Biography of Papa Bonifacio VIII (1294-1303)

Pope of the Catholic Church born at Anagni about 1235 and died at Rome, 11 October 1303. Equipped with an acute political instinct and a connoisseur of the canons of the Church, he/she wanted to keep intact the rights and privileges of the papacy received from his predecessors, Gregory VII and Pope Innocent III. However it failed to exercise the Supreme sovereignty over Christian princes and could not carry out its project joined the Christianity to fight the Turks, marking the beginning of the decline of the power of the papacy his nine years of pontificate.

Biographical synthesis

Belonging to a noble Catalan family established in Italy, first in Gaeta and then in Anagni, was son of a such Loffred and his real name was Benedetto Gaetano. Through his mother, he/she was connected to the House of Segni, which had given several Popes to Christianity, among them Pope Innocent III, Gregory IX and Alejandro IV. He/She studied at Todi and Spoleto and also in Paris, obtaining the doctorate in Civil law and completed his education with the study of the canons in Anagni, Todi, Paris and Rome. In 1265 he/she was part of the papal delegation to England, headed by Cardinal Fieschi, it had as a mission to mediate between Henry III and the rebel barons. In 1276 it became part of the Curia and acquired a notable influence from its office of notary Apostolic. It reached the cardinalship in 1281 and 1291 Pope Nicolás IV named cardenal-sacerdote of the title of San Silvestro and San Martino ai Monti. He/She worked as a papal legacy in France and Sicily and was a close advisor of Pope Celestine V, who, before his unusual decision to abdicate, urged him so he/she issued a Constitution that declares the legality of the papal abdication and the obligation of the College of Cardinals to accept it.

December 13, 1294 he/she abdicated Pope Celestine V and eleven days later the Gaetano Cardinal was elected Pope at the conclave in the Castel Nuovo of Naples. It took the name of Bonifacio VIII and was crowned and consecrated in Rome December 24, 1294. The next day he/she issued his first encyclical in which he/she announced the resignation of his predecessor and his own elevation to the highest dignity of Christianity. Then, with the approval of the Cardinals, revoked all the rights and privileges granted by Celestino. To avoid a possible schism, Bonifacio VIII ordered the guard to Pietro da Morrone (Celestino V) at Castello di Fumone (Frosinone), where it remained until his death (1296).

Policy in Italy

The first issue of which Bonifacio VIII dealt was the pacification of Sicily, claimed by Carlos II of Naples and by Jaime II of Aragon. The second was crowned King in Palermo in 1286 and was excommunicated by usurping a fief of the Holy See. June 21, 1295 the Pope ratified the agreement reached in 1291 between Carlos II and Jaime II, according to which the Aragonese it agreed to surrender the island to the Neapolitan in Exchange for his marriage with Blanche of Naples, daughter of Carlos, which would accompany a dowry of 70,000 pounds of silver. Boniface VIII restored peace between the papacy and Jaime II and compensated him for the loss of Sicily with the delivery of Corsica and Sardinia. But the Sicilians rebelled against French domination and they offered the Crown to Federico, Jaime II younger brother. The papal legacy was expelled from the island and Federico was crowned in Palermo March 25, 1296. Bonifacio started the war and appointed Jaime II captain general of the Church, throwing it against his own brother. Peace thanks to the intervention of Prince Carlos de Valois was reached in 1302. The Pope recognized Federico as vassal of the Holy See and allowed him to remain in possession of the island until his death, time that Sicily would happen at the hands of the King of Naples.

Bonifacio also acted as a mediator between the republics of Genoa and Venice, which came by a war for more than forty years. The 24 June 1296 Pope proclaimed a truce and urged both States to send ambassadors to Rome. It was the refusal of the Genoese that prevented that it is arrived at an agreement. Peace was only reached in 1299, depletion of both contenders. The intervention of the papal to restore peace in Florence also had no result. The cardinal d'Acqasparta Mateo was sent to the city as papal legate, with the Mission of restoring harmony between blacks and whites matches, but failed and the city was put into question. In 1301 the Pope Carlos de Valois appointed captain general of the Church and sent him to pacify Florence, but instead, stood on the side of the black party and submitted to the city a terrible devastation, that resulted in the exile of all the faithful to the white party, among them, the poet Dante.

