The Western Schism, also called Papal Schism, Great Occidental Schism and Schism of 1378, was a split within the Catholic Church lasting from 1378 to 1417 in which two, by 1410 three, men simultaneously claimed to be the true pope, each excommunicated one another. Driven by politics rather than any theological disagreement, the schism was ended by the Council of Constance (1414–1418). For a time these rival claims to the papal throne damaged the reputation of the office.
The affair is sometimes referred to as the Great Schism, although this term is typically reserved for the more enduring East–West Schism of 1054 between the Western Churches answering to the See of Rome and the Orthodox Churches of the East.
The schism in the Western Roman Church resulted from the return of the papacy to Rome under Gregory XI on January 17, 1377, ending the Avignon Papacy, which had developed a reputation for corruption that estranged major parts of Western Christendom. This reputation can be attributed to perceptions of predominant French influence and to the papal curia's efforts to extend its powers of patronage and increase its revenues.
After Pope Gregory XI died in 1378, the Romans rioted to ensure the election of a Roman for pope. On April 8, 1378 the cardinals elected a Neapolitan when no viable Roman candidate presented himself. Urban VI, born Bartolomeo Prignano, the Archbishop of Bari, was elected. Urban had been a respected administrator in the papal chancery at Avignon, but as pope he proved suspicious, reformist, and prone to violent outbursts of temper. Many of the cardinals who had elected him soon regretted their decision: the majority removed themselves from Rome to Anagni, where, even though Urban was still reigning, they elected Robert of Geneva as a rival pope on September 20 of the same year. Robert took the name Clement VII and reestablished a papal court in Avignon. The second election threw the Church into turmoil. There had been rival antipope claimants to the papacy before, but most of them had been appointed by various rival factions; in this case, a single group of leaders of the Church had created both the pope and the antipope.
The conflicts quickly escalated from a church problem to a diplomatic crisis that divided Europe. Secular leaders had to choose which claimant they would recognize:
Sustained by such national and factional rivalries throughout Catholic Christianity, the schism continued after the deaths of both Urban VI in 1389 and Clement VII in 1394. Boniface IX, who was crowned at Rome in 1389, and Benedict XIII, who reigned in Avignon from 1394, maintained their rival courts. When Pope Boniface died in 1404, the eight cardinals of the Roman conclave offered to refrain from electing a new pope if Benedict would resign; but when Benedict's legates refused on his behalf, the Roman party then proceeded to elect Pope Innocent VII.
In the intense partisanship, characteristic of the Middle Ages, the schism engendered a fanatical hatred noted by Johan Huizinga: when the town of Bruges went over to the "obedience" of Avignon, a great number of people left to follow their trade in a city of Urbanist allegiance; in the 1382 Battle of Roosebeke, the oriflamme, which might only be unfurled in a holy cause, was taken up against the Flemings, because they were Urbanists and thus viewed by the French as schismatics.
Efforts were made to end the Schism through force or diplomacy. The French crown even tried to coerce Benedict XIII, whom it supported, into resigning. None of these remedies worked. The suggestion that a church council should resolve the Schism, first made in 1378, was not adopted at first, because canon law required that a pope call a council. Eventually theologians like Pierre d'Ailly and Jean Gerson, as well as canon lawyers like Francesco Zabarella, adopted arguments that equity permitted the Church to act for its own welfare in defiance of the letter of the law.
Eventually the cardinals of both factions secured an agreement that Benedict and Pope Gregory XII (successor to Innocent VII) would meet at Savona. They balked at the last moment, and both groups of cardinals abandoned their preferred leaders. A church council was held at Pisa in 1409 under the auspices of the cardinals to try solving the dispute. At the fifteenth session, 5 June 1409, the Council of Pisa attempted to depose both Pope and antipope as schismatical, heretical, perjured and scandalous, but it then added to the problem by electing a second antipope, Alexander V. He reigned briefly from June 26, 1409, to his death in 1410, when he was succeeded by antipope John XXIII, who won some but not universal support.
Finally, a council was convened by Pisan antipope John XXIII in 1414 at Constance to resolve the issue. This was endorsed by Pope Gregory XII, thus ensuring the legitimacy of any election. The council, advised by the theologian Jean Gerson, secured the resignations of John XXIII and Pope Gregory XII, who resigned in 1415, while excommunicating the second antipope, Benedict XIII, who refused to step down. The Council elected Pope Martin V in 1417, essentially ending the schism. Nonetheless, the Crown of Aragon did not recognize Pope Martin V and continued to recognize Benedict XIII. Archbishops loyal to Benedict XIII subsequently elected Antipope Benedict XIV (Bernard Garnier) and three followers simultaneously elected Antipope Clement VIII, but the Western Schism was by then practically over. Clement VIII resigned in 1429 and apparently recognized Martin V.
