Amazing articles on just about every subject...


Two French Philips

( Originally Published 1912 )



THE law of nations that gave the pope the right to protect the person and property of a crusader in the kingdom of any Christian prince whatsoever was thoroughly understood by the princes of the middle ages, and none made protest against it, although some violated it. It grew out of the necessities of the time. If there was to be any united action of Christian warriors against the infidel —and political wisdom no less than religious zeal pointed out the desirability of such Christian concert —some warder there must be to protect the holdings of the absent lord. They didn't trust their neighbors much in that freebooter age. They did trust the pope. Knightly honor was a fine, high-sounding thing, but papal justice was considered a safer dependence. Thus the papacy became the great court of equity of Christendom, to which the injured turned naturally and promptly for redress. Its competence was never questioned then, although its decrees might be evaded and at times disobeyed.

It was by no means a light or a safe function to exercise, this of bending to justice the proud and unbridled monarchs of young Europe. The naked hand that was stretched forth to take the loot from the iron-gloved fist of a robber prince, took the chance of being crushed. The priest, who wore but the frail vestments of his office, ran the risk of being bruised among the jostling warriors in their harness of steel. Yet the courage of that great court seems to have sustained it always. Time and again popes rushed on what seemed like certain destruction, leaving the issue to God. The annals are full of their expressions of human despair not for themselves, but for the church, and yet there must have been underneath that despair a faith in their cause that was sublime; for in the face of the calamities their human vision foresaw, they pressed on to the end in the course they had adopted.

If it was priestcraft, it was a craft such as no priesthood elsewhere has ever exhibited. If it was political wisdom, it transcended the wisdom of human politicians.

It was from the exercise of his judicial function in the case of Richard of England that Pope Celestine turned to admonish the powerful warrior Philip Augustus, crusader and Christian king of France. A man just humanly wise would not have sought this additional trouble, for Celestine had difficulties enough. Richard—that same Richard who is the idol of English chivalry, the Lion-heart of romance-was taken a prisoner on his way home from Palestine by Leopold, duke of Austria, who held him for ransom. Henry, the German emperor, was implicated in this bit of brigandage, and the wife of Richard appealed to the pope against both of them. Immediately the pope demanded from the duke and the emperor the release of the royal crusader. Leopold insisted on his ransom, and was excommunicated. Richard, free now, appealed to the pope to have the money restored to him, and the pope again summoned to the bar of justice the great emperor.

While this controversy was on, and the pope was deep in the work of enforcing justice, Philip Augustus of France fell in love with a beautiful girl who is known in history as Agnes of Meran. There was an obstacle in the path of his heart's desire : he had a living wife. Some time before he had married the sister of King Canute II of Denmark, Ingeburge, a fair, high-spirited, and virtuous princess. Ingeburge was the fifth cousin of Isabella, the first wife of Philip, and this relationship served for a pretext upon which a synod of political bishops granted the king a divorce. Ingeburge's angry protest resulted in her imprisonment, and she laid her complaint before the pope through the ambassadors of her brother, the Danish monarch.

Celestine, as a preliminary, set aside the decree of the Synod of Compiègne and sent his own legates to France to examine into the merits of the king's case. At the same time he warned Philip against marrying again, but his admonition the king disregarded; his nuptials with the fair Agnes were solemnized, and Ingeburge was imprisoned and treated with greater harshness than before.

Celestine died, and Innocent III ascended to the throne of the popes. In its order there came before Innocent this case of the King of France, and in September of the year 1198 the pope sent a letter to the king by the hand of Cardinal Petrus. In this letter the pope protests the reluctance with which he takes any action against France, but declares that his stern duty obliges him to take all means to turn Philip from the path of sin, particularly as his example is encouraging lesser princes to break their marriage vows. Philip remained obdurate, and Petrus, in pursuance of his commission, convoked the Council of Dijon, where was discussed the interdict under which it was proposed to lay France. The king appeared before the council and pleaded for time for reflection, and it was granted to him. But Philip could not bear the separation from Agnes, and at length Petrus summoned the Council of Vienne and pronounced the interdict, in the name of the pope, on January 14, 1200.

