Catholic Encyclopedia – Pope Clement V

Article

Bertrand de Got

Born at Villandraut in Gascony, France, 1264; died at Roquemaure, 20 April 1314. He was elected, 5 June 1305, at Perugia as successor to Benedict XI, after a conclave of eleven months, the great length of which was owing to the French and Italian factions among the cardinals. Ten of the fifteen (mostly Italian) cardinals voting elected him. Giovanni Villani’s story of a decisive influence of Philip the Fair, and the new pope’s secret conference with and abject concessions to that king in the forest of Saint-Jean-d’Angély, is quite unhistorical; on the other hand, the cardinals were willing to please the powerful French king whom the late Benedict XI had been obliged to placate by notable concessions, and it is not improbable that some kind of a mutual understanding was reached by the king and the future pope. As Archbishop of Bordeaux, Bertrand de Got was actually a subject of the King of England, but from early youth he had been a personal friend of Philip the Fair. Nevertheless, he had remained faithful to Boniface VIII. The new pope came from a distinguished family. An elder brother had been Archbishop of Lyons, and died (1297) as Cardinal-Bishop of Albano and papal legate in France. Bertrand studied the arts at Toulouse and canon and civil law at Orléans and Bologna. He had been successively canon at Bordeaux, vicar-general of the Archbishop of Lyons (his aforesaid brother), papal chaplain, Bishop of Comminges under Boniface VIII, and eventually Archbishop of Bordeaux, then a difficult office because of the persistent conflict between England and France for the possession of Normandy. The cardinals besought him to come to Perugia and go thence to Rome for his coronation, but he ordered them to repair to Lyons, where he was crowned (14 November 1305) in presence of Philip the Fair and with great pomp. During the usual public procession the pope was thrown from his horse by a falling wall; one of his brothers was killed on that occasion, also the aged Cardinal Matteo Orsini who had taken part in twelve conclaves and seen thirteen popes. The most precious jewel in the papal tiara (a carbuncle) was lost that day, an incident prophetically interpreted by German and Italian historians, and the next day another brother was slain in a quarrel between servants of the new pope and retainers of the cardinals. For some time (1305 – 1309), Pope Clement resided at different places in France (Bordeaux, Poitiers, Toulouse), but finally took up his residence at Avignon, then a fief of Naples, though within the County of Venaissin that since 1228 acknowledged the pope as overlord (in 1348 Clement VI purchased Avignon for 80,000 gold gulden from Joanna of Naples). Strong affection for his native France and an equally influential fear of the quasi-anarchical conditions of Italy, and in particular of the States of the Church and the city of Rome, led him to this fateful decision, whereby he exposed himself to the domination of a civil ruler (Philip the Fair), whose immediate aims were a universal French monarchy and a solemn humiliation of Pope Boniface VIII in return for the latter’s courageous resistance to Philip’s cunning, violence, and usurpations.

STATES OF THE CHURCH

The government of the States of the Church was committed by Clement to a commission of three cardinals, while at Spoleto his own brother, Arnaud Garsias de Got, held the office of papal vicar. Giacomo degli Stefaneschi, a senator and popular chief, governed within the city in a loose and personal way. Confusion and anarchy were prevalent, owing to the implacable mutual hatred of the Colonna and Orsini, the traditional turbulence of the Romans, and the frequent angry conflicts between the people and the nobles, conditions which had been growing worse all through the thirteenth century and had eventually driven even the Italian popes to such outside strongholds as Viterbo, Anagni, Orvieto, and Perugia. No more graphic illustration of the local conditions at Rome and in the Patrimony of Peter could be asked than the description of Nicholas of Butrinto, the historiographer of Emperor Henry VII, on his fateful Roman expedition of 1312. Among the untoward Roman events of Pope Clement’s reign was the conflagration 6 May, 1308, that destroyed the church of St. John Lateran, soon rebuilt, however, by the Romans with the aid of the pope. Clement did not hesitate to try the conclusions of war with the Italian state of Venice that had unjustly seized on Ferrara, a fief of the Patrimony of Peter. When excommunication, interdict, and a general prohibition of all commercial intercourse failed, he outlawed the Venetians, and caused a crusade to be preached against them; finally his legate, Cardinal Pélagrue, overthrew in a terrific battle the haughty aggressors (28 August 1309). The papal vicariate of Ferrara was then conferred on Robert of Naples, whose Catalonian mercenaries, however, were more odious to the people than the Venetian usurpers. In any case, the smaller powers of Italy had learned that they could not yet strip with impunity the inheritance of the Apostolic See, and an example was furnished which the greatest soldier of the papacy, Gil d’Albornoz, would better before the century was over.