The line of Roman popes is now recognized as the legitimate line, but confusion on this point continued until the 19th century. Pope Pius II (died 1464) decreed that no appeal could be made from pope to council, to avoid any future attempts to undo a papal election by anyone but the elected pope. No such crisis has arisen since the 15th century, and so there has been no need to revisit this decision. The alternate papal claimants have become known in history as antipopes. Those of Avignon were dismissed by Rome early on, but the Pisan popes were included in the Annuario Pontificio as popes well into the 20th century. Thus the Borgia pope Alexander VI took his regnal name in sequence after the Pisan Alexander V.
Gregory XII's resignation (in 1415) was the last time a pope resigned until Benedict XVI in 2013.
After its resolution, the Western Schism still affected the Catholic Church for years to come. One of the most significant of these involved the emergence of the theory called conciliarism, founded on the success of the Council of Constance, which effectively ended the conflict. This new reform movement held that a general council is superior to the pope on the strength of its capability to settle things even in the early church such as the case in 681 when Pope Honorius was condemned by a council called Constantinople III. There are theorists such as John Gerson who explained that the priests and the church itself are the sources of the papal power and, thus, the church should be able to correct, punish, and, if necessary, depose a pope. For years, the so-called conciliarists have challenged the authority of the pope and they became more relevant after a convened council also known as the Council of Florence (1439-1445) became instrumental in achieving ecclesial union between the Catholic Church and the churches of the East.
There was also a marked decline in morality and discipline within the church. Scholars note that although the Western Schism did not directly cause such a phenomenon, it was a gradual development rooted in the conflict, effectively eroding the church authority and its capacity to proclaim the gospel. This was further aggravated by the dissension caused by the Protestant Reformation.
According to Broderick, in 1987:
Doubt still shrouds the validity of the three rival lines of pontiffs during the four decades subsequent to the still disputed papal election of 1378. This makes suspect the credentials of the cardinals created by the Roman, Avignon, and Pisan claimants to the Apostolic See. Unity was finally restored without a definitive solution to the question; for the Council of Constance succeeded in terminating the Western Schism, not by declaring which of the three claimants was the rightful one, but by eliminating all of them by forcing their abdication or deposition, and then setting up a novel arrangement for choosing a new pope acceptable to all sides. To this day the Church has never made any official, authoritative pronouncement about the papal lines of succession for this confusing period; nor has Martin V or any of his successors. Modern scholars are not agreed in their solutions, although they tend to favor the Roman line.
The papal conclave of 1378 which was held from April 7 to 9, 1378 was the papal conclave which was the immediate cause of the Western Schism in the Catholic Church. The conclave was one of the shortest in the history of the Catholic Church. The conclave was also the first held in the Vatican and in Old St. Peter's Basilica (the elections and conclaves in Rome prior to the Avignon Papacy having been held mostly in the Basilica of St. John Lateran) since 1159.Pope Gregory XI died on March 26, 1378 in Rome, having returned from Avignon to pursue his territorial interests in the Papal States during the War of the Eight Saints. Although the French cardinals constituted a majority of the College of Cardinals due to the preceding Avignon Papacy, they succumbed to the will of the Roman mob, which demanded the election of an Italian pontiff. They elected Bartolommeo Prignano, who took the name Pope Urban VI. This was the last time a non-cardinal was elected pope.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.1406 papal conclave
The papal conclave of 1406 (November 18–30), the papal conclave of the time of the Great Western Schism, convened after the death of Pope Innocent VII. It elected Cardinal Angelo Correr, who under the name of Gregory XII became the fourth pope of the Roman Obedience.Antipope Alexander V
Peter of Candia or Peter Phillarges (c. 1339 – May 3, 1410) as Alexander V (Latin: Alexander PP.
