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§ 124. The Pope and the Curia.


Literature: For the election of a pope.—The text of the laws of Nicolas II. and Gregory X. is given in Mirbt: Quellen, 57 sqq., 146, Friedberg’s ed. of Gratian, I. 78 sq.—W. C. Cartwright: The Papal Conclave, Edinb., 1868.—Zöpffel: D. Papstwahlen etc. vom 11–15. Jahrh., Götting., 1871.—T. A. Trollope: The Papal Conclaves as they were and as they are, Lond., 1876.—L. Lector: Le conclave, etc., Paris, 1894.—Hefele-Knöpfler, IV. 800–826; VI. 146 sqq.—Schwane: Dogmengesch., pp. 522–589.—Friedberg: Kirchenrecht, pp. 165 sqq.—Hergenröther, Kirchenrecht, pp. 267–302.—Artt. Papstwahl., in Herzog, XI. 213–217, by Hinschius and Wetzer-Welte, IX. 1442–1461.

For the financial policy of the curia.—B. P. Woker: D. kirchl. Finanzwesen d. Päpste, Nördl., 1878.—Fabre: Le libre censuum de l’église Romaine, Paris, 1892.—*M. Tangl: D. Taxenwesen der päpstl. Kanzlei vom 13. bis zur Mitte des 15. Jahrh., Innsbr., 1892.—*J. P. Kirsch: Die Finanzverwaltung des Kardinalkollegiums im XIII. und XIV. Jahrh., Munster, 1895.—*P. M. Baumgarten: Untersuchungen und Urkunden über die Camera Collegii Cardinalium, 1295–1437, Leip., 1898.—*A. Gottlob: D. päpstl. Kreuzzugssteuern des 13. Jahrh., Heiligens., 1892; *D. Servitientaxe im 13. Jahrh., Stuttg., 1903.—*O. Jensen: D. englische Peterspfennig, Heidelb., 1903.—Haller: Papsttum u. Kirchenreform, Berlin, 1903.—Hurter: Inn. III., IV. 161 sqq.—For add’l lit. bearing on the financial policy of the popes, especially in the 14th century, see Part II. of this vol. under John XXII.


The curia is the designation given to the cardinals and minor officials of the papal household. Its importance increased greatly in this period through the centralization of authority in Rome. The pope was forced to employ an army of notaries, advocates, procurators, and other officials to share, with him the burdens of the vast amount of business brought to his attention.

In a restricted sense, the word "curia" is applied to the college of cardinals. This body came to sustain to the pope a relation similar to the relation sustained by the chapter to the bishop and a cabinet to a prince. At the oecumenical councils of Lyons, 1245 and 1274, its members were given precedence over all other ecclesiastical dignitaries.

The legislation fixing the mode of choosing the pope originated in this period with Nicolas II., speaking through the council of Rome 1059, and Gregory X., speaking through the second council of Lyons, 1274. From the ninth century, the emperor had claimed the right to confirm or veto papal elections, a right set aside under the influence of Gregory VII. The law of Nicolas, conforming to Gregory’s views, confined the right of election to the cardinals, and this became their primary function. It marks an important step in the complete independence of the papacy, though it was not strictly enforced till after its confirmation by Alexander III, at the Third Lateran, 1179. A majority of two-thirds of the cardinals was made necessary for an election. An important provision made papal elections conducted outside the city of Rome valid.

More precise regulations were shown to be necessary by the long pontifical vacancy of nearly three years following the death of Clement IV. (d. 1268). The law, as perfected under Gregory X., is, with slight modifications, still in force. It provides that, within ten days of a pope’s decease and in the same building where he expired, the cardinals shall assemble to choose a successor. The conclave, —from clavis, meaning key,—or room of meeting, has given its name to the assembly itself. During the progress of the vote, the assembled ecclesiastics are kept secluded from the outside world and receive food through a window. If after three days no conclusion has been reached, the fare is reduced to a single dish for supper and a single dish for dinner. Should eight days pass without a choice, the fare is reduced to bread and wine. The secular authorities are intrusted with the duty of guarding the conclave against interruption and violence.