PROCESS OF BONIFACE VIII

Almost at once King Philip demanded from the new pope a formal condemnation of the memory of Boniface VIII; only thus could the royal hate be placated. The king wished the name of Boniface stricken from the list of popes as a heretic, his bones disinterred, burned, and the ashes scattered to the winds. This odious and disgraceful step Clement sought to avert, partly by delay, partly by new favours to the king; he renewed the absolution granted the king by Benedict XI, created nine French cardinals out of a group of ten, restored to the Colonna cardinals their places in the Sacred College, and accorded the king titles of church property for five years. Finally, he withdrew the Bull “Clericis Laicos”, though not the earlier legislation on which it was based, and declared that the doctrinal Bull “Unam Sanctam” affected in no disadvantageous manner the meritorious French king, and implied for him and his kingdom no greater degree of subjection to the papal see than formerly existed. The pope was also helpful to Charles of Valois, the king’s brother, and pretender to the imperial throne of Constantinople, by granting him a two years’ tithe of church revenues; Clement hoped that a crusade operating from a reconquered Constantinople would be successful. In May, 1307, at Poitiers, where peace was made between England and France, Philip again insisted on a canonical process for condemnation of the memory of Boniface VIII, as a heretic, a blasphemer, an immoral priest, etc. Eventually, the pope made answer that so grave a matter could not be settled outside of a general council, and the king for a while seemed satisfied with this solution. Nevertheless, he returned frequently and urgently to his proposition. It was in vain that the pope exhibited a willingness to sacrifice the Templars; the merciless king, sure of his power, pressed for the opening of this unique trial, unheard of since the time of Pope Formosus. Clement had to yield, and designated 2 February, 1309, as the date, and Avignon as the place for the trial of his dead predecessor on the shameful charges so long colported about Europe by the Colonna cardinals and their faction. In the document that called (13 September 1309) for the witnesses, Clement expressed his personal conviction of the innocence of Boniface, at the same time his resolution to satisfy the king. Though the pope had soon (2 February 1310) to protest against a false interpretation of his own words, the process was really begun in a consistory of 16 March, 1310, at Avignon. Much delay followed, on one side and the other, apropos chiefly of methods of procedure. Early in 1311, witnesses were examined outside of Avignon, in France, and in Italy, but by French commissaries and mostly on the above-mentioned charges of the Colonna. Finally, in February, 1311, the king wrote to Clement abandoning the process to the future council (of Vienne) or to the pope’s own action, and promising to cause the withdrawal of the charges; at the same time he protested that his intentions had been pure. One price of these welcome concessions was a formal declaration by Pope Clement (27 April 1311) of the king’s innocence and that of his friends; these representatives of France, the “Israel of the New Alliance”, had acted, said the pope, in good faith and with a pure zeal, nor should they fear in the future any canonical detriment from the events of Anagni. William Nogaret was excepted, but on his protestation of innocence, and at the intercession of Philip, a penance was imposed on him and he too received absolution. Only those who detained ecclesiastical property were finally excluded from pardon. The religious zeal of Philip was again acknowledged; all papal acts detrimental to him and his kingdom since November, 1302, were rescinded; the erasures are yet visible in the “Regesta” of Boniface VIII, in the Vatican Archives. This painful situation was closed for Clement V by the Council of Vienne (16 October 1311), most of whose members were personally favourable to Boniface. It is not certain that the council took up formally the question of the guilt or innocence of Boniface. In their present shape the official Acts of the council are silent, nor do all contemporary writers mention it as a fact. It is true that Giovanni Villani describes Philip and his counsellors as urgent for the condemnation of Boniface by the council, but, he says, the memory of the pope was formally purged from all adverse charges by three cardinals and several jurists; moreover, three Catalonian knights offered to defend with their swords the good name of the Gaetani pope against all comers, whereupon the king yielded, and demanded only that he be declared guiltless of any responsibility for the turn affairs had taken. With the death of his personal enemies, opposition to Boniface diminished, and his legitimacy was no longer denied even in France.

