Pope Boniface IX

Pope Boniface IX (Latin: Bonifatius IX; c. 1350 – 1 October 1404, born Pietro Cybo Tomacelli[1] ) was head of the Catholic Church and ruler of the Papal States from 2 November 1389 to his death in 1404. He was the second Pope of the Western Schism.[2] During this time the papal claiments of the Avignon Obedience, antipope Clement VII and Benedict XIII, maintained the Roman Curia in Avignon, under the protection of the French monarchy.

Piero (also Perino, Pietro) Cybo Tomacelli was a descendent of Tamaso Cybo, who belonged to an influential noble family from Genoa and settled in Casarano in the Kingdom of Naples. An unsympathetic German contemporary source, Dietrich of Nieheim, asserted that he was illiterate (nesciens scribere etiam male cantabat). Neither a trained theologian nor skilled in the business of the Curia, he was tactful and prudent in a difficult era, but Ludwig Pastor, who passes swiftly over his pontificate, says, "The numerous endeavours for unity made during this period form one of the saddest chapters in the history of the Church. Neither Pope had the magnanimity to put an end to the terrible state of affairs" by resigning.[3] After his election at the papal conclave of 1389, Germany, England, Hungary, Poland, and the greater part of Italy accepted him as Pope. The remainder of Europe recognized the Avignon Pope Clement VII. He and Boniface mutually excommunicated each other.[4]

The day before Tomacelli's election by the fourteen cardinals who remained faithful to the papacy at Rome,[2] Clement VII at Avignon had just crowned a French prince, Louis II of Anjou, as king of Naples. The youthful Ladislaus was the rightful heir of King Charles III of Naples, assassinated in 1386, and Margaret of Durazzo, scion of a line that had traditionally supported the popes in their struggles in Rome with the anti-papal party in the city itself. Boniface IX saw to it that Ladislaus was crowned King of Naples at Gaeta on 29 May 1390 and worked with him for the next decade to expel the Angevin forces from southern Italy.[4]


Boniface IX
Bishop of Rome
Papacy began2 November 1389
Papacy ended1 October 1404
PredecessorUrban VI
SuccessorInnocent VII
Opposed toAvignon claimants:
Consecration9 November 1389
by Francesco Moricotti Prignani
Created cardinal21 December 1381
by Pope Urban VI
Personal details
Birth namePietro Cybo Tomacelli
Bornc. 1350
Naples, Kingdom of Naples
Died1 October 1404 (aged 53–54)
Rome, Papal States
Previous post
Coat of armsBoniface IX's coat of arms
Other popes named Boniface
Papal styles of
Pope Boniface IX
C o a Bonifacio IX
Reference styleHis Holiness
Spoken styleYour Holiness
Religious styleHoly Father
Posthumous styleNone

Reign as Pope

SUSS-282956MedievalPapalBullaBonaface (FindID 442624)
Papal bulla of Boniface IX

Boniface IX was born c. 1350 in Naples as Piero Tomacelli Cybo;[2] one brother was Andrea.

During his reign, Boniface IX finally extinguished the troublesome independence of the commune of Rome and established temporal control, though it required fortifying not only the Castel Sant'Angelo, but the bridges also, and for long seasons he was forced to live in more peaceful surroundings at Assisi or Perugia. He also took over the port of Ostia from its Cardinal Bishop. In the Papal States, Boniface IX gradually regained control of the chief castles and cities, and he re-founded the States as they would appear during the fifteenth century.[4]

The antipope Clement VII died at Avignon on 16 September 1394, but the French cardinals quickly elected a successor on 28 September: Cardinal Pedro de Luna, who took the name Benedict XIII. Over the next few years, Boniface IX was entreated to abdicate, even by his strongest supporters: King Richard II of England (in 1396), the Diet of Frankfurt (in 1397), and King Wenceslaus of Germany (at Reims, 1398). He refused. Pressure for an ecumenical council also grew as the only way to breach the Western Schism, but the conciliar movement made no headway during Boniface's papacy.[4]

