The Story Of How French Nationalism Helped Destroy Christendom

By Theodore Shoebat

This is an article that follows my prior two articles on Christendom (Part 1 and Part 2), and it is on the events leading to the Avignon papacy, in which the papacy was forced from Rome to France by the French government. What these historical events illustrate is how nationalism broke the universalism of Christendom.

Christendom lost its final enclave in the Muslim world after the nightmarish Battle of Acre in 1291 in which the Christians were butchered and driven out by the Turkic Mamluks. Not too long after the battle, Pope Nicholas IV, after making one last failed attempt to reinvigorate the will of Christendom to partake in a crusade, died on the Good Friday of 1292. The Church was now absent of a pope. The College of Cardinals, whose job it was to elect who was to sit upon the Chair of St. Peter, had become a place of tribal politics.

On April 14th of 1292, twelve cardinals gathered at Rome to elect a new pope. Just eight votes were needed to get a pope appointed. Tribalism dominated the election, with two of the cardinals being members of the very powerful Orsini family — Matteo Rosso Orsini and Napoleon Orsini — and these two had a close ally by the name of Latinus Malabranca, the Bishop of Ostia.


Basilica di Santa Maria Maggiore, where the election began

Two other cardinals were members of the Colonna family, who were the rivals of the Orsini. These were Peter Colonna and James Colonna, and they also had a close ally in cardinal named John Boccomazza, the Bishop of Tusculum. Two of the other cardinals were Frenchmen — Hugh of Alvernia and John Cholet — who were heavily influenced by the king of France, Philip IV. The last four cardinals were Italian but were not as tied to family or tribal factionalism, but nonetheless these also had their own interests and ambitions. These were Gerard the White, the Bishop of Sabina; Peter Petrogresso, Matthew Acquasparta and Benedetto Gaetani, who would later become Pope Boniface VIII.

The cardinals, dictated by the interest to advance their own affiliations, squabbled amongst themselves for three and a half months. Then in August a deadly fever hit Rome, and the people broke out in rioting over the senatorial elections. The French cardinal, John Cholet, died, and the College was left with eleven cardinals. But still, eight votes were all what was needed to elect a pope. A year had passed. On April of 1293, the College of Cardinals still did not vote for a pope. The Orsini and Colonna families continued with their rivalry which eventually sparked anarchy in the city of Rome. All of the cardinals, with the exception of the two Colonnas, left Rome for Rieti from where they continued the election.


In the conclave in Rieti, Cardinal Benedetto Gaetani desired to be elected pope, but he was resisted by the Orsinis. Gaetani, enraged, left Rieti. In October, the meeting resumed in Perugia with all eleven cardinals present. But still the fighting continued, with cardinals representing rival families, or in the case of the French cardinal, Hugh Alvernia, his king Philip IV. Nationalism and tribalism filled up the room and left no space for the universality of the Church. Almost another year passed when, in 1294, King Charles II of Naples — the nephew of King St. Louis IX, who lost to the Turks in the battle of Mansura — made a visit to Perugia and demanded the cardinals to elect a pope without any more delays. Cardinal Gaetani rebuked the king and told him not to get involved in church affairs.

Charles did not respond with any aggression to the cardinal, and left to return to Naples. But on his way back he met with a very holy ascetic by the name of Peter who lived in a monastery in a cave on Mount Murrone, right above the town of Sulmona, in which he led his own order called the Order of St. Damian. As Horace K. Mann describes Peter’s monasticism:

“He brought his body into subjection by hair shirts, knotted leather girdles, and even iron chains. When his exhausted frame could no longer stand or kneel he lay down on boards in a cramped position, with a stone or a block of wood for a pillow, and in the bitter winter on an exposed mountain, with coverings utterly insufficient to keep out the cold. At no time did he eat more than was barely enough to support life. Often the bread that he ate was so stale and hard that it had to be broken with a hammer, and during the four or ‘Lents’ which, quite apart from everyone, he kept every year, he often ate only twice a week, and then took nothing but bread and water.”

