Vol. 6, Chapter I (Cont’d) – The Later Avignon Popes


The bustling and scholastic John XXII. was followed by the scholarly and upright Benedict XII., 1334-1342. Born in the diocese of Toulouse, Benedict studied in Paris, and arose to the dignity of bishop and cardinal before his elevation to the papal throne. If Villani is to be trusted, his election was an accident. One cardinal after another who voted for him did so, not dreaming he would be elected. The choice proved to be an excellent one. The new pontiff at once showed interest in reform. The prelates who had no distinct duties at Avignon he sent home, and to his credit it was recorded that, when urged to enrich his relatives, he replied that the vicar of Christ, like Melchizedek, must be without father or mother or genealogy. To him belongs the honor of having begun the erection of the permanent papal palace at Avignon, a massive and grim structure, having the features of a fortress rather than a residence. Its walls and towers were built of colossal thickness and strength to resist attack. Its now desolated spaces are a speechless witness to perhaps the most singular of the episodes of papal history. The cardinals followed Benedict’s example and built palaces in Avignon and its vicinity.

Clement VI., 1342-1352, who had been archbishop of Rouen, squandered the fortune amassed by John XXII. and prudently administered by Benedict. He forgot his Benedictine training and vows and was a fast liver, carrying into the papal office the tastes of the French nobility from which he sprang. Horses, a sumptuous table, and the company of women made the papal palace as gay as a royal court. Nor were his relatives allowed to go uncared for. Of the twenty-five cardinals’ hats which he distributed, twelve went to them, one a brother and one a nephew. Clement enjoyed a reputation for eloquence and, like John XXII., preached after he became pope. Early in his pontificate the Romans sent a delegation, which included Petrarch, begging him to return to Rome. But Clement, a Frenchman to the core, preferred the atmosphere of France. Though he did not go to Rome, he was gracious enough to comply with the delegation’s request and appoint a Jubilee for the deserted and impoverished city.

During Clement’s rule, Rome lived out one of the picturesque episodes of its mediaeval history, the meteoric career of the tribune Cola (Nicolas) di Rienzo. Of plebeian birth, this visionary man was stirred with the ideals of Roman independence and glory by reading the ancient classics. His oratory flattered and moved the people, whose cause he espoused against the aristocratic families of the city. Sent to Avignon at the head of a commission, 1343, to confer the highest municipal authority upon the pope, he won Clement’s attention by his frank manner and eloquent speech. Returning to Rome, he fascinated the people with visions of freedom and dominion. They invested him on the Capitol with the signiory of the city, 1347. Cola assumed the democratic title of tribune. Writing from Avignon, Petrarch greeted him as the man whom he had been looking for, and dedicated to him one of his finest odes. The tribune sought to extend his influence by enkindling the flame of patriotism throughout all Italy and to induce its cities to throw off the yoke of their tyrants. Success and glory turned his head. Intoxicated with applause, he had the audacity to cite Lewis the Bavarian and Charles IV. before his tribunal, and headed his communications with the magnificent superscription, “In the first year of the Republic’s freedom.” His success lasted but seven months. The people had grown weary of their idol. He was laid by Clement under the ban and fled, to appear again for a brief season under Innocent V.

Avignon was made papal property by Clement, who paid Joanna of Naples 80,000 florins for it. The low price may have been in consideration of the pope’s services in pronouncing the princess guiltless of the murder of her cousin and first husband, Andreas, a royal Hungarian prince, and sanctioning her second marriage with another cousin, the prince of Tarentum.

