Pope Martin V

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Martin V
Pisanello, copia da Ritratto di Martino V (Galleria Colonna).jpg
Papacy began 14 November 1417
Papacy ended 20 February 1431
Predecessor Gregory XII
Successor Eugene IV
Ordination 13 November 1417
Consecration 14 November 1417
by Jean Franczon Allarmet de Brogny
Created Cardinal 12 June 1405
Personal details
Birth name Oddone Colonna
Born 1369
Genazzano, near Rome, Papal States
Died 20 February 1431(1431-02-20)
(aged 62)
Rome, Papal States
Other popes named Martin
Papal styles of
Pope Martin V
C o a Martino V.svg
Reference style His Holiness
Spoken style Your Holiness
Religious style Holy Father
Posthumous style None

Pope Martin V (Latin: Martinus V; January/February 1369 – 20 February 1431), born Otto (or Oddone) Colonna, was Pope from 14 November 1417 to his death in 1431.[1] His election effectively ended the Western Schism (1378–1417).


He was born at Genazzano, the son of Agapito Colonna and Caterina Conti, between January 26 and February 20, 1369.[2] He belonged to one of the oldest and most distinguished families of Rome. His brother Giordano became Prince of Salerno and Duke of Venosa, while his sister Paola was Lady of Piombino between 1441 and 1445.

Oddone most likely studied at the University of Perugia.[3] He became apostolic protonotary under Pope Urban VI (1378–89), and was created Cardinal-Deacon of San Giorgio al Velabro by Pope Innocent VII in 1405. In 1409 he took part in the Council of Pisa, and was one of the supporters of Antipope Alexander V.[3] Later he confirmed his allegiance to Alexander's successor, John XXIII, by whom his family obtained several privileges, while Oddone obtained for himself the vicariate of Todi, Orvieto, Perugia and Umbria. He was excommunicated for this by Pope Gregory XII. Oddone was with John XXIII's entourage at the Council of Constance and followed him in his escape at Schaffhausen on 21 March 1415. Later he returned to Constance and took part in the process leading to the deposition of John XXIII.[3]

Martin was elected pope at the Council of Constance on St. Martin's Day, 11 November 1417, by a conclave consisting of twenty-three cardinals and thirty delegates of the council. After deposing Antipope John XXIII in 1415, the Council was long divided by the conflicting claims of Pope Gregory XII (1406–15) and Antipope Benedict XIII (1394–1423).

Martin's first act after his election was to publish a brief that confirmed all the regulations made by his predecessors regarding the papal chancery, regulations that had long been the subject of complaints. When the "nations" of the council pressed their plans for reform, Martin V submitted a counter-scheme and ultimately entered into negotiations for separate concordats, for the most part vague and illusory, with the Holy Roman Empire, England, and France.

By issuing the Papal Bull to exterminate Hussites, Wycliffites, and other supposed heretics in Bohemia on 1 March 1420,[4] Martin V initiated the Hussite Wars.

Pope Martin's election.

Martin left Constance at the close of the council (May 1418), but travelled slowly through Italy and lingered at Florence. His authority in Rome was represented by his brother Giordano, who had fought under Muzio Attendolo against the condottiero Braccio da Montone. The Pope at the time ruled only Rome (when not rebellious) and its environs: Braccio held Umbria, Bologna was an independent commune, while much of Romagna and the Marche was held by local "vicars", which were in fact petty hereditary lords.[3] In particular, Martin confirmed Giorgio Ordelaffi in Forlì, Ludovico Alidosi in Imola, Malatesta IV Malatesta in Rimini, and Guidantonio da Montefeltro in Spoleto, who would later marry the pope's niece Caterina Colonna. In exchange for the recognition of Joan II of Naples, Martin obtained the restitution of Benevento, several fiefs in the Kingdom of Naples for his relatives and, above all, an agreement that Muzio Attendolo, then hired by the Neapolitans, should leave Rome. Martin, after a long stay in Florence, was thus able to enter Rome in September 1420.

In 1418, there was a successful lobbying effort by Jewish people to win back their old privileges. A gathering, convoked by the Jews in Forlì, sent a deputation with costly gifts to Martin V. In their argument, the Jews of Forli asked the Pope to abolish the oppressive laws promulgated by Antipope Benedict XIII, and they also asked the Pope to grant the Jews those privileges which had been accorded them under previous Popes. The deputation succeeded in its mission.

In 1419–1420 Martin had diplomatic contacts with the Byzantine emperor Manuel II, who was invoking a council in Constantinople as a move to reduce the pressure from the Ottoman Turks. The Pope on 12 July 1420 conceded indulgence to any who would contribute to a crusade against the latter, which would be led by Sigismund, King of the Romans.[3] In the same year Martin obtained a reduction of the autonomy of the commune of Bologna, whose finances would be thenceforth under the authority of a papal treasurer.[3] He also ended the war with Braccio da Montone in exchange for his recognition as vicar[3] and reconciled with the deposed John XXIII, to whom he gave the title of Cardinal of Tusculum.

