Pope Boniface VIII

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Boniface VIII
Bonifatius viii papst.jpg
Papacy began 24 December 1294
Papacy ended 11 October 1303
Predecessor Celestine V
Successor Benedict XI
Consecration 23 January 1295
Created Cardinal 12 April 1281
by Martin IV
Personal details
Birth name Benedetto Caetani
Born c. 1230
Anagni, Papal States, Holy Roman Empire
Died 11 October 1303(1303-10-11)
Rome, Papal States
Previous post
Coat of arms {{{coat_of_arms_alt}}}
Other popes named Boniface
Papal styles of
Pope Boniface VIII
C o a Bonifacio VIII.svg
Reference style His Holiness
Spoken style Your Holiness
Religious style Holy Father
Posthumous style None

Pope Boniface VIII (Latin: Bonifatius VIII; c. 1230 – 11 October 1303), born Benedetto Caetani, was Pope from 24 December 1294 to his death in 1303.

He organized the first Roman Catholic "jubilee" year to take place in Rome and declared that both spiritual and temporal power were under the pope's jurisdiction, and that kings were subordinate to the power of the Roman pontiff. Today, he is probably best remembered for his feuds with King Philip IV of France and Dante Alighieri, who placed the pope in the Eighth Circle of Hell in his Divine Comedy, among the simoniacs.


Coat of arms of cardinal Benedetto Caetani


Benedetto was born in ca. 1230 in Anagni, some thirty-one miles (c. 50 kilometres) southeast of Rome. He was a younger son of Roffredo Caetani (Podestà of Todi in 1274/1275), a member of a baronial family of the Papal States, the Caetani, or Gaetani of Aquila.[1] Through his mother, Emilia Patrasso di Guarcino, a niece of Pope Alexander IV (Rinaldo dei Conti di Segni--who was himself a nephew of Pope Gregory IX), he was not far distant from the seat of ecclesiastical power and patronage. His father's younger brother, Atenolfo, was Podestà di Orvieto.[2] He took his first steps in the religious life when he was sent to the monastery of the Friars Minor in Velletri, where he was put under the care of his maternal uncle Fra Leonardo Patrasso.[3] In 1252, when his paternal uncle Pietro Caetani became Bishop of Todi, in Umbria, Benedetto followed him to Todi and began his legal studies there. He was granted a canonry of the cathedral in the family's stronghold of Anagni, with the permission of Pope Alexander (1254-1261). His uncle Pietro Caetani granted him a canonry in the Cathedral of Todi in 1260. He also came into possession of the small nearby castello of Sismano, a place with twenty-one fires (hearths, families). In later years Father Vitalis, the Prior of S. Egidio de S. Gemino in Narni testified that he knew him and conversed with him in Todi and that Benedetto was in a school run by Rouchetus, a Doctor of Laws, from that city.[4] Benedetto never forgot his roots in Todi, later describing the city as "the dwelling place of his early youth," the city which "nourished him while still of tender years," and as a place where he "held lasting memories." Later in life he repeatedly expressed his gratitude to Anagni, Todi, and his family.

Early career[edit]

In 1264 Benedetto entered the Roman Curia, perhaps with the office of Advocatus.[5] He served as secretary to Cardinal Simon de Brion, the future Pope Martin IV, on a mission to France. Cardinal Simon had been appointed by Pope Urban IV (Jacques Pantaléon), between 25 and 27 April 1264, to engage in negotiations with Charles of Anjou, Comte de Provence, over the crown of Naples and Sicily. On 1 May 1264 he was given permission to appoint two or three tabelliones (secretaries) for his mission, one of whom was Benedetto.[6]

On 26 February 1265, only eleven days after his coronation, the new pope, Clement VI (Guy Foulques), wrote to Cardinal Simon, telling him to break off negotiations and travel immediately to Provence, where he would receive further instructions. On the same day, Clement wrote to Charles of Anjou, informing him that the pope had 35 conditions that Charles must agree to in accepting the crown; he also wrote to Henry III of England and his son Edmund that they had never been possessors of the Kingdom of Sicily.[7] He also commended to the Cardinal the Sienese bankers who had been working for Urban IV to raise funds for Charles of Anjou, and that he should transfer to them some 7,000 pounds Tournois from the decima of France. On 20 March 1265, in order to expedite the business with Charles of Anjou, Cardinal Simon was authorized to provide benefices from cathedrals or otherwise within his province to five of his clerics.[8] This may have been the occasion on which Benedetto Caetani acquired at least some of his French benefices. On 9 April 1265, on the petition of Cardinal Simon de Brion, the legation which had been assigned him by Pope Urban was declared not to have expired on the death of Urban IV.[9] There would have been no point in making such a ruling if Cardinal Simon had already ceased to be Legate.