This pontiff witnessed the conclusion of the disturbed career of Lewis the Bavarian, in 1347. The emperor had sunk to the depths of self-abasement when he swore to the 28 articles Clement laid before him, Sept. 18, 1343, and wrote to the pope that, as a babe longs for its mother’s breast, so his soul cried out for the grace of the pope and the Church. But, if possible, Clement intensified the curses placed upon him by his two predecessors. The bull, which he announced with his own lips, April 13, 1346, teems with rabid execrations. It called upon God to strike Lewis with insanity, blindness, and madness. It invoked the thunderbolts of heaven and the flaming wrath of God and the Apostles Peter and Paul both in this world and the next. It called all the elements to rise in hostility against him; upon the universe to fight against him, and the earth to open and swallow him up alive. It blasphemously damned his house to desolation and his children to exclusion from their abode. It invoked upon him the curse of beholding with his own eyes the destruction of his children by their enemies.

During Clement’s pontificate, 1348-1349, the Black Death swept over Europe from Hungary to Scotland and from Spain to Sweden, one of the most awful and mysterious scourges that has ever visited mankind. It was reported by all the chroniclers of the time, and described by Boccaccio in the introduction to his novels. According to Villani, the disease appeared as carbuncles under the armpits or in the groin, sometimes as big as an egg, and was accompanied with devouring fever and vomiting of blood. It also involved a gangrenous inflammation of the lungs and throat and a fetid odor of the breath. In describing the virulence of the infection, a contemporary said that one sick person was sufficient to infect the whole world. The patients lingered at most a day or two. Boccaccio witnessed the progress of the plague as it spread its ravages in Florence. Such measures of sanitation as were then known were resorted to, such as keeping the streets of the city clean and posting up elaborate rules of health. Public religious services and processions were appointed to stay death’s progress. Boccaccio tells how he saw the hogs dying from the deadly contagion which they caught in rooting amongst cast-off clothing. In England all sorts of cattle were affected, and Knighton speaks of 5000 sheep dying in a single district. The mortality was appalling. The figures, though they differ in different accounts, show a vast loss of life.

A large per cent of the population of Western Europe fell before the pestilence. In Siena, 80,000 were carried off; in Venice, 100,000; in Bologna, two-thirds of the population; and in Florence, three-fifths. In Marseilles the number who died in a single month is reported as 57,000. Nor was the papal city on the Rhone exempt. Nine cardinals, 70 prelates, and 17,000 males succumbed. Another writer, a canon writing from the city to a friend in Flanders, reports that up to the date of his writing one-half of the population had died. The very cats, dogs, and chickens took the disease. At the prescription of his physician, Guy of Chauliac, Clement VI. stayed within doors and kept large fires lighted, as Nicolas IV. before him had done in time of plague.

No class was immune except in England, where the higher classes seem to have been exempt. The clergy yielded in great numbers, bishops, priests, and monks. At least one archbishop of Canterbury, Bradwardine, was carried away by it. The brothers of the king of Sweden, Hacon and Knut, were among the victims. The unburied dead strewed the streets of Stockholm. Vessels freighted with cargoes were reported floating on the high seas with the last sailor dead. Convents were swept clear of all their inmates. The cemeteries were not large enough to hold the bodies, which were thrown into hastily dug pits. The danger of infection and the odors emitted by the corpses were so great that often there was no one to give sepulture to the dead. Bishops found cause in this neglect to enjoin their priests to preach on the resurrection of the body as one of the tenets of the Catholic Church, as did the bishop of Winchester. In spite of the vast mortality, many of the people gave themselves up without restraint to revelling and drinking from tavern to tavern and to other excesses, as Boccaccio reports of Florence.