During his permanence in Rome, Martin moved his residence from St. Peter to Santa Maria Maggiore and, from 1424, the Basilica of Santi Apostoli near the Palazzo Colonna. He also frequently sojourned in towns held by his family in the Latium (Tivoli, Vicovaro, Marino, Gallicano and others). The main concern of the first years of Martin's pontificate was the resumed war against Braccio da Montone from 1423. The following year, the combined Papal-Neapolitan army, led by Giacomo Caldora and Francesco Sforza, defeated him at the Battle of L'Aquila (2 June 1424); Braccio died a few days later.[3]

Canon law prohibited interest upon a loan. To avoid this, annuities were paid, interest in effect but not in name. The dispute as to the legality of annuity contracts was brought before Martin V in 1423. He held that purchased annuities, which were redeemable at the option of the seller, were lawful.[5][6] When the lawfulness of annuities was established, they were widely used in commerce; it seems that city states used them to raise compulsory loans from their citizens.

In accordance with a decree of the Council of Constance, ordering that councils should be held every five years, Martin V summoned a council in 1423 that met first at Pavia and later at Siena (the "Council of Siena"). It was rather poorly attended, which gave the Pope a pretext for dissolving it, as soon as it had come to the resolution that "internal church union by reform ought to take precedence over external union". It was prorogued for seven years and then met at Basel (as the "Council of Basel"). Shortly after it opened, Martin V died of apoplexy at the age of 62.

He is buried at St. John Lateran Basilica in Rome.[3]

Note on numbering[edit]

When the second Pope to take the name Martin was elected in 1281, there was confusion over how many Popes had taken the name before. It was believed then that there were three, so the new Pope of 1281 became Martin IV. But, in reality, those believed to be Martin II and Martin III were actually named Marinus I and Marinus II, although they are sometimes still referred to as "Martin II" and "Martin III". This has advanced the numbering of all subsequent Popes Martin by two. Popes Martin IV–V were actually the second and third popes by that name.

Pope Martin V and slavery[edit]

Slavery was commonplace in Europe, Africa, and Asia during Martin's reign and was accepted by "almost everyone" with few arguing against it.[7] During the 15th century, sentiment in Europe increasingly turned against the enslavement of Christians and the Church denounced such practices, but this did not extend to unbelievers. According to Burton (2007) Martin authorized a crusade against Africa in 1418 and this coupled with a later bull (1441) sanctioned the Portuguese trade in African slaves.[8] In March 1425 a bull was issued that threatened excommunication for any Christian slave dealers and ordered Jews to wear a "badge of infamy" to deter, in part, the buying of Christians.[9] In June 1425 Martin anathematized those who sold Christian slaves to Muslims.[7] Traffic in Christian slaves was not banned, purely the sale to non-Christian owners.[10] The papal bull of excommunication issued to the Genoese merchants of Caffa related to the buying and selling of Christians, but has been considered ineffectual as prior injunctions against the Viennese, including the Laws of Gazaria, made allowances for the sale of both Christian and Muslim slaves.[11] Ten black African slaves were presented to Martin by Prince Henry of Portugal.[12] Martin supported colonial expansion.[13] Davidson (1961) argues that Martin's injunction against slavery was not a condemnation of slavery itself, but rather driven through fear of "infidel power".[14]


  1. ^ McBrien, Richard P. (2000). Lives of the Popes: The pontiffs from St Peter to John Paul II. San Francisco: HarperCollins. p. 254. ISBN 0060653043. 
  2. ^ His date of birth can be established basing on the following contemporary reports:
  3. ^ a b c d e f g h i [http://www.treccani.it/enciclopedia/papa-martino-v_(Dizionario-Biografico) Page at the Dizionario Biografico degli Italiani, Enciclopedia Italiana.
  4. ^ "Catholic Encyclopedia". Newadvent.org. 1910-06-01. Retrieved 2013-06-23. 
  5. ^ Lumley's Treatise upon the Law of Annuities and Rent Charges, 1st ed, 1833
  6. ^ Affirmed by Pope Calixtus III, preserved 25 ATR 388 in the Corp Jur Canon Extra III tit 5.
  7. ^ a b Setton 1978, p. 46.
  8. ^ Burton 2007, p. 197.
  9. ^ Davis 1988, p. 100.
  10. ^ Maxwell, John Francis (1975). Slavery and the Catholic Church. Chichester: Barry Rose. p. 49. ISBN 0859920151. 
  11. ^ Davidson 1961, p. 41.
  12. ^ Semmes 1996 citing Thompson 1987.[full citation needed]
  13. ^ Koschorke, Klaus; et al., eds. (2007). A history of Christianity in Asia, Africa, and Latin America, 1450–1990. Grand Rapids, MI: W.B. Eerdmans. p. 144. ISBN 0802828892. 
  14. ^ Davidson 1961, p. 100 fn 8.


  • Public Domain Chisholm, Hugh, ed. (1911). Encyclopædia Britannica (11th ed.). Cambridge University Press. 
  • Setton, Kenneth M. (1978). The Papacy and the Levant. DIANE Publishing. ISBN 0-87169-127-2.  Review
  • Burton, Keith Augustus (2007). The blessing of Africa. InterVarsity Press. ISBN 0-8308-2762-5. 
  • Davis, David Brion (1988). The problem of slavery in Western culture. Oxford University Press US. ISBN 0-19-505639-6. 
  • Davidson, Basil (1961). The African Slave Trade. James Currey Publishers. ISBN 0-85255-798-1. 
  • Semmes, Clovis E. (1996). Racism, health, and post-industrialism. Greenwood Publishing Group. ISBN 0-275-95428-5. 
Catholic Church titles
Preceded by
Gregory XII
11 November 1417 – 20 February 1431
Succeeded by
Eugene IV