Benedetto also accompanied Cardinal Ottobono Fieschi,[10] the future Pope Adrian V, to England. Another member of Cardinal Ottobono's suite was Theobaldus of Piacenza, Archdeacon of Liège, who became a friend of Prince Edward, and went on Crusade with him; he was later elected Pope Gregory X.[11] On 4 May 1265 Cardinal Ottobono was appointed Apostolic Legate to England, Scotland, Wales, and Ireland by the new Pope Clement IV;[12] in fact, he was sent as the successor of Cardinal Guy Folques, who had been elected Clement IV on 5 February 1265. On 29 August 1265 the Cardinal was received at the French Court by King Louis IX. There he learned that Simon de Montfort and his son Henry had been killed at the Battle of Evesham earlier that month. Cardinal Ottobono did not reach Boulogne until October 1265. He was in England until July 1268, working to suppress the remnants of Simon de Montfort's barons who were still in arms against King Henry III of England. To finance their rebellion, the barons had imposed a 10% tax on church property, which the Pope wanted back, not only because the tithe was uncanonical, but also so that he could use the funds already collected for his own purposes. This drawback was a major concern of Cardinal Ottobono and his entourage.[13] While in England Benedetto Caetani became rector of St. Lawrence's church in Towcester, Northamptonshire.[14]

Upon Benedetto's return from England, there is an eight-year period in which nothing is known about his life. This period, however, included the long vacancy of the papal throne from 29 November 1268 to February 1272, when Pope Gregory X accepted the papal throne. It also includes the time span when Pope Gregory and his cardinals went to France in 1273 for the Council of Vienne. The Pope and some of the cardinals began their return to Italy at the end of November 1275. Pope Gregory celebrated Christmas in Arezzo and died there on 10 January 1276. In 1276, however, Benedetto was sent to France to supervise the collection of a tithe, which is perhaps when he held the office of Advocatus in the Roman Curia,[15] and then was appointed a papal Notary in the late 1270s. During this time, Benedetto accumulated seventeen benefices, which he was permitted to keep when he was promoted. Some of these are enumerated in a bull of Pope Martin IV, in which he bestows the Deaconry of S. Nicolas in carcere on Cardinal Benedetto Caetani.[16]

At Orvieto, on 12 April 1281, Pope Martin IV (Simon Mompitié de Brion) created Benedetto Caetani cardinal deacon of Saint Nicholas in Carcere.[17] In 1288 he was sent as Legate to Umbria to attempt to calm the strife between Guelfs and Ghibbelines, which was taking the form of a war between the cities of Perugia and Foligno.[18] In the winter of 1289, he was one of Pope Nicholas IV's advisors as he decided on a settlement of the disputes over the election or appointment of Portuguese bishops, in which King Denis played a major role. To give greater authority to the final mandate of the Pope, Cardinal Latino Orsini of Ostia, Cardinal Pietro Peregrosso of S. Marco, and Cardinal Benedetto of S. Nicola in Carcere appended their signatures and seals.[19] Three years later, on 22 September 1291,[20] Pope Nicholas IV (Girolamo Maschi d'Ascoli, O.Min.) promoted him to the Order of Cardinal Priests, with the title of SS. Silvester and Martin.[21] Given the fact that there were only a dozen cardinals, Cardinal Benedetto was assigned the care (commenda) of the deaconry of S. Agata, and his old deaconry of S. Nicola in Carcere.[22] As cardinal, he served as papal legate in diplomatic negotiations to France, Naples, Sicily, and Aragon.