The committees, or congregations, into which the cardinals are now grouped is of late origin. The oldest, the Holy Office or Congregation of the Inquisition, was established 1542. The red hat was conferred upon them, as a sign of their office, by Innocent IV., 1245; the purple mantle, two hundred years later, by Paul II., 1464. They wear a sapphire ring and by the enactment of Urban VIII., 1630, are addressed as "Eminence." In 1586 their number was limited by Sixtus V. to seventy. The exact membership within this limit is dependent upon the pleasure of the reigning pontiff. The largest number at any time was under Pius IV., 1559, when there were seventy-six. In the latter half of the thirteenth century the number often ran very low and at one time was reduced to seven. Since Urban VI., 1378–1382, none but a cardinal has been elevated to the papal dignity. The pope’s right to abdicate is based upon the precedents of Gregory VI., 1046, Coelestin V., 1294, and Gregory XII., 1415.

The pope’s coronation and enthronement were an occasion of increasing pomp and ostentation and were usually celebrated with a procession through the city from St. Peter’s to the Lateran in which the nobility and civil authorities as well as the pope and the higher and lower clergy took part. The tiara, or triple crown, seems not to have been used till the reign of Urban V., 1362–1372. This crown is regarded as symbolical of the pope’s rule over heaven, earth, and the lower world; or of his earthly power and his power to loose for time and eternity; or of Rome, the Western patriarchate and the whole earth.

To this period belongs the development of the system of papal legates which proved to be an important instrumentality in the extention of the pope’s jurisdiction. These officials are constantly met with from the pontificate of Gregory VII. Clement IV. likened them to the Roman proconsuls. They were appointed to represent the Apostolic see on special occasions, and took precedence of the bishops in the regions to which they were sent, presided at synods, and claimed for themselves the respect due to the pope himself.

Gregory VII., in commending a legate, quoted Luke 10:16, "whosoever heareth you, heareth me also."18801880    Reg., II. 44, Migne, 148. 392.18811881    Reg., I.7; I. 29, VIII. 10; II. 32; II. 51; II. 73; I. 70, Migne, 148. 290, 312, 387, 405, 423, 345.nd Adrian IV. won distinction by his successful administration of the legatine office in Northern Europe. Papal legates were present at the coronation of William the Conqueror, 1070.

Legates had the reputation of living like princes and depended for their support upon the countries to which they were despatched. Their encroachment upon the prerogatives of the episcopate and their demands for money called forth bitter complaint from one end of Europe to the other. Barbarossa wrote Adrian IV., refusing to receive the papal legates because they came to him as plunderers and not as priests.18821882    Hefele, V. 565. The permanent nuntiatures at Catholic courts were first established in the 16th century. Such are now maintained at Munich, Vienna, Lisbon, Madrid, and Brussels. One, Martin, who had been sent to Dacia, returned to Italy so poor that he could with difficulty get to Florence and would have had to foot it from there to Rome but for the loan of a horse. Bernard felt his description would be regarded as an idle tale, a legate coming back from the land of gold without gold and traversing the land of silver without possessing silver! The other case was the legate Gaufrid of Aquitaine who would not accept even fish and vegetables without paying for them so that no one might be able to say, "we have made Abraham rich," Gen. 14:23.18831883    De consid., IV. 5.

Salimbene, the genial Franciscan chronicler, also gives us a dark picture of papal legates of Northern Italy, some of whom he had known personally. He gives the names of twelve, four of whom he specially accuses of unchastity, including Ugolino, afterwards Gregory IX., and mentioning some of their children by name. Two of them were hard drinkers. He makes the general charge that legates "rob the churches and carry off whatsoever they can."18841884    Coulton, From St. Francis to Dante, pp. 252 sqq.

As the ultimate legal tribunal of Western Europe, the papal court assumed an importance never dreamed of before. Innumerable cases of appeal were brought before it. If the contestants had money or time, no dispute was too trivial to be contested at Rome. Appeals poured in from princes and kings, chapters and bishops, convents and abbots. Burchard of Ursperg says18851885    See Döllinger, Papstthum, p. 76.o went had their hands full of gold and silver. There was a constant procession of litigants to the Eternal City, so that it once more became literally true that all roads led to Rome. The hours of daylight, as Bernard lamented, were not long enough for these disputes, and the hearings were continued into the night.18861886    Quale est istud demane ad vesperam litigare, aut litigantes audire? Utinam sufficeret diei malitia sua! non sunt liberae noctes.er duties, and consumed upon the hearing of common lawsuits and personal complaints. The halls of the papal palace rang with the laws of Justinian rather than the precepts of the Lord. Bernard himself recognized the right of appeal as an incontestable privilege, but would have limited it to the complaints of widows and the poor, and excluded disputes over property.18871887    De consid., I. 4-6; III. 2.

