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Pope Boniface IX
Boniface IX, born Piero Tomacelli (1356 - October 1, 1404), was the second Roman pope of the Scism, (November 2, 1389 - October 1, 1404). During his time the antipope Clement VII continued to hold state as pope in Avignon under the protection of the French monarchy.
Piero (Perino, Pietro) Tomacelli came of an ancient but impoverished baronial family of Naples. An unsympathetic German contemporary source, Dietrich of Nieheim, asserted that he was illiterate (nesciens scribere etiam male cantabat); neither a trained theologian nor skilled in the business of the Curia, he was tactful and prudent in a difficult era. Germany, England, Hungary, Poland, and the greater part of Italy accepted him as pope, (he and the Avignon pope Clement VII having mutually excommunicated one another) but the day before Tomacelli's election Clement had just crowned a French prince, Louis II of Anjou, King of Naples. The youthful Ladislaus was rightful heir of Charles III of Naples, assassinated in 1386, and Margaret of Durazzo, scion of a line that had traditionally supported the popes in their struggles in Rome with the anti-papal party in the city itself. Boniface saw to it that Ladislas was crowned King of Naples (at Gaeta May 29, 1390) and worked with him for the next decade to expel the Angevin forces from southern Italy.
In the course of his reign Boniface finally extinguished the troublesome independence of the commune of Rome and established temporal control, though it required fortifying not only the Castel Sant'Angelo, but the very bridges, and for long seasons he was forced to reside in more peaceful surroundings, at Assisi or Perugia. He also took over the port of Ostia from its cardinal-bishop. In the Papal States Boniface gradually regained control of the chief castles and cities, and he re-founded the States as they would appear through the 15th century.
Clement VII died at Avignon, September 16, 1394, but the French cardinals quickly elected a successor, on September 28: Cardinal Pedro de Luna, who took the name Benedict XIII. Over the next few years Boniface was entreated to abdicate, even by his strongest supporters: Richard II of England (1396), the Diet of Frankfort (1397), and King Wenceslaus of Germany (at Reims, 1398). But he refused. Pressure for an ecumenical council also grew as the only way to breach the Great Schism, but the conciliar movement made no headway during Boniface's papacy.
During the reign of Boniface two jubilees were celebrated at Rome. The first, in 1396, had been declared by his predecessor Urban VI, and was largely frequented from Germany, Hungary, Poland, Bohemia, and England. Several cities of Germany obtained the "privileges of the jubilee" as indulgences were called, but the preaching of indulgences gave rise to abuses and scandal. The jubilee of 1400 drew to Rome great crowds of pilgrims, particularly from France, in spite of a disastrous plague. Boniface remained in the city
In the latter part of 1399 there arose bands of self-flagellating penitents, known as the Bianchi, or Albati ("White Penitents"), especially in Provence, where the Albigenses had been extirminated less than a century before, and spreading to Spain and northern Italy. These evoked uneasy memories of the mass processions of wandering flagellants of the Black Death period, 1348-49. They went in procession from city to city, clad in white garments, with faces hooded, and wearing on their backs a red cross, following a leader who carried a large cross. Rumors of imminent divine judgment and visions of the Virgin Mary abounded. They sang the newly popular hymn Stabat Mater during their processions. For a while, as the White Penitents approached Rome, gaining adherents along the way, Boniface and the Curia supported their penitential enthusiasm, but when they reached Rome Boniface had their leader burnt at the stake, and they soon dispersed. "Boniface gradually discountenanced these wandering crowds, an easy prey of agitators and conspirators, and finally dissolved them." as the Catholic Encyclopedia reports.
In England the anti-papal preaching of John Wyclif supported the opposition of the king and the higher clergy to Boniface's habit of granting English benefices as they fell vacant to favorites in the Roman Curia. Boniface introduced a novelty in the form of revenue known as annates perpetuĉ, withholding half the first year's income of every benefice granted in the Roman Court. The English Parliament confirmed and extended the statutes of Provisors and Prĉmunire of Edward III, giving the king veto power over papal appointments in England. Boniface was defeated in the face of a unified front, and the long controversy was finally settled, to the English king's satisfaction. Nevertheless, at the Synod of London (1396), the English bishops convened to condemn Wyclif.
In Germany the Electors had met at Rhense (August 20, 1400) to depose the unworthy Wenceslaus, and had chosen in his place Rupert, Duke of Bavaria and Rhenish Count Palatine. In 1403 Boniface made the best of it and approved the deposition and recognized Rupert. In 1398 and 1399 Boniface appealed to Christian Europe in favor of the Byzantine emperor Emmanuel, threatened at Constantinople by Sultan Bajazet, but there was little enthusiasm for a new crusade at such a time. St Bridget of Sweden was canonized by Boniface, October 7, 1391. The universities of Ferrara (1391) and Fermo (1398) owe him their origin, and that of Erfurt its confirmation (1392).
In 1404 he died after a brief illness.
Boniface IX was a frank politician, strapped for cash like the other princes of Europe, as the costs of modern warfare rose and supporters needed to be encouraged by gifts, for 14th century government depended upon such personal support as a temporal ruler could gather and retain. All of the princes of the late 14th century were accused of avaricious money-grubbing by contemporary critics, but among them contempoaries ranked Boniface exceptional. Traffic in benefices, the sale of dispensations, and the like, did not cover the loss of local sources of revenue in the long absence of the papacy from Rome, foreign revenue diminished by the schism, expenses for the pacification and fortification of Rome, the constant wars necessitated by French ambition and the piecemeal reconquest of the Papal States. Boniface certainly provided generously for his mother, his brothers Andrea and Giovanni, and his nephews in the spirit of the day. The Curia was perhaps equally responsible for new financial methods that were destined in the next century to arouse bitter feelings against Rome, particularly in Germany.
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