Abdication of Celestine V and Election of Boniface VIII[edit]

Pope Celestine V (Brother Peter, the hermit of Mount Murrone near Sulmone) abdicated on 13 December 1294 at Naples, where, much to the discomfort of a number of cardinals, he had established the papal court under the patronage of King Charles II of Sicily. He had continued to live like a monk there, even turning a room in the papal apartment into the semblance of a monastic cell. A contemporary, Bartholomew of Lucca, who was present in Naples in December 1294 and witnessed many of the events of the abdication and election, said that Benedetto Caetani was only one of several cardinals who pressured Celestine to resign.[23] However, it is also on record that Celestine V resigned by his own design after consultation with experts, and that Benedetto merely showed that it was allowed by Church law. Either way, Celestine V vacated the throne and Benedetto Caetani was elected in his place as pope, taking the name Boniface VIII.

The conclave began on 23 December 1294, ten days after Celestine's resignation. The regulations promulgated by Pope Gregory X at the Second Council of Lyons of 1274 did not envision a papal resignation (any more than did the regulations of Pope John Paul II), but the cardinals waited the usual ten days from the papal resignation. All twenty-two cardinals were thus given the chance to assemble at the Castel Nuovo in Naples, the site of the resignation. Hugh Aycelin,[24] presided over the papal conclave as the senior cardinal bishop. Benedetto Caetani was elected by ballot and accession on Christmas Eve, 24 December 1294, taking the name Boniface VIII. On the first (secret) ballot, he had a majority of the votes, and at the accessio a sufficient number joined his majority to form the required two-thirds.[25] He was consecrated bishop of Rome in Rome by Cardinal Hugh Aycelin on 23 January 1295.[26] He immediately returned the Papal Curia to Rome, where he was crowned at the Vatican Basilica on Sunday, 23 January 1295. One of his first acts as pontiff was to grant his predecessor residence in the Castle of Fumone in Ferentino, where he died the next year at the age of 81, attended by two monks of his order. Boniface VIII is occasionally discussed in academic literature as possibly implicated in the demise of his predecessor.[27] In 1300, Boniface VIII formalized the custom of the Roman Jubilee, which afterwards became a source of both profit and scandal to the church. Boniface VIII founded the University of Rome La Sapienza in 1303.[28]

Canon Law[edit]

In the field of canon law Boniface VIII continues to have great influence. Earlier collections of canon law had been codified in the Decretals, published under the authority of Pope Gregory IX in 1234. But in the succeeding sixty years, numerous legal decisions were made by one pope after another. By Boniface's time a new and expanded edition was needed. In 1298 Boniface ordered published as a sixth part (or Book) these various papal decisions, including some 88 of his own legal decisions, as well as a collection of legal principles known as the "Regulae Iuris". [29] His contribution came to be known as the Liber Sextus.[30] This material is still of importance to canon lawyers or canonists today, to interpret and analyze the canons and other forms of ecclesiastical law properly. The "Regulae Iuris" appear at the end of the Liber Sextus (in VI°),[31] and now published as part of the five Decretals in the Corpus Iuris Canonici. They appear as simple aphorisms, such as "Regula VI: Nemo potest ad impossibile obligari." ('No one can be obligated for something impossible.') Other systems of law also have their own "Regulae Iuris", whether by the same name or something serving a similar function.[32] In political theory, Pope Boniface VIII claimed that the popes were the final authority over both the church and the state.


Boniface VIII put forward some of the strongest claims to temporal as well as spiritual power of any Pope. He involved himself often with foreign affairs. In his Bull of 1302, Unam Sanctam, Boniface VIII stated that since the Church is one, since the Church is necessary for salvation, and since Christ appointed Peter to lead it, it is "absolutely necessary for salvation that every human creature be subject to the Roman pontiff".[33] These views, and his chronic intervention in "temporal" affairs, led to many bitter quarrels with the Emperor Albert I of Habsburg, the powerful Colonna family of Rome, King Philip IV of France, and Dante Alighieri, who wrote his essay De Monarchia to dispute Boniface's claims of papal supremacy. The two Colonna Cardinals, Giacomo, created Cardinal Deacon of S. Maria in Via Lata in 1278, and Pietro, created Cardinal Deacon of S. Eustachio in 1288, were deposed from their cardinalates on 10 May 1297. The quarrel with the Colonnas culminated in Boniface VIII ordering the destruction in 1298 of their family city Palestrina after it surrendered peacefully under Boniface's assurances that it would be spared. Much of the city still boasted intact buildings and monuments from ancient Roman times, but Boniface razed it anyway, even spreading salt on the site as the Romans did in Carthage 1500 years before. Only the city's cathedral was spared.[34]