The expression ad calendas Graecas became proverbial in Rome for delays of justice till one party or the other was dead or, worn out by waiting, gave what was demanded. The following example, given by Bernard, will indicate the extent to which the right of appeal was carried. A marriage ceremony in Paris was suddenly checked by a complainant appearing at the altar and making appeal to Rome against the marriage on the ground that the bride had been promised to him. The priest could not proceed, and bride and bridegroom had to live apart until the case was argued before the curia. So great did the curia’s power become that its decision was regarded as determining what was sound doctrine and what was heresy.18881888    John of Salisbury, Polycrat., VI. 64, qui a doctrina vestra dissentit aut hereticus aut schismaticus est.

In the thirteenth century, the papal exchequer gained an offensive notoriety through the exactions of the curia, but it was not till the fourteenth century, during the period of the Avignon exile, that they aroused a clamorous protest throughout Europe. The increased expenses of the papal household called for large sums, and had to be met. The supreme pontiff has a claim upon the entire communion over which he presides, and the churches recognized its justice. It was expressed by Pascal II. when he wrote to Anselm of Canterbury, 1101: "You know well our daily necessities and our want of means. The work of the Roman church inures to the benefit of all the churches, and every church which sends her gifts thereby recognizes not only that they are in debt to her but to the whole of Christendom as well."18891889    Quoted by Jensen, p. 42.

As bearing on the papal revenues early in the thirteenth century, a ledger account of the income of Innocent III. has come down to us, prepared by his chamberlain, Cencius, afterwards made a cardinal.18901890    See Hurter, Innocent III., III. 121-149. One is amazed at the extent and variety of the articles and at the curious names of the coins derived from different countries. money, all sorts of articles are catalogued—vegetables, wine, grain, fish, wood, wax, linen, yokes of oxen, horses.—Convents, churches, and hospitals made contributions to the pope’s wants. The abbot of Reichenau, at his induction, sent two white horses, a breviary, and a book of the Gospels. A hospital in the see of Terouanne sent 100 herrings, St. Basil’s, in Rome, two loads of fish.

In the latter half of the thirteenth century, the administration of the papal finances was reduced to a system, and definite rules were adopted for the division of the revenues between the pope and the college of cardinals. We are restricted to a single tax list18911891    Tangl, pp. 7 sqq. The full treatment of the subject of the papal finances belongs to the period of the Avignon exile. It has called forth a distinct body of literature, beginning with the work of Woker and including the careful works of Tangl, Kirsch, Goeller, Gottlob, Baumgarten, and others.eresting ledger accounts which give the exact prices levied for papal privileges of all sorts. There, we have fiscal contracts drawn up between prelates and papal officials and receipts such as would be expected in a careful banking system. These lists and other sources of information enable us to conclude what methods were practised from 1250–1300.

The sources from which the papal treasury drew its revenues were the annual tributes of feudal states, called census, payments made by prelates and other holders of church benefices called servitia, visitationes, and annates; and the occasional taxes levied upon the Church at large, or sections of it, for crusades and other special movements. To these usual sources of revenue are to be added assessments for all sorts of specific papal concessions and indulgences.18921892    Monies from these sources were called "monies of the college," pecuniae colegii, and were often entered into the books of the college of cardinals under the head of servitia, census, visitationes, and proventus. Kirsch, Finanzverw., p. 5, Baumgarten, p. xcvi.

The servitia,18931893    The terms servitia and annatae were used more or less interchangeably, but the former was usually applied to the gifts of prelates, the latter to the payments of the lower clerics. Gottlob, Servitientaxe, p.1.ments made by papal appointees of a portion of a year’s income of benefices which the pope reserved to himself the right of filling, such as prebends, canonries, and other livings. The portion was usually one-half. The visitationes were payments made by prelates; that is, archbishops, bishops, and abbots on their visits in Rome.18941894    Such a visit was called a visitatio ad limina apostolorum, and was not limited to the city of Rome. The visits upon which a tax was paid were called visitationes reales in distinction from other visits called visitationes verbales. Kirsch, pp. 22 sq.