After his visit with the monastic, Charles II promised him that his order would receive ten ounces of gold every year. It is possible that Charles II’s visit with Peter may have influenced him to exhort the cardinals to elect a pope and to cease their tensions. For some time later, Peter wrote a letter to Cardinal Malabranca, the Bishop of Ostia, giving a warning to the cardinals that they would face the wrath of God if they did not end the nearly two year debacle and vote for a pope.

Another year had passed. It was now the year 1294. Still, there was no pope elected. Peter’s seat remained in a state of abandonment. On July 5th of that year, Cardinal Malabranca read Peter’s letter of warning to the other cardinals; he also described the devoted life of asceticism that he lived, and then declared that he would vote for Peter to become the next pope. Five cardinals did not hesitate to give their vote. The two Orsinis, with reluctance, also gave their vote, since they were allies to Malabranca. Peter now had eight votes, all that was needed for him to be elected pope. The two Colonnas also voted for Peter. Now another task was at hand: convincing Peter to leave his cave and sit on the chair of St. Peter in the Vatican.

Peter was much so separated from the world. He lived his life praying, doing manual work and reading the scriptures. He also gave spiritual teaching and consolation to anyone who took upon the feat of ascending Mt. Murrone and visiting his cave. Peter was not astute in the ruthless politics of Rome. But he was about to be pushed into the mess of diplomatic gluttony. The cardinals were faced to go up the lofty mountain of Murrone, up the steep pinnacle where the monastery in the grotto lied, where the monastic that they sought lived. Only one cardinal, Peter Colonna, was willing to actually walk up the mountain. The rest of the cardinals sent their representatives instead. They commenced the journey upwards, joined by a procession of bishops who were exhausted under the summer heat, treading up the high mountain. And behind them were a multitude of priests, nobles and peasants who were — out of the rest — probably the most excited to see the man who the cardinals elected.

They finally reached the cave and told the hermit of the mountain of Murrone that he had been elected to be pope. The members of his monastic order told him that to reject such a calling would be to reject the will of God. And so Peter came before the procession of clergy, nobles and peasants, and prostrated himself on the ground, submitting to the process that led to his papal commission. Peter Murrone was crowned as pope in the city of Aquila on August 29th of 1294, and took upon the title of Pope Celestine V.

Pope Celestine V

Celestine V was innocent of the corrupt ways of the Vatican, and so he was guided by the French king who had visited him, Charles II of Naples, who advised the new Pope to enlarge the College of Cardinals, bringing in no less than seven Frenchmen and five Neopolitans. Celestine V made his abode in Naples, and never once set foot in Rome during his papacy. Celestine V was shocked to see the excessively extravagant lives of the cardinals and worked to curtail this.

He restored the rules of Pope Gregory X which ordered that cardinals, during their meetings, were each allowed only one servant and a ten-foot square cell to sleep in. But Celestine V saw that he was not shrewd enough to deal with the corruptions of the Church, and so after five months and eight days as Pope, he decided to resign, and ignored the pleadings of King Charles II not to. He gave the reasons for his resignation: “The desire for humility, for a purer life, for a stainless conscience, the deficiencies of his own physical strength, his ignorance, the perverseness of the people, his longing for the tranquility of his former life”.

On the day before Christmas, the cardinals assembled and elected Benedetto Gaetani, the one who was longing to become pope during the conflict between the cardinals. Gaetani took the title of Pope Boniface VIII. Gaetani was described as tall, with “a full oval face with lineaments noble, severe, and dignified, with slightly prominent ears, head nearly bald, broad brow, full cheeks, and firm massive jaw”.

Pope Boniface VIII

He had all of the worldly wisdom, shrewdness and education to handle the ruthless ways of Rome. When Peter was going to return to his hermitage on Mount Murrone, the newly elected Pope Boniface VIII wanted to punish and refused to allow him to leave. When the hermit of Murrone tried to escape to Greece, Boniface had him arrested and imprisoned in a castle and left him there until he died a year later. Such a story reflected what heartless politics were entrenched in Rome.

Some of Boniface’s goals were to end the conflict between French ruled Naples and Aragon over Sicily and reestablish papal authority there. It was essentially a conflict over Sicily between two French royalties — the Kingdom of Aragon, which was originally a Carolingian feudal county — and the House of Anjou. Boniface VIII’s deliberations led to the Treaty of Anagni in June of 1295. The treaty promised the Kingdom of Aragon the islands of Sardinia and Corsica, in exchange for Aragon to leave its claim over Sicily.