To deal with the problem of the cardinals left to him by his predecessors, Boniface created new cardinals on five occasions during his reign.[35] In the first creation, in 1295, only one cardinal was appointed, the Pope's nephew Benedetto Caetano. This was no surprise. Nor was the second creation, on 17 December 1295. Two more relatives were appointed, Francesco Caetano, the son of Boniface VIII's brother Peter; and Jacopo (Giacomo) Tomassi Caetani, OFM, a son of the Pope's sister, was made Cardinal Priest of S. Clemente. Giacomo Caetani Stefaneschi, a grand-nephew of Pope Nicholas III, was also appointed, along with Francesco Napoleone Orsini, a nephew of Pope Nicholas III. Three years later, on 4 December 1298, four new cardinals were named: Gonzalo Gudiel (Gundisalvus Rodericus Innojosa), Archbishop of Toledo, was appointed Bishop of Albano; Teodorico Ranieri, Archbishop-elect of Pisa and papal Chamberlain, became Cardinal Priest of Santa Croce in Gerusalemme; Niccolò Boccasini, OP, of Treviso, Master General of the Dominicans, became Cardinal Priest of Santa Sabina; and Riccardo Petroni of Siena, Vice-Chancellor of the Holy Roman Church, was named a Cardinal Deacon. A pattern begins to emerge, though one sees the pattern only in terms of negatives: of the ten new cardinals, only two are monks, and neither of them Benedictine (Celestine V had been excessively partial to Benedictines); and there are no Frenchmen (Celestine had named seven Frenchmen, under the influence of Charles II of Naples). Pope Boniface was distinctly changing the complexion of the membership of the Sacred College. Without the Colonnas, the influence of the King of France was greatly diminished.

On 2 March 1300, during the Great Jubilee, Boniface VIII created three more cardinals. The first was Leonardo Patrasso, Archbishop of Capua, who was Boniface VIII's uncle; he replaced the Archbishop of Toledo, who had died in 1299, as Cardinal Bishop of Albano. The second was Gentile Partino, OFM, Doctor of Theology and Lector of Theology in the Roman Curia, who was made Cardinal Priest of S. Martin in montibus. The third was Luca Fieschi, of the Counts of Lavagna, of Genoa, named Cardinal Deacon of S. Maria in Via Lata (the deaconry which had once belonged to Jacopo Colonna). A relative, a Franciscan; all three Italians.

In his last Consistory for the promotion of Cardinals, on 15 December 1302, Boniface VIII named two more cardinals: Pedro Rodríguez, bishop of Burgos, Spain, became Suburbicarian Bishop of Sabina; and Giovanni Minio da Morrovalle (or da Muro), OFM, Minister General of the Franciscans, was appointed Suburbicarian Bishop of Porto. A Franciscan, a Spaniard, no Benedictines, no French. In fact, there were only two French in the Sacred College at Boniface's death, only five regular clergy (only one Benedictine).

Conflicts in Sicily and Italy[edit]

When King Frederick III of Sicily attained his throne after the death of Pedro III, Boniface tried to dissuade him from accepting the throne of Sicily. When Frederick persisted, Boniface laid excommunication on him, and an interdict upon the island of Sicily in 1296 that denied Catholic priests the right to conduct certain services there. Neither king nor people responded to this censure.[36] The conflict continued until the Peace of Caltabellotta in 1302, which saw Pedro's son Frederick III recognized as king of Sicily, while Charles II was recognized as the King of Naples. To prepare for a crusade, Boniface ordered Venice and Genoa to sign a truce; they fought each other for three more years, and turned down his offer to mediate peace.

Boniface also placed the city of Florence under an interdict and invited the ambitious French Count Charles of Valois to enter Italy in 1300 to end the feud of Black and White Guelphs, the poet Dante being in the party of the Whites. Boniface's political ambitions directly affected Dante when the pope, under the pretense of peacemaking, invited Charles of Valois to intervene in the affairs of Florence. Charles's intervention allowed the Black Guelphs to overthrow the ruling White Guelphs, whose leaders, including the poet Dante, allegedly in Rome at the time to argue Florence's case before Boniface, were sentenced to exile. Dante settled his score with Boniface in the first canticle of the Divine Comedy, the Inferno, by damning the pope, placing him within the circles of Fraud, in the bolgia of the simoniacs. In the Inferno, Pope Nicholas III, mistaking the Poet for Boniface, is surprised to see the latter, supposing him to be ahead of his time.[37]

Conflicts with Philip IV[edit]

Philip IV receiving the homage of Edward I for Aquitaine.