The anger of the king was raging. He cursed the pope; he declared he would become a Mohammedan; he banished the bishops who had attended the council, and laid a heavy hand on the priests in whose silent churches no mass was said.

But the pope remained firm; the land lay under the interdict; the priests of the church gave no sacrament; and the king's anger gave place to distress. He assured the pope of his submission, and Innocent sent a kinsman of the monarch to France to lift the interdict. The churches were opened, the mass was celebrated, all the functions of religion were again exercised, to the great joy of the people. For seven months the pall had rested on France.

The pope made arrangements for the Synod of Sois-sons, and bade Ingeburge and her brother forward their witnesses. The council convened, and the case came for trial before it. But Philip anticipated the verdict; he admitted the claim of Ingeburge, and promised to restore her to her proper place as queen.

He complained bitterly to Pope Innocent, however, and this was Innocent's reply : that he could not deviate from the right path and offend the Heavenly King for the sake of an earthly one. Still Philip sought for a long period to have the divorce case reopened; even after the death of Agnes he could not forgive her rival. The pope did declare the two children of Agnes legitimate, on the ground that she had married Philip in good faith after the publication of the decree of the Synod of Compiègne; but in 1212 he wrote to Philip saying that the divorce the monarch sought could not be granted, and urging the king to cease his importunities. Philip then took Ingeburge into his palace, and his will, which was published after his death, is full of praise of her virtue and devotion.

This is an incident in history which Professor Draper calls an interference with the civil affairs of France upon the "pretext" of composing a matrimonial difficulty. Before passing on from this to the greater struggle of a century later, from Philip the Great to Philip the Fair, let us give sufficient consideration to one phase of it. When the king wanted his marriage annulled, he appealed to the ecclesiastical court. It was Philip who brought the matter before the church; it was Philip who assembled the Synod of Compiègne; the initiative was all with Philip. If he was angered at the determination of the judge, he was no more than has been many another unsuccessful litigant.

I always think the story of the great battle between Philip the Fair and Pope Boniface VIII should be read backward : that the conduct of the king cannot be well understood if we do not at the outset enlighten our understanding with what followed the death of Boniface. The reader of history will recall that within a year of the death of this pope a French pope ascended the throne of St. Peter and transferred his residence from Rome to Avignon in France, and that for seventy years thereafter Avignon was the seat of the papacy. It is a period known in the history of the church as the "Seventy Years' Captivity." A passion for a fair face and an imperious impatience of check and bridle are at the base of the controversy of Philip Augustus with the church, but it is a different matter with Philip the Fair. Policy moves him; a cold and calculating political design, shrewdly composed by crafty lawyers, holds his course to its prescription throughout. At the end of that design was the subjugation of the papacy, its administration under French influence and for the benefit of the French monarch. It was a lawyers' battle, for if Flotte and de Nogaret, the king's advisers, were bold and skilful, their opponent was himself a master jurist. Benedetto Gaetani, who became Pope Boniface VIII, had been educated in the famous University of Paris, and had mastered canon law at Bologna. Prior to his elevation to the supreme office he had been an active servant of the church in many lands. He had visited England and Germany, and in 1290, when Philip the Fair was a young man, Cardinal Gaetani was papal legate in France. In July, 1294, Celestine V was elected pope. He was a pious hermit, eighty years old, and he soon found that the burdens of the high office were beyond his strength. In December he voluntarily took the heavy triple crown from his own brows and laid it down. His abdication was followed by the election of Cardinal Gaetani. It was upon this point that the lawyers of Philip's court were to seize later.