The treaty also required Peter of Aragon to release the sons of the French king Charles II, who were being held as hostages. It also required James II of Aragon to marry Charles’ daughter, Blanche, and Frederick II of Sicily (who was of the Kingdom of Aragon) to marry Catherine of Courtenay, the heiress to the last Latin Emperor of Constantinople. France was required to abandon its claims over Aragon. While there was a peace that was settled between France and Aragon, Catherine of Courtenay refused to marry Frederick II of Sicily, and he as a result refused to submit to the peace treaty of the Pope. The conflict between Aragon and the House of Anjou over Sicily was quieted, but not fully resolved, and Frederick refused to end his reign over Sicily. Either way, the Sicilians hated it because they resented being ruled by the French who they threw out in the Sicilian Vespers revolution, in which the Sicilians, enraged at French rule and arrogance, did a horrific massacre of the French population in Sicily.   

During this whole quagmire of families killing each other over an island, the English under Edward the Longshanks were fighting the French who were under King Philip IV, over another island — Scotland. Both England and France were taking monies from the churches of their lands to fund these wars. The unity of Christendom was not something that was honored; rather these nations preferred to fight and kill one another rather than to maintain the universality of Christian brotherhood, and they wanted to use Church funds to do this. When Peter Murrone was Pope, in September of 1294, Edward the Longshanks demanded and took half of all of the Church’s funds in England for that year to back his war. In the same year King Philip IV took a tenth of all clerical revenues in France without the Church’s approval.

To try to quell this seizure of Church monies, Pope Boniface VIII wrote the bull, Clericis Laicos, which forbade any clerics from giving, and any state officials from taking, Church funds without papal approval. The bull stated:

“Antiquity teaches us, and the experiences of the present time make clear that the laity are hostile to the clergy; inasmuch as, not content within their own bounds, they aim at what is forbidden them.”

The Catholic Church in France begged the Pope to soften his approach, which he did when he gave Philip IV the permission to tax the Church in France during what the king might deem as a crises. Philip had surrounded himself with shrewd advisors who put the interest of power over the interest of the Faith. The whole conventional idea that monarchs in Europe made all of the decisions without the leverage of others is not entirely true once faced with the reality of European power politics. Power was, in a way, shared between the king and his advisors who represented certain interests. Machiavelli wrote, “the king of France is surrounded by a multitude of nobles of long standing who are recognized in that state by their subjects and loved by them.” (The Prince, ch. 4, trans. Rebhorn)

One such type of an advisor who had the ear of King Philip IV was William of Nogaret, who was appointed royal commissioner in the fall of 1295. Nogaret’s grandfather was a Cathar heretic who was burned at the stake during the Albigensian Crusade. So his own family roots indicated his dark side. A contemporary of Nogaret, Yves de Loudeac, described him as “a body without a soul, who cares nothing about anyone’s rights but only wants to increase the wealth of France.” Nogaret had a serious hatred for the Church whose politics he viewed as an impediment to France’s policy. Again, we see the signs of Christendom’s fragmentation: a fixation on the interests of one’s tribe or government over the interest of the universality of man that is held up by the Catholic spirit.

In the midst of all of the tensions between the Church and European states, there was a religious sect that popped up who called themselves “Spirituals” or Spiritual Franciscans. These claimed that Peter Murrone (Pope Celestine V) was still the legitimate pope, and that Pope Boniface VIII was a false pope. The Spiritual Franciscans had the ears of two of the most powerful families in Italy — the Orsinis and the Colonnas — each of whom had two members in the College of Cardinals. Both families saw Pope Boniface as a greedy man who wanted to seize money for his own Gaetani family. Tensions between the two families and the Pope intensely manifested when Stephen Colonna, a nephew of the two Colonna cardinals, seized a convoy traveling from Anagni that held 200,000 florins. The money was going to be used to buy castles for the Gaetani family, and so the seizure of the convoy incensed the Pope who immediately called in Cardinals Peter and James Colonna and demanded that the stolen money be returned. Pope Boniface VIII also demanded that the three great Colonna castles south and east of Rome be given over to him, and that the two Colonna cardinals proclaim that he is the legitimate sitter of St. Peter’s chair.