The conflict between Boniface VIII and King Philip IV of France came at a time of expanding nation states and the desire for the consolidation of power by the increasingly powerful monarchs. The increase in monarchical power and its conflicts with the Church of Rome were only exacerbated by the rise to power of Philip IV. In France, the process of centralizing royal power and developing a genuine national state began with the Capetian kings. During his reign, Philip surrounded himself with the best civil lawyers and decidedly expelled the clergy from all participation in the administration of the law. With the clergy beginning to be taxed in France and England to finance their ongoing wars against each other, Boniface took a hard stand against it. He saw the taxation as an assault on traditional clerical rights and ordered the bull Clericis laicos in February 1296, forbidding lay taxation of the clergy without prior papal approval. In the bull, Boniface states "they exact and demand from the same the half, tithe, or twentieth, or any other portion or proportion of their revenues or goods; and in many ways they try to bring them into slavery, and subject them to their authority. And also whatsoever emperors, kings, or princes, dukes, earls or barons...presume to take possession of things anywhere deposited in holy buildings...should incur sentence of excommunication." It was during the issuing of Clericis laicos that hostilities between Boniface and Philip began. Philip retaliated against the bull by denying the exportation of money from France to Rome, funds that the Church required to operate. Boniface had no choice but to contest Philip's demands, informing Philip that "God has set popes over kings and kingdoms."

Philip was convinced that the wealth of the Catholic Church in France should be used in part to support the state. He wanted to make war against the English.[38] He countered the papal bull by decreeing laws prohibiting the export of gold, silver, precious stones, or food from France to the Papal States. These measures had the effect of blocking a main source of papal revenue. Philip also banished from France the papal agents who were raising funds for a new crusade in the Middle East. In the bull Ineffabilis amor of September 1296,[39] Boniface retreated. He sanctioned voluntary contributions from the clergy for the necessary defense of the state and gave the king the right to determine that necessity. Philip rescinded his ordinances regarding the exports and even accepted Boniface as arbitrator in a dispute between himself and King Edward I of England. Boniface decided most of those issues in Philip's favor.

First Jubilee Year[edit]

Pope Boniface VIII, fresco by Giotto di Bondone in the Basilica of St. John Lateran, Rome

Boniface proclaimed 1300 a "jubilee" year, the first of many such jubilees to take place in Rome.[40] He may have wanted to gather money from pilgrims to Rome[41] as a substitute for the missing money from France, or it may be that he was seeking moral and political support against the hostile behavior of the French king and his henchmen. The event was a success; Rome had never received such crowds before. It is said that on one particular day some 30,000 people were counted.[42] Giovanni Villani estimated that some 200,000 pilgrims came to Rome.[43] Boniface and his aides managed the affair well, food was plentiful, and it was sold at moderate prices. It was an advantage to the pope that the great sums of money he collected could be used according to Boniface's own judgment.

Continued feud with Philip IV[edit]

The feud between Boniface and Philip IV reached its peak in the early 14th century, when Philip began to launch a strong anti-papal campaign against Boniface. A quarrel arose between Philip's aides and a papal legate, Bernard Saisset. The legate was arrested on a charge of inciting an insurrection, was tried and convicted by the royal court, and committed to the custody of the archbishop of Narbonne, Giles Aycelin - one of his key ministers and allies, in 1301. In the bull Ausculta fili ("Listen, son", December 1301) Boniface VIII appealed to Philip IV to listen modestly to the Vicar of Christ as the spiritual monarch over all earthly kings. He protested against the trial of churchmen before Philip's royal courts and the continued use of church funds for state purposes and he announced he would summon the bishops and abbots of France to take measures "for the preservation of the liberties of the Church".[44] When the bull was presented to Philip, the Count of Artois, Robert II, reportedly snatched it from the hands of Boniface's emissary and flung it into the fire.[45]

