more, but to batten on its riches.
Soon after his coronation, Martin V. dropped down to Rome, and with him went the life of the council. It dragged its weary way along for a while, and then dispersed, leaving the Church in the main as it found it--unreformed in its head, [212/213] unreformed in its members--left it to await the wrath of God in the storms of the sixteenth century. But the Council of Constance did something. It did for Western Christendom what the parliament of 1688 did for England; as that killed forever the absolute and divine right of kings, so this council put an end forever to the absolute and divine right of popes. Since 1414 the power of popes and priests has been passing into the hands of the people, so that it can now be truly said of them, as of the present sovereign of England, that they reign but do not rule. The pope still fills a vast place in Christendom, but it is not the place of Hildebrand, or even of Cajetan. Men no longer fear his interdict nor his excommunication. The excommunicated Dollinger was buried in honor, with the Archbishop of Munich standing by and baring his head in reverence before the open grave. The reign of the popes may continue for ages, but the rule of the popes is over.