The Great Western Schism

The Great Western Schism (1378 – 1415) should not be confused with the Great Schism of 1054, which was the separation of the Roman Catholic Church and the Eastern Orthodox Church (see this article). This schism was a temporary one where there were two popes.

The Italian Pope Urban VI was appointed in 1378. He was well known for his even temperament. However, when he was elected he became slightly erratic and would strike clergy and papal officers for no apparent reason. This strange behavior led the Cardinals to elect a second pope, Clement VII.

Pope Clement VII was French. But, when he came to take up the office of pope, Urban would not resign. So, Clement moved to Avignon, France and Urban stayed in Rome, Italy. Thus the Great Western Schism began—a temporary separation of France and allies from Italy and their allies.

The end of this absurd Western Schism came with the Council of Constance (1414 – 1418). In order to solve the issue a third pope was elected in 1415, Pope Martin V. However, it was not until 1418 that Urban and Clement resigned from office and the Great Western Schism came to an end.

 

The Great Schism

The Great Schism in 1054 was the separation of the Eastern Orthodox Church from the Roman Catholic Church in the West. This division occurred due to differences between the two churches.

One irreconcilable difference was that they both had separate liturgies. The rituals were different and the Eastern Church used icons to represent saints and holy figures such as Jesus. There was also a language barrier. While in the East they used Greek, in the Western Catholic Church Latin was spoken.

However, probably the greatest animosity resulted from the fact that the Byzantine Church had a lesser status than then Western Church. Constantinople, the capital of the Byzantine Empire, declared that they were the new Rome, as they had been the remnant of the Old Roman Empire. But the West disagreed saying that Rome was fit to be the center of the Church because the city was founded by the Apostles.

The last straw to this intellectual battle came when the Patriarch of Constantinople, Michael Cerularius, ordered all Western churches in the East to be closed. Finally, in 1054 the two churches separated and have remained so ever since.

The Hundred Years War

The useless, boring, nerve wrecking, futile Hundred Years War (1337 – 1453) was between the rival kingdoms of England and France. The cause of this ridiculous war was a feud over the land of Aquitane, France. The English ruled Aquitane but because it was located in France, the English had to pay allegiance to the French monarch. They refused to do so.

The English king, Edward III, also laid a claim to the throne of France. He argued that his mother was the daughter of the French king, Philip IV. Therefore he was the grandson of Philip IV. However, the French refuted this by saying that because Edward’s lineage was through a woman, it was illegitimate.

Finally, the French and English kings decided upon war, as the nobles thought it was the best and easiest method of gaining the rival’s kingdom. So the House of Plantagenet (English) and the House of Valois (French) embarked upon a war that would last over a hundred years. Continue reading

Pope Boniface VIII vs. King Philip IV

Pope Boniface VIII (r. 1294 – 1303) was elected pope after the resignation of Pope Celestine V in December 1294. An amusing disagreement the pope had with Dante Alighieri was over the Divine Comedy. Dante had placed the pope in the eighth circle of hell along with those who had committed simony (see this article). The pope was outraged, but Dante refused to change the text!

Pope Boniface VIII
Pope Boniface VIII

Boniface is best remembered for his conflict with the arrogant King Philip IV of France (also known as Philip the Fair–not due to his fairness but because of his apparent good looks). This conflict began in 1296 because the king, wanting revenue for war, taxed the French clergy without first getting permission from the Pope. However, the true cause of this conflict, and many others to come, was that the secular rulers were gaining too much power over the Church and the popes wanted to prevent this. Continue reading