May you live in interesting times.


-Ancient Chinese curse
Though many historians discount the Middle Ages as a time period when nothing much important happened, may interesting and important things did in fact occur then. This is especially true of the late Middle Ages. Over time the Roman Catholic Church was working to increase its prestige and power until Europe was dominated by it. However, as everyone knows what goes up must come down. History is filled with patterns. People swing from one extreme to the other. A very significant and interesting part of the Churchs history is the period when Philip IV was king of France. He was able to greatly affect the course of history through his dealings with the popes; especially Boniface VIII and Clement V. Boniface and Clement dealt with Philip in different ways however they somehow worked to the same end.

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Philip IV, also known as Philip the Fair reigned as king of France in the late thirteenth and early fourteenth centuries (1285-1314). Supposedly he was a hard man to know and modern historians still believe this to be true.1 His contemporaries seemed to believe that he was dominated by evil counsellors sic who ruled in his name.2 Modern historians tend to doubt that he was completely ruled by his counselors. Although they do indicate that he would let them make decisions for him, it seems as though he always knew and approved of their decisions. 3 Without a doubt, Philip believed in his own sovereignty in France. It was this belief and his desire to have everyone under is own control that led to his many conflicts with the church.4
Pope Boniface VIII, born Benedict Caetani, was the Bishop of Rome from 1294 to 1303. He was elected pope after the resignation of Celestine V, which will be discussed later. As a French historian put it, Il est tout fait improbable quil ait t le matrialiste, le blashphmateur, le contenpteur des croyances et de vertus communes que ses ennemis lont accus dtre. Mais il navait ni modeste, ni moderation, ni sang-froid.5 Also he was overbearing, blunt, implacable, egotistic to an offensive degree, and possessed of a blind, insatiable thirst for power.6 He was energetic, proud, stubborn, and ambitious.7 Given these strong qualities, he should have been able to accomplish a great deal during his time as pope, however this was not the case. There was nothing new in his doctrine; it was simply traditional elements.8 Boniface, unhappily for himself, lived in a time which needed a pope as great as himself but wiser, more temperate, more far-seeing.9 At the beginning of his reign, the Papacy was most powerful and yet when he died he left it weak.10
Philip the Fair originally had no problems with the election of Boniface VIII. It was later, after they had come into conflict that he objected to the means by which Boniface became pope.11 Growing national powers and Bonifaces continued instance on medieval papal claims caused the clash between Philip and Boniface.12 Boniface and Philips difference concerned well-worn questions: the right of the king to tax clergy and royal jurisdiction over clerics.13 Philip and Boniface were at odds so frequently because they were both men who felt that they deserved to have absolute rule over their domain. At one point, Boniface urges everyone in the Holy Roman Empire to not have any allegiance to France.14 The battle of wills between the two men ends poorly for Boniface but is only a slight victory for Philip.


The first quarrel between Pope Boniface VIII and Philip IV was about the papal bull Clericis laicos. The French had become accustomed to having clerical tax money to support military activities and wanted to continue this in order to aid in the war against England.15 Boniface, however, believed that clergy should not pay royal taxes. In 1296, Boniface issued the bull that basically stated that the clergy were not to pay local taxes. Those who demanded payment from the clergy and those clergy who paid were to be excommunicated. Philip responded by stopping export of all money and other valuables. Because the Holy See depended heavily on the money being exported from France, Boniface eventually had to give in. He decided that if it was an emergency the clergy could pay taxes and eventually even left the king to define emergency. However, these additional rules mostly only applied to France, which put England at a disadvantage.16 Interestingly, this is one of the few things that historians are not in accord about related to Philip and Bonifaces relationship. For the most part, researchers have come to the same conclusions, which is strange considering how colorful history can be. Edgar Boutaric and Joseph Strayer hold the view that Philips implentation of the ban on certain exports is not a direct result of Clericis laicos. Strayer indicates that Clercis laicos was not aimed specifically at France but it did start a quarrel between Philip and Boniface. Although he argues that Philips ordinance was not a direct result of this bull, he does say Philip and his councillors cannot have ignored the possibility of such embarrassments, andit doubtless caused no grief in the French court when Boniface found himself in difficulties.17 Boutaric indicates that it was issued in a moment of irritation and was too exaggerated to be enforced.18 He suggests that the bull Ineffabilis amor was a correction to the earlier bull and a means of questioning Philips edict (which also caused pain for England and the Flemings). Boniface did, however, have to make concessions. In the bull Romana mater ecclesia he allowed levying of taxes without the consent of the papacy in certain cases.19 So whether or not Philip was responding the Boniface this was the first clash but it ended without much of a problem for either side.