During the reign of Boniface IX two jubilees were celebrated at Rome. The first, in 1390, had been declared by his predecessor Pope Urban VI and was largely frequented by people from Germany, Hungary, Poland, Bohemia, and England. Several cities of Germany obtained the "privileges of the jubilee", as indulgences were called, but the preaching of indulgences led to abuses and scandal. The jubilee of 1400 drew to Rome great crowds of pilgrims, particularly from France, in spite of a disastrous plague. Pope Boniface IX remained in the city nonetheless.[4]

In the latter part of 1399 there arose bands of self-flagellating penitents, known as the Bianchi, or Albati ("White Penitents"), especially in Provence, where the Albigenses had been exterminated less than a century before. Their numbers spread to Spain and northern Italy. These evoked uneasy memories of the mass processions of wandering flagellants of the Black Death period, 1348—1349. They went in procession from city to city, clad in white garments, with faces hooded, and wearing on their backs a red cross, following a leader who carried a large cross. Rumors of imminent divine judgement and visions of the Virgin Mary abounded. They sang the newly-popular hymn Stabat Mater during their processions. For a while, as the White Penitents approached Rome, gaining adherents along the way, Boniface IX and the Curia supported their penitential enthusiasm, but when they reached Rome, Boniface IX had their leader burnt at the stake, and they soon dispersed. "Boniface IX gradually discountenanced these wandering crowds, an easy prey of agitators and conspirators, and finally dissolved them", as the Catholic Encyclopedia reports.[4]

In England the anti-papal preaching of John Wyclif supported the opposition of the king and the higher clergy to Boniface IX's habit of granting English benefices as they fell vacant to favorites in the Roman Curia. Boniface IX introduced a revenue known as annates perpetuæ, withholding half the first year's income of every benefice granted in the Roman Court. The pope's agents also now sold not simply a vacant benefice but the expectation of one; and when an expectation had been sold, if another offered a larger sum for it, the pope voided the first sale. The unsympathetic observer Dietrich von Nieheim reports that he saw the same benefice sold several times in one week, and that the Pope talked business with his secretaries during Mass. There was resistance in England, the staunchest supporter of the Roman papacy during the Schism: the English Parliament confirmed and extended the statutes of Provisors and Praemunire of Edward III, giving the king veto power over papal appointments in England. Boniface IX was defeated in the face of a unified front, and the long controversy was finally settled to the English king's satisfaction. Nevertheless, at the Synod of London (1396), the English bishops convened to condemn Wyclif.[4]

In Germany, the Electors met at Rhense on 20 August 1400 to depose the unworthy Wenceslaus as German King and chose in his place Rupert, Duke of Bavaria and Rhenish Count Palatine. In 1403 Boniface IX made the best of it by approving the deposition and recognizing Rupert.[4]

In 1398 and 1399, Boniface IX appealed to Christian Europe in favor of the Byzantine emperor Manuel II Palaeologus, threatened at Constantinople by Sultan Bayezid I, but there was little enthusiasm for a new crusade at such a time. Saint Birgitta of Sweden was canonized by Pope Boniface IX on 7 October 1391. The universities of Ferrara (1391) and Fermo (1398) owe him their origin, and that of Erfurt (in Germany), its confirmation (1392).[4]

Boniface IX died in 1404 after a brief illness.[4]

Boniface IX was a frank politician, strapped for cash like the other princes of Europe, as the costs of modern warfare rose and supporters needed to be encouraged by gifts, for fourteenth-century government depended upon such personal support as a temporal ruler could gather and retain. All the princes of the late 14th century were accused of avaricious money-grubbing by contemporary critics, but among them contemporaries ranked Boniface IX as exceptional. Traffic in benefices, the sale of dispensations, and the like, did not cover the loss of local sources of revenue in the long absence of the papacy from Rome, foreign revenue diminished by the schism, expenses for the pacification and fortification of Rome, the constant wars made necessary by French ambition and the piecemeal reconquest of the Papal States. Boniface IX certainly provided generously for his mother, his brothers Andrea and Giovanni, and his nephews in the spirit of the day. The Curia was perhaps equally responsible for new financial methods that were destined in the next century to arouse bitter feelings against Rome, particularly in Germany.[4]