In February 1302 the bull Ausculta fili was officially burned at Paris before King Philip and a great multitude. Nonetheless, on 4 March 1302, Pope Boniface sent Cardinal Jean de Cressi, OSB, Cardinal Priest of SS. Marcellinus and Petrus, as his Legate, to reassert papal control over the French clergy.[46] To forestall the ecclesiastical council proposed by Boniface, Philip summoned the three estates of his realm to meet at Paris in April. At this first French States-General in history, all three classes – nobles, clergy, and commons – wrote separately to Rome in defense of the king and his temporal power. Some forty-five French prelates, despite Philip's prohibition, and the confiscation of their property, attended the council at Rome in October 1302.[47]

Following that council, on 18 November 1302, Boniface issued the bull Unam sanctam.[48] It declared that both spiritual and temporal power were under the pope's jurisdiction, and that kings were subordinate to the power of the Roman pontiff. In response, Guillaume de Nogaret, Philip's chief minister, denounced Boniface as a heretical criminal to the French clergy. In a bull dated 8 September 1303, Philip and Nogaret were excommunicated.[49] However, on 7 September 1303, an army led by Nogaret and Sciarra Colonna attacked Boniface at his Palace in Anagni next to the Cathedral.[50] The French Chancellor and the Colonnas demanded his resignation; Boniface VIII responded that he would "sooner die". In response, Colonna allegedly slapped Boniface, a "slap" historically remembered as the schiaffo di Anagni ("Anagni slap").


Depiction of the death of Boniface in a 15th-century manuscript of Boccaccio's De Casibus.

According to a modern interpreter, Boniface was probably beaten and nearly executed, but was released from captivity after three days. He died on 11 October 1303.[51] On the other hand, the famous Florentine chronicler Giovanni Villani, wrote:[52]

And when Sciarra and the others, his enemies, came to him, they mocked at him with vile words and arrested him and his household which had remained with him. Among others, William of Nogaret, who had conducted the negotiations for the king of France, scorned him and threatened him, saying that he would take him bound to Lyons on the Rhone, and there in a general council would cause him to be deposed and condemned.... no man dared to touch [Boniface], nor were they pleased to lay hands on him, but they left him robed under light arrest and were minded to rob the treasure of the Pope and the Church. In this pain, shame and torment, the great Pope Boniface abode prisoner among his enemies for three days.... the People of Anagni beholding their error and issuing from their blind ingratitude, suddenly rose in arms... and drove out Sciarra della Colonna and his followers, with loss to them of prisoners and slain, and freed the Pope and his household. Pope Boniface... departed immediately from Anagni with his court and came to Rome and St. Peter's to hold a council... but... the grief which had hardened in the heart of Pope Boniface, by reason of the injury which he had received, produced in him, once he had come to Rome, a strange malady so that he gnawed at himself as if he were mad, and in this state he passed from this life on the twelfth day of October in the year of Christ 1303, and in the Church of St. Peter near the entrance of the doors, in a rich chapel which was built in his lifetime, he was honorably buried.

He died of a violent fever, on 11 October, 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.

Burial and exhumation[edit]

The body of Boniface VIII was buried in 1303 in a special chapel that also housed the remains of Pope Boniface IV (A.D. 608-615), which had been moved by Boniface VIII from a tomb outside the Vatican Basilica in the portico. Boniface VIII had arranged that this would be done to offset the fact that his predecessor was still alive, which caused him to worry that the legitimacy of his own papacy would be thrown into doubt. In choosing such a burial, Boniface VIII was trying to show that he was a legitimate pope with the implicit support from the grave of a popular predecessor, Boniface IV.

The body was accidentally exhumed in 1605, and the results of the excavation recorded by Giacomo Grimaldi (1568-1623), Apostolic Notary and Archivist of the Vatican Basilica, and others.[53] The body lay within three coffins, the outermost of wood, the middle of lead, and the innermost of pine. The corporal remains were described as being "unusually tall" measuring seven palms when examined by doctors. 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 (New Advent). The body wore ecclesiastical vestments common for Boniface's lifetime: long stockings covered legs and thighs, and it was garbed also with the maniple, soutain, and pontifical habit made of black silk, as well as stole, chasuble, rings, and bejeweled gloves.[54]