The beginning of the major blow to the relationship between Philip the Fair and Boniface VIII came in 1301 when Philip arrested Bernard Saisset, bishop of Pamiers.He was accused of wanting to incite rebellion in Languedoc.20 It is suggested that this was a cause clbre for Philip who was attempting to expand royal jurisdiction.21 Boniface insisted that the bishop be set free and sent to Rome and he revoked the privileges that had been granted to Philip.22 Eventually this led to the papal bull Unum Sanctum that developed out of a Council at Rome in 1302.23 This basically stated, Every human creature is subject to the Roman pontiff.24 It further suggested, The papacy was to the Empire as the sun to the moon: the moon has no light of its own, it all comes from the sun.25 It was the first papal bull to address theological rather than legal matters.26 Basically it served to announce the common idea that the Church ruled all. However, this idea was not working any longer. This was perhaps the last and most desperate attempt to hold onto the days of the Churchs glory. This led the French (and eventually others) to the belief that the pope must be curtailed in his power.27
Boniface VIIIs dispute with the Colonna family ended up causing him future harm. Stephen Colonna, brother to a Colonna cardinal, tried to take vengeance on the pope by seizing some of the popes treasure traveling from Anagni to Rome.28 Boniface excommunicated the Colonnas to the fourth generation, leveled their castle, plowed the ground and had it sown with salt. There is some suggestion that his desire to wreak havoc on the Colonnas and others who resisted him influenced his decision to make peace with Philip the Fair about taxing clergy.29 The Colonnas fled; some of them came together in Philips court.30
Originally, Philip IV tried to encourage the idea of Bonifaces illegitimacy due to his election but eventually he moved on to accusing Boniface of heresy and other criminal activities.31 Philip calls the first Parlement of all three estates (clergy, nobility, and commoners). He manages to bring up twenty-nine charges against the pope.32 Some of the charges include: blasphemy, simony, heresy, murder (of Celestine V), and fornication. Furthermore, the idea that the pope should stand trial was spread throughout France.33 Philip had some good and some false evidence against Boniface.34 It is this, however, that leads to Philips victory over Boniface. Philip attempted a coup. He sent people to Italy in order to remove Boniface from power. These people included William de Nogaret, some members of the Colonna family, an Orsini cardinal and even some people whose families were under the patronage of the Caetani family.35 On the night of September 7, 1303, Nogaret and the others stormed the Bonifaces palace in Anagni and demanded that he turn himself over and resign. He was easily captured but the people of Anagni were outraged and the rose up against the intruders. Nogaret left empty-handed but the attepted coup took its toll on Boniface. He died shortly thereafter on October 12.36 Legend surrounding this event grew quickly. Eventually the store became that Boniface confronted his assailants seated on the papal throne and holding the papal cross in his hands (this seems unlikely, especially given his age but he probably did at least put on his papal robes).37 Boniface was, indeed, and old man at this time and he was unable to recover. Thus, Philip did have the final victory, even if it is only that he outlived his enemy.


Bonifaces immediate successor was a pope who took the name Benedict. However, he only lasted a few months. The next man elected pope was Clement V(Bertrand de Got). Clement was a Gascon who served from 1305 to 1314. He loved his native countryAquitaineand he wanted the war between France and England over the land to stop. Part of the reason he ended up staying in France was because he wanted to help Aquitaine. (Also, peace was needed in order for there to be a crusade.) There were other problems (including his poor health) that kept him in France as well.38 He was never in the best of positions. His policy in general was clearheaded, subtle, and rather weak. His predecessors had left him grave problems.What he sought was balanced moderation.39 Spiritually, he harmed the church by allowing people to be bishops in more than one place (pluralism).40 Although he attempted to free himself from Philip the Fairs influence, he spent a good deal of time appeasing him. For example, Philip demanded that Clement remove all of Boniface and Benedicts acts from the papal register.41 In general Clement set the papacy up for many years of problems.


Clements election itself was an appeasement to Philip the Fair. Clement had been the archbishop of Bordeaux. Clement was a subject to Philip but also a vassal to the Duke of Aquitaine (Edward I of England). He had previously shown some independence from Philip by attending the council summoned by Boniface in Rome. He intended his coronation to be at Vienne on the Rhone.42 Philip wanted him to be coronated in Lyons and Clement agreed because he was trying to buy time to keep Boniface from being posthumously put on trial since he feared that would be a severe blow to the Church.43 Clement ends up at Avignon for many reasons. He wanted to be out of France and independent of Philip but he also wanted to remain close enough so that he could continue trying to help Aquitaine. He had other problems to deal with as well. The reason the papacy remains at Avignon for quite some time is because he gathers curia around him.44 French cardinals will likely choose a French pope.