Boniface had the same great ambition that had animated his predecessors : he hoped fervently for a successful crusade. To that end he shaped all his efforts: he busied himself in preparation; he planned the organization of a mighty Christian host; he gathered gold for the war-chest of the faithful. As this subject of the collection of treasure furnishes one of the points of dispute with Philip, and as the impression one gets from conventional history is that the greed of the papacy drained Europe of its wealth, it is well to devote a thought to it. To read the common histories is to acquire the belief that every pope desired to enrich himself and his relatives, and to that end he laid heavy taxes on all the Christian world. It is only by accident that the thought of another use for all the funds accumulated by the church may be stirred by reading of the beggar relieved at the monastery gate, of the great hospitals erected for the relief of the poor and the afflicted, of the schools and institutions of learning, of the mighty efforts put forth for the reclamation of the Holy Land. Ranke gives shape to the thought when he is discussing papal finances in the fifteenth century.

"There has doubtless been justice," he says, "in the complaints raised against the exactions of Rome during the fifteenth century; but it is true also that of the proceeds a small part only passed into the hands of the popes. Pius II enjoyed the obedience of all Europe, yet he once suffered so extreme a dearth of money that he was forced to restrict himself and his household to one meal a day."

Boniface found the political condition of Europe anything but favorable to his plans with regard to the East. There was war everywhere; the greed and jealousy of the Christian monarchs filled the whole land with outrage and battle. The Estates of the Church were used by the monarchs to furnish their war-chests, and, following the example of their sovereigns, the nobility entered with enthusiasm into the congenial labor of pillaging churches and monasteries. The ambition of Philip the Fair alarmed Edward I of England and King Adolphus of Germany, who joined their forces and did battle against France. It was to compose these difficulties that the pope ad-dressed himself, and he had an obvious and legitimate object in view—the pacification of Christendom and the proposed war on the infidels. He succeeded at last in persuading the Englishman and the German to accept his mediation, but while negotiations were in progress Philip again set the torch to the thatch by violently taking prisoners the Count of Flanders and his wife and daughter, the last named the betrothed of the English king. At the same time he made an alliance with the Scottish monarch and again assailed England.

Meanwhile from all the war-swept lands, but particularly from France, arose the complaints of the ecclesiastical authorities with regard to the heavy tax laid upon them by the kings. In France the raising of funds from the churches had been turned over to royal officers, who did not neglect the opportunity of lining their own pockets with the spoil of the church. These complaints reached Boniface about the same time that the Count of Flanders appealed to him against the forcible detention of his daughter in the hands of the French king. Boniface sent the Bishop of Mieux to investigate, and then, after a consultation with the cardinals, issued the bull known as Clericis laicos. That was in 1296, and the bull prohibited, on pain of excommunication, the taxation of ecclesiastical property without the consent of the pope. If such a prohibition strikes us as odd, we should remember that we live in the twentieth century, and that this was in the thirteenth; that the recognized common law is not now what it then was; and even to-day no nation taxes the property of another nation.

Philip did not question the legality of that bull, but he took measures of reprisal. He uttered a decree for-bidding foreigners to engage in commerce in France and prohibiting the exportation of treasure. This prohibition was a blow at the donations for the crusades.

The bull Ineffabilis, which the pope sent to Philip on September 25, 1296, declared that his former pronouncement was but the crystallization of well-recognized canon law, designed to prevent the abuse of power by the royal officers and not to affect bona-fide contributions to the royal treasury. Neither did it affect any tribute due under the feudal obligation. The pope declared it was far from his intention to cripple the government, that he would rather have the clergy sell the jewels from the altars than expose the kingdom to danger; but, on the other hand—and here is expressed the strange expectation of these politicians of the church—he was ready to suffer persecution, exile, and death for the liberty of the church. That was what they looked forward to when they raised up the Cross before the eyes of powerful princes : not the altitude of power and latitude of do-minion with which human statesmanship concerns itself, but persecution and exile and death.