After this exhumation and examination, Boniface's body was moved to the Chapel of Pope Gregory and Andrew. His body now lies in the crypt (grotte) of St. Peter's in a large marble sarcophagus, laconically inscribed BONIFACIVS PAPA VIII.[55]

Posthumous trial[edit]

After the papacy had been removed to Avignon in 1309, Pope Clement V, under extreme pressure from King Philip IV, consented to a post-mortem trial. He said that "it was permissible for any persons who wanted to proceed against the memory of Boniface VIII to proceed." He gave a mandate to the Bishop of Paris, Guillaume de Baufet d'Aurillac, and to Guillaume Pierre Godin, OP, that the complainants should choose prosecutors and determine a day on which the Inquiry would begin in the presence of the Pope (coram nobis Avinione). The Pope signed his mandate at his current place of residence, the Priory of Grauselle[56] near Malusan (Malausène) in the diocese of Vasio (Vaison), on 18 October 1309. Both the King of Aragon and the King of Castile immediately sent ambassadors to Pope Clement, complaining that scandal was being poured into the ears of the Faithful, when they heard that a Roman pontiff was being charged with a crime of heresy.[57] They had a point, in that the persecution implied that a pope was not infallible in matters of faith and morals. Complaints also came from Italy, Germany, and the Netherlands.

On 27 April 1310, in what was certainly a peace gesture toward the French, Clement V pardoned Guillaume Nogaret for his offenses committed at Anagni against Boniface VIII and the Church, for which he had been excommunicated, with the condition that Nogaret personally go to the Holy Land in the next wave of soldiers and serve there in the military.[58] By the end of Spring 1310, Clement was feeling the embarrassment and the pressure over the material being produced by Boniface's accusers. His patience was wearing thin. He issued a mandate on 28 June 1310, in which he complained about the quality of the testimony and the corruption of the various accusers and witnesses. Then he ordered the Quaesitores that future examinations should proceed under threat of excommunication for perjury.[59] A process (judicial investigation) against the memory of Boniface was held by an ecclesiastical consistory at Groseau, near Avignon, which held preliminary examinations in August and September 1310.[60] and collected testimonies that alleged many heretical opinions of Boniface VIII. This included the offence of sodomy, although there is no substantive evidence for this, and it is likely that this was the standard accusation Philip made against enemies.[61] The same charge was brought against the Templars.

Before the actual trial could be held, Clement persuaded Philip to leave the question of Boniface's guilt to the Council of Vienne, which met in 1311. On 27 April 1311, in a public Consistory, with King Philip's agents present, the Pope formally excused the King for everything that he had said against the memory of Pope Boniface, on the grounds that he was speaking with good intentions. This statement was written down and published as a bull, and the bull contained the statement that the matter would be referred by the Pope to the forthcoming Council. The Pope then announced that he was reserving the whole matter to his own judgment.[62] The XV Ecumenical Council, the Council of Vienne, opened on 1 November 1311, with more than 300 bishops in attendance. When the Council met (so it is said), three cardinals appeared before it and testified to the orthodoxy and morality of the dead pope. Two knights, as challengers, threw down their gauntlets to maintain his innocence by wager of battle. No one accepted the challenge, and the Council declared the matter closed.[63] Clement's order disbanding the Order of the Knights Templar was signed at the Council of Vienne on 2 May 1312.


