Boniface VIII, POPE (BENEDETTO GAETANI), b. at Anagni about 1235; d. at Rome, October 11, 1303. He was the son of Loffred, a descendant of a noble family originally Spanish, but long established in Italy—first at Gaeta and later at Anagni. Through his mother he was connected with the house of Segni, which had already given three illustrious sons to the Church, Innocent III, Gregory IX, and Alexander IV. Benedetto had studied at Todi and at Spoleto in Italy, perhaps also at Paris, had obtained the doctorate in canon and civil law, and been made a canon successively at Anagni, Todi, Paris, Lyons, and Rome. In 1265 he accompanied Cardinal Ottobuono Fieschi to England, whither that prelate had been sent to restore harmony between Henry III and the rebellious barons. It was not until about 1276 that Gaetani entered upon his career in the Curia, where he was, for some years, actively engaged as consistorial advocate and notary Apostolic, and soon acquired considerable influence. Under Martin IV, in 1281, he was created Cardinal-Deacon of the title of S. Nicolo in carcere Tulliano, and ten years later, under Nicholas IV, Cardinal–Priest of the title of SS. Silvestro e Martino ai Monti. As papal legate he served with conspicuous ability in France and in Sicily (H. Finke, Aus den Tagen Bonifaz VIII, Munster, 1902, 1 sqq., 9 sqq.).
On the 13th of December, 1294, the saintly but wholly incompetent hermit-pope Celestine V, who five months previously, as Pietro di Murrhone, had been taken from his obscure mountain cave in the wilds of the Abruzzi and raised to the highest dignity in Christendom, resigned the intolerable burden of the papacy. The act was unprecedented and has been frequently ascribed to the undue influence and pressure of the designing Cardinal Gaetani. That the elevation of the inexperienced and simple-minded recluse did not commend itself to a man of the stamp of Gaetani, reputed the greatest jurist of his age and well-skilled in all the arts of curial diplomacy, is highly probable. But Boniface himself declared, through Aegidius Colonna, that he had at first dissuaded Celestine from taking the step. And it has now been almost certainly established that the idea of resigning the papacy first originated in the mind of the sorely perplexed Celestine himself, and that the part played by Gaetani was at most that of a counsellor, strongly advising the pontiff to issue a constitution, either before or simultaneously with his abdication, declaring the legality of a papal resignation and the competency of the College of Cardinals to accept it. [See especially H. Schulz, Peter von Murrhone—Papst Coelestin V—in Zeitschrift fur Kirchengeschichte, xvii (1897), 481 sqq.; also Finke, op. cit., 39 sqq.; and R. Scholz, Die Publizistik zur Zeit Philipps des Schonen und Bonifaz VIII, Stuttgart, 1903, 3.] Ten days after Celestine the Fifth’s gran rifiuto the cardinals went into conclave in the Castel Nuovo at Naples, and on the 24th of December, 1294, by a majority of votes elected Cardinal Benedetto Gaetani, who took the name of Boniface VIII. (For details of the election see Finke, op. cit., 44-54.) With the approval of the cardinals, the new pope immediately revoked (December 27, 1294) all the extraordinary favors and privileges which “in the fullness of his simplicity” Celestine V had distributed with such reckless prodigality. Then, early in January of the following year, in spite of the rigour of the season, Boniface set out for Rome, determined to remove the papacy as soon as possible from the influence of the Neapolitan court. The ceremony of his consecration and coronation was performed at Rome, January 23, 1295, amid scenes of unparalleled splendor and magnificence. King Charles II of Naples and his son Charles Martel, titular king and claimant of Hungary, held the reins of his gorgeously accoutred snow-white palfrey as he proceeded on his way to St. John Lateran, and later, with their crowns upon their heads, served the pope with the first few dishes at table before taking their places amongst the cardinals. On the following day the pontiff issued his first encyclical letter, in which, after announcing Celestine’s abdication and his own accession, he depicted in the most glowing terms the sublime and indefectible nature of the Church.
The unusual step taken by Celestine V had aroused much opposition, especially among the religious parties in Italy. In the hands of the Spirituals, or Fraticelli, and the Celestines—many of whom were not as guileless as their saintly founder—the former pontiff, if allowed to go free, might prove to be a dangerous instrument for the promotion of a schism in the Church. Boniface VIII, therefore, before leaving Naples, ordered Celestine V to be taken to Rome in the custody of the Abbot of Monte Cassino. On the way thither the saint escaped and returned to his hermitage near Sulmona. Apprehended again, he fled a second time, and after weary weeks of roaming through the woods of Apulia reached the sea and embarked on board a vessel about to sail for Dalmatia. But a storm cast the luckless fugitive ashore at Vieste in the Capitanata, where the authorities recognized and detained him. He was brought before Boniface in his palace at Anagni, kept in custody there for some time, and finally transferred to the strong Castle of Fumone at Ferentino. Here he remained until his death ten months later, May 19, 1296. The detention of Celestine was a simple measure of prudence for which Boniface VIII deserves no censure; but the rigorous treatment to which the old man of over eighty years was subjected—whoever may have been responsible for it—will not be easily condoned. Of this treatment there can now no longer be any question. The place wherein Celestine was confined was so narrow “that the spot whereon the saint stood when saying Mass was the same as that whereon his head lay when he reclined” (quod, ubi tenebat pedes ille sanctus, dum missam diceret, ibi tenebat caput, quando quiescebat), and his two companions were frequently obliged to change places because the constraint and narrowness made them ill. (In this connection see the very important and valuable paper “S. Pierre Celestin et ses premiers Biographes” in “Analecta Bolland.”, XVI, 365-487; cf. Finke, op. cit., 267.)
Thoroughly imbued with the principles of his great and heroic predecessors, Gregory VII and Innocent III, the successor of Celestine V entertained most exalted notions on the subject of papal supremacy in ecclesiastical as well as in civil matters, and was ever most pronounced in the assertion of his claims. By his profound knowledge of the canons of the Church, his keen political instincts, great practical experience of life, and high talent for the conduct of affairs, Boniface VIII seemed exceptionally well qualified to maintain inviolate the rights and privileges of the papacy as they had been handed down to him. But he failed either to recognize the altered temper of the times, or to gauge accurately the strength of the forces arrayed against him; and when he attempted to exercise his supreme authority in temporal affairs as in spiritual, over princes and people, he met almost everywhere with a determined resistance. His aims of universal peace and Christian coalition against the Turks were not realized; and during the nine years of his troubled reign he scarcely ever achieved a decisive triumph. Though certainly one of the most remarkable pontiffs that have ever occupied the papal throne, Boniface VIII was also one of the most unfortunate. His pontificate marks in history the decline of the medieval power and glory of the papacy.