In England, it is estimated that one-half of the population, or 2,500,000 people, fell victims to the dread disease. According to Knighton, it was introduced into the land through Southampton. As for Scotland, this chronicler tells the grewsome story that some of the Scotch, on hearing of the weakness of the English in consequence of the malady, met in the forest of Selfchyrche — Selkirk — and decided to fall upon their unfortunate neighbors, but were suddenly themselves attacked by the disease, nearly 5000 dying. The English king prorogued parliament. The disaster that came to the industries of the country is dwelt upon at length by the English chroniclers. The soil became “dead,” for there were no laborers left to till it. The price per acre was reduced one-half, or even much more. The cattle wandered through the meadows and fields of grain, with no one to drive them in. “The dread fear of death made the prices of live stock cheap.” Horses were sold for one-half their usual price, 40 solidi, and a fat steer for 4 solidi. The price of labor went up, and the cost of the necessaries of life became “very high.” The effect upon the Church was such as to interrupt its ministries and perhaps check its growth. The English bishops provided for the exigencies of the moment by issuing letters giving to all clerics the right of absolution. The priest could now make his price, and instead of 4 or 5 marks, as Knighton reports, he could get 10 or 20 after the pestilence had spent its course. To make up for the scarcity of ministers, ordination was granted before the canonical age, as when Bateman, bishop of Norwich, set apart by the sacred rite 60 clerks, “though only shavelings” under 21. In another direction the evil effects of the plague were seen. Work was stopped on the Cathedral of Siena, which was laid out on a scale of almost unsurpassed size, and has not been resumed to this day.

The Black Death was said to have invaded Europe from the East, and to have been carried first by Genoese vessels. Its victims were far in excess of the loss of life by any battles or earthquakes known to European history, not excepting the Sicilian earthquake of 1908.

In spite of the plague, and perhaps in gratitude for its cessation, the Jubilee Year of 1350, like the Jubilee under Boniface at the opening of the century, brought thousands of pilgrims to Rome. If they left scenes of desolation in the cities and villages from which they came, they found a spectacle of desolation and ruin in the Eternal City which Petrarch, visiting the same year, said was enough to move a heart of stone. Matthew Villani cannot say too much in praise of the devotion of the visiting throngs. Clement’s bull extended the benefits of his promised indulgence to those who started on a pilgrimage without the permission of their superiors, the cleric without the permission of his bishop, the monk without the permission of his abbot, and the wife without the permission of her husband.

Of the three popes who followed Clement, only good can be said. Innocent VI., 1352-1362, a native of the see of Limoges, had been appointed cardinal by Clement VI. Following in the footsteps of Benedict XII., he reduced the ostentation of the Avignon court, dismissed idle bishops to their sees, and instituted the tribunal of the rota, with 21 salaried auditors for the orderly adjudication of disputed cases coming before the papal tribunal. Before Innocent’s election, the cardinals adopted a set of rules limiting the college to 20 members, and stipulating that no new members should be appointed, suspended, deposed, or excommunicated without the consent of two-thirds of their number, and that no papal relative should be assigned to a high place. Innocent no sooner became pontiff than he set it aside as not binding.

Soon after the beginning of his reign, Innocent released Cola di Rienzo from confinement and sent him and Cardinal Aegidius Alvarez of Albernoz to Rome in the hope of establishing order. Cola was appointed senator, but only a few months afterwards was put to death in a popular uprising, Oct. 8, 1354. He dreamed of a united Italy, 500 years before the union of its divided states was consummated, but his name remains a powerful impulse to popular freedom and national unity in the peninsula.

Tyrants and demagogues infested Italian municipalities and were sucking their life-blood. The State of the Church had been parcelled up into petty principalities ruled by rude nobles, such as the Polentas in Ravenna, the Malatestas in Rimini, the Montefeltros in Urbino. The pope was in danger of losing his territory in the peninsula altogether. Soldiers of fortune from different nations had settled upon it and spread terror as leaders of predatory bands. In no part was anarchy more wild than in Rome itself, and in the Campagna. Albernoz had fought in the wars against the Moors, and had administered the see of Toledo. He was a statesman as well as a soldier. He was fully equal to his difficult task and restored the papal government.