The Pope also had enemies within Rome itself, where the main opposition came from the College of Cardinals, and especially Jacopo Colonna and his nephew Pietro Colonna, who allied themselves with the political enemies of the Pope, Jaime II of Aragón and Federico II of Sicily. The efforts of the Pope to break this Alliance did not serve of anything and the Cardinals were excommunicated on 10 may 1297. They responded with attacks on several churches in Rome and with the reading of a manifesto which declared invalid the election of Bonifacio VIII and appealed to the convocation of a Council, but the Pope replied that they had been one of its main sponsors from the outset and had taken part with him in the various consistories and signing of documentsratifying in addition the excommunication. In December 1297 the Pope proclaimed the crusade against his enemies, whose castles and fortresses were conquered, the main one, that of Palestrina (1298). The Colonna implored forgiveness and got him, but the Pope refused to return them their Cardinal sees dignities, which sparked a new revolt of the family, which on this occasion was quickly turned off. Finally the troublemakers were again excommunicated, outcasts and their possessions scattered among relatives of the Pope and other nobles.

Intervention abroad in Italy

In 1295 Bonifacio VIII appointed papal Isarnus, Archbishop of Carcassonne, legacy to solve in Denmark the prison of the Archbishop of Grund, Jens Grand, by King Eric VI. The Pope decided in favor of Grand and excommunicated the King of Denmark refused to accept the papal decision and the Kingdom was called into question. Eric underwent in 1303 and Grand was transferred to the headquarters of Riga, while the headquarters of Grund was delivered to Isarnus. Boniface VIII also intervened in Hungary, supporting the ambitions of Naples Caroberto wrap the Crown of St. Stephen, but the Magyar nobles chose AndrésIII, and at his death to Ladislao, son of Wenceslaus II of Bohemia. The Pope launched injunctions which did not have any result and the conflict expanded when Wenceslao II accepted the Crown of Poland of the Polish nobles. The succession in Hungary and Poland was not resolved until the pontificate of Boniface, Pope Clement V'ssuccessor.

Boniface VIII refused to intervene in the Affairs of Germany, despite the requests of the two contenders for the Crown of the Holy Roman Empire, Austria Albertoand Adolfo de Nassau, in the summer of 1298. The war between the two led to the death of Adolfo July 2, 1298, but the Pope refused to Crown Alberto, accusing him of being responsible for the death of Adolfo. In 1302 Alberto sent agents to Boniface to download accusations that weighed upon him and the 30 April 1303 obtained Pontifical recognition. Shortly after the Pope received the pledge of allegiance of the new emperor and a promise not to send Imperial vicars to Tuscany or Lombardy without papal permission, over the next five years. In 1298 Boniface received requests for help from the Scottish Regency Council, who complained of the feudal superiority of England. The Pope sent a memorial to Eduardo I, where he/she reminded him that Scotland had been a papal fief since ancient times. The English monarch said that England had never been subjected to foreign courts and would not make it this time, and soon the cause was lost to Rome before the unstoppable superiority of England over Scotland.

Boniface VIII and Felipe the beautiful one

The Pope conflicts with Felipe IV the fair started when in 1296 the French bishops complained to Rome levies to which the Gallic Church was subjected to cover the war against England. Bonifacio issued the bull Clericis lay, which prohibited the secular powers claim tributes and the clerics deliver them, without the authorization of the Holy See. This raised the ire of Felipe the beautiful one, which, in response, enacted an Ordinance that prohibited exports of precious metals and restricted the ability of foreign merchants in his Kingdom, greatly hurting the Roman vacation, by what the Pope had to rectify with the bull Etsi status (1297), which renounced exercise the universalist claims set forth in the preceding bull in France. In addition, on 11 August 1297 the Pope agreed to the canonization of Luis IX of France, grandfather of Felipe IV. Finally, in 1298 the monarchs of France and England signed the truce of two years advocated by the Pope. But continued the ominous fiscal pressure of the Crown of France over the clergy and in 1301 Bonifacio sent as papal legacy before Felipe Saissiers Bernard, Bishop of Pamiers, but this was accused of treason and Felipe IV sent to Rome to Guillaume de Nogaret to receive papal confirmation of the termination of its legacy and its delivery to the secular arm. Instead, the Pope demanded the release of legacy, restored the vigor of the lay Clericis, with the bull Salvator Mundi, and published a new Bull, Asculta Filli, that setting out all the theological principles advocating the superiority of the papacy over any other power. When the document was presented to the King of France the 10 February 1302, he/she threw it into the fire and banned its publication in the United, making circular instead a fake, Deum time, probably work of Pierre Flote, who excused the actions of Felipe IV, and denied the heresy. The monarch forbade the French clerics travel to Rome, as well as send any tribute there and they were on the side of the King, writing a letter to Bonifacio in which denied the temporal power of the Church over the Kingdom of France. Finally, in August 1302, the Cardinal of Porto declared in a public consistory in which were the representatives of the King, the Pope had never claimed any temporal sovereignty over France, but that his speech had responded to its obligation to deal with sin (ratione pecati); but when the Cardinals demanded a satisfaction for the burning of the bull and personal attacks that Boniface had received, Felipe IV replied with the confiscation of the property of the prelates that they had shown on the side of Rome.