Boniface first endeavored to settle the affairs of Sicily, which had been in a very distracted condition since the time of the Sicilian Vespers (1282). Two rivals claimed the island, Charles II, King of Naples, in right of his father Charles of Anjou, who had received it from Clement IV, and James II, King of Aragon, who derived his claims from the Hohenstaufen, through his mother Constance, the daughter of Manfred. James II had been crowned King of Sicily at Palermo in 1286, and had thereby incurred the sentence of excommunication for daring to usurp a fief of the Holy See. On his succession to the throne of Aragon, after the death of his brother Alfonso III, in 1291, James agreed to surrender Sicily to Charles II on condition that he should receive the latter’s daughter, Blanche of Naples, in marriage, together with a dowry of 70,000 pounds of silver. Boniface VIII, as liege lord of the island, ratified this agreement June 21, 1295, and further sought to reconcile the conflicting elements by restoring James II to peace with the Church, confirming him in his possession of Aragon, and granting him the islands of Sardinia and Corsica, which were fiefs of the Holy See, in compensation for the loss of Sicily. By these measures Boniface VIII merely adhered to the traditional policy of the papacy in dealing with Sicilian affairs; there is no evidence to show that, either before or shortly after his election, he had pledged himself in any way to recover Sicily for the House of Anjou. Sicily was not, however, pacified by this agreement between the pope and the kings of Aragon and Naples. Threatened with a renewal of the detested rule of the French, the inhabitants of that island asserted their independence, and offered the crown to Frederick, the younger brother of James II. In an interview with Frederick at Velletri, the pope sought to dissuade him from accepting the offer by holding out prospects of a succession to the throne of Constantinople and a marriage with Princess Catherine of Courtenay, granddaughter and heir of Baldwin II, the last Latin Emperor of the East. But the young prince would not be dissuaded. The papal legate was expelled from the island, and, against the protests of Boniface VIII, Frederick was crowned ling of Sicily at Palermo, March 25, 1296. He was at once excommunicated and the island placed under interdict. Neither the king nor his people paid any heed to the censures. At the instigation of the pope a war ensued, in which James of Aragon, as Captain-General of the Church, was compelled to take part against his own brother. The contest was brought to a close (1302) through the efforts of Prince Charles of Valois, whom the pope had called to his assistance in 1301. Frederick was to be absolved from the censures he had incurred, to marry Eleanora, younger daughter of Charles II, and to retain Sicily during his lifetime. After his death the island should revert to the King of Naples. Though frustrated in his hopes, Boniface VIII ratified the treaty June 12, 1303, and agreed to recognize Frederick as vassal of the Holy See.
In the meantime Boniface VIII had directed his attention also to the north of Italy, where, during a period of forty years, the two rival republics of Venice and Genoa had been carrying on a bitter contest for commercial supremacy in the Levant. A crusade was wellnigh impossible without the active cooperation of these two powers. The pope, therefore, commanded a truce until June 24, 1296, and ordered both the contestants to send ambassadors to Rome with a view to arranging terms of peace. The Venetians were inclined to accept his mediation; not so the Genoese, who were elated by their success. The war continued till 1299, when the two republics were obliged finally to conclude peace from sheer exhaustion, but even then the intervention of the pope was rejected.
The efforts made by Boniface VIII to restore order in Florence and Tuscany proved equally futile. During the closing years of the thirteenth century the great Guelph city was torn asunder by the violent dissensions of the Bianchi and the Neri. The Bianchi or Whites, of Ghibelline tendencies, represented the popular party and contained some of the most distinguished men in Florence—Dante Alighieri, Guido Cavalcanti, and Dino Compagni. The Neri or Blacks, professing the old Guelph principles, represented the nobles or aristocracy of the city. Each party as it gained the ascendancy sent its opponents into exile. After a vain attempt to reconcile the leaders of the two parties, Vieri dei Cerchi and Corso Donati, the pope sent Cardinal Matteo d’Acquasparta as papal legate to mediate and establish peace at Florence. The legate met with no success and soon returned to Rome leaving the city under an interdict. Towards the end of 1300, Boniface VIII summoned to his aid Charles of Valois, brother of Philip the Fair. Appointed Captain-General of Church and invested with the governorship of Tuscany (in consequence of the vacancy of the empire), the French prince was given full powers to effect the pacification of the city. Valois arrived at Florence on November 1, 1301. But instead of acting as the official peace-maker of the pope, he conducted himself as a ruthless destroyer. After five months of his partisan administration, the Neri were supreme and many of the Bianchi exiled and ruined—among them Dante Alighieri. Beyond drawing on himself and the pope the bitter hatred of the Florentine people, Charles had accomplished nothing. (Levi, Bonifazio VIII e le sue relazioni col commune di Firenze, in Archiv. Soc. Rom. di Storia Patria, 1882, V, 365-474. Cf. Franchetti, Nuova Antologia, 1883, 23-38.) It may be noted here that many scholars of repute seriously question Dante’s famous embassy to Boniface VIII in the latter part of 1301. The only contemporary evidence to support the poet’s mission is a passage in Dino Compagm, and even that is looked upon by some as a later interpolation.
While thus endeavoring to promote peaceful relations between various states in Northern and Southern Italy, Boniface had himself become engaged in a desperate struggle at Rome with two rebellious members of the Sacred College, Jacopo Colonna and his nephew Pietro Colonna. The Colonna cardinals were Roman princes of the highest nobility and belonged to a powerful Italian family that had numerous palaces and strongholds in Rome and in the Campagna. The estrangement which took place between them and Boniface, early in 1297, was owing chiefly to two causes. Jacopo Colonna, upon whom the administration of the vast Colonna family possessions had been conferred, violated the rights of his brothers, Matteo, Ottone, and Landolfo, by appropriating the property rightfully belonging to them, and bestowing it on his nephews. To obtain redress they appealed to the pope, who decided in their favor, and repeatedly admonished the cardinal to deal justly with his brothers. But the cardinal and his nephews bitterly resented the pope’s intervention and obstinately refused to abide by his decision. Moreover, the Colonna cardinals had seriously compromised themselves by maintaining highly treasonable relations with the political enemies of the pope—first with James II of Aragon, and later with Frederick III of Sicily. Repeated warnings against this alliance having availed nothing, Boniface, in the interests of his own security, ordered the Colonna to receive papal garrisons in Palestrina—the ancestral home of the family—and in their fortresses Zagarolo and Colonna. This they declined to do and forthwith broke off all relations with the pope. On the 4th of May, 1297, Boniface summoned the cardinals to his presence, and when, two days later (May 6), they appeared, he commanded them to do three things: to restore the consignment of gold and silver which their relative Stefano Colonna had seized and robbed from the pope’s nephew, Pietro Gaetani, as he was bringing it from Anagni to Rome; to deliver up Stefano as a prisoner to the pope; and to surrender Palestrina together with the fortresses Zagarolo and Colonna. They complied with the first of these demands, but rejected the other two. Thereupon Boniface on the 10th of May, 1297, issued a Bull, “In excelso throno”, depriving the rebellious cardinals of their dignities, pronouncing sentence of excommunication against them, and ordering them, within a space of ten days, to make their submission under penalty of forfeiting their property. On the morning of the same day (May 10) the Colonna had attached to the doors of several Roman churches, and even laid upon the high altar of St. Peter’s, a manifesto, in which they declared the election of Boniface VIII invalid on the ground that the abdication of Celestine V was uncanonical, accused Boniface of circumventing his saintly predecessor, and appealed to a general council from whatever steps might be taken against them by the pope. This protest, compiled at Longhezza, with the assistance of Fra Jacopone da Todi and of two other Spirituals, had somewhat anticipated the papal Bull, in answer to which, however, the Colonna issued the second manifesto (May 16) containing numerous charges against Boniface and appealing anew to a general council. The pope met this bold proceeding with increased severity. On the 23rd of May, 1297, a second Bull, “Lapis abscissus”, confirmed the previous excommunication, and extended it to the five nephews of Jacopo with their heirs, declared them schismatics, disgraced, their property forfeited, and threatened with the interdict all such places as received them. Boniface at the same time pointed out how the Colonna cardinals had themselves favored his election (in the conclave they had voted for Gaetani from the first, as they had been among those who counselled Celestine’s abdication), had publicly acknowledged him as pope, attended his coronation, entertained him as their guest at Zagarolo, taken part in his consistories, signed all state documents with him, and had for nearly three years been his faithful ministers at the altar. The rebels replied with a third manifesto (June 15), and immediately set about preparing their fortresses for defense.