The two Colonna cardinals refused to obey these orders. The Spiritual Franciscans then intensified tensions when they put out a manifesto declaring the Pope to be an anti-Pope and called for an ecumenical council to be done to discuss to issue of Boniface’s legitimacy. Boniface VIII, enraged, excommunicated the two Colonna cardinals, and not just this, but Stephen Colonna and his sons to the fourth generation were also excommunicated. The Colonnas did not respond calmly, but only amplified the intensity of the situation, calling Boniface VIII a “savage tyrant” and exclaiming that he had murdered the former Pope Celestine V. The Pope responded by punishing other members of the Colonna family with excommunication, including James Colonna — who was known as “Sciarra” (the Quarrelsome) — and stated that if anyone ever assisted any of the excommunicated Colonnas that they themselves would be excommunicated.

Fifteen of the Cardinals of the College signed a declaration that stated that Pope Celestine V resigned freely and that Boniface VIII was the legitimate Pope, and that the Colonnas were “madmen.” Military strikes were then made against the castles of the Colonna family. These military incursions were esteemed as “crusades” by Pope Boniface V. The Colonnas’ castles near Rome were taken one by one, and the wealthy family, seeing that they could not overcome the papal authority, submitted. But this submission did not occur without the insatiable anger of the Colonnas, especially Sciarra, the quarrelsome one.

Many of the Colonnas collaborated with the French government which also was having serious tensions with the Church. Philip IV was abusing the permission that the Pope had given to him earlier, by excessively taking Church funds to back his war against England. In January of 1299, Boniface VIII wrote a letter to Philip IV, pointing to the issue of the abuse of Church funds. Meanwhile, Germany was in a political tumult. Germany had been split between the supporters of Adolf of Nassau and those who rallied around Albert of Habsburg. In September of 1298, Pope Boniface denied his approval of the appointment of Albert of Habsburg as Holy Roman Emperor. Albert had recently killed his predecessor, Adolf of Nassau. Boniface VIII, for this, called him a traitor, and he also proclaimed that Albert was a despoiler and destroyer of churches. Boniface VII wanted Albert to abandon his claims over northern Italy and also demanded him to send representatives to Rome to present his case as to how he took power over Germany, and that if he refused to do this the Pope would exempt his subjects from obedience to him and would thereby cause a revolt against his empire.

Albert of Habsburg

Meanwhile in France, tensions between the Church and the state intensified. King Philip IV showed his defiance to the Pope by having arrested Bernard de Saisset, the Bishop of Pamiers. But the arrest was not without provocation. The Bishop called the king a bastard and prophesied against him, which was illegal in all medieval states. (See Bradbury, The Capetians, p. 265) But yet again, justifications for tyranny are never absent of truth. Bishop Saisset’s letters between him and the Pope, and other bishops, were confiscated and his goods were seized. Saisset then tried to appeal to the pontiff of Rome, but this was rejected and Philip IV’s councillor drew up numerous charges against him.

The Pope responded in November of 1301 by demanding that the king release Bishop Saisset and give back his confiscated properties. The Pope also restored the prohibition on the king from taking church funds to back wars; he also condemned Philip for abuse of power and for disrespecting the Church. This was articulated in the Pope’s bull, Ausculta fili (“Listen, son!”) which, when it arrived at the French court in February of 1302, was taken and set on fire. The French then devised a way to make the Church appear as an enemy of France.

King Philip IV’s chief minister, Pierre Flotte, wrote a fake papal bull and gave it a title, Scire te volumus, and this stated that the Pope has power over the government of France, and that the king should receive no taxes from church lands, not even those that are vacant. King Philip IV called for the first meeting of the Estates-General, which was addressed by Flotte. In this assembly the forged document was presented as a document that was sent to the king by Pope Boniface VIII himself. After the presentation, the king exclaimed that anyone who supported the Pope in this controversy would be treated as enemies.