CLEMENT V AND THE TEMPLARS

Since the final expulsion (1291) of the crusading forces from the Holy Land, the ecclesiastico-military orders in Europe had aroused much adverse criticism, partly because to their jealousies (Templars, Hospitallers or Knights of Saint John, Teutonic Order) was attributed the humiliating defeat, partly because of the vast wealth they had acquired in their short existence. The Templars (so-called from the Temple of Jerusalem, pauperes commilitones Christi Templique Solomonici, i.e. poor fellow-soldiers of Christ and of the Temple of Solomon) were the richest. Their fortress-like monasteries, known as Temples, arose in every European land, and by the end of the thirteenth century sheltered the chief banking- system of Europe; the knights were trusted by popes and kings and by persons of wealth because of their uprightness, the good management of their affairs, and their solid credit based on the countless estates of the order and its widespread financial relations. Already before the accession of Pope Clement, their status was growing perilous; apart from the envy aroused by their riches, accusations of pride, exclusiveness, usurpation of episcopal rights, etc. were raised against them. They had resisted several attempts to unite their order with the Hospitallers, and while it is no longer easy to fix the degree of their popularity with the common people, it is certain that in many quarters of Europe they had aroused the cupidity of princes and the jealousy of many higher ecclesiastics, especially in France; without the co-operation of the latter they could never have fallen in so tragic a manner. Their story is told in full in the article ; hence, to avoid repetition, it will suffice to mention here the principal facts. In the first year of the pontificate of Clement V the French king began to demand from the pope the suppression of this ecclesiastical order and to set afoot a campaign of violence and calumny such as had so far succeeded in the case of Boniface VIII. If the pope, as was naturally to be feared, refused finally to yield in the matter of the process against his predecessor’s memory, he would surely be glad to buy relief with the sacrifice of the Templars. Owing to the weakness and irresolution of Pope Clement, the royal plan succeeded. After an unsuccessful attempt of the pope (in August 1307) to unite the Templars and the Hospitallers, he yielded to the demands of King Philip and ordered an investigation of the order, against which the king brought charges of heresy (renunciation of Christ, immorality, idolatry, contempt of the Mass, denial of the sacraments, etc.). Philip, however, did not wait for the ordinary operation of the Inquisition, but, with the aid of his confessor, Guillaume de Paris (the inquisitor of France), and his clever, unscrupulous jurists (Nogaret, de Plaisians, Enguerrand de Marigny) struck suddenly at the whole order, 12 October, 1307, by the arrest at Paris of Jacques de Molay, the Grand Commander, and one hundred and forty knights, followed by the inquisitor’s mandate to arrest all other members throughout France, and by royal sequestration of the property of the order. Public opinion was cunningly and successfully forestalled by the aforesaid jurists. It was also falsely made to appear that the pope approved, or was consentingly aware, of the royal action, while the co-operation of French inquisitors and bishops put the seal of ecclesiastical approval on an act that was certainly so far one of gross injustice.