Boniface now withdrew from Rome to Orvieto, where, on the 4th of September, 1297, he declared war and entrusted the command of the pontifical troops to Landolfo Colonna, a brother of Jacopo. In December of the same year he even proclaimed a crusade against his enemies. The fortresses and castles of the Colonna were taken without much difficulty. Palestrina (Praeneste), the best of their strongholds, alone held out for some time, but in September, 1298, it too was forced to surrender. Dante says it was got by treachery by “long promises and short performances” as Guido of Montefeltro counselled, but the tale of the implacable Ghibelline has long since been discredited. Clad in mourning, a cord around their necks, the two cardinals, with other members of the rebellious family, came to Rieti to cast themselves at the feet of the pontiff and implore his forgiveness. Boniface received the captives amid all the splendors of the papal court, granted them pardon and absolution, but refused to restore them to their dignities. Palestrina was razed to the ground, the plough driven through and salt strewn over its ruins. A new city—the Citta Papale—later replaced it. When shortly afterwards the Colonna organized another revolt (which was however speedily suppressed), Boniface once more proscribed and excommunicated the turbulent clan. Their property was confiscated, and the greater part of it bestowed on Roman nobles, more especially on Landolfo Colonna, the Orsini, and on the relatives of the pope. The Colonna cardinals and the leading members of the family now withdrew from the States of the Church—some seeking shelter in France, others in Sicily. (Denifle, see below, and Petrine, Memorie Praenestine, Rome, 1795.)
Early in the reign of Boniface, Eric VIII of Den-mark had unjustly imprisoned Jens Grand, Archbishop of Lund. Isarnus, Archpriest of Carcassonne, was commissioned (1295) by Boniface to threaten the king with spiritual penalties, unless the archbishop were freed, pending the investigation of the matter at Rome, whither the king was invited to send representatives. The latter were actually sent, but were met at Rome by Archbishop Grand, who had in the meanwhile escaped. Boniface decided for the archbishop, and, when the king refused to yield, excommunicated him and laid the kingdom under interdict (1298). In 1303 Eric yielded, though his adversary was transferred to Riga and his see given (1304) to the legate Isarnus. In Hungary Charobert or Canrobert of Naples claimed the vacant crown as descendant of St. Stephen on the distaff side, and was supported by the pope in his quality of traditional overlord and protector of Hungary. The nobles, however, elected Andrew III, and on his early demise (1301) chose Ladislaus, son of Wenceslaus II of Bohemia. They paid no heed to the interdict of the papal legate, and the arbitration of Boniface was finally declined by the envoys of Wenceslaus. The latter had accepted from the Polish nobles the Crown of Poland, vacant owing to the banishment (1300) of Ladislaus I. The solemn warning of the pope and his protest against this violation of his right as overlord of Poland were unheeded by Wenceslaus, who soon, moreover, allied himself with Philip the Fair.
In Germany, on the death of Rudolph of Hapsburg (1291), his son Albert, Duke of Austria, declared himself king. The electors, however, chose (1292) Count Adolph of Nassau, whereupon Albert submitted. Adolph’s government proving unsatisfactory, three of the electors deposed him at Mainz (June 23, 1298) and enthroned Albert. The rival kings appealed to arms; at Gollheim, near Worms, Adolph lost (July 2, 1298) both life and crown. Albert was reelected king by the Diet of Frankfort and crowned at Aachen (August 24, 1298). The electors had sought regularly from Boniface recognition of their choice and imperial consecration. He refused both on the plea that Albert was the murderer of his liege lord. Very soon Albert was at war with the three Rhenish archbishop-electors, and in 1301 the pope summoned him to Rome to answer various charges. Victorious in battle (1302), Albert sent agents to Boniface with letters in which he denied having slain King Adolph, nor had he sought the battle voluntarily, nor borne the royal title while Adolph lived, etc. Boniface eventually recognized his election (April 30, 1303). A little later (July 17) Albert renewed his father’s oath of fidelity to the Roman Church, recognized the papal authority in Germany as laid down by Boniface (May, 1300), and promised to send no imperial vicar to Tuscany or Lombardy within the next five years without the pope’s consent, and to defend the Roman Church against its enemies. In his attempt to preserve the independence of Scotland, Boniface was not successful. After the overthrow and imprisonment of John Baliol, and the defeat of Wallace (1298), the Scots Council of Regency sent envoys to the pope to protest against the feudal superiority of England. Boniface, they said, was the only judge whose jurisdiction extended over both kingdoms. Their realm belonged of right to the Roman See, and to none other. Boniface wrote to Edward I (June 27, 1299) reminding him, says Lingard, “almost in the very words of the Scottish memorial”, that Scotland had belonged from ancient times and did still belong to the Roman See; the king was to cease all unjust aggression, free his captives, and pursue at the court of Rome within six months any rights that he claimed to the whole or part of Scotland. This letter reached the king after much delay, through the hands of Robert of Winchelsea, Archbishop of Canterbury, and was laid by Edward before a parliament summoned to meet at Lincoln. In its reply (September 27, 1300) the latter denied, over the names of 104 lay lords, the papal claim of suzerainty over Scotland, and asserted that a king of England had never pleaded before any judge, ecclesiastical or secular, respecting his rights in Scotland or any other temporal rights, nor would they permit him to do so, were he thus inclined (Lingard, II, ch. vii). The king, however (May 7, 1301), supplemented this act by a memoir in which he set forth his royal view of the historical relations of Scotland and England. In their reply to this plea the representatives of Scotland reassert the immemorial suzerainty of the Roman Church over Scotland “the property, the peculiar allodium of the Holy See“; in all controversies, they said, between these equal and independent kingdoms it is to their equal superior, the Church of Rome, that recourse should be had. This somewhat academic conflict soon seemed hopeless at Rome, owing to the mutual violence and quarrels of the weaker party (Bellesheim, “Hist. of the Cath. Church of Scotland“, London, 1887, II, 9-11), and is of less importance than the strained relations between Boniface and Edward, apropos of the unjust taxation of the clergy.
