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§ 7. The Pontificate of John XXII 1316–1334.

Clement died April 20, 1314. The cardinals met at Carpentras and then at Lyons, and after an interregnum of twenty seven months elected John XXII., 1316–1334, to the papal throne. He was then seventy-two, and cardinal-bishop of Porto.118118    Villani, IX: 81, gives the suspicious report that the cardinals, weary of their inability to make a choice, left it to John. Following the advice of Cardinal Napoleon Orsini, he grasped his supreme chance and elected himself. He was crowned at Lyons. Dante had written to the conclave begging that it elect an Italian pope, but the French influence was irresistible.

Said to be the son of a cobbler of Cahors, short of stature,119119    Villani’s statement that he was the son of a cobbler is doubted. Ferretus of Vicenza says he was "small like Zaccheus." with a squeaking voice, industrious and pedantic, John was, upon the whole, the most conspicuous figure among the popes of the fourteenth century, though not the most able or worthy one. He was a man of restless disposition, and kept the papal court in constant commotion. The Vatican Archives preserve 59 volumes of his bulls and other writings. He had been a tutor in the house of Anjou, and carried the preceptorial method into his papal utterances. It was his ambition to be a theologian as well as pope. He solemnly promised the Italian faction in the curia never to mount an ass except to start on the road to Rome. But he never left Avignon. His devotion to France was shown at the very beginning of his reign in the appointment of eight cardinals, of whom seven were Frenchmen.

The four notable features of John’s pontificate are his quarrel with the German emperor, Lewis the Bavarian, his condemnation of the rigid party of the Franciscans, his own doctrinal heresy, and his cupidity for gold.

The struggle with Lewis the Bavarian was a little afterplay compared with the imposing conflicts between the Hohenstaufen and the notable popes of preceding centuries. Europe looked on with slight interest at the long-protracted dispute, which was more adapted to show the petulance and weakness of both emperor and pope than to settle permanently any great principle. At Henry VII.’s death, 1313, five of the electors gave their votes for Lewis of the house of Wittelsbach, and two for Frederick of Hapsburg. Both appealed to the new pope, about to be elected. Frederick was crowned by the archbishop of Treves at Bonn, and Lewis by the archbishop of Mainz at Aachen. In 1317 John declared that the pope was the lawful vicar of the empire so long as the throne was vacant, and denied Lewis recognition as king of the Romans on the ground of his having neglected to submit his election to him.

The battle at Mühldorf, 1322, left Frederick a prisoner in his rival’s hands. This turn of affairs forced John to take more decisive action, and in 1323 was issued against Lewis the first of a wearisome and repetitious series of complaints and punishments from Avignon. The pope threatened him with the ban, claiming authority to approve or set aside an emperor’s election.120120    See Müller: Kampf Ludwigs, etc., I. 61 sqq. Examinatio, approbatio ac admonitio, repulsio quoque et reprobatio. A year later he excommunicated Lewis and all his supporters.

In answer to this first complaint of 1323, Lewis made a formal declaration at Nürnberg in the presence of a notary and other witnesses that he regarded the empire as independent of the pope, charged John with heresy, and appealed to a general council. The charge of heresy was based on the pope’s treatment of the Spiritual party among the Franciscans. Condemned by John, prominent Spirituals, Michael of Cesena, Ockam and Bonagratia, espoused Lewis’ cause, took refuge at his court, and defended him with their pens. The political conflict was thus complicated by a recondite ecclesiastical problem. In 1324 Lewis issued a second appeal, written in the chapel of the Teutonic Order in Sachsenhausen, which again renewed the demand for a general council and repeated the charge of heresy against the pope.

The next year, 1325, Lewis suffered a severe defeat from Leopold of Austria, who had entered into a compact to put Charles IV. of France on the German throne. He went so far as to express his readiness, in the compact of Ulm, 1326, to surrender the German crown to Frederick, provided he himself was confirmed in his right to Italy and the imperial dignity. At this juncture Leopold died.