In 1355, Albernoz, as administrator of Rome, placed the crown of the empire on the head of Charles IV. To such a degree had the imperial dignity been brought that Charles was denied permission by the pope to enter the city till the day appointed for his coronation. His arrival in Italy was welcomed by Petrarch as Henry VII.’s arrival had been welcomed by Dante. But the emperor disappointed every expectation, and his return from Italy was an inglorious retreat. He placed his own dominion of Bohemia in his debt by becoming the founder of the University of Prag. It was he also who, in 1356, issued the celebrated Golden Bull, which laid down the rules for the election of the emperor. They placed this transaction wholly in the hands of the electors, a majority of whom was sufficient for a choice. The pope is not mentioned in the document. Frankfurt was made the place of meeting. The electors designated were the archbishops of Mainz, Treves, and Cologne, the Count Palatine, the king of Bohemia, the Margrave of Brandenburg, and the duke of Saxony.

Urban V., 1362-1370, at the time of his election abbot of the Benedictine convent of St. Victor in Marseilles, developed merits which secured for him canonization by Pius IX., 1870. He was the first of the Avignon popes to visit Rome. Petrarch, as he had written before to Benedict XII. and Clement VI., now, in his old age, wrote to the new pontiff rebuking the curia for its vices and calling upon him to be faithful to his part as Roman bishop. Why should Urban hide himself away in a corner of the earth? Italy was fair, and Rome, hallowed by history and legend of empire and Church, was the theocratic capital of the world. Charles IV. visited Avignon and offered to escort the pontiff. But the French king opposed the plan and was supported by the cardinals in a body. Only three Italians were left in it. Urban started for the home of his spiritual ancestors in April, 1367. A fleet of sixty vessels furnished by Naples, Genoa, Venice, and Pisa conducted the distinguished traveller from Marseilles to Genoa and Corneto, where he was met by envoys from Rome, who put into his hands the keys of the castle of St. Angelo, the symbol of full municipal power. All along the way transports of wine, fish, cheese, and other provisions, sent on from Avignon, met the papal party, and horses from the papal stables on the Rhone were in waiting for the pope at every stage of the journey.

At Viterbo, a riot was called forth by the insolent manners of the French, and the pope launched the interdict against the city. The papal ledgers contain the outlay by the apothecary for medicines for the papal servants who were wounded in the melee. Here Albernoz died, to whom the papacy owed a large debt for his services in restoring order to Rome. The legend runs that, when he was asked by the pope for an account of his administration, he loaded a car with the keys of the cities he had recovered to the papal authority, and sent them to him.

Urban chose as his residence the Vatican in preference to the Lateran. The preparations for his advent included the restoration of the palace and its gardens. A part of the garden was used as a field, and the rest was overgrown with thorns. Urban ordered it replanted with grape-vines and fruit trees. The papal ledger gives the cost of these improvements as 6,621 gold florins, or about $15,000. Roofs, floors, doors, walls, and other parts of the palace had to be renewed. The expenses from April 27, 1367, to November, 1368, as shown in the report of the papal treasurer, Gaucelin de Pradello, were 15,559 florins, or $39,000.

During the sixty years that had elapsed since Clement V. fixed the papal residence in France, Rome had been reduced almost to a museum of Christian monuments, as it had before been a museum of pagan ruins. The aristocratic families had forsaken the city. The Lateran had again fallen a prey to the flames in 1360. St. Paul’s was desolate. Rubbish or stagnant pools filled the streets. The population was reduced to 20,000 or perhaps 17,000. The return of the papacy was compared by Petrarch to Israel returning out of Egypt.

Urban set about the restoration of churches. He gave 1000 florins to the Lateran and spent 5000 on St. Paul’s. Rome showed signs of again becoming the centre of European society and politics. Joanna, queen of Naples, visited the city, and so did the king of Cyprus and the emperor, Charles IV. In 1369 John V. Palaeologus, the Byzantine emperor, arrived, a suppliant for aid against the Turks, and publicly made solemn abjuration of his schismatic tenets.

The old days seemed to have returned, but Urban was not satisfied. He had not the courage nor the wide vision to sacrifice his own pleasure for the good of his office. Had he so done, the disastrous schism might have been averted. He turned his face back towards Avignon, where he arrived “at the hour of vespers,” Sept. 27, 1370. He survived his return scarcely two months, and died Dec. 19, 1370, universally beloved and already honored as a saint.