The servitia18951895    For the meaning and history of the word, see Gottlob, Servitientaxe, pp. 14-17. They were called servitia communia in distinction from the servitia pro familia or servitia minuta, which were smaller fees given to the officials of the papal household and officials of the body of cardinals, called familiares. These lesser fees were also matter of exact regulation, and usually amounted to one-fourteenth or one-twentieth of the servitium commune. Up to 1298 we hear of only two distinct fees for the members of the papal household. In 1299 we hear of three, and in the fourteenth century the number of the servitia minuta was increased to five. Gottlob, Servitientaxe, pp.101 sqq.; Kirsch, pp. 12 sqq.fts of money paid by archbishops, bishops, and abbots at their confirmation in office. They constituted a large source of revenue. The amounts to be paid in each case were computed upon the basis of a year’s income. Once fixed they remained fixed and obligatory until new valuations were made.18961896    Kirsch, p. 12, gives the documents in which appeals were made for a reduction of the tribute by the archbishops of Narbonne, 1341, and Cashel, 1332, and the abbot of Amiens, 1344. In the case of the abbot, the amount was reduced from 4000 to 2500 gold florins.18971897    See the cases from which Kirsch deduces the rule, p. 9.las III. (1277–1280), and probably as early as the middle of the thirteenth century.18981898    The case of the abbot of St. Edmundsbury seems to belong here. In 1248 he paid to the Roman see 800 marks. M. Paris, Luard’s ed., V. 40; Tangl, p. 6. house.18991899    The promises to pay were called obligationes. Receipts, quitationes, were given by the papal treasurer, or the treasurer of the college of cardinals, or by both. Kirsch gives original documents. He was the first to clear up the subject of the servitia.

The census included the taxes paid by the State of the Church, the assessments paid by convents and churches under the special protection of the Apostolic see, the tributes of the vassal—states, Naples, Sicily, Corsica and Sardinia, and England, and the income of Peter’s Pence. The tribute of 1000 marks, promised by John for England and Ireland, was over and above the amounts due from Peter’s Pence. The tribute of Sicily in 1272, amounting to 8000 oz. of gold, was divided into two equal parts by Gregory X., one part going to the cardinals. In 1307, a demand was made upon Charles II. of Naples for back payments on this account amounting to the enormous sum of 93,340 oz. of gold. In 1350, the amount due was 88,852 oz.19001900    Kirsch, p. 32.

The custom of paying Peter’s Pence, or a stipulated amount for every household, was in vogue in England, Sweden, Denmark, Norway, Northern Germany, and Poland, but was never introduced into France though Gregory VII. attempted to collect it there but failed.19011901    Hurter, III. 136. 1059, pledged for Sicily twelve denarii for every yoke of oxen to be paid for all time.19021902    Jensen, p. 36.19031903    See O’Gorman, Hist. of the Cath. Ch. in the U. S., p. 6. Nicolas Breakspear, Adrian IV., as cardinal legate, secured the promise of Peter’s Pence from Norway and Sweden at the synod of Linkoping, 1152. Jensen, p. 12.

During the second half of the thirteenth century, the custom was developed of dividing the revenues from visitationes, servitia, and census between the pope and the college of cardinals.19041904    Kirsch, pp. 22, 23, 25. Nicolas IV., 1288, was the first to establish an equal division of the census in the bull coelestis altitudo. towns in the papal territory set aside for them by popes. To these sources of revenue were added during the thirteenth century livings in foreign lands which they administered, if administered at all, through vicars. A number of benefices were often held by a member of the curia, but the abuse of pluralities did not reach its largest proportions till the latter half of the fifteenth century. In 1291, Benedict Gaetani (Boniface VIII.) cardinal of S. Nicolas in Carcere, held, in addition to that living, two archdeaneries and two churches in France, three churches in Rome and prebend stalls in Langres, Chartres, Lyons, Paris, Anagni, Todi, Terouanne, and St. Peter’s in Rome.

The half portion, accruing to the cardinals, was divided equally between those dignitaries. In case a cardinal was suspended his portion was divided equally between the papal treasury and the other cardinals. It became customary at the close of the thirteenth century, in appointing a cardinal, to announce that he was entitled to a share of the servitia.19051905    Such a formula dating from 1296 is given by Kirsch, p. 58. The number of the cardinals is distinctly stated in the ledger-books and also the names of cardinals who had forfeited their rights by deposition.

During the absence of a cardinal on legatine business or for other reasons, he ceased to participate in the fund.