By papal appointment Robert of Naples was vicar of Rome. But Lewis had no idea of surrendering his claims to Italy, and, now that he was once again free by Leopold’s death, he marched across the Alps and was crowned, January 1327, emperor in front of St. Peter’s. Sciarra Colonna, as the representative of the people, placed the crown on his head, and two bishops administered unction. Villani121121    X. 55. expresses indignation at an imperial coronation conducted without the pope’s consent as a thing unheard of. Lewis was the first mediaeval emperor crowned by the people. A formal trial was instituted, and "James of Cahors, who calls himself John XXII." was denounced as anti-christ and deposed from the papal throne and his effigy carried through the streets and burnt.122122    The grounds on which John was deposed were his decisions against the Spirituals, the use of money and ships, intended for a crusade, to reduce Genoa, appropriation of the right of appointment to clerical offices, and his residence away from Rome. The document is found in Muratori, XIV., 1167-1173. For a vivid description of the enthronement and character of John of Corbara, see Gregorovius, VI. 153 sqq. John of Corbara, belonging to the Spiritual wing of the Franciscans, was elected to the throne just declared vacant, and took the name of Nicolas V. He was the first anti-pope since the days of Barbarossa. Lewis himself placed the crown upon the pontiff’s head, and the bishop of Venice performed the ceremony of unction. Nicolas surrounded himself with a college of seven cardinals, and was accused of having forthwith renounced the principles of poverty and abstemiousness in dress and at the table which the day before he had advocated.

To these acts of violence John replied by pronouncing Lewis a heretic and appointing a crusade against him, with the promise of indulgence to all taking part in it. Fickle Rome soon grew weary of her lay-crowned emperor, who had been so unwise as to impose an extraordinary tribute of 10,000 florins each upon the people, the clergy, and the Jews of the city. He retired to the North, Nicolas following him with his retinue of cardinals. At Pisa, the emperor being present, the anti-pope excommunicated John and summoned a general council to Milan. John was again burnt in effigy, at the cathedral, and condemned to death for heresy. In 1330 Lewis withdrew from Italy altogether, while Nicolas, with a cord around his neck, submitted to John. He died in Avignon three years later. In 1334, John issued a bull which, according to Karl Müller, was the rudest act of violence done up to that time to the German emperor by a pope.123123    336 sqq., 376 sqq., 406. This fulmination separated Italy from the crown and kingdom—imperium et regnum — of Germany and forbade their being reunited in one body. The reason given for this drastic measure was the territorial separation of the two provinces. Thus was accomplished by a distinct announcement what the diplomacy of Innocent III. was the first to make a part of the papal policy, and which figured so prominently in the struggle between Gregory IX. and Frederick II.

With his constituency completely lost in Italy, and with only an uncertain support in Germany, Lewis now made overtures for peace. But the pope was not ready for anything less than a full renunciation of the imperial power. John died 1334, but the struggle was continued through the pontificate of his successor, Benedict XII. Philip VI. of France set himself against Benedict’s measures for reconciliation with Lewis, and in 1337 the emperor made an alliance with England against France. Princes of Germany, making the rights of the empire their own, adopted the famous constitution of Rense,—a locality near Mainz, which was confirmed at the Diet of Frankfurt, 1338. It repudiated the pope’s extravagant temporal claims, and declared that the election of an emperor by the electors was final, and did not require papal approval. This was the first representative German assembly to assert the independence of the empire.

