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  • The Western/Papal Schism and the End of Papal States – September 20, 1378 AD and September 20, 1870 AD

    Zach Beasley

    The Western/Papal Schism and the End of Papal States – September 20, 1378 AD and September 20, 1870 AD

    Robert of Geneva was the son of Amadeus IIICount of Geneva. He was born in 1342 AD in Chateau d’Annecy, in the county of Savoy, then part of the Holy Roman Empire. In 1361, he became the Bishop of Thérouanne; the Archbishop of Cambrai in 1368 and a cardinal in 1371. From 1376-1378, he was serving as papal legate in Upper Italy and during that time, he was called upon in 1377 to suppress a rebellion in the Papal States. He personally led forces against the city of Cesena in Forlì, which was resisting being annexed into the Patrimony of Peter, during the War of the Eight Saints (1375-1378). The Papal States were territories in Italy under the direct sovereignty of the Pope, from the 700s-1870, ending when the unified Kingdom of Italy laid siege to the city of Rome and Pope Pius XI. On September 20, 1870, Rome was captured and annexed to the rest of Italy. In 1929, Benito Mussolini created the Vatican State and gave it sovereignty.


    The War of Eight Saints was a conflict between the Papal States and the Republic of Florence, the city of Milan and the Republic of Siena. Florence opposed the expansion of the Papal States into central Italy and was concerned Pope Gregory XI would reoccupy the territory near Lunigiana that Florence just conquered over the Lord of MilanBarnabò Visconti. Especially since Florence did not assist the pope in his war against the Visconti of Milan in early 1375. Florence and Milan formed an alliance in July, 1375, and Florence began to incite rebellions in more than 40 cities throughout the Papal States, encouraging them to denounce the “tyrannical” and “corrupt” papal rule and return to Republicanism.

    The war itself was delegated to an eight-member committee appointed by the Signoria of Florence, hence the Eight Saints (although that is disputed and could mean the eight priests on the levy committee after the war). Pope Gregory XI excommunicated Florence and authorized confiscation of property and punishment of Florentines throughout Europe. The war lasted until July, 1378, when a peace treaty was concluded in Tivoli. The treaty was negotiated with Pope Urban VI after the death of Gregory XI, and involved Florence paying a fine of 200,000 florins (as opposed to the 1 million florins Gregory wanted), repealing all laws placed against the Church by the secular government created by Florence and returning all property and lands confiscated from the clergy during the war. The pope was to repeal the interdict on Florence and restore Florence to its regular favor in the ecclesiastical community.

    On September 20, 1378, Robert of Geneva was elected pope, as Clement VII, by French cardinals in Fondi in central Italy, in opposition to Pope Urban VI. This election began the Western or Papal Schism, which had more to do with politics in Avignon, Rome and Pisa, than theology. Burgundy, France, Naples, Scotland and Savoy all recognized Clement VII, but Rome did not and called him an Antipope. He could not reside in Italy, so he moved to Avignon, France and ruled until his death there on September 16, 1394. He was succeeded by Antipope Benedict XIII.

    The Western Schism was finally resolved by the Council of Constance in 1417, with the election of Pope Martin V. During the time of the Council, there were three “popes”: (Antipope) Benedict XIII in Avignon, (Pope) Gregory XII in Rome and (Antipope) John XXII in Pisa, and the Council resolved the conflicting claims by electing someone all three regions would recognize.

    Even today, there is disagreement as to who was the legitimate pope at any given time during the Schism from 1378-1417, calling into confusion the cardinal assignments, etc. It is usually considered the Roman line is the legitimate pope, calling all of the other popes “antipopes”, which can be very confusing since there are overlaps with regnal numbers, eg. Antipope Clement VII (1378-1394) and Pope Clement VII (1523-1534).

    For the list of popes and antipopes, visit the Vatican page on my research site at: http://beastcoins.com/World/Vatican/Vatican.htm


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