While Philip invited the other princes of Europe to follow his example, Clement V protested (27 October) against the royal usurpation of the papal authority, demanded the transfer to his own custody of the prisoners and their property, and suspended the inquisitional authority of the king’s ecclesiastic and the French bishops. Philip made an apparent submission, but in the meantime Clement had issued another Bull (22 November) commanding an investigation of the anti-Templar charges in all European countries. (It may be said at once that the results were generally favourable to the order; nowhere, given the lack of torture, were confessions obtrained like those secured in France.) The feeble efforts of Clement to obtain for the order strict canonical justice (he was himself an excellent canonist) were counteracted by the new Bull that dignified and seemed to confirm the charges of the French king, neither then nor later supported by any material evidence or documents outside of his own suborned witnesses and the confessions of the prisoners, obtained by torture or by other dubious methods of their jailers, none of whom dared resist the well-known will of Philip. The alleged secret Rule of the Templars, authorizing the aforesaid charges, was never produced. In the meantime William Nogaret had been busy defaming Pope Clement, threatening him with charges not unlike those pending against Boniface VIII, and working up successfully an anti- Templar public opinion against the next meeting (May 1308) of the States-General. In July of that year it was agreed between the pope and the king that the guilt or innocence of the order itself should be separated from that of its individual (French) members. The former was reserved to a general council, soon to be convoked at Vienne in Southern France, and to prepare evidence for which, apart from the examinations now going on through Europe, and a hearing before the pope of seventy-two members of the order brought from the prisons of Philip (all of whom confessed themselves guilty of heresy and prayed for absolution), there were appointed various special commissions, the most important of which began its sessions at Paris in August, 1309. Its members, acting in the name and with the authority of the pope, were opposed to the use of torture, hence before them hundreds of knights maintained freely the innocence of the order, while many of those who had formerly yielded to the diocesan inquisitors now retracted their avowals as contrary to truth. When Nogaret and de Plaisians saw the probable outcome of the hearings before the papal commissions, they precipitated matters, caused the Archbishop of Sens (brother of Enguerrand de Marigny) to call a provincial council (Sens was then metropolitan of Paris and seat of the local inquisition tribunal), at which were condemned, as relapsed heretics, fifty-four knights who had recently withdrawn before the papal commissioners their former confessions on the plea that they had been given under torture and were quite false. That same day (12 May 1310), all these knights were publicly burned at Paris outside the Porte St­Antoine. To the end all protested their innocence.

There could no longer be any question of liberty of defence; the papal commission at Paris suspended tits sessions for six months, and when it met again found before it only knights who had confessed the crimes they were charged with and had been reconciled by the local inquisitors. The fate of the Templars was finally sealed at the Council of Vienne (opened 16 October 1311). The majority of its three hundred members were opposed to the abolition of the order, believing the alleged crimes unproven, but the king was urgent, appeared in person at the council, and finally obtained from Clement V the practical execution of his will. At the second session of the council, in presence of the king and his three sons, was read the Bull “Vox in excelsis”, dated 22 March, 1312, in which the pope said that though he had no sufficient reasons for a formal condemnation of the order, nevertheless, because of the common weal, the hatred borne them by the King of France, the scandalous nature of their trial, and the probable dilapidation of the order’s property in every Christian land, he suppressed it by virtue of his sovereign power, and not by any definitive sentence. By another Bull of 2 May he vested in the Hospitallers the title to the property of the suppressed order. In one way or another, however, Philip managed to become the chief legatee of its great wealth in France. As to the Templars themselves, those who continued to maintain their confessions were set free; those who withdrew them were considered relapsed heretics and were dealt with as such by the tribunals of the Inquisition. It was only in 1314 that the Grand Master, Jacques de Molay and Geoffroy de Charnay, Grand Preceptor of Normandy, reserved to the judgment of the pope, were condemned to perpetual imprisonment. Thereupon they proclaimed the falsity of their confessions, and accused themselves of cowardice in betraying their order to save their lives. They were at once declared relapsed heretics, turned over to the secular arm by the ecclesiastical authority, and were burned that same day (18 March 1314). Of Pope Clement it may be said that the few measures of equity that appear in the course of this great crime were owing to him; unfortunately his sense of justice and his respect for the law were counterbalanced by a weak and vacillating character, to which perhaps his feeble and uncertain health contributed. Some think he was convinced of the Templars’ guilt, especially after so many of the chief members had admitted it to himself; they explain thus his recommendation of the use of torture, also his toleration of the king’s suppression of all proper liberty of defence on the part of the accused. Others believe that he feared for himself the fate of Boniface VIII, whose cruel enemy, William Nogaret, still lived, attorney-general of Philip, skilled in legal violence, and emboldened by a long career of successful infamy. His strongest motive was, in all probability, anxiety to save the memory of Boniface VIII from the injustice of a formal condemnation which the malice of Nogaret and the cold vindictiveness of Philip would have insisted on, had not the rich prey of the Temple been thrown to them; to stand for both with Apostolic courage might have meant intolerable consequences, not only personal indignities, but in the end the graver evil of schism under conditions peculiarly unfavourable for the papacy.

CLEMENT V AND EMPEROR HENRY VII

In pursuance of the vast ambitions of the French monarchy, King Philip was anxious to see his brother Charles of Valois chosen King of Germany in succession tot he murdered Adolph of Nassau, of course with a view of obtaining later the imperial crown. Pope Clement was apparently active in favour of Philip’s plan; at the same time he made it known to the ecclesiastical electors that the selection of Count Henry of Lützelburg, brother of the Archbishop of Trier, would be pleasing to him. The pope was well aware that further extension of French authority could only reduce still more his own small measure of independence. Though elected, 6 January, 1309, as Henry VII, and soon assured of the papal agreement to his imperial consecration, it was only in 1312 that the new king reached Rome and was consecrated emperor in the church of St. John Lateran by cardinals specially delegated by the pope. Circumstances forced Henry VII to side with the Italian Ghibellines, with the result that in Rome itself he found a powerful Guelph party in possession of St. Peter’s and the greater part of the city, actively supported also by King Robert of Naples. The new emperor, after the humiliating failure of his Italian expedition, undertook to compel the Angevin king to recognize the imperial authority, but was crossed by the papal action in defence of King Robert as a vassal of the Roman Church, overlord of the Two Sicilies. On the eve of a new Italian campaign in support of the imperial honour and rights Henry VII died suddenly near Siena, 24 August, 1313. He was the last hope of Dante and his fellow-Ghibellines, for whom at this time the great poet drew up in the “De Monarchiâ” his ideal of good government in Italy through the restoration of the earlier strong empire of German rulers, in whom he saw the ideal overlords of the European world, and even of the pope as a temporal prince.

CLEMENT V AND ENGLAND

Ambassadors of Edward I assisted at the coronation of Clement V. At the request of King Edward, the pope freed him from the obligation of keeping the promises added to the Charter in 1297 and 1300, though the king afterwards took little or no advantage of the papal absolution. Moreover, to satisfy the king, he suspended and called to the papal court (1305) the Archbishop of Canterbury, Robert of Winchelsea, who had previously suffered much for adhering to the side of Boniface VIII, and whom Edward I was now pursuing with unproved charges of treason. It was only in 1307, after the accession of Edward II, that this great churchman, at the royal request, was permitted by Clement to return from Bordeaux to his See of Canterbury, whose ancient right to crown the kings of England he successfully maintained. Clement excommunicated (1306) Robert Bruce of Scotland for his share in the murder of the Red Comyn, and he deprived of their sees Bishops Lambarton and Wishart for their part in the subsequent national rising of the Scots. The Lords and Commons at the Parliament of Carlisle (1307) exhibited a strong anti- papal temper, apropos, among other complaints, of the granting of rich English benefices to foreigners, and though no positive action followed, the later Statutes of Provisors and Præmunire look back to this event as indicative of English temper.

CLEMENT V AND THE CANON LAW

He completed the medieval “Corpus Juris Canonici” by the publication of a collection of papal decretals known as “Clementineæ”, or “Liber Clementinarum”, sometimes “Liber Septimus” in reference to the “Liber Sextus” of Boniface VIII. It contains decretals of the latter pope, of Benedict XI, and of Clement himself. Together with the decrees of the Council of Vienne it was promulgated (21 March 1314) at the papal residence of Monteaux near Carpentras. It follows the method of the “Decretals” of Gregory IX and the “Liber Sextus” of Boniface VIII, i.e. five books with subdivision into titles and chapters. As the pope died (20 April) before this collection had been generally published, its authenticy was doubted by some, wherefore John XXII promulgated it anew, 25 October, 1317, and sent it to the University of Bologna as a genuine collection of papal decretals to be used in the courts and the schools.

MLA Citation

  • Thomas J Shahan. “Pope Clemetn V”. Catholic Encyclopedia, 1914. Saints.SQPN.com. 20 April 2012. Web. 16 April 2014. <http://saints.sqpn.com/catholic-encyclopedia-pope-clement-v/>