The interdict was hanging over the German assembly when Benedict died, 1342. The battle had gone against Lewis, and his supporters were well-nigh all gone from him. A submission even more humiliating than that of Henry IV. was the only thing left. He sought the favor of Clement VI., but in vain. In a bull of April 12, 1343, Clement enumerated the emperor’s many crimes, and anew ordered him to renounce the imperial dignity. Lewis wrote, yielding submission, but the authenticity of the document was questioned at Avignon, probably with the set purpose of increasing the emperor’s humiliation. Harder conditions were laid down. They were rejected by the diet at Frankfurt, 1344. But Germany was weary, and listened without revulsion to a final bull against Lewis, 1346, and a summons to the electors to proceed to a new election. The electors, John of Bohemia among them, chose Charles IV., John’s son. The Bohemian king was the blind warrior who met his death on the battlefield of Crécy the same year. Before his election, Charles had visited Avignon, and promised full submission to the pope’s demands. His continued complacency during his reign justified the pope’s choice. The struggle was ended with Lewis’ death a year later, 1347, while he was engaged near Munich in a bear-hunt. It was the last conflict of the empire and papacy along the old lines laid down by those ecclesiastical warriors, Hildebrand and Innocent III. and Gregory IX.

To return to John XXII., he became a prominent figure in the controversy within the Franciscan order over the tenure of property, a controversy which had been going on from the earliest period between the two parties, the Spirituals, or Observants, and the Conventuals. The last testament of St. Francis, pleading for the practice of absolute poverty, and suppressed in Bonaventura’s Life of the saint, 1263, was not fully recognized in the bull of Nicolas III., 1279, which granted the Franciscans the right to use property as tenants, while forbidding them to hold it in fee simple. With this decision the strict party, the Spirituals, were not satisfied, and the struggle went on. Coelestine V. attempted to bring peace by merging the Spiritual wing with the order of Hermits he had founded, but the measure was without success.

Under Boniface VIII. matters went hard with the Spirituals. This pope deposed the general, Raymond Gaufredi, putting in his place John of Murro, who belonged to the laxer wing. Peter John Olivi (d. 1298), whose writings were widely circulated, had declared himself in favor of Nicolas’ bull, with the interpretation that the use of property and goods was to be the "use of necessity,"—usus pauper,—as opposed to the more liberal use advocated by the Conventuals and called usus moderatus. Olivi’s personal fortunes were typical of the fortunes of the Spiritual branch. After his death, the attack made against his memory was, if possible, more determined, and culminated in the charges preferred at Vienne. Murro adopted violent measures, burning Olivi’s writings, and casting his sympathizers into prison. Other prominent Spirituals fled. Angelo Clareno found refuge for a time in Greece, returning to Rome, 1305, under the protection of the Colonna.

The case was formally taken up by Clement V., who called a commission to Avignon to devise measures to heal the division, and gave the Spirituals temporary relief from persecution. The proceedings were protracted till the meeting of the council in Vienne, when the Conventuals brought up the case in the form of an arraignment of Olivi, who had come to be regarded almost as a saint. Among the charges were that he pronounced the usus pauper to be of the essence of the Minorite rule, that Christ was still living at the time the lance was thrust into his side, and that the rational soul has not the form of a body. Olivi’s memory was defended by Ubertino da Casale, and the council passed no sentence upon his person.

In the bull Exivi de paradiso,124124    It is uncertain whether this bull was made a part of the proceedings of the Oecumenical Council of Vienne. See Hefele, VI. 550, who decides for it, and Ehrle, Archiv, 1885, p. 540 sqq. issued 1813, and famous in the history of the Franciscan order, Clement seemed to take the side of the Spirituals. It forbade the order or any of its members to accept bequests, possess vineyards, sell products from their gardens, build fine churches, or go to law. It permitted only "the use of necessity," usus arctus or pauper, and nothing beyond. The Minorites were to wear no shoes, ride only in cases of necessity, fast from Nov. 1 until Christmas, as well as every Friday, and possess a single mantle with a hood and one without a hood. Clement ordered the new general, Alexander of Alessandra, to turn over to Olivi’s followers the convents of Narbonne, Carcassonne and Béziers, but also ordered the Inquisition to punish the Spirituals who refused submission.

In spite of the papal decree, the controversy was still being carried on within the order with great heat, when John XXII. came to the throne. In the decretal Quorumdam exegit, and in the bull Sancta romana et universalis ecclesia, Dec. 30, 1317, John took a positive position against the Spirituals. A few weeks later, he condemned a formal list of their errors and abolished all the convents under Spiritual management. From this time on dates the application of the name Fraticelli125125    Hefele, VI. 581. Ehrle: Die Spiritualen in Archiv, 1885, pp. 509-514. to the Spirituals. They refused to submit, and took the position that even a pope had no right to modify the Rule of St. Francis. Michael of Cesena, the general of the order, defended them. Sixty-four of their number were summoned to Avignon. Twenty-five refused to yield, and passed into the hands of the Inquisition. Four were burnt as martyrs at Marseilles, May 7, 1318. Others fled to Sicily.126126    Ehrle: Archiv, pp. 156-158. He adduces acts of Inquisition against the Spirituals in Umbria, in the vicinity of Assisi, as late as 1341.

The chief interest of the controversy was now shifted to the strictly theological question whether Christ and his Apostles observed complete poverty. This dispute threatened to rend the wing of the Conventuals itself. Michael of Cesena, Ockam, and others, took the position that Christ and his Apostles not only held no property as individuals, but held none in common. John, opposing this view, gave as arguments the gifts of the Magi, that Christ possessed clothes and bought food, the purse of Judas, and Paul’s labor for a living. In the bull Cum inter nonnullos, 1323, and other bulls, John declared it heresy to hold that Christ and the Apostles held no possessions. Those who resisted this interpretation were pronounced, 1324, rebels and heretics. John went farther, and gave back to the order the right of possessing goods in fee simple, a right which Innocent IV. had denied, and he declared that in things which disappear in the using, such as eatables, no distinction can be made between their use and their possession. In 1326 John pronounced Olivi’s commentary on the Apocalypse heretical. The three Spiritual leaders, Cesena, Ockam, and Bonagratia were seized and held in prison until 1328, when they escaped and fled to Lewis the Bavarian at Pisa. It was at this time that Ockam was said to have used to the emperor the famous words, "Do thou defend me with the sword and I will defend thee with the pen"—tu me depfendes gladio, ego te defendam calamo. They were deposed from their offices and included in the ban fulminated against the anti-pope, Peter of Corbara. Later, Cesena submitted to the pope, as Ockam is also said to have done shortly before his death. Cesena died at Munich, 1342 He committed the seal of the order to Ockam. On his death-bed he is said to have cried out: "My God, what have I done? I have appealed against him who is the highest on the earth. But look, O Father, at the spirit of truth that is in me which has not erred through the lust of the flesh but from great zeal for the seraphic order and out of love for poverty." Bonagratia also died in Munich.127127    See Riezler, p. 124.

Later in the fourteenth century the Regular Observance grew again to considerable proportions, and in the beginning of the fifteenth century its fame was revived by the flaming preachers Bernardino of Siena and John of Capistrano. The peace of the Franciscan order continued to be the concern of pope after pope until, in 1517, Leo X. terminated the struggle of three centuries by formally recognizing two distinct societies within the Franciscan body. The moderate wing was placed under the Master-General of the Conventual Minorite Brothers, and was confirmed in the right to hold property. The strict or Observant wing was placed under a Minister-General of the Whole Order of St. Francis.128128    Magister-generalis fratrum minorum conventualium and minister-generalis totius ordinis S. Francesci. The Capuchins, who are Franciscans, were recognized as a distinct order by Paul V., 1619. Among the other schismatic Franciscan orders are the Recollect Fathers of France, who proceeded from the Recollect Convent of Nevers, and were recognized as a special body by Clement VIII., 1602. These monks were prominent in mission work among the Indians in North America. The latter takes precedence in processions and at other great functions, and holds his office for six years.