Philip had gained victories in the field, and for a time he assumed a more peaceful attitude toward the pope. He sent a deputation to Rome, and the pope modified his bull so as to exempt from the taxation prohibition cases of necessity, the king to judge of the necessity. On his side, the king revoked his orders prohibiting the exportation of jewels and precious metals. The canonization of Louis IX, the grand-father of Philip, occurring at this time, added to the good feeling between France and Rome. This happy condition lasted until Boniface was called upon to arbitrate between France and England. The decision of the arbitrator did not please Philip; and although the French king submitted, he and his nobles began to enrich themselves at the expense of the churches. Philip seized the estate of the Bishop of Maguelonne, and took over for the royal treasury the funds bequeathed by Cardinal John of St. Cecilia to the charities. Other nobles made free with church property whenever convenient : Count Robert took with the sword the town of the Bishop of Cambray. Meanwhile the French court was a refuge for the rebellious Colonnas, who vented their spite against Boniface in the most amazing aspersions of his character and conduct.

It was to this court that Boniface sent Bernard de Saisset, Bishop of Pamiers, early in 1301, with a plea to Philip to allow the church tithes to be used for the great crusade. A rude reception the papal nuncio found in France. He was made a prisoner, despoiled of his property, and his servants were cast into cells and put to the torture in order to extract from them confessions upon which Peter Flotte might base a charge of conspiracy against the throne. Before a court assembled by Philip the bishop was haled, Flotte confronting him with his accusation of high treason and the depositions of the servants on the rack. The papal nuncio contented himself with a denial of the competency of the court, and he was convicted and placed in the custody of the Archbishop of Narbonne.

This was bitter news for the aged pontiff, beset on one side by the German monarch and threatened now with the vengeance of an angry French king. On December 5, 1301, he prepared a bull demanding the possessions and the person of his messenger from Philip. This was the famous bull that the critics of the papacy have held up as a shining example of the arrogance and far-reaching temporal aggressiveness of the church. It takes its title from its opening words, "Ausculta, fill carissimi." "Listen, dearest son," the aged pope says to the king, to whose notice he then brings all the ills the church has suffered : the attacks upon travellers on their way to and from Rome; the oppression of the church of Lyons, which was not in the kingdom of France: all the sins of the monarch, among them the debasement of the coinage which had caused so much suffering among his subjects. "God has set us, however unworthy, over kings and kingdoms," he said.

Philip had his spies in the consistory, and they brought advance information of the nature and phraseology of the bull. The words quoted above made their suggestion to the political instinct of Peter Flotte, and the scene was set for the great coup of Philip when Jacques de Norman arrived at court with the pope's message. Philip had granted audience to Jacques, who was Archbishop of Narbonne, and, seated on his throne in his great hall, with his fiery nobles around him, he awaited the stately prelate, who advanced with the document in his hand. Suddenly from the circle of courtiers sprang forth the Count of Artois, cousin of Philip and famed as a freebooter throughout the realm of France. With a rude hand he tore from the astonished archbishop the great roll and flung it among the blazing logs in the chimney-place. De Norman's angry protest was still in the air when the count placed in the king's hand the document known in history as "the short document." Flotte had made good use of the advance information; the paper the king now held contained some of the expressions of the original bull, but its principal declaration was that God had set the pope above the king in matters spiritual and temporal. The archbishop's denunciation of the forgery, his indignant declaration that the bull had contained nothing with regard to temporal matters, went unheeded; throughout the kingdom was published "the short document" and the king's letter in reply, a letter whose style was suspiciously similar to that of the counterfeited bull.

By every means that clever politicians could contrive the patriotism of France was inflamed, the cry of "papal aggression" rang from one end to the other of Philip's wide dominions. The people were told that the nation was in danger, that the Italians were to rule them by order of the pope. Not only that, but by order of a false pope, a pope illegally elected and not entitled to supremacy even in ecclesiastical matters.

Philip proclaimed himself the leader of the national movement; the defender of France against Italian aggression. On April 10, 1302, he assembled the Parliament of the Three Estates, before whom Flotte made an eloquent and impassioned speech, denouncing the papal aggression in temporal matters. Philip appealed to the delegates to stand by him "as their friend and as their king." The robber nobles, to whom the pillage of church property was a most attractive prospect, in a very hysteria of loyalty resolved to stand by the king; and the popular deputies, overawed by the fierce warriors of the superior order, and led by all the wild clamor to believe that the squadrons of the pope were already riding over the borders of France, did not demur. The clergy asked time to deliberate, but the nobles and political agents went among them with threats, and they at last signed the letters the king desired. Even then, it was "with bitter tears," as they said, that they addressed their remonstrance to the pope, refusing to obey his summons to a council in Rome because they had been forbidden by the king to go to the Eternal City. The bull Ausculta fili had commanded the clergy to attend the council in Rome in order that they might there discuss the matters in controversy between their pope and their king.

Philip could now boast that all France was behind him in his opposition to Boniface. The nobles had addressed a letter to the cardinals, complaining of the pope, and intimating that they would undertake a general crusade should the College of Cardinals "bring matters to a termination" in accordance with the king's desire. The cardinals replied with indignation that the bull had been discussed in consistory and approved by them, and that it contained no such temporal pretensions as those against which complaint was made. Boniface's answer to the bishops contains a similar denial ; he accuses Flotte of originating the intrigue, as he terms it.

Pressing now his assault upon Boniface, Philip sent his envoys and some of his clergy to a consistory held in August, 1302, over which the Cardinal Bishop of Porte presided. That dignitary gave little comfort to the French king's representatives. In his speech to the consistory he denied the authenticity of "the short document."

"If prelates are called to Rome to deliberate," he said, turning upon the French envoys, "it is not the opponents of the king, but his special confidants, who are summoned; and not to the end of the world, but to Rome."

There was found in the Church of St. Victor in Paris a codex of the address of Boniface, and although it is doubtful if it truly represents what the pope said, it probably contains much of his speech. Boniface bitterly attacked Flotte, the Count of Artois, and the Count of St. Pol. Flotte, he declared, had falsified his bull by representing the pope as having declared that the king must hold France as a fief from him.

"It is forty years," the pontiff protests, "since we mastered jurisprudence, and we know that God ordains there shall be two powers : who, then, can or dare believe that such a foolish sentiment came from us? We declare that we do not desire to trespass on the king's jurisdiction in anything. But neither the king nor any other Christian can deny that in matters of sin he is subject to us."

He has not only not sought to deprive the king of any prerogative, but, in so far as it was lawful for him to do so, he has forborne to interfere in ecclesiastical affairs within the kingdom. He consented to the appointment of the prebends to the Church of Paris by the king, stipulating only that the appointees be "masters of theology, or doctors of law, or other learned persons, and not nephews and relations of this and that person" ; but the king had appointed only "worthless favorites."

"Let the cardinals decide between us," the pontiff proposed. "Send some upright nobles to Rome—the Duke of Burgundy or the Count of Brittany, or such like—who can tell me in what I have erred and whom I have troubled."

But Philip had no intention of trusting his cause to a tribunal not under his own thumb. His agents continue to clamor in France against the Italian aggression his nobles oppress such ecclesiastics as are faithful to the church, and the roads are not safe for pilgrims on their way to Rome. In that city in October, 1302, Boniface promulgates at the great synod two bulls. The first pronounces excommunication against any one, of whatever degree, who molests travellers to or from the seat of the Holy See. The second was the celebrated bull Unam sanctam, which was an argument of the principle of the power of popes to judge princes in the administration of their states in so far as the church was affected thereby. It was simply a statement of the canon and the public law of Europe at that time, and the principle it stated was by no means that states were subject to the church, but that princes no less than subjects were accountable for their conduct to God. As the pope was the vicar of Christ, it followed that every human being was subject to the pope. As there can be no question as to the ability of Boniface as a lawyer, it may be taken for granted that what he stated was good law at that time. It was absolutely conclusive against those who admitted his major premise that the pope was the vicar of God, and not Philip or one of his advisers ever held to the contrary. The modern who reads it must keep in mind the personal character of government in that day, and the distinction between states and princes in the administration of their states, which is by no means a hair-fine distinction. Can there be any doubt that the public officer of today, mayor or governor or president, who is dishonest, or oppressive, or unjust in the administration of his office, violates the precepts of his religion, Catholic or Protestant, and is individually responsible to God? Does any church claiming divine authority hold less to-day in this regard than did Boniface VIII in the much misrepresented bull Unam sanctam?

