Church History
The Great Schism

Church History : The "Babylonian Captivity" of the Church

During the 13th century, the papacy was contested between Rome's powerful ORSINI and COLONNA families. In 1303, POPE BENEDICT XI. was elected by supporters of the Orsini; the mob in Rome, steered by the Colonna, made it impossible for him to set up residence in Rome. The King of France had the pope abducted from his residence at Anagni and "offered" him residence and "protection" at AVIGNON. Benedict died 1304 and his successor, CLEMENS V., in 1309 moved to Avignon where he established a new church administration; the County of Avignon became papal territory. From 1309 to 1378, and from 1379 to 1431/5, Avignon was the sole residence of the popes.
The King of France cashed in on his "protection" of the papacy by having the KNIGHTS TEMPLAR declared heretics in 1309; the king confiscated their rich landholdings.
The Romans elected Pietro Rainalducci pope (1328); he took on the name Nicholas (V.); he resigned in 1330. From then on, the Avignonese papacy, until 1377, was uncontested.
At Avignon, the papal administration was centralized and diversified, turned into an efficient bureaucracy. The papacy came to be dominated by French cardinals, and entangled with French political interests. The first period of Avignon popes, from 1304 to 1377, is called the BABYLONIAN CAPTIVITY OF THE CHURCH, a powerful metaphor phrased by opponents of the Avignonese administration. DANTE ALIGHIERI heavily criticized the papacy in his DIVINE COMEDY (written 1306-1321), and later in the 14th century the MYSTICS, especially ST. BIRGITTA and ST. CATHERINE OF SIENA, urged the respective pope to return to Rome; they saw the pope's residence in Avignon as a major reason for the crisis of the church.

List of Popes, 1303-1377
Links to biographies from Catholic Encyclopedia
Benedict XI.
Clement V.
John XXII.
Benedict XII.
Clement VI.
Innocent VI.
Urban V.
Gregory XI.
Niccolo Boccasini
Raymond Bertrand de Got
Jacques Duese
Jacques Fournier
Pierre Roger de Beaufort
Etienne Aubert
Guillaume de Grimoard
Pierre Roger de Beaufort

A series of Files on the Babylonian Captivity from History of Western Civilization at Boise State Univ.
From Popes through the Ages : Clement V.
Articles from Catholic Encyclopedia : Avignon

This page is part of World History at KMLA
Last revised on May 29th 2001


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