If the Spiritual Franciscans had been capable of taking secret delight in an adversary’s misfortunes, they would have had occasion for it in the widely spread charge that John was a heretic. At any rate, he came as near being a heretic as a pope can be. His heresy concerned the nature of the beatific vision after death. In a sermon on All Souls’, 1331, he announced that the blessed dead do not see God until the general resurrection. In at least two more sermons he repeated this utterance. John, who was much given to theologizing, Ockam declared to be wholly ignorant in theology.129129    In facultate theologiae omnino fait ignarus. See Müller: Kampf, etc., I. 24, note. This Schoolman, Cesena, and others pronounced the view heretical. John imprisoned an English Dominican who preached against him, and so certain was he of his case that he sent the Franciscan general, Gerardus Odonis, to Paris to get the opinion of the university.

The King, Philip VI., took a warm interest in the subject, opposed the pope, and called a council of theologians at Vincennes to give its opinion. It decided that ever since the Lord descended into hades and released souls from that abode, the righteous have at death immediately entered upon the vision of the divine essence of the Trinity.130130    Mansi, XXV. 982-984. Among the supporters of this decision was Nicolas of Lyra. When official announcement of the decision reached the pope, he summoned a council at Avignon and set before it passages from the Fathers for and against his view. They sat for five days, in December, 1333. John then made a public announcement, which was communicated to the king and queen of France, that he had not intended to say anything in conflict with the Fathers and the orthodox Church and, if he had done so, he retracted his utterances.

The question was authoritatively settled by Benedict XII. in the bull Benedictus deus, 1336, which declared that the blessed dead—saints, the Apostles, virgins, martyrs, confessors who need no purgatorial cleansing—are, after death and before the resurrection of their bodies at the general judgment, with Christ and the angels, and that they behold the divine essence with naked vision.131131   Divinam essentiam immediate, se bene et clare et aperte illis ostendentem. Mansi, XXV. 986. Benedict declared that John died while he was preparing a decision.

The financial policy of John XXII. and his successors merits a chapter by itself. Here reference may be made to John’s private fortune. He has had the questionable fame of not only having amassed a larger sum than any of his predecessors, but of having died possessed of fabulous wealth. Gregorovius calls him the Midas of Avignon. According to Villani, he left behind him 18,000,000 gold florins and 7,000,000 florins’ worth of jewels and ornaments, in all 25,000,000 florins, or $60,000,000 of our present coinage. This chronicler concludes with the remark that the words were no longer remembered which the Good Man in the Gospels spake to his disciples, "Lay up for yourselves treasure in heaven."132132    XI. 20. Another writer, Galvaneus de La Flamma, Muratori, XII. 1009 (quoted by Haller, Papsttum, p. 104), says, John left 22,000,000 florins besides other "unrecorded treasure." This writer adds, the world did not have a richer Christian in it than John XXII. Recent investigations seem to cast suspicion upon this long-held view as an exaggeration. John’s hoard may have amounted to not more than 750,000 florins, or $2,000,000133133    This is the figure reached by Ehrle, Die 25 Millionen im Schatz Johann XXII., Archiv, 1889, pp. 155-166. It is based upon the contents of 15 coffers, opened in the year 1342 at the death of Benedict XII. These coffers contained John’s treasure, and at that time yielded 750,000 florins. But it is manifestly uncertain how far John’s savings had been reduced by Benedict, or whether these coffers were all that were left by John. For example, at his consecration, Benedict gave 100,000 florins to his cardinals, and 150,000 to the churches at Rome, and it is quite likely he drew upon John’s hoard. The gold mitres, rings, and other ornaments which John’s thrift amassed, were stored in other chests. Villani got his report from his brother, a Florentine banker in the employ of the curia at Avignon. It is difficult to understand how, in making his statement, he should have gone so wide of the truth as Ehrle suggests. of our money. If this be a safe estimate, it is still true that John was a shrewd financier and perhaps the richest man in Europe.

When John died he was ninety years old.


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