One of the biggest events when Philip pressured Clement was in dealing with the Knights Templar. The original purpose of the Knights Templar had been to help protect the Holy Land but they grew to be a large banking organization and after the loss of the Holy Land they really did not have much else to do. Philip arrested Templar knights in his land in 1307. Apporximately 2000 where charged with denying Christ, spitting on the crucifix, practicing sodomy (and encouraging others to practice sodomy as well), not saying the words of consecration at mass, and worshipping an idol. Of course, most of these crimes were confessed to because of torture. Once Clement heard of the knights confessions he ordered other monarchs to seize the Templar knights in their lands but then many knights withdrew their confessions. Eventually Clement suppressed the Knights Templar but did not condemn them. However, as per Philips instructions, many of them were burned at the stake. The probable reason for this entire event was that Philip was after the money that the Knights Templar controlled. He did in fact gain a large portion of the money.45
One of Philips main problems with Boniface and a source of appeasement from Clement centered around Bonifaces predecessor, Celestine V. Celestine had been a hermit before being elected pope46. According to many, he was helped along in his decision to resign the papacy by the future Boniface VIII.47 After Boniface is pope, he feels he needs to protect his papacy at all costs. He summons Celestine who then flees. Celestine is captured and brought to Anagni. Boniface has him imprisoned in a castle at Fumone where he dies in May of 1296. Boniface is later accused of starving Celestine to death, but given Celestines age it is not unreasonable that he died.48 When Clement is pope, Philip IV demands that Celestine is canonized as a saintly victim of Bonifaces atrocities.49 Clement had to agree to this, but did not canonize him as Celestine V, rather he is canonized as Pietro da Morrone. This implied that Celestine had every right to resign which is something that the French (as well as the Colonna) denied.50
Philip the Fair seems to have gotten what he wanted from both Boniface and Clement, which is interesting because historically, the pontificates of Boniface VIII and of Clement V depict the two extremes to which the papal pendulum had swung.51 Boniface thought to preserve the Church by denying that which Philip demanded until it resulted in more harm coming to the church whereas it appears Clement attempted to protect the Church by appeasing Philip often. Somehow both of these methods work in Philips favor overall. The increase in national sovereignty is apparent over this time period (though the most recognizable of Bonifaces achievements is Unum Sanctum which goes directly against that idea). Clement accidentally sets up an Avignon papacy for many years. Despite the fact that Avignon was not an actual part of France at the time, it was without a doubt a cultural possession of France. Philip is victorious. His reign sees a decline in the power of the Church and an increase in the power of nations as well as an increase in nationalism. His relationships with Boniface and Clement help set the stage for much of the Renaissance, which was an interesting time indeed.


1 Strayer p. 3
2 Strayer p. 3
3 Strayer p. 4
4 Fawtier p. 89
5 French book p. 130
6 Flick, p. 17
7 Boutaric p. 30
8 Riveire p. 70
9 Powicke p. 110
10 Flick, p. 17
11 French book p. 131
12 Book p. 229
13 Ullmann, Papacy, p. 273
14 Walsh p. 124
15 Langlois p. 34
16 Walsh p. 124
17 Strayer, p. 251-2
18 Boutaric p. 31
19 Boutaric p. 32-3
20 Rocquain p. 49
21 Hughes p. 55
22 Hughes p. 56
23 Ullmann, Papacy p. 275
24 Renouard p. 15
25 Walsh p. 124
26 Walsh p. 125
27 Ullmann, Schism p. 184
28 Langlois p. 39
29 Boutaric p. 33
30 Walsh p. 122
31 LeClercq p. 46
32 Walsh p. 124
33 Ullmann, Papacy p. 275-6
34 Ullmann, Papacy p. 279
35 Walsh p. 124
36 Ullmann Papacy p. 276
37 Boase 81
38 Renouard p. 20
39 Renouard p. 24
40 Walsh p. 128
41 Walsh p. 129
42 Renoard p. 20
43 Walsh p. 127
44 Renouard p. 21-22
45 Walsh p. 129
46 Villani p. 20
47 Baillet p. 19
48 Walsh p. 123
49 Walsh p. 124
50 Walsh p. 124
51 Ullmann, papacy p. 282

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