Death deprived Philip of two of his boldest supporters. His cousin, the Count of Artois, and Peter Flotte were gone, but at his side was a counsellor less skilful but more malignant than Flotte had been. William de Nogaret, keeper of the seals and friend of the Colonnas, became all-powerful at the French court. Philip had made an answer to the pope's complaint in which he had laid the blame for some of his actions upon the shoulders of officers who had exceeded their authority, and had calmly ignored other causes of complaint. He made a vague and general promise of reform, but the pope could see in it no real intention of a change of policy.

In March, 1303, another of the spectacular incidents of the controversy interested the court. De Nogaret publicly challenged the king to protect Holy Church against Boniface, "the interloper, false pope, thief, robber, heretic, simonist," and to convoke a general council for his deposition. Philip assembled thirty of his political prelates, who heard on June 13, 1303, the charges that had been prepared. The Lord of Vezenobre, du Plessis, opened the attack. He laid at the door of Boniface every abomination the fertile mind of the day could imagine. He appealed to Philip to insist upon a general council for the trial of so great a criminal. Other nobles followed in the same strain, and then Philip promised that he would try to have a general council convened. He appealed, he said, to the future general council and the future true pope.

A petition, drawn in the spirit of this convention, was circulated for signature. The king's servants had some difficulty in getting it signed. The Abbot of Citeaux was thrown into prison for refusing to write his name to it. The Abbots of Cluny and Prémontré also suffered incarceration for the same cause, and the Dominican monks of Montpellier were driven out of the kingdom because they refused to lend their names to Philip's accusations. The king undertook to justify himself in the face of the world by letters he sent to the princes of Europe.

Meanwhile Boniface held a consistory at Anagni, and in the presence of the cardinals solemnly swore that the charges against him were false. He took over the French benefices and announced the preparation of the bull of excommunication against Philip. For, contrary to the impression one gets from conventional history, Philip had not been excommunicated by name. As one of those who had molested travellers and despoiled church property, he had fallen under the ban pronounced against such offenders in general, but he had not been pointed out by the voice of the church as one cut off and accursed.

This the court resolved to prevent, by violence if necessary. The Colonnas were kept well advised by their spies of what was passing in Anagni, and de Nogaret and Sciarra Colonna, with a huge treasure-chest, hurried into Italy. They gathered together some rebellious lords of the Papal States, and hired a band of those banditti whose swords were always on the market for any purpose whatever. With a force of these formidable free companions at his back, de Nogaret appeared before the walls of Anagni on September 7, 1303. Treachery opened the gates to him, and his mercenaries poured into the town. The papal guard was beaten back; the household of the pope fled. De Nogaret's followers pillaged the palace, destroying the archives and thus blotting out documents which might have thrown much light upon this controversy.

The wild uproar in the palace apprised Boniface that his enemies were under his roof, but there was no fear in the heart of the aged pontiff. "Open the doors of my apartments," he imperiously ordered those who still gathered around him, "for I will suffer martyrdom for the church of God! As I am taken, like Christ, by treachery, I will die as pope !"

He clothed his body with the majestic vestments of his office; he set upon his own brow, wrinkled with thought and trouble, the towering triple crown. Proudly straightening the back that eighty-six years had bowed down, he ascended the throne of Peter, and there he sat with calm eyes regarding the crowd of men in steel coats and with bloody swords who streamed into his audience-chamber. By his side were two of the princes of the church who had remained with him, the Cardinals Nicholas Boccasin and Peter d'Espagne. Before that splendid and venerable figure the rude soldiers shrank back, and, with eyes that never faltered, Boniface saw de Nogaret and Sciarra Colonna push to the front, a naked blade in the hand of the Italian. Colonna leaped up the step and drew back his mailed fist to strike, but de Nogaret pulled down his arm. The servant of the French king had insults to heap upon this old man whose tranquil eyes regarded him with so deep a pity. From his breast he drew the accusation of the Assembly of Paris, and in a loud tone he read it. Finding the pope still silent when he had concluded, his anger surged up to his brain and he cried out:

"I will have you taken to Lyons in chains to be tried by a general council and deposed !"

Then for the first time Boniface spoke.

"Here is my head and here is my neck!" he answered in the rich, firm voice that had made him noted among the preachers of the church. "For the liberty of the church I will submit, as Catholic, as lawful pope, and as vicar of Jesus Christ, to be condemned by the paterini; for I desire martyrdom for faith in Christ and his church!"

The rage of de Nogaret blazed out in an imprecation, and he grasped the pontiff and tore him from his seat. As Boniface staggered at the foot of his throne, Colonna struck him. Cries of "Malefactor !" "Cursed malefactor !" rose from the soldiers, who, steeled as they were against pity, were horrified at the violence offered to the venerable head of the faith. But Colonna and de Nogaret sternly silenced the malcontents and drove the pope to the castle of a noble in the town, who had sought his own advantage by entering into a league with the French. There an at-tempt was made to starve the pope into an agreement to abdicate, but neither blows nor privation could shake the spirit of that old man. He bore his ordeal with weakening bodily but unimpaired spiritual strength.

De Nogaret had hoped to return to France with the pope's abdication, but he was doomed to disappointment. The horrified townspeople, who had been awed by the military strength of de Nogaret's following, began to murmur, and the sense of outrage emboldened them. There were little assemblages in the smithy, in the shop of the barber, in front of the doors of the substantial citizens; the tradesmen in the market-place glowered at the swaggering free companions in their iron headpieces. It needed but a leader to gather these together, and the leader was found in Cardinal del Fiesco. Three days after the attack upon Boniface the cry of "Long live the pope ! Death to the traitors!" resounded in the quiet streets of Anagni, and de Nogaret and his band found themselves furiously assailed by a mob of townspeople headed by the cardinal. Despite their discipline, they were driven outside the walls. The pope was released. He called a consistory at once, and his first words were a proclamation of pardon to those who had subjected him to so much pain and indignity.

Meanwhile the Colonnas had gathered partisans and were besieging Anagni. The news of the attack spread over the country, and in Rome the Orsini, hereditary enemies of the Colonnas, prepared to take partisan advantage of the situation. Gathering their men-at-arms, they rode with all speed to Anagni and relieved the town. They brought Boniface back with them to Rome. But the privations to which he had been subjected were too much for the frame of so old a man: thirty-five days only he survived the outrage of Anagni.

Benedict XI reigned only six months, but it was sufficient for him to express his horror over the attack upon the person of his predecessor. There followed him in the papal chair Clement V, the first of a long succession of French popes. Philip now believed he had won the long fight; henceforth the popes were to dwell at Avignon. But hatred of the pontiff who had so long defied him, or perhaps a desire for the vindication in the eyes of the world which the condemnation of that pope's memory might give him, urged him to importune Clement to call a council for the trial of the old charges. At last Clement yielded so far that he convened the general council. But there the artificiality of Philip's case became so apparent, and so many of the learned and saintly fathers of the church came forward to defend Boniface's memory, that the French politicians considered it expedient to divert public attention by sensational charges made against the Knights Templars. The pope insisted on some disposition of the case of Boniface, although Philip desired simply to have it dropped. Finally, however, there appeared before the council three knights in armor, and before the bar of that ecclesiastical court they threw down their gauntlets, while the herald proclaimed their readiness to defend with their bodies the holiness of life of Boniface. None appeared to gainsay them. Thus they settled the case according to the custom of those days.



Home | More Articles | Email: info@oldandsold.com