11. The Re-establishment of the Papacy in Rome. 1377

Of the nineteen cardinals who entered the conclave at the death of Urban V., all but four were Frenchmen. The choice immediately fell on Gregory XI., the son of a French count. At 17 he had been made cardinal by his uncle, Clement VI. His contemporaries praised him for his moral purity, affability, and piety. He showed his national sympathies by appointing 18 Frenchmen cardinals and filling papal appointments in Italy with French officials. In English history he is known for his condemnation of Wyclif. His pontificate extended from 1370-1378.

With Gregory’s name is associated the re-establishment of the papacy in its proper home on the Tiber. For this change the pope deserves no credit. It was consummated against his will. He went to Rome, but was engaged in preparations to return to Avignon, when death suddenly overtook him.

That which principally moved Gregory to return to Rome was the flame of rebellion which filled Central and Northern Italy, and threatened the papacy with the permanent loss of its dominions. The election of an anti-pope was contemplated by the Italians, as a delegation from Rome informed him. One remedy was open to crush revolt on the banks of the Tiber. It was the presence of the pope himself.

Gregory had carried on war for five years with the disturbing elements in Italy. In the northern parts of the peninsula, political anarchy swept from city to city. Soldiers of fortune, the most famous of whom was the Englishman, John Hawkwood, spread terror wherever they went. In Milan, the tyrant Bernabo was all-powerful and truculent. In Florence, the revolt was against the priesthood itself, and a red flag was unfurled, on which was inscribed the word “Liberty.” A league of 80 cities was formed to abolish the pope’s secular power. The interdict hurled against the Florentines, March 31, 1376, for the part they were taking in the sedition, contained atrocious clauses, giving every one the right to plunder the city and to make slaves of her people wherever they might be found. Genoa and Pisa followed Florence and incurred a like papal malediction. The papal city, Bologna, was likewise stirred to rebellion in 1376 by its sister city on the Arno.

Florence fanned the flames of rebellion in Rome and the other papal towns, calling upon them to throw off the yoke of tyranny and return to their pristine liberty. What Italian, its manifesto proclaimed, “can endure the sight of so many noble cities, serving barbarians appointed by the pope to devour the goods of Italy?” But Rome remained true to the pope, as did Ancona. On the other hand, Perugia, Narni, Viterbo, and Ferrara, in 1375, raised the banner of rebellion until revolt threatened to spread over the whole of the papal patrimony. The bitter feeling against the French officials was intensified by a detachment of 10,000 Breton mercenaries which the pope sent to crush the revolution. They were under the leadership of Cardinal Robert of Geneva, — afterward Clement VII., — an iron-hearted soldier and pitiless priest. It was as plain as day, Pastor says, that Gregory’s return was the only thing that could save Rome to the papacy.

To the urgency of these civil commotions were added the pure voices of prophetesses, which rose above the confused sounds of revolt and arms, the voices of Brigitta of Sweden and Catherine of Siena, both canonized saints.

Petrarch, who for nearly half a century had been urging the pope’s return, now, in his last days, replied to a French advocate who compared Rome to Jericho, the town to which the man was going who fell among thieves, and stigmatized Avignon as the sewer of the earth. He died 1374, without seeing the consuming desire of his life fulfilled. Guided by patriotic instincts, he had carried into his appeals the feeling of an Italian’s love of his country. Brigitta and Catherine made their appeals to Gregory on higher than national grounds, the utility of Christendom and the advantage of the kingdom of God. Emerging from visions and ecstatic moods of devotion, they called upon the Church’s chief bishop to be faithful to the obligations of his holy office.

On the death of her husband, St. Brigitta left her Scandinavian home and joined the pilgrims whose faces were set towards Rome in the Jubilee year of 1350. Arriving in the papal city, the hope of seeing both the emperor and the pope once more in that centre of spiritual and imperial power moved her to the devotions of the saint and the messages of the seer. She spent her time in going from church to church and ministering to the sick, or sat clad in pilgrim’s garb, begging. Her revelations, which were many, brought upon her the resentment of the Romans. She saw Urban enter the city and, when he announced his purpose to return again to France, she raised her voice in prediction of his speedy death, in case he persisted in it. When Gregory ascended the throne, she warned him that he would die prematurely if he kept away from the residence divinely appointed for the supreme pontiff. But to her, also, it was not given to see the fulfilment of her desire. The worldliness of the popes stirred her to bitter complaints. Peter, she exclaimed, “was appointed pastor and minister of Christ’s sheep, but the pope scatters them and lacerates them. He is worse than Lucifer, more unjust than Pilate, more cruel than Judas. Peter ascended the throne in humility, Boniface in pride.” To Gregory she wrote, “in thy curia arrogant pride rules, insatiable cupidity and execrable luxury. It is the very deepest gulf of horrible simony. Thou seizest and tearest from the Lord innumerable sheep.” And yet she was worthy to be declared a saint. She died in 1373. Her daughter Catherine took the body to Sweden.

Catherine of Siena was more fortunate. She saw the papacy re-established in Italy, but she also witnessed the unhappy beginnings of the schism. This Tuscan prophetess, called by a sober Catholic historian, “one of the most wonderful appearances in history,” wrote letter after letter to Gregory XI. whom she called “sweet Christ on earth,” appealing to him and admonishing him to do his duty as the head of the Church, and to break away from his exile, which she represented as the source of all the evils with which Christendom was afflicted. “Be a true successor of St. Gregory,” she wrote. “Love God. Do not bind yourself to your parents and your friends. Do not be held by the compulsion of your surroundings. Aid will come from God.” His return to Rome and the starting of a new crusade against the Turks, she represented as necessary conditions of efficient measures to reform the Church. She bade him return “swiftly like a gentle lamb. Respond to the Holy Spirit who calls you. I tell you, Come, come, come, and do not wait for time, since time does not wait for you. Then you will do like the Lamb slain, whose place you hold, who, without weapons in his hands, slew our foes. Be manly in my sight, not fearful. Answer God, who calls you to hold and possess the seat of the glorious shepherd, St. Peter, whose vicar you are.”

Gregory received a letter purporting to come from a man of God, warning him of the poison which awaited him at Rome and appealing to his timidity and his love of his family. In a burning epistle, Catherine showed that only the devil or one of his emissaries could be the author of such a communication, and called upon him as a good shepherd to pay more honor to God and the well-being of his flock than to his own safety, for a good shepherd, if necessary, lays down his life for the sheep. The servants of God are not in the habit of giving up a spiritual act for fear of bodily harm.

In 1376, Catherine saw Gregory face to face in Avignon, whither she went as a commissioner from Florence to arrange a peace between the city and the pope. The papal residence she found not a paradise of heavenly virtues, as she expected, but in it the stench of infernal vices. The immediate object of the mission was not accomplished; but her unselfish appeals confirmed Gregory in his decision to return to Rome — a decision he had already formed before Catherine’s visit, as the pope’s own last words indicate.

As early as 1374, Gregory wrote to the emperor that it was his intention to re-establish the papacyon the Tiber. A member of the papal household, Bertrand Raffini, was sent ahead to prepare the Vatican for his reception. The journey was delayed. It was hard for the pope to get away from France. His departure was vigorously resisted by his relatives as well as by the French cardinals and the French king, who sent n delegation to Avignon, headed by his brother, the duke of Anjou, to dissuade Gregory from his purpose.

The journey was begun Sept. 13, 1376. Six cardinals were left behind at Avignon to take care of the papal business. The fleet which sailed from Marseilles was provided by Joanna of Naples, Peter IV. of Aragon, the Knights of St. John, and the Italian republics, but the vessels were not sufficient to carry the large party and the heavy cargo of personal baggage and supplies. The pope was obliged to rent a number of additional galleys and boats. Fernandez of Heredia, who had just been elected grand-master of the Knights of St. John, acted as admiral. A strong force of mercenaries was also required for protection by sea and at the frequent stopping places along the coast, and for service, if necessary, in Rome itself. The expenses of this peaceful Armada — vessels, mercenaries, and cargo — are carefully tabulated in the ledgers preserved in Avignon and the Vatican. The first entries of expense are for the large consignments of Burgundy and other wines which were to be used on the way, or stored away in the vaults of the Vatican. The cost of the journey was heavy, and it should occasion no surprise that the pope was obliged to increase the funds at his control at this time by borrowing 30,000 gold florins from the king of Navarre. The papal moneys, amounting to 85,713 florins, were carried from Avignon to Marseilles in twelve chests on pack horses and mules, and in boats. To this amount were added later 41,527 florins, or, in all, about $300,000 of our present coinage. The cost of the boats and mercenaries was very large, and several times the boatmen made increased demands for their services and craft to which the papal party was forced to accede. Raymund of Turenne, who was in command of the mercenaries, received 700 florins a month for his “own person,” each captain with a banner 24 florins, and each lance with three men under him 18 florins monthly. Nor were the obligations of charity to be overlooked. Durandus Andreas, the papal eleemosynary, received 100 florins to be distributed in alms on the journey, and still another 100 to be distributed after the party’s arrival at Rome.

The elements seemed to war with the expedition. The fleet had no sooner set sail from Marseilles than a fierce storm arose which lasted several weeks and made the journey tedious. Urban V. was three days in reaching Genoa, Gregory sixteen. From Genoa, the vessels continued southwards the full distance to Ostia, anchorage being made every night off towns. From Ostia, Gregory went up the Tiber by boat, landing at Rome Dec. 16, 1377. The journey was made by night and the banks were lit up by torches, showing the feverish expectation of the people. Disembarking at St. Paul’s, the pope proceeded the next day, Jan. 17, to St. Peter’s, accompanied by rejoicing throngs. In the procession were bands of buffoons who added to the interest of the spectacle and afforded pastime to the populace. The pope abode in the Vatican and, from that time till this day, it has continued to be the papal residence.

Gregory survived his entrance into the Eternal City a single year. He spent the warmer months in Anagni, where he must have had mixed feelings as he recalled the experiences of his predecessor Boniface VIII., which had been the immediate cause of the transfer of the papal residence to French soil. The atrocities practised at Cesena by Cardinal Robert cast a dark shadow over the events of the year. An uprising of the inhabitants in consequence of the brutality of his Breton troops drove them and the cardinal to seek refuge in the citadel. Hawkwood was called in, and, in spite of the cardinal’s pacific assurances, the mercenaries fell upon the defenceless people and committed a butchery whose shocking details made the ears of all Italy to tingle. Four thousand were put to death, including friars in their churches, and still other thousands were sent forth naked and cold to find what refuge they could in neighboring towns. But, in spite of this barbarity, the pope’s authority was acknowledged by an enlarging circle of Italian commonwealths, including Bologna. Florence, even, sued for peace.

When Gregory died, March 27, 1378, he was only 47 years old. By his request, his body was laid to rest in S. Maria Nuova on the Forum. In his last hours, he is said to have regretted having given his ear to the voice of Catherine of Siena, and he admonished the cardinals not to listen to prophecies as he had done. Nevertheless, the monument erected to Gregory at Rome two hundred years later is true to history in representing Catherine of Siena walking at the pope’s side as if conducting him back to Rome. The Babylonian captivity of the papacy had lasted nearly three-quarters of a century. The wonder is that with the pope virtually a vassal of France, Western Christendom remained united. Scarcely anything in history seems more unnatural than the voluntary residence of the popes in the commonplace town on the Rhone remote from the burial-place of the Apostles and from the centres of European life.