See also


  1. ^ Vatican
  2. ^ a b c Richard P. McBrien, Lives of the Popes, (HarperCollins, 2000), 249.
  3. ^ Pastor, The History of the Popes: From the Close of the Middle Ages (1906), vol. i, p 165.
  4. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k  One or more of the preceding sentences incorporates text from a publication now in the public domainHerbermann, Charles, ed. (1913). "Pope Boniface IX" . Catholic Encyclopedia. New York: Robert Appleton.


External links

Catholic Church titles
Preceded by
Urban VI
2 November 1389 – 1 October 1404
Avignon claimants:
Clement VII & Benedict XIII
Succeeded by
Innocent VII
1404 papal conclave

The papal conclave of 1404 (October 10 to October 17) – the papal conclave of the time of the Great Western Schism, convened after the death of Pope Boniface IX, it elected Cardinal Cosimo Gentile Migliorati, who under the name of Innocent VII became the third pope of the Roman Obedience.

Agostino da Lanzano

Agostino da Lanzano (died 1410) was a Roman Catholic prelate who served as Bishop of Spoleto (1404-1410), Bishop of Perugia (1390–1404), and Bishop of Penne e Atri (1380–1390).

Angelo de Consilio

Angelo de Consilio or Angelo de Conciliis (died 1429) was a Roman Catholic prelate who served as Bishop of Acerra (1403–1429).

Conrad (bishop of Sodor and Man)

Conrad O.Cist. was a pre-Reformation cleric who was appointed the Bishop of Sodor and Man in the early 15th century.A Cistercian monk, he was appointed the Bishop of Sodor and Man by Pope Boniface IX on 9 January 1402. Conrad can have only served for a few months, because his successor Theodore Bloc was appointed on 16 April 1402.


The Cybo, Cibo or Cibei family of Italy is an aristocratic family from Genoa of Greek origin. They came to the city in the 12th century. In 1528 the Cybos formed the 17th "Albergo", a union of noble families of Genoa. The family split in many branches, some living in Genoa, other in Naples by the name of Tomacelli. Its most famous members were Pope Boniface IX. and Pope Innocent VIII.

The Cybo married with the most famous Italian families including Medici of Tuscany, Della Rovere of Urbino and Este of Modena and had blood relationship with the banking family Altoviti. Innocent VIII was the uncle of La Papessa Dianora Cybo Altoviti. Her son Bindo Altoviti was one of the most influential bankers and patron of the arts of the Renaissance as well as a close ally of his cousin cardinal Innocenzo Cybo.

Innocent VIII illegitimate son was Franceschetto Cybo, son in law to Lorenzo Il Magnifico de' Medici and brother-in-law to Pope Leo X. He was given by his father the title of Count of the Lateran Palace. Later Pope Julius II award him with the title Duke of Spoleto. His son Lorenzo Cybo, married Ricciarda Malaspina d'Este and became marquis of Massa and Carrara, founding the Cybo-Malaspina branch, later elevated to the dukes of Massa and Carrara.

Dietrich Schenk

Dietrich Schenk, O.F.M. was a Roman Catholic prelate who served as Auxiliary Bishop of Münster (1394–?).

Francesco Carbone Tomacelli

Francesco Carbone Tomacelli (died 18 June 1405) was Italian cardinal at the time of the Great Western Schism. He was nephew (possibly adopted) of Pope Boniface IX.

He was born in Naples and in his youth entered the Order of Cistercians. He supported Pope Urban VI against the claims of Antipope Clement VII after the election of the latter in 1378. He was elected bishop of Monopoli at the end of 1382 and in the consistory of 17 December 1384 he was created cardinal. Legate in the Kingdom of Naples to secure its support for the Roman Obedience. Grand penitentiary and archpriest of the patriarchal Lateran Basilica from 1389 until his death. He participated in the papal conclave, 1389. He became close adviser of the new pope Boniface IX, who was his uncle. He participated in the papal conclave, 1404. He acted also as cardinal-protector of the Order of Franciscans. First commendatario of the abbey of Farfa in 1400. He died at Rome, quite suddenly. Shortly before his death Innocent VII named him Cardinal-Bishop of Sabina (12 June 1405).

