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Pope Benedict XII
Little is known of the origins of Jacques Fournier. He is believed to have been born in Saverdun in the Comté de Foix around the 1280s to a family of modest means. He became a Cistercian monk and left to study at the University of Paris. In 1311 he was made Abbot of Fontfroid and quickly became known for his intelligence and rigorous organization. In 1317 he was promoted to be Bishop of Pamiers . There he pursued a rigorous witch hunt for heretics, which won him plaudits from the Vatican but alienated him from the local population. His effect on the simple Cathars of Montaillou high in the Ariège was documented by the historian Emmanuel Le Roy Ladurie's pioneering work of microhistory Montaillou, village occitan. In 1326, successful at rooting out the last, it was thought, of the heretics of the south, he was made Bishop of Mirepoix. A year later he was made a Cardinal.
He succeeded Pope John XXII as Pope in 1334, being elected on the first conclave ballot. He reportedly exclaimed "You have elected a jackass!" upon his naming as Pope. But he did not carry out the policy of his predecessor. He practically made peace with the Emperor Louis, and as far as possible came to terms with the Franciscans, who were then at odds with the Roman see.
He was a reforming pope, and tried to curb the luxury of the monastic orders, but without much success. He also ordered the construction on the Palais des Papes in Avignon. He spent most of his time working on questions of theology, he rejected many of the ideas developed by John XXII and campaigned against the Immaculate Conception. He engaged in long theological debates with other noted figures of the age such as William of Ockham and Meister Eckhart.
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