Pierre Flotte

The papal envoy who brought the Pope’s bull against King Philip IV was thrown out of France, and so was Bishop Saisset. Bishop Peter de Mornay of Auxerre was sent to Rome with letters that condemned the Pope’s actions against King Philip IX. In the spring of that year, war broke out between the French and their Flemish subjects at Flanders, in which Pierre Flotte was killed. In December of 1302 the Pope sent Cardinal John Lemoine to present an ultimatum to Philip IV. The king was to: recognize the Pope’s authority in spiritual and ecclesiastical matters, and his right to send clergymen to any country without permission; to allow French bishops to leave for Rome at any time for meetings; to make restitution for having twice debased the currency, and give back the city of Lyons to the political control of its bishops. Failure to honor these demands, the Pope warned, he would “proceed against him spiritually and temporally.”

Cardinal Lemoine came to Paris on February of 1303 and gave this ultimatum to the king. Before the month was completed, William of Nogaret, contrived a plan to ambush the Pope in Italy, depose him from his papal seat, take him to Lyons and try him as a heretic and simoniac (somebody who purchases and/or sells ecclesiastical positions). On March, royal patent letters were sent to William of Nogaret and his companions — Thierry d’Hirson and Jacques de Jasseines — ordering that they support rebels to overthrow the Pope and bring him to France. At an assembly of bishops called for by Philip IV, William of Nogaret called Boniface VIII a “false prophet … a master of lies, calling himself Good-doer [Boniface] where he is Evil-doer [Maleficus] … though he is not a true president, still, as though he were, he now calls himself the lord, the judge, the master of all men.”

Knowing what violent desires these men had, Pope Boniface VIII, in a letter to Cardinal Lemoine, declared that he was ready to suffer martyrdom in the cause of preserving the rightful authority of the Vicar of Christ. Looking for allies who would back him against France, Pope Boniface VIII finally recognized Albert of Hapsburg as emperor, and promised to crown him in Rome. Albert, in turn, swore to the Pope his “fealty and obedience”. In May of that year a peace was finally settled between France and England, giving Philip IV more room to dedicate his efforts against the Pope. In June the king of France conveyed a church council. A multitude of people gathered in the Louvre where they heard William of Nogaret exclaim accusations against the Pope. A Dominican then told the people of Paris to stand with the king who he adulated as a defender of the Faith.

During the Summer season William of Nogaret sought out rebels who would support his insurgency against the Pope. He solicited the support of Charles II, the French king of Naples, who refused to partake in his conspiracy. William and his conspirators also looked for people in Rome who would assist in the rebellion, but this proved to be quite difficult. Eventually they did find allies in their putsch. Sciarra Colonnna zealously joined the cause to overthrow the Pope. Rinaldo da Supino, the captain of the city of Ferentino, also agreed to back the rebellion, if of course he was sufficiently paid, and also only on the condition that William of Nogaret would lead the attack while holding the French royal standard. William agreed, but only with reluctance.

In the middle of August, Pope Boniface VIII, took away the right to teach and give academic degrees from the professors at the University of Paris. His reasoning behind doing this was that, according to him, these academic were corrupted by King Philip IV. The Pope also planned on repeating his declaration of the pontiff’s authority over kings in moral issues, and his statement that Philip deserved excommunication and that his subjects needed to be free from any obligations to him. However, the Pope hesitated to make a statement on the king’s excommunication and to exempt his subjects from obeying him.

Meanwhile, the conspiracy to overthrow the Pope continued to be devised. On September 6th, 1303, William of Nogaret gathered a force of three hundred horsemen and one thousand foot soldiers at Ferentino. He had found his rebels. Now was the time to execute the plan of revolution. Sciarra Colonna commanded the greater part of the force. He was accompanied by Peter Colonna, the former cardinal who had partaken in the stalemate at the College of Cardinals years before. Also with the rebels were Italian noblemen. It was a struggle between the Church and political elites looking for a power grab, using whatever ecclesiastical corruptions to justify their conspiracy. Everyone in the group of plotters were Italian, except for William of Nogaret and his two companions who carried up the French flag.

The morning was very young, and the sun had not yet arisen, when the rebels arrived at Anagni, where the Pope was residing. The gate of Anagni was opened by a traitor at five in the morning when the rebels rushed inside. The alarms went off in the city that was accustomed to peace. The people gathered together and elected Adenulf Conti to be their city’s defender. But Conti’s brother, Nicholas, was one of the members of the rebels, and so he made no resistance against the invading force. There were seven cardinals in the city and three fled immediately. Nicholas Boccasini, a Dominican, and Peter of Spain, rushed to the Pope’s side. The invaders made their demands: the Pope needed to put back the Colonna brothers to their positions as cardinals, to hand over all of his treasure to three senior cardinals, to step down as Pope, and to give himself over to them to be their prisoner. The Pope refused to acquiesce. The invaders commenced a siege on the papal palace. Marquis Peter Gaetani, the Pope’s nephew, led the defense of the palace. For some time it appeared that the defenders were keeping the rebels at bay, but this ended and the rebels rushed inside of the cathedral that stood next to the palace. They set the doors on fire and stole property; they then spotted an archbishop and murdered him.

At six O’clock the mob broke into the palace, and in the midst of all of the chaos resounding in the air, one could hear: “Long Live the King of France and the Colonna! Death to the Pope!” This is 14th century Europe, and you had Italians and French people — traditionally Catholic — calling for the death of the Pope in the cause of nationalism. This was an early manifestation of the struggle between the Universal Church and nationalism, between Christendom and Europa. It was the sprouting plant of the French Revolution. Boniface stoically accepted death, declaring, with crucifix in hand: “Open the doors and my chamber; I wish to suffer martyrdom for the Church of God.” He calmly lied down on his couch, holding his crucifix on his chest. The rebels stormed his room. “Come forward,” said the Pope, “strike my head, I wish to suffer martyrdom, I wish to die for the Faith of Christ. …Here is my neck; here is my head.”

Sciarra Colonna wanted the Pope to be executed, but William of Nogaret — being much more deceptively diplomatic — restrained him. Sciarra tightened his fist and punched the Pope in the face. William rushed into the room. Boniface VIII peered at Willaim and said: “What do you here, son of a Patarine [Cathar heretic]?” Nogarat replied:

“I wish to conserve the life of the Church against the violence of your enemies by presenting you to a general council which I request you to convoke; if you refuse to do, it will be convened in spite of you. It is a question of heresy and you should be judged willingly or unwillingly … I arrest you in virtue of the rule of public law, for the defense of the Faith, in the interest of our holy mother the Church, not to insult you nor anyone else. Sorry Pope that you are! Consider the goodness of your lord, the King of France, who guards and protects your kingdom against your enemies.”

Boniface VII continued to express desire for martyrdom and his refusal to give up the Seat of Peter. The next day, Sunday the feast of Nativity of Our Lady, William and Sciarra debated on what to do with the Pope. Sciarra wanted him dead; William wanted him forced into France. But they wondered how they would bring the Pope all the way from Italy to France; and the Italian rebels who they were backing were not willing to make the whole trip. The leaders of the revolt were now in a dilemma. It was now three in the morning, September 9th. In the midst of all this, an entire army of townspeople, loyal to their Pope, attacked the palace crying out, “Long live the Pope, death to the foreigner!” Sciarra, from being a ruthless mobster, was terrified for his life, leaped on his horse and fled. The rebels tried to fight the locals, but put up a feeble fight. Rainald of Supino and Adenulf Conti both became captives to the defenders of the Pope. The crowd of townspeople attacked William of Nogaret. He ended up wounded and his French standard dragged through the mud, but he managed to escape. Boniface VIII came to the central square before the crowd as a hero. He was escorted by Cardinal Matthew Orsini with four hundred horsemen back to Rome where he would be guarded by 10,000 soldiers.

On October 12th, just over a month after this attempted coup, Pope Boniface VIII died. Nine days later a conclave of cardinals gathered to elect who would sit on the chair of St. Peter. The following day Cardinal Nicholas Boccasini was elected to be Pope and he took upon the title of Benedict XI.