Francesco de Aiello

Francesco de Aiello (died 1453) was a Roman Catholic prelate who served as Archbishop of Bari-Canosa (1424–1453), Bishop of Todi (1407–1424), and Bishop of Cava de' Tirreni (1394–1407).

Giovanni Bonifacio Panella

Giovanni Bonifacio Panella (died 1417) was a Roman Catholic prelate who served as Archbishop (Personal Title) of Muro Lucano (1407–1417),Archbishop (Personal Title) of Capaccio (1399–1407),Archbishop of Durrës (1395–1399), and

Bishop of Ferentino (1392–1395).

Grimaldo Turculis

Grimaldo Turculis was a Roman Catholic prelate who served as Bishop of Giovinazzo (1395–1399?).

John Sproten

John Sproten was a pre-Reformation cleric who was appointed the Bishop of Sodor and Man in the late 14th century.A Dominican friar, he was appointed the bishop of the diocese of Sodor and Man by Pope Boniface IX on 16 April 1392. It is not known when his episcopate ended, but his successor Conrad was appointed on 9 January 1402.

Lodovico Morosini

Lodovico Morosini (died 1407) was a Roman Catholic prelate who served as Bishop of Modon (1390–1407) and Bishop of Capodistria (1364–1390).

Marco de Teramo

Marco de Teramo (died 1439) was a Roman Catholic prelate who served as Bishop of Sarno (1418–1439), Bishop of Bertinoro (1404–1418), and Bishop of Monopoli (1400–1404).

Nicolas Antonio (bishop)

Nicolas Antonio, O.P. was a Roman Catholic prelate who served as Bishop of Salpi (1422–?) and Bishop of Lucera (1394–1422).

Pierre de Sonnaz

Pierre de Sonnaz (died 1410) was a Roman Catholic prelate who served as Bishop of Aosta (1399–1410).

Pietro Filomarini

Pietro Filomarini (died 1420) was a Roman Catholic prelate who served as Archbishop of Reggio Calabria (1404–1420).

Pjetër Zakaria

Pjetër Zakaria (13??–1414) was an Albanian prelate of the Roman Catholic Church.

Pjetër Zakaria was born in the mid 14th century in northern Albania. He came from the noble Albanian family of Zaharia. Most historians attribute the establishment of relations between Pope Boniface IX and the Zakaria family to him. In 1390 Zakaria became bishop of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Sapë and Dagnum.

Theodore Bloc

Theodore Bloc, O. Crucif. was a pre-Reformation cleric who was appointed the Bishop of Sodor and Man in the early 15th-century.A monk of the order of the Crucifers, and of the diocese of Utrecht, he was appointed the bishop of the diocese of Sodor and Man by Pope Boniface IX on 16 April 1402. It is not known when his episcopate ended, but his successor Richard Payl was appointed on 30 May 1410.

William Strickland (bishop)

William Strickland (died 1419) was an English priest and sometime Rector of St. Mary's Church, Horncastle who served as Bishop of Carlisle from 1400 until 1419. He was appointed by Pope Boniface IX, but not initially accepted by King Henry IV, although he did confirm the appointment after the chapter had elected him. He was consecrated on 15 August 1400. Strickland was one of the commissioners who negotiated peace with Scotland in 1401.

Early in life he had been married to Isabel, daughter and heiress of Thomas de Warthecopp, of that place, and Margaret his wife, by whom he had a daughter Margaret. This Margaret married twice, first to Sir John de Derwentwater, and secondly to Sir Robert de Lowther. By these two marriages she had at least ten children, more probably eleven.

Strickland died on 30 August 1419.

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