V) (Italian: Alessandro V) was a nominal pope elected during the Western Schism (1378–1417). He reigned briefly from June 26, 1409, to his death in 1410 and is officially regarded by the Catholic Church as an antipope.Antipope Benedict XIII
Pedro Martínez de Luna y Pérez de Gotor (25 November 1328 – 23 May 1423), known as el Papa Luna in Spanish and Pope Luna in English, was an Aragonese nobleman, who as Benedict XIII, is considered an antipope (see Western Schism) by the Catholic Church.Antipope Clement VII
Robert of Geneva (French: Robert de Genève) (1342 – 16 September 1394) was elected to the papacy as Clement VII (French: Clément VII) by the French cardinals who opposed Urban VI, and was the first antipope residing in Avignon, France. His election led to the Western Schism.Antipope John XXIII
Baldassarre Cossa (c. 1370 – 22 December 1419) was Pisan antipope John XXIII (1410–1415) during the Western Schism. The Catholic Church regards him as an antipope, as he opposed Pope Gregory XII whom the Catholic Church now recognizes as the rightful successor of Saint Peter. He was eventually deposed and tried for various crimes, though later accounts question the veracity of those accusations.Avignon Papacy
The Avignon Papacy was the period from 1309 to 1376 during which seven successive popes resided in Avignon (then in the Kingdom of Arles, part of the Holy Roman Empire, now in France) rather than in Rome. The situation arose from the conflict between the papacy and the French crown, culminating in the death of Pope Boniface VIII after his arrest and maltreatment by Philip IV of France. Following the further death of Pope Benedict XI, Philip forced a deadlocked conclave to elect the French Clement V as Pope in 1305. Clement refused to move to Rome, and in 1309, he moved his court to the papal enclave at Avignon, where it remained for the next 67 years. This absence from Rome is sometimes referred to as the "Babylonian Captivity of the Papacy".A total of seven popes reigned at Avignon, all French, and all under the influence of the French Crown. In 1376, Gregory XI abandoned Avignon and moved his court to Rome (arriving on January 17, 1377). But after Gregory's death in 1378, deteriorating relations between his successor Urban VI and a faction of cardinals gave rise to the Western Schism. This started a second line of Avignon popes, subsequently regarded as illegitimate. The last Avignon antipope, Benedict XIII, lost most of his support in 1398, including that of France; after five years besieged by the French, he fled to Perpignan in 1403. The schism ended in 1417 at the Council of Constance, after two popes had reigned in opposition to the papacy in Rome.Council of Constance
The Council of Constance is the 15th-century ecumenical council recognized by the Catholic Church, held from 1414 to 1418 in the Bishopric of Constance. The council ended the Western Schism by deposing or accepting the resignation of the remaining papal claimants and by electing Pope Martin V.
The council also condemned Jan Hus as a heretic and facilitated his execution by the civil authority. It also ruled on issues of national sovereignty, the rights of pagans and just war, in response to a conflict between the Grand Duchy of Lithuania, Kingdom of Poland and the Order of the Teutonic Knights. The council is important for its relationship to ecclesial conciliarism and Papal supremacy.Dean of the College of Cardinals
The Dean of the College of Cardinals (Latin: Decanus Collegii S. R. E. Cardinalium) is the leader of the College of Cardinals in the Roman Catholic Church. The position was established in the early 12th century.
The Dean presides over the College of Cardinals, serving as primus inter pares in the college. He always holds the rank of cardinal bishop. The Dean of the College of Cardinals is assisted by the Vice-Dean; in those roles they act as the president and vice-president of the college respectively. Both are elected by and from the Cardinal Bishops who are not Eastern Catholic patriarchs and their election is subject to papal confirmation. Except for presiding, the Dean and Vice-Dean have no power over the other cardinals. In the order of precedence in the Catholic Church as the senior Cardinal Bishops, the Dean and Vice-Dean are placed second and third, respectively, after the pope.
The Dean is often, but not necessarily, the longest-serving member of the whole College. It had been customary for centuries for the longest-serving of the six cardinal bishops of suburbicarian sees to be Dean. This was required by canon law from 1917 until 1965, when Pope Paul VI empowered the six to elect the Dean from among their number. This election was a formality until the time of Pope John Paul II.The Dean holds the position until death or resignation; there is no mandatory age of retirement.Great Schism
Great Schism may refer to:
East–West Schism, between the Eastern Orthodox Church and the Catholic Church, beginning in 1054
Western Schism, a split within the Roman Catholic Church that lasted from 1378 to 1417Pope Boniface IX
Pope Boniface IX (Latin: Bonifatius IX; c. 1350 – 1 October 1404, born Pietro Cybo Tomacelli ) 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. 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. 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.The day before Tomacelli's election by the fourteen cardinals who remained faithful to the papacy at Rome, 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.Pope Gregory XI
Pope Gregory XI (Latin: Gregorius; c. 1329 – 27 March 1378) was Pope from 30 December 1370 to his death in 1378. He was the seventh and last Avignon pope and the most recent French pope. In 1377, Gregory XI returned the Papal court to Rome, ending nearly 70 years of papal residency in Avignon, France. His death shortly after was followed by the Western Schism.Pope Gregory XII
Pope Gregory XII (Latin: Gregorius XII; c. 1326 or 1327 – 18 October 1417), born Angelo Corraro, Corario, or Correr, was Pope from 30 November 1406 to 4 July 1415 when he was forced to resign to end the Western Schism. He succeeded Pope Innocent VII and in turn was succeeded by Pope Martin V.Pope Innocent VII
Pope Innocent VII (Latin: Innocentius VII; 1339 – 6 November 1406), born Cosimo de' Migliorati, was Pope from 17 October 1404 to his death in 1406.
He was pope during the period of the Western Schism (1378–1417) while there was the rival Antipope Benedict XIII at Avignon. Despite good intentions, he did little to end the schism, owing to the troubled state of affairs in Rome, and his distrust of the sincerity of Benedict XIII in Avignon, and Ladislas of Naples.Pope Martin V
Pope Martin V (Latin: Martinus V; January/February 1369 – 20 February 1431), born Otto (or Oddone) Colonna, was Pope from 11 November 1417 to his death in 1431. His election effectively ended the Western Schism (1378–1417).Pope Urban VI
Pope Urban VI (Latin: Urbanus VI; c. 1318 – 15 October 1389), born Bartolomeo Prignano (Italian pronunciation: [bartoloˈmɛːo priɲˈɲaːno]), was Pope from 8 April 1378 to his death in 1389. He is so far the last pope to be elected from outside the College of Cardinals. His reign, which began shortly after the end of the Avignon Papacy, was marked by immense conflict between rival factions as part of the Western Schism.Renaissance Papacy
The Renaissance Papacy was a period of papal history between the Western Schism and the Protestant Reformation. From the election of Pope Martin V of the Council of Constance in 1417 to the Reformation in the 16th century, Western Christianity was largely free from schism as well as significant disputed papal claimants. There were many important divisions over the direction of the religion, but these were resolved through the then-settled procedures of the papal conclave.
The popes of this period were a reflection of the College of Cardinals that elected them. The College was dominated by cardinal-nephews (relatives of the popes that elevated them), crown-cardinals (representatives of the Catholic monarchies of Europe), and members of the powerful Italian families. There were two popes each from the House of Borgia, House of della Rovere, and House of Medici during this period. The wealthy popes and cardinals increasingly patronized Renaissance art and architecture, (re)building the landmarks of Rome from the ground up.
The Papal States began to resemble a modern nation-state during this period, and the papacy took an increasingly active role in European wars and diplomacy. Popes were more frequently called upon to arbitrate disputes between competing colonial powers than to resolve complicated theological disputes. To the extent that this period is relevant to modern Catholic dogma, it is in the area of papal supremacy. None of these popes have been canonized as a saint, or even regarded as Blessed or Venerable.Schism
A schism (pronounced SIZ-əm, SKIZ-əm or, less commonly, SHIZ-əm) is a division between people, usually belonging to an organization, movement, or religious denomination. The word is most frequently applied to a split in what had previously been a single religious body, such as the East–West Schism or the Great Western Schism. It is also used of a split within a non-religious organization or movement or, more broadly, of a separation between two or more people, be it brothers, friends, lovers, etc.
A schismatic is a person who creates or incites schism in an organization or who is a member of a splinter group. Schismatic as an adjective means pertaining to a schism or schisms, or to those ideas, policies, etc. that are thought to lead towards or promote schism.
In religion, the charge of schism is distinguished from that of heresy, since the offence of schism concerns not differences of belief or doctrine but promotion of, or the state of, division. However, schisms frequently involve mutual accusations of heresy. In Roman Catholic teaching, every heresy is a schism, while there may be some schisms free of the added guilt of heresy. Liberal Protestantism, however, has often preferred heresy over schism. Presbyterian scholar James I. McCord (quoted with approval by the Episcopalian Bishop of Virginia Peter Lee) drew a distinction between them, teaching: "If you must make a choice between heresy and schism, always choose heresy. As a schismatic, you have torn and divided the body of Christ. Choose heresy every time."
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