In 1294, of his own authority, Edward I sequestered all moneys found in the treasuries of all churches and monasteries. Soon he demanded and obtained from the clergy one half their incomes, both from lay fees and benefices. In the following year he called for a third or a fourth, but they refused to pay more than a tenth. When, at the Convocation of Canterbury (November, 1296), the king demanded a fifth of their income, the archbishop, Robert of Winchelsea, in keeping with the new legislation of Boniface, offered to consult the pope, whereupon the king outlawed the clergy, secular and regular, and seized all their lay fees, goods, and chattels. The northern Province of York yielded; in the Province of Canterbury many resisted for a time, among them the courageous archbishop, who retired to a rural parish. Eventually he was reconciled with the king, and his goods were restored, but as Edward soon after demanded in his own right a third of all ecclesiastical revenues, his recognition of the Bull “Clericis laicos” was evanescent.
The memorable conflict with Philip the Fair of France began early in the pope’s reign and did not end even with the tragic close of his pontificate. The pope’s chief aim was a general European peace, in the interest of a crusade that would break forever, at what seemed a favorable moment, the power of Islam. The main immediate obstacle to such a peace lay in the war between France and England, caused by Philip’s unjust seizure of Gascony (1294). The chief combatants carried on the war at the expense of the Church, whose representatives they sorely taxed. Such taxation had often been permitted in the past by the popes, but only for the purpose (real or alleged) of a crusade; now it was applied in order to raise revenue from ecclesiastics for purely secular warfare. The legates sent by Boniface to both kings a few weeks after his elevation accomplished little; later efforts were rendered useless by the stubborn attitude of Philip. In the meantime numerous protests from the French clergy moved the pope to action, and with the approval of his cardinals he published (February 24, 1296) the Bull “Clericis laicos”, in which he forbade the laity to exact or receive, and the clergy to give up, ecclesiastical revenues or property, without permission of the Apostolic See; princes imposing such exactions and ecclesiastics submitting to them were declared excommunicated. Other popes of the thirteenth century, and the Third and Fourth Lateran Councils (1179, 1215), had legislated similarly against the oppressors of the clergy; apart, therefore, from the opening line of the Bull, that seemed offensive as reflecting on the laity in general (Clericis laicos infensos esse oppido tradit antiquitas, i.e., “All history shows clearly the enmity of the laity towards the clergy,”—in reality a byword in the schools and taken from earlier sources), there was nothing in its very general terms to rouse particularly the royal anger. Philip, however, was indignant, and soon retaliated by a royal ordinance (August 17) forbidding the export of gold or silver, precious stones, weapons, and food from his kingdom. He also forbade foreign merchants to remain longer within its bounds. These measures affected immediately the Roman Church, for it drew much of its revenue from France, inclusive of crusade moneys, whence the numerous papal collectors were henceforth banished. The king also caused to be prepared a proclamation (never promulgated) concerning the obligation of ecclesiastics to bear the public burden and the revocable character of ecclesiastical immunities. (For the generous contributions of the French clergy to the national burdens, see the exhaustive statistics of Bourgain in “Rev. des quest. hist.”, 1890, XLVIII, 62.) In the Bull “Ineffabilis Amor” (September 20) Boniface protested vigorously against these royal acts, and explained that he had never meant to forbid voluntary gifts from the clergy or contributions necessary for the defense of the kingdom, of which necessity the king and his council were the judges. During 1297 the pope sought in various ways to appease the royal embitterment, notably by the Bull “Etsi de Statu” (July 31), above all by the canonization (August 11, 1297) of the king’s grandfather, Louis IX. The royal ordinance was withdrawn, and the painful incident seemed closed. In the meantime the truce which in 1296 Boniface had tried to impose on Philip and Edward was finally accepted by both kings early in 1298, for a space of two years. The disputed matters were referred to Boniface as arbiter, though Philip accepted him not as pope, but as a private person, as Benedetto Gaetano. The award, favorable to Philip, was issued (June 27) by Boniface in a public consistory.
In the Jubilee of 1300 the high spirit of Boniface might well recognize a compensation and a consolation for previous humiliations. This unique celebration, the apogee of the temporal splendor of the papacy (Zaccaria, De anno Jubilaei, Rome, 1775), was formally inaugurated by the pope on the feast of Sts. Peter and Paul (June 29). Giovanni Villani, an eyewitness, relates in his Florentine chronicle that about 200,000 pilgrims were constantly in the City. It was necessary to make an opening in the wall of the Leonine City, near the Tiber, so that the multitude might have a larger freedom of movement. Pilgrims came from every country in Europe and even from distant Asia. Ominously enough, if we except the elder son of the King of Naples, none of the kings or princes of Europe came to pay their respects to the Vicar of Christ. The second crown in the papal tiara, indicative of the temporal power, is said to date from the reign of Boniface, and may have been added at this time.
In the meantime Philip continued in a merciless way his fiscal oppression of the Church, and abused more than ever the so-called regalia, or royal privilege of collecting the revenues of a diocese during its vacancy. Since the middle of 1297 the exiled Colonna had found refuge and sympathy at the court of Philip, whence they spread calumnious charges against Boniface, and urged the calling of a general council for his deposition. The royal absolutism was now further incited by suggestions of a universal Christian dominion under the hegemony of France. The new state was to secure, besides the Holy Land, a universal peace. Both empires, the Byzantine and the German, were to be incorporated in it, and the papacy was to become a purely spiritual patriarch-ate, its temporalities administered by the French king, who would pay the pope an annual salary corresponding to his office. Such was the new Byzantinism outlined in a work on the recovery of the Holy Land (“De recuperatione terrae sanctae”, in Bongars, “testa Dei per Francos”, II, 316-61, ed. Langlois, Paris, 1891), and though only the private work of Pierre Dubois, a civil servant of Philip, it probably reflected some fantastic plan of the king (Finke, Zur Charakteristik, 217-18).
