Innocent VI, POPE (ETIENNE AUBERT), b. at Mont in the Diocese of Limoges (France); elected at Avignon, December 18, 1352; d. there, September 12, 1362. He began his career as professor of civil law at Toulouse where he subsequently rose to the highest judicial position. Having entered the ecclesiastical state he became successively Bishop of Noyon (1338), of Clermont (1340), cardinal-priest (1342), Cardinal–Bishop of Ostia, and Grand Penitentiary (1352). The conclave which elected him to the papacy is remarkable for the fact that the first certain election capitulation was framed by the cardinals present, each of whom bound himself to divide, in case of election, his power and revenues with the College of Cardinals. Aubert took this engagement but with the restriction: “in so far as it was not contrary to church law”. When the choice fell on him, one of his first pontifical acts declared the pact illegal and null, because it contained a limitation of the Divinely conferred papal power. The new pope also gave immediate proofs of the thoroughly ecclesiastical spirit which was to animate his policy. Shortly after his coronation the numerous ecclesiastics who had flocked to Avignon in search of preferment received a peremptory order to repair, under penalty of excommunication, to their respective places of residence. Some appointments to benefices made by his predecessor were repealed, numerous reservations abolished, and pluralities disapproved. Luxury was banished from the papal court and the obligation of following this example set by the pope imposed upon the cardinals. To the auditors of the Rota, whose services were gratuitous, a fixed income was assigned in the interest of a more impartial administration of justice. As the territory of the Papal States had been usurped by petty princes, Innocent VI sent Cardinal Gil de Albornoz (q.v.) to Italy with unlimited power. Success on the battle-field and diplomatic skill enabled this legate to restore papal authority in the States of the Church.
Pope Innocent viewed favorably the imperial coronation of the German king, Charles IV, at Rome, but at the same time exacted from him a solemn pledge that he would leave Rome the very day on which the ceremony would take place. Charles was crowned on Easter Sunday, 1355, by the Cardinal–Bishop of Ostia and faithfully observed his promise. The following year he issued the celebrated “Golden Bull”, against which the pope protested because it silently passed over the papal claims to confirm the German kings and to administer the empire during a vacancy. Objection was also made in 1359 to the emperor’s resolution to undertake a reform of the German clergy independently of the pope; Charles’s reformatory plans, however, subsequently received ecclesiastical approbation. The mutual peaceful dispositions prevented any conflict of a serious character. Innocent VI sought to terminate the war between France and England, and finally through his intervention the Peace of Bretigny was concluded in 1360. To protect the papal residence against the bands of freebooters that were then devastating France, Innocent increased the fortifications of Avignon; but before these were completed he was attacked and constrained to buy off his assailants by an enormous ransom. He used with but little success the severest ecclesiastical penalties against Peter I of Castile (1350-69), who had repudiated and poisoned his wife and is deservedly known as “the Cruel”. His efforts to restore peace between Castile and Aragon were fruitless, so also his plans for a crusade and for the reunion of the Eastern Church with Rome. At the request of Emperor Charles IV he instituted (1354) for Germany and Bohemia the feast of the Holy Lance and Nails (Lancea et Clavorum). He renewed the previous privileges of the mendicant orders, then in conflict with Richard Fitzralph, Archbishop of Armagh. Although tainted with nepotism he ranks among the best of the Avignon popes. His patronage of arts and his moral integrity are generally recognized.
N. A. WEBER