Boniface VIII summoned a general Council in Rome for the 30 October 1302. It was attended by four archbishops, thirty-five bishops, six Abbots, and numerous doctors in canyons. In this Synod were published two new bulls; one of them offered protection to the clergy who wanted to travel to Rome; the other was the famous Unam Sanctam (November 18, 1302), probable composition of the Archbishop of Bourges, Aegidius Colonna, in which is stated in unequivocal terms the theoretical foundations of the Papal theocracy. In February 1303 the Pope sent to France as legate with peacekeeping mission, Jean Lemoine, who insistently claimed recognition by the King of France of the twelve articles of the Unam Sanctam, under threat of excommunication and deposition. The King, meanwhile, denied the authority of the Pope to act as mediator in conflicts with England and Flanders and dismissed the legacy run-around. Then Felipe IV held a solemn meeting in Paris at which entrusted to Guillaume de Nogaret, which depusiese to the Pope. This obtained from the Colonna enough material to make terrible accusations against the pontiff: idolatry, heresy, infidelity, loss of the Holy land by his guilt, immorality, debauchery, Simony, etc. Felipe got the accession of many French ecclesiastics and sent letters to all European princes for their help in a future Council in which the accusations against the Pope be treated. In August 1303, in a consistory in Anagni, Boniface pleaded not guilty of all charges and set out to protect the papal authority. The University of Paris to grant degrees in theology, canons and civil law forbade and deposed the Archbishop Gerhard de Nicosia, main signatory of the schismatic resolutions of Paris; He/She stated that only the Holy See could provide the vacant seats, only the Pope had the power to convene the Council. The bull Super Petri solio, from September 8, excommunicated again to Felipe IV and freed his vassals of the pledge of allegiance. A day earlier, Guillaume de Nogaret and Sciarra Colonna, at the expense of the King of France, they entered in Anagni and captured the Pope, who was confined in the Castle. On 9 September the citizens from Anagni managed to rescue him and Boniface quickly traveled to Rome, where he/she arrived the day 13. It remained under the surveillance of the Orsini and died eight days after a violent fever. He/She was buried in the crypt of San Pedro, according to one chronicler, "with less decency of which corresponds to a Pope".

A Pope patron

Through his biographer, his nephew, Cardinal Stefaneschi, we know that Bonifacio VIII was a lover of the arts and a splendid patron, for which Giotto and other important artists of the time worked. He/She did lift splendid statues on Anagni and Perugia (which earned you the epithet of idolatry among his detractors), and also restored many churches and cathedrals, including the Roman San Pedro and San Juan de Letran. He/She did cultivate the art of the miniature, arriving in his time Vatican Illuminators at the level of the French miniaturists and employed the sculptor Arnolfo di Cambio, who was who built his sarcophagus.

The Pope was also interested in the sciences and was the founder of the University of Rome, known as Sapienza (1303). Under his patronage began to rebuild the Vatican Library. Boniface VIII was one of the most important canonists of the Church and Church general enriched the legislation with the enactment in 1298 a large number of own constitutions and their predecessors. After a short transition, he/she was succeeded by Clement V.


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WOOD, C. "The beautiful" Felipe and Bonifacio VIII, against the papacy. Mexico, 1968.

XAVIER, A. Bonifacio VIII: Church and State, church or State, church with State, church without a State, State, Church under the State Church of the State Church. Barcelona, 1971.