In the first half of 1301 Boniface commissioned Bernard de Saisset, Bishop of Pamiers (Languedoc), as legate to Philip. He was to protest against the continued oppression of the clergy, and to urge the king to apply conscientiously to a crusade the ecclesiastical tithes collected by papal indults. For various reasons De Saisset was not a welcome envoy (Langlois, Hist. de France, ed. Lavisse, III, 2, 143). On his return to Pamiers he was accused of treasonable speech and incitement to insurrection, was brought to Paris (July 12, 1301), thence to Senlis, where he was found guilty in a trial directed by Pierre Flote, and known to modem historians (Von Reumont) as “a model of injustice and violence”. De Saisset in vain protested his innocence and denied the competency of the civil court; he was committed temporarily to the care of the Archbishop of Narbonne, while Pierre Flote and Guillaume de Nogaret went to Rome to secure from Boniface the degradation of his legate and his delivery to the secular authority. Boniface acted with decision. He demanded from the king the immediate liberation of De Saisset and wrote to the Archbishop of Narbonne to detain the latter no longer. By the Bull “Salvator Mundi” he withdrew the indults by which the French king collected canonically ecclesiastical revenue for the defense of the kingdom, i.e., he reestablished in vigour the “Clericis laicos”, and in the famous Bull “Ausculta Fili” (Listen, O Son) of December 5, 1301, he stood forth as the mouthpiece of the medieval papacy, and as the genuine successor of the Gregories and the Innocents. In it he appeals to the king to listen to the Vicar of Christ, who is placed over kings and kingdoms (cf. Jer., i, 10). He is the keeper of the keys, the judge of the living and the dead, and sits on the throne of justice, with power to extirpate all iniquity. He is the head of the Church, which is one and stainless, and not a many-headed monster, and has full Divine authority to pluck out and tear down, to build up and plant. Let not the king imagine that he has no superior, is not subject to the highest authority in the Church. The pope is concerned for the welfare of all kings and princes, but particularly for the house of France. He then goes on to relate his many grievances against the king, the application of ecclesiastical goods to secular uses, despotic procedure in dragging ecclesiastics before civil courts, hindrance of episcopal authority, disrespect for papal provisions of benefices, and oppression of the clergy. He will no longer be responsible for the protection (custodia) of the monarch’s soul, but has decided, after consulting his cardinals, to call to Rome for November 4, 1302, the French bishops and doctors of theology, principal abbots, etc., to “dispose what is suitable for the correction of abuses, and for the reformation of the king and the kingdom”. He invites the king to be present personally or through representatives, warns him against his evil counsellors, and finally reminds him eloquently of the royal neglect of a crusade. An impartial reader, says Von Reumont, will see that the document is only a repetition of previous papal utterances and resumes the teaching of the most esteemed medieval theologians on the nature and extension of papal authority. It was presented to the king (February 10, 1302) by Jacques de Normans, Archdeacon of Narbonne. The Comte d’Artois tore it from the archdeacon’s hands and cast it into the fire; another copy destined for the French clergy was suppressed (Hefele, 2d ed., VI, 329). In the place of the “Ausculta Fili“, there was at once circulated a forged Bull, “Deum time” (Fear God), very probably the work of Pierre Flote, and with equal probability approved by the king. Its five or six brief haughty lines were really drawn up to include the fateful phrase, Scire to volumus quod in spiritualibus et temporalibus nobis subes (i.e., We wish thee to know that thou art our subject both in spiritual and in temporal matters). It was also added (an odious thing for the grandson of St. Louis) that whoever denied this was a heretic.
In vain did the pope and the cardinals protest against the forgery; in vain did the pope explain, a little later, that the subjection spoken of in his Bull was only ratione peccati, i.e., that the morality of every royal act, private or public, fell within the papal prerogative. The general tone of the “Ausculta Fili“, its personal admonitions couched in severe Scriptural language, its proposal to provide from Rome a good and prosperous administration of the French Kingdom, were not calculated to soothe at this juncture the minds of Frenchmen already agitated by the events of the preceding years. It is also improbable that Boniface was personally very popular with the French secular clergy, whose petition (1290) against the encroachments of the regular orders he had rejected in his rough sarcastic manner, when legate at Paris (Finke in “Romische Quartalschrift”, 1895, IX, 171; “Journal des Savants”, 1895, 240). The national concern for the independence and honor of the French king was further heightened by a forged reply of the king to Boniface, known as “Sciat maxima tua fatuitas”. It begins: “Philip, by the grace of God King of the Franks, to Boniface who acts as Supreme Pontiff. Let thy very great fatuity know that in temporal things we are subject to no one, …. Such a document, though probably never officially presented at Rome (Hefele), certainly made its way thither. After forbidding the French clergy to go to Rome or to send thither any moneys, and setting a watch on all roads, ports, and passes leading to Italy, Philip forestalled the pope’s November council by a national assembly at Paris (April 10, 1301) in the Cathedral of Notre Dame. The forged Bull was read before the representatives of the three estates; the pope was violently denounced by Pierre Flote as aiming at temporal sovereignty in France; the king besought as their friend, and as their ruler commanded all present to aid him with their counsel. Nobles and burghers offered to shed their blood for the king; the clergy, confused and hesitating, sought delay, but finally yielded so far as to write to the pope quite in the sense of the king. The lay estates directed to the cardinals a defiant protest, in which they withheld the papal title from Boniface recounted the services of France to the Roman Church, and reechoed the usual royal complaints, above all the calling to Rome of the principal ecclesiastics of the nation. The letter of the bishops was directed to Boniface and begged him to maintain the former concord, to withdraw the call for the council, and suggested prudence and moderation, since the laity was prepared to defy all papal censures. In the reply of the cardinals to the lay estates, they assert their complete harmony with the pope, denounce the aforesaid forgeries, and maintain that the pope never asserted a right of temporal sovereignty in France.
In his reply Boniface roundly scourged the bishops for their cowardice, human respect, and selfishness; at the same time he made use, after his fashion, of not a few expressions offensive to the pride of French ecclesiastics and poured sarcasm over the person of the powerful Pierre Flote (Hefele). Finally, in a public consistory (August, 1302) at which the envoys of the king were present, the Cardinal–Bishop of Porto formally denied that the pope had ever claimed any temporal sovereignty over France and asserted that the genuine Bull (Ausculta Fili) had been well weighed and was an act of love, despite the fatherly severity of certain expressions. He insisted that the king was no more free than any other Christian from the supreme ecclesiastical jurisdiction of the pope, and maintained the unity of ecclesiastical authority. The Apostolic See, he said, was not foreign territory, nor could its nominees be rightly called foreigners. For the rest, the pope had full authority in temporal matters ratione peccati, i.e., in as far as the morality of human acts was concerned. He went on, however, to say that in temporal jurisdiction one must distinguish the right (de jure) and its use and execution (usus et exsecutio). The former belonged to the pope as Vicar of Christ and of Peter; to deny it was to deny an article of faith, i.e., that Christ judges the living and the dead. This claim, says Hefele (2d ed., VI, 346), “must have appeared to the French as quite destructive of the aforesaid limitation ratione peccati. Gregory IX had maintained (1232, 1236), in his conflict with the Greeks and with Frederick II, that Constantine the Great had given temporal power to the popes, and that emperors and kings were only his auxiliaries, bound to use the material sword at his direction (Conciliengesch., 2d ed., V, 102, 1044). This theory, however, had never yet been officially put forth against France, and was all the more likely to rouse opposition in that nation, since it was now a question not of a theory, but of a practical situation, i.e., of the investigation of Philip’s government and the menace of his deposition.” He refers to the closing words of the discourse with which Boniface supplemented that of the Cardinal–Bishop of Porto, viz., that his predecessors had deposed three French kings, and, though unequal to such popes, he would, however sorrowfully, depose King Philip, sicut unum garcionem (like a servant); he thinks it not impossible (Hergenrother, Kirche and Staat, 229; Hefele, IV, 344) that the present harsh conclusion of the discourse of Boniface Is one of the numerous forgeries of Pierre Flote and Nogaret. In the first half of this discourse the pope insists on the great development of France under papal protection, the shameless forgeries of Pierre Flote, the exclusive ecclesiastical nature of the grant (collatio) of benefices, and the papal preference for doctors of theology as against lay nepotism in matter of benefices. He is wroth over the assertion that he claimed France as a papal fief. “We have been a doctor of both laws (civil and canon) these forty years, and who can believe that such folly [fatuitas] ever entered Our head?” Boniface also expressed his willingness to accept the mediation of the Duke of Burgundy or the Duke of Brittany; the efforts of the former, however, availed not, as the cardinals insisted on satisfaction for the burning of the pa al Bull and the calumnious attacks on Boniface. The king replied by confiscating the goods of the ecclesiastics who had set out for the Roman Council, which met October 30, 1302.
There were present four archbishops, thirty-five bishops, six abbots, and several doctors. Its acts have disappeared, probably during the process against the memory of Boniface (1309-11). Two Bulls, however, were issued as a result of its deliberations. One excommunicated whoever hindered, imprisoned, or otherwise ill-treated persons journeying to, or returning from, Rome. The other (November 18, 1302) is the famous “Unam Sanctam“, probably the composition of Aegidius Colonna, Archbishop of Bourges and a member of the council, and largely made up of passages from such famous theologians as St. Bernard, Hugo of St. Victor, St. Thomas Aquinas, and others. Its chief concepts are as follows (Hergenrother-Kirsch, 4th ed., II, 593): (I) There is but one true Church, outside of which there is no salvation; but one body of Christ with one head and not two. (2) That head is Christ and His representative, the Roman pope; whoever refuses the pastoral care of Peter belongs not to the flock of Christ. (3) There are two swords (i.e., powers), the spiritual and the temporal; the first borne by the Church, the second for the Church; the first by the hand of the priest, the second by that of the king, but under the direction of the priest (ad nutum et patientiam sacerdotis). (4) Since there must be a coordination of members from the lowest to the highest, it follows that the spiritual power is above the temporal and has the right to instruct (or establish—instituere) the latter regarding its highest end and to judge it when it does evil; whoever resists the highest power ordained of God resists God Himself. (5) It is necessary for salvation that all men should be subject to the Roman Pontiff—”Porro subesse Romano Pontifici omni humanae creaturae declaramus, dicimus, definimus et pronunciamus omnino esse de necessitate salutis”. (For a more detailed account of the Bull and several controversies concerning it see Unam Sanctam.)
Philip had a refutation of the Bull prepared by the Dominican Jean Quidort (Joannes Parisiensis) in his “Tractatus de potestate regia et papali” (Goldast, Monarchia, II, 108 sq.), and the conflict passed at once from the domain of principle to the person of Boniface. The king now rejected the pope as arbiter in his disputes with England and Flanders, and gave a courteous but evasive answer to the Legate, Jean Lemoine, whom the pope sent (February, 1303) on a mission of peace, but with insistence, among other conditions, on recognition of the aforesaid rights of the papacy. Lemoine was further commissioned to declare to Philip that, in default of a more satisfactory reply to the twelve points of the papal letter, the pope would proceed spiritualiter et tenporaliter against him, i.e., would excommunicate and depose him. Boniface also sent to Lemoine (April 13, 1303) two Briefs, in one of which he declared the king already excommunicated, and in the other ordered all French prelates to come to Rome within three months.
In the meantime there was brewing at Paris the storm in which the pontificate of Boniface was so disastrously to close. Philip concluded peace with England, temporized with the Flemings, and made concessions to his subjects. Boniface on his side acknowledged, as aforesaid, the election of Albert of Austria, and brought to an end his hopeless conflict with the Aragonese King of Sicily. Otherwise he seemed politically helpless, and could only trust, as he publicly stated, in his sense of right and duty. Later events showed that in his own household he could not count on loyalty. In an extraordinary session of the French Council of State (March 12, 1303) Guillaume de Nogaret appealed to Philip to protect Holy Church against the intruder and false pope, Boniface, a simonist, robber, and heretic, maintaining that the king, moreover, ought to call an assembly of the prelates and peers of France, through whose efforts a general council might be convoked, before which he would prove his charges. Such an assembly was called for June 13, and met at the Louvre in Paris. The papal messenger with the aforesaid Briefs for the legate was seized at Troyes and imprisoned; Lemoine himself, after protesting against such violence, fled. At this assembly, packed with friends or creatures of Philip, the knight Guillaume de Plaisians (Du Plessis) submitted a solemn accusation against the pope in twenty-nine points, offered to prove the same, and begged the king to provide for a general council. The Colonna furnished the material for these infamous charges, long since adjudged calumnious by grave historians (Hefele, Conciliengesch., 2nd ed., VI, 460-63; Giovanni Villani, a contemporary, says that the Council of Vienne, in 1312, formally absolved him from the charge of heresy. Cf. Muratori, “SS. Rer. Ital.”, XIV, 454; Raynaldus, ad an. 1312, 15-16). Scarcely any possible crime was omitted—infidelity, heresy, simony, gross and unnatural immorality, idolatry, magic, loss of the Holy Land, death of Celestine V, etc. The king asserted that it was only to satisfy his conscience and to protect the honor of the Holy See that he would cooperate in the calling of a general council, asked the help of the prelates, and appealed (against any possible action of Boniface) to the future council, the future pope, and to all to whom appeal could be made. Five archbishops, twenty-one bishops, and some abbots sided with the king. The resolutions of the assembly were read to the people, and several hundred adhesions were secured from chapters, monasteries, and provincial cities, mostly through violence and intimidation. The Abbot of Meaux, Jean de Pontoise, protested, but was imprisoned. Royal letters were sent to the princes of Europe, also to the cardinals and bishops, setting forth the king’s new-found zeal for the welfare of Holy Church.