These revenues were handled by two treasurers: a papal treasurer, or chamberlain, and a treasurer for the college of cardinals.19061906    camerarius collegii dominorum cardinalium. The first treasurer whose name is known was William de Bray, cardinal-priest of St. Marks, 1272-1282. For a list of his successors to 1401, see Kirsch, pp. 44-46, and Baumgarten, pp. xliii sqq.e and turned over to the cardinals. To such a system had the finances been reduced that, as early as the reign of Boniface VIII., the Registers of preceding pontiffs were consulted.19071907    Kirsch, p. 66. Baumgarten, p. xxiii, is of a different opinion and puts the first systematically kept ledgers in 1295.are, coin amounting to 85,431 gold florins, a sum equal in face value to $200,000.19081908    For a list of the strange coins paid into this fund and a computation of their value in gold florins, see Kirsch, pp. 56 sq. Kirsch estimates the gold florin as equivalent in face value to 10 marks or $2.50 and the mark in the 14th century as having four times the purchasing power of a mark to-day.

To the pope’s own exchequer went the additional sums accruing from annates as defined above, the special taxes imposed by the pope at will, and the gifts for special papal favors. The crusades against the Saracens and Frederick II. were an inviting pretext for special taxation. They were the cause of endless friction especially in France and England, where the papal mulcts were most frequent and most bitterly complained of. The first papal levy for revenue in France seems to have been in 1188. As early as 1247 such a levy upon church property was met by a firm protest. In 1269, Louis IX. issued the pragmatic sanction which forbade papal taxes being put on church property in France without the sovereign’s consent. One of the most famous levies of mediaeval England was the Saladin tax, for a crusade against the Saracens.

The curia was already, in the time of St. Bernard, notorious for its rapacity. No sums could satisfy its greed, and upon it was heaped the blame for the incessant demands which went out from Rome. Bernard presents a vivid, if perhaps overcolored, picture of this hungry horde of officials and exclaims: "When has Rome refused gold? Rome has been turned from a shrine into a place of traffic. The Germans travel to Rome with their pack animals laden with treasure. Silver has become as plentiful as hay. It is to Eugenius’ credit that he has turned his face against such gifts. The curia is responsible. They have made Rome a place of buying and selling. The ’Romans,’ for this was the distinctive name given to this body of officials, are a pack of shameless beggars and know not how to decline silver and gold. They are dragons and scorpions, not sheep."19091909    De consid., III.1, 3. Bernard returns again and again (in his de consid., I. 11; IV. 4, etc., and his Letters) to the venality of the curia. He even suggested that Eugenius might have to leave Rome to get away from its corruption, De consid., IV. 3.

The English chronicler, Matthew Paris, writing a century later, has on almost every other page of his chronicle a complaint against the exactions of the papal tax gatherers. One might easily get the impression from his annals, that the English Church and people existed chiefly to fill the Roman treasury. The curia, he said, was like a gulf swallowing up the resources of all classes and the revenues of bishops and abbots.19101910    Luard’s ed., V. 96. cardinals and reports the invectives of Hugh de Digne delivered at the council of Lyons, 1245.19111911    Coulton’s ed., pp. 261 sq.

Bernard of Cluny and other poets of the time lashed the Curia for its simony.19121912    Bernard of Cluny in his de contemptu mundi has the following lines:—
   Roma dat omnibus omnia, dantibus omnia Romae

   Cum pretio: quia jure ibi via, jus perit omne

   Ut rota labitur, ergo vocabitur hinc rota a Roma

   Roma nocens nocet, atque viam docet ipsa nocendi

   Jura relinquere, lucra requirere, pallia vendi
bitter invective against the wide-open mouths of the cardinals which only money could fill. In one of them, the Ruin of Rome, the city is compared to the waters between Scylla and Charybdis, more capacious of gold than of ships."

"The meeting place of our pirates, the cardinals"


Ibi latrat Scylla rapax et Charybdis auri capax

Potius quam navium, ibi cursus galearum

Et concursus piratarum, id est cardinalium.

There, at that deep gulf, are the Syrtes and Sirens who threaten the whole world with shipwreck, the gulf which has the mouth of a man but the heart of a devil. There the cardinals sell the patrimony, wearing the aspect of Peter and having the heart of Nero, looking like lambs and having the nature of wolves.19131913    The Latin Poems of Walter Mapes, ed. by T. Wright, London, 1841, p. 218.id to the lame man "silver and gold have I none.’ " "Nor," was Thomas’ reply, "has his successor the power now to lay his hand on the lame man and heal him."



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