Benedict XI

On November 6th he declared in an encyclical that the rebels who tried to overthrow Pope Boniface VIII in Anagni were “sons of iniquity, the first-born of Satan, children of perdition”. He also demanded full recompense, on pain of excommunication, for all of the property plundered and stolen by the rebels. But no action was taken against the revolters, and the new Pope even began to remove some of the prohibitions that were imposed by King Philip IV and the Colonnas. The power of the papacy had been diminishing to the power of kings. Nationalism was trumping universalism. As Carroll says, “the deep reverence for the Vicar of Christ that had characterized Christendom for 250 years was fading in the power struggles of the end of the thirteenth century.”

On Holy Thursday, 1304, Pope Benedict XI lifted the excommunication on King Philip IV and on April 2nd decreed in his bull, Quanta ros, that Philip was absolved of all censures imposed on him. However in June he released another bull, Flagitiosum scelus, in which he condemned the leaders of the revolt against Pope Boniface VIII, stating that “These crimes were committed publicly and under our very eyes…crimes of lese-majeste, of rebellion, of sacrilege, of felony, of theft, of rapine, the mere thought of which excites horror.” Pope Benedict VIII was suppose to pronounce his judgement on the leaders of the rebellion. But he never did. On July 7th, he suddenly died, a convenience to William of Nogaret, Sciarra Colonna and Rainald of Supino.

The cardinals gathered together in Perugia on July of 1304 to elect a new pope. Like before during the appointing of Celestine V as Pope, the cardinals were in a deadlock between those who were loyal to the now deceased Pope Boniface VIII and those who were against him. William of Nogaret even demanded for an investigation on Boniface VIII who he accused of usury, heresy, simony, murder, sacrilege and sodomy. Nogaret also denied that he was involved in the revolt against Boniface VIII but said that he only desired to stop his evil. In Perugia, the French embassy began to explicitly push for the election of French bishop, Bertrand de Got of Bordeaux. Again, French nationalism was breaking ecclesiastical binds. The nomination of Bertrand was strategic, since he was located in Aquitane, the part of France that was still controlled by England, and thus it could be asserted that he could not be controlled by the French king Philip IV. On June of 1305, 12 of the 18 cardinals voted for Bertrand and he became Clement V. French nationalism was using the Church as a tool for their vying for power.

Clement V

On February of 1306, Clement V annulled the two papal bulls made by Boniface VIII against Philip IV — Clericis laicos and Unam sanctam — and argued that they were not made against the king of France, the French kingdom or its subjects. In May of 1307, Philip IV met with Pope Clement V and demanded that Pope Boniface be posthumously tried as a heretic and, if found guilty, for his remains to be exhumed, burned and his ashes tossed to the four winds. Philip also showed Clement V what he believed was evidence that the Templars were involved in the occult, devil worship and other abominations.

On October 19th, 138 Templar prisoners were being kept as prisoners in Paris. Within a week the Grand Master de Molay and four other Templars admitted to denying Christ and spitting on a crucifix. Pope Clement decried such trials, stating that it was the Pope, not the monarchy, that was to decide in matters of heresy and religious crimes. “In this hasty action all men see, and not without reasonable cause,” said Clement V, “an insulting scorn of us and of the Roman Church.” But by the subsequent month, Pope Clement V issued bulls authorizing the general arrest of the Templars in France and even called for similar arrests to be made in other European countries. Out of th 140 Templars who were tried, all but four had confessed to sacrilege and blasphemy, 3/4s to obscenity, and about 1/4 to promoting sodomy. These confessions were made under the pain of torture.

In February of 1308, Grand Master de Molay and most of the other Templars who made their confessions under torture rescinded their confessions before an envoy of the Pope. Clement V tried to take control of the investigations, but both Philip IV and William of Nogaret fiercely resisted. Philip IV made another demand to exhume the body of Boniface VIII and set it to the flames. King Philip IV also made an unprecedented demand: that the Pope stay in France and be kept from going to Italy. On August 12 of 1308, Pope Clement V told his cardinals that he was going to move the Papal court and residence to Avignon, in a part of France known as Comtat-Venaissin, and that he would have an ecumenical council in November of 1310. He settled in Avignon in March of 1309. Thus the great Avignon papacy began, pushed by nationalism; thus the splitting of Christendom became deeper, and thus was she now getting closer to her death.