In a public consistory at Anagni (August, 1303) Boniface cleared himself on his solemn oath of the charges brought against him at Paris and proceeded at once to protect the Apostolic authority. Citations before the Holy See were declared valid by the mere fact of being affixed to the church doors at the seat of the Roman Curia, and he excommunicated all who hindered such citations. He suspended Archbishop Gerhard of Nicosia (Cyprus), the first signatory of the schismatical resolutions. Pending satisfaction to the pope, the University of Paris lost the right to confer degrees in theology and in canon and civil law. He suspended temporarily for France the right of election in all ecclesiastical bodies, reserved to the Holy See all vacant French benefices, repelled as blasphemies the calumnious charges of de Plaisians, saying, “Who ever heard that We were a heretic?” (Raynaldus, ad an. 1311, 40), and denounced the appeal to a future general council which could be convoked by none other than himself, the legitimate pope. He declared that unless the king repented he would inflict on him the severest punishments of the Church. The Bull “Super Petri solio” was ready for promulgation on September 8. It contained in traditional form the solemn excommunication of the king and the liberation of his subjects from their oath of fidelity. Philip, however, and his counsellors had taken measures to rob this step of all force, or rather to prevent it at a decisive moment. It had long been their plan to seize the person of Boniface and compel him to abdicate, or, in case of his refusal, to bring him before a general council in France for condemnation and deposition. Since April, Nogaret and Sciarra Colonna had been active in Tuscany for the formation, at Philip’s expense, of a band of mercenaries, some 2,000 strong, horse and foot. Very early on the morning of September 7 the band appeared suddenly before Anagni, under the lilies of France, shouting, “Long live the King of France and Colonna!” Fellow-conspirators in the town admitted them, and they at once attacked the palaces of the pope and his nephew. The ungrateful citizens fraternized with the besiegers of the pope, who in the meanwhile obtained a truce until three in the afternoon, when he rejected the conditions of Sciarra, viz., restoration of the Colonna, abdication, and delivery to Sciarra of the pope’s person. About six o’clock, however, the papal stronghold was penetrated through the adjoining cathedral. The soldiers, Sciarra at their head, sword in hand (for he had sworn to slay Boniface), at once filled the hall in which the pope awaited them with five of his cardinals, among them his beloved nephew Francesco, all of whom soon fled; only a Spaniard, the Cardinal of Santa Sabina, remained at his side to the end.
In the meantime the papal palace was thoroughly plundered; even the archives were destroyed. Dino Compagni, the Florentine chronicler, relates that when Boniface saw that further resistance was useless he exclaimed, “Since I am betrayed like the Savior, and my end is nigh, at least I shall die as Pope.” Thereupon he ascended his throne, clad in the pontifical ornaments, the tiara on his head, the keys in one hand, a cross in the other, held close to his breast. Thus he confronted the angry men-at-arms. It is said that Nogaret prevented Sciarra Colonna from killing the pope. Nogaret himself made known to Boniface the Paris resolutions and threatened to take him in chains to Lyons, where he should be deposed. Boniface looked down at him, some say without a word, others that he replied: “Here is my head, here is my neck; I will patiently bear that I, a Catholic and lawful pontiff and vicar of Christ, be condemned and deposed by the Paterini [heretics, in reference to the parents of the Tolosan Nogaret]; I desire to die for Christ’s faith and His Church.” Von Reumont asserts that there is no evidence for the physical maltreatment of the pope by Sciarra or Nogaret. Dante (Purgatorio, XX, 86) lays more stress on the moral violence, though his words easily convey the notion of physical wrong: “I see the flower-de-luce Anagni enter, and Christ in his own Vicar captive made; I see him yet another time derided; I see renewed the vinegar and gall, and between living thieves I see him slain.” Boniface was held three days a close prisoner in the plundered papal palace. No one cared to bring him food or drink, while the banditti quarrelled over his person, as over a valuable asset. By early morning of September 9 the burghers of Anagni had changed their minds, wearied perhaps of the presence of the soldiers, and ashamed that a pope, their townsman, should perish within their walls at the hands of the hated Francesi. They expelled Nogaret and his band, and confided Boniface to the care of the two Orsini cardinals, who had come from Rome with four hundred horsemen; with them he returned to Rome. Before leaving Anagni he pardoned several of the marauders captured by the townsmen, excepting the plunderers of Church property, unless they returned it within three days. He reached Rome, September 13, but only to fall under the close surveillance of the Orsini. No one will wonder that his bold spirit now gave way beneath the weight of grief and melancholy. He died of a violent fever, October 11, in full possession of his senses and in the presence of eight cardinals and the chief members of the papal household, after receiving the sacraments and making the usual profession of faith. His life seemed destined to close in gloom, for, on account of an unusually violent storm, he was buried, says an old chronicler, with less decency than became a pope. His body lies in the crypt of St. Peter’s in a large marble sarcophagus, laconically inscribed BONIFACIUS PAPA VIII. When his tomb was opened (October 9, 1605) the body was found quite intact, especially the shapely hands, thus disproving another calumny, viz., that he had died in a frenzy, gnawing his hands, beating his brains out against the wall, and the like (Wiseman).