Statue of Pope Boniface VIII at the Museo dell'Opera del Duomo in Florence
  • In his Inferno, Dante portrayed Boniface VIII as destined for hell, where simony is punished, although Boniface was still alive at the fictional date of the poem's story. Boniface's eventual destiny is revealed to Dante by Pope Nicholas III, whom he meets. A bit later in the Inferno, we are reminded of the pontiff's feud with the Colonna family, which led him to demolish the city of Palestrina, killing 6,000 citizens and destroying both the home of Julius Caesar and a shrine to the Blessed Virgin Mary. Boniface's ultimate fate is confirmed by Beatrice when Dante visits Heaven. It is notable that he does not adopt Guillaume de Nogaret's aspersion that Boniface VIII was a 'sodomite', however, and does not assign him to that circle of hell (albeit that Simony was placed in the eighth circle of Fraud below Sodomy in the seventh circle of Violence, designating it as a worse offense and taking precedence above activities of sodomy).
  • He is also referenced in François Rabelais's Gargantua and Pantagruel. In the chapter where Epistemon is listing the inhabitants of hell and their occupations, he says that Boniface was (in one translation) "skimming the scum off soup pots".
  • Mathematician and astronomer Giovanni Campano served as personal physician, or perhaps only a chaplain, to Pope Boniface VIII.[64] Campano died at Viterbo in 1296.
  • In Boccaccio's Decameron, Boniface VIII is satirically depicted granting a highwayman (Ghino di Tacco) a priorate (Day 10, second tale). Earlier (I.i), Boniface VIII is also mentioned for his role in sending Charles of Valois to Florence in 1300 to end the feud between the Black and White Guelphs.
  • The Tale of Pope Boniface is told in Book 2 of John Gower's Confessio Amantis as an exemplum of the sin of fraudulently supplanting others. Gower claims that Boniface tricked Pope Celestine V into abdicating by having a young cleric, pretending to be the voice of God, speak to him while he was sleeping and convince him to abdicate (ll. 2861-2900). Gower also repeats the rumour that Boniface died by gnawing off his own hands, but attributes this to hunger rather than a deliberate suicide attempt (ll. 3027-28).
  • Boniface was a patron of Giotto di Bondone.
  • Boniface had the churches of Rome restored for the Great Jubilee of 1300, particularly St. Peter's Basilica, the Basilica of St. John Lateran, and the Saint Mary Major Basilica.

See also[edit]

  • Giovanni Villani (Florentine chronicler who made an account of Boniface and his jubilee)


  1. ^ His elder brother, Roffredo or Goffredo, was the first Conte di Caserta from 1288, Signore di Calvi, Vairano e Norma in 1282, Senator of Rome 1290/1292, Signore di Vairano by decree of the King of Sicily on 1 April 1291, Podestà of Todi (1282/5-1283), Signore di Caserta (1290). He had a younger brother, Giovanni, and three sisters.
  2. ^ Finke, p. 9. Tosti, p. 37.
  3. ^ Tosti, p. 37, citing Teuli, History of Velletri, Book 2, chapter 5.
  4. ^ Pierre Dupuy, Histoire du differend d'entre le Pape Boniface VIII. et Philippes le Bel, Roy de France (Paris 1655), pp. 527-528.
  5. ^ Ptolemaeus of Lucca Historia ecclesiastica XXIII. 26 (Muratori Rerum Italicarum Scriptores XI, p. 203). Tosti (p. 37) believed that Caetani held the office of Advocatus before he set out with Cardinal Ottoboni on the English legation.
  6. ^ August Potthast, Regesta Pontificum Romanorum II (Berlin 1875), p. 1543, nos. 18858, 18859, 18867. Pope Urban had held a Consistory on 25 April, at which the matter of naming Charles of Anjou as Senator of Rome was discussed. It was after this meeting that Cardinal Simon was given his Legation.
  7. ^ August Potthast, Regesta Pontificum Romanorum II (Berlin 1875), p. 1543, nos. 19037-19039.
  8. ^ Potthast, no. 19065. These were benefices which in the course of things were in the hands of the Pope.
  9. ^ Potthast, 19089.
  10. ^ This derives from a statement of Pope Clement V in 1309, during the agitation for a posthumous trial of Boniface VIII: A. Theiner (ed.), Caesaris Baronii Annales Ecclesiastici Tomus 23 (Bar-le-Duc 1871), under year 1309, §4, p. 429. Rose Graham, "Letters of Cardinal Ottoboni," English Historical Review 15 (1900) 87-120.
  11. ^ Francis Gasquet, Henry the Third and the English Church (London 1905), p. 414.
  12. ^ Registres de Clément IV I, nos. 40-78.
  13. ^ Francis Gasquet, Henry the Third and the English Church (London 1905), pp. 403-416.
  14. ^ http://www.mkheritage.co.uk/tdlhs/People/PopeBoniface/index.html George Baker, The History and Antiquities of the County of Northamptonshire Vol. III (London: J.B.Nicholas & Son 1836), pages 312-338. Tosti, p. 38, n. 15
  15. ^ Tosti (p. 37) believed that Caetani held the office of Advocatus before he set out with Cardinal Ottoboni on the English legation. And yet, Ottobono Fieschi was elected Pope Adrