Church of Western Europe in the 14th-15th centuries

At the beginning of the XIV century. the political situation in Western Europe has radically changed. The process of centralization has become more active. National states began to form. The royal power subordinated to itself feudal nobility – secular and ecclesiastical. But the papacy, contrary to new tendencies, tried to defend and even strengthen its power over secular rulers.

On this basis, a fierce struggle broke out between Pope Boniface VIII and the French King Philip IV Krasiv. The king forbade the removal from the kingdom to Rome funds collected as a church tithe. Boniface VIII was preparing to excommunicate Philip IV from the church. But the king sent to Italy a detachment led by his adviser Guillaume de Nogaret, who took the pope into custody and treated him very rudely. As noted in the chronicle, Nogaret even hit Boniface VIII in the face with a heavy knight’s glove. Dissatisfied townspeople released the pane, but he did not tolerate humiliation and soon


The new pope, Clement V, moved the residence from Rome to Avignon. Although this city did not obey Philip IV, but was under his influence. Thus began the decline of the papacy, its so-called “Avignon captivity,” which lasted from 1309 to 1377.

For these almost 70 years Rome has become dilapidated. Most of the former papal buildings and temples were in extremely neglected condition. In the city, a struggle for power raged. It was at such a difficult time that Pope Gregory XI decided to return the papal throne to Rome. However, his sudden death in 1378 led to unexpected consequences. The College of Cardinals, which included Italians and French, did not reach an agreement: each side elected its own Pope. At the head of the Christian world, two popes appeared at once and each of them considered himself legitimate. This led to the Great Schism of the Western Church, which lasted from 1378 to 1417.

The schism caused extreme anxiety both in the church, and in secular circles. In order to end the confrontation, a church council gathered in Pisa. He dismissed both popes and elected a new one. But none of the papas-rivals recognized the validity of the decisions of the cathedral. As a result, the Christian world unexpectedly received three popes. Only the cathedral in Constance put an end to the schism – in 1417, Martin was chosen by the pope. So the Great Schism was finished.

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Church of Western Europe in the 14th-15th centuries