Boniface was a patron of the fine arts such as Rome had never yet seen among its popes, though, as Guiraud warns us (p. 6), it is not easy to separate what is owing to the pope’s own initiative from what we owe to his nephew and biographer, the art-loving Cardinal Stefaneschi. Modem historians of Renaissance art (Mintz, Guiraud) date its first efficient progress from him. The “idolatry” accusation of the Colonna comes from the marble statues that grateful towns, like Anagni and Perugia, raised to him on public sites, “where there once were idols”, says a contemporary, an anti-Bonifacian libel (Guiraud, 4). The Anagni statue stands yet in the cathedral of that town, repaired by him. He also repaired and fortified the Gaetani palace in Anagni, and improved in a similar way neighboring towns. At Rome the Palace of the Senator was enlarged, Castel Sant’ Angelo fortified, and the Church of San Lorenzo in Panisperna built anew. He encouraged the work on the cathedral of Perugia, while that gem of ornamental Gothic, the cathedral of Orvieto (1290-1309), was largely finished during his pontificate. For the great Jubilee of 1300 he had the churches of Rome restored and decorated, notably St. John Lateran, St. Peter’s, and St. Mary Major. He called Giotto to Rome and gave him constant occupation. A portrait of Boniface by Giotto is still to be seen in St. John Lateran; in our own day M. Mintz has restored the original concept, and in it is seen the noble balcony of Cassetta, whence, during the jubilee, the pontiff was wont to bestow upon the vast multitude the blessing of Christ’s vicar. In the time of Boniface the Cosimati continued and improved their work and under the influence of Giotto rose, like Cavallini, to higher concepts of art. The delicate French miniaturists were soon equalled by the pope’s Vatican scribes; two glorious missals of Oderisio da Gubbio, “Agubbio’s honor”, may yet be seen at the Vatican, where lived and worked his disciple, likewise immortalized by Dante (Purg., XI, 79), who speaks of “the laughing leaves touched by the brush of Franco Bolognese”. Finally, sculpture was honored by Boniface in the person of Arnolfo di Cambio, who built for him the “Chapel of the Crib” in St. Mary Major, and executed (Mintz) the sarcophagus in which he was buried. Boniface was also a friend of the sciences. He founded (June 6, 1303) the University of Rome, known as the Sapienza, and in the same year the University of Fermo. Finally, it was Boniface who began anew the Vatican Library, whose treasures had been scattered, together with the papal archives, in 1227, when the Roman Frangipani passed over to the side of Frederick II and took with them the turris chartularia, i.e. the ancient repository of the documents of the Holy See. The thirty-three Greek manuscripts the Vatican Library contained in 1311 are pronounced by Fr. Ehrle the earliest known, and long the most important, medieval collection of Greek works in the West. Boniface honored with increased solemnity (1298) the feasts of the four evangelists, twelve Apostles, and four Doctors of the Church (Ambrose, Augustine, Jerome, Gregory the Great, egregios ipsius doctores Ecclesiae) by raising them to the rank of “double feasts”. He was one of the most distinguished canonists of his age, and as pope enriched the general ecclesiastical legislation by the promulgation (“Sacrosanctae”, 1298) of a large number of his own constitutions and of those of his predecessors, since 1234, when Gregory IX promulgated his five books of Decretals. In reference to this the collection of Boniface was entitled “Liber Sextus”, i.e., Sixth Book of Pontifical Constitutions (Laurin, Introd. in Corp. Juris can., Freiburg, 1889), being constructed on the same lines. Few popes have aroused more diverse and contradictory appreciations. Protestant historians, generally, and even modern Catholic writers, wrote Cardinal Wiseman in 1844, class him among the wicked popes, as an ambitious, haughty, and unrelenting man, deceitful also and treacherous, his whole pontificate one record of evil. To dissipate this grossly exaggerated and even calumnious view, it is well to distinguish his utterances and deeds as pope from his personal character, that even in his life-time seemed to many unsympathetic. Careful examination of the sources of his most famous public pronouncements has shown that they are largely a mosaic of teachings of earlier theologians, or solemn reenforcements of the canons of the Church and well-known Bulls of his predecessors. His chief aims, the peace of Europe and the recovery of the Holy Land, were those of all preceding popes. He did no more than his duty in defending the unity of the Church and the supremacy of ecclesiastical authority when threatened by Philip the Fair. His politico-ecclesiastical dealings with the kings of Europe will naturally be blamed by Erastians and by those who ignore, on the one hand, the rapacity of an Edward and the wily vindictiveness and obtuse selfishness of a Philip, and on the other, the supreme fatherly office of the medieval pope as the respected head of one mighty family of peoples, whose civil institutions were only slowly coalescing amid the decay of feudalism and ancient barbarism (Gosselin, Von Reumont), and who were long conscious that in the past they owed to the Church alone (i.e., to the pope) sure and swift justice, equitable courts and procedure, and relief from a feudal absolutism justified as yet by no commensurate public service. “The loftiest, truest view of the character and conduct of the popes has often been overlooked”, says Cardinal Wiseman (op. cit.); “the divine instinct which animated them, the immortal destiny allotted to them, the heavenly cause confided to them, the superhuman aid which strengthened them could not be appreciated but by a Catholic mind, and are too generally excluded from Protestant historians, or are transformed into corresponding human capacities, or policies, or energies, or virtues.” He goes on to say that, after examination of several popular assertions affecting the moral and ecclesiastical conduct of Boniface, this pope appeared to him in a new light, “as a pontiff who began his reign with most glorious promise and closed it amid sad calamities; who devoted, through it all, the energies of a great mind, cultivated by profound learning and matured by long experience in the most delicate ecclesiastical affairs, to the attainment of a truly noble end; and who, throughout his career, displayed many great virtues, and could plead in extenuation of his faults the convulsed state of public affairs, the rudeness of his times, and the faithless, violent character of many among those with whom he had to deal These circumstances, working upon a mind naturally upright and inflexible, led to a sternness of manner and a severity of conduct, which, when viewed through the feelings of modern times, may appear extreme, and almost unjustifiable. But after searching through the pages of his most hostile historians, we are satisfied that this is the only point on which even a plausible charge can be brought against him.”
The memory of Boniface, curiously enough, has suffered most from two great poets, mouthpieces of an ultra-spiritual and impossible Catholicism, Fra Jacopone da Todi and Dante. The former was the “sublime fool” of spiritual love, author of the “Stabat Mater“, and chief singer of the “Spirituals“, or extreme Franciscans, kept in prison by Boniface, whom he therefore satirized in the popular and musical vernacular of the peninsula. The latter was a Ghibelline, i.e., a political antagonist of the Guelph pope, to whom, moreover, he attributed all his personal misfortunes, and whom he therefore pilloried before the bar of his own justice, but in quivering lines of immortal invective whose malignant beauty will always trouble the reader’s judgment. Catholic historians like Hergenrother-Kirsch (4th ed., II, 597-98) praise the uprightness of the pope’s motives and that courage of his convictions which almost on the eve of his death made him count as straws all earthly rulers, if only he had truth and justice on his side (op. cit., II, 597, note 4). They admit, however, the explosive violence and offensive phraseology of some of his public documents, and the occasional imprudence of his political measures; he walked in the footsteps of his immediate predecessors, but the new enemies were more fierce and logical than the extirpated Hohenstaufen, and were quicker to pervert and utilize the public opinion of young and proud nationalities. A contemporary and eyewitness, Giovanni Villani, has left in his Florentine chronicle (Muratori, XIII, 348 sqq.) a portrait of Boniface which the judicious Von Reumont seems to consider quite reliable. According to it Boniface, the most clever canonist of his time, was a great-hearted and generous man and a lover of magnificence, but also arrogant, proud, and stern in manner, more feared than loved, too worldly-minded for his high office and too fond of money, both for the Church and for his family. His nepotism was open. He founded the Roman house of the Gaetani, and in the process of exalting his family drew down upon himself the effective hatred of the Colonna and their strong clansmen. Grone, a German Catholic historian of the popes, says of Boniface (II, 164) that while his utterances equal in importance those of Gregory VII and Innocent III, the latter were always more ready to act, Boniface to discourse; they relied on the Divine strength of their office, Boniface on the cleverness of his canonical deductions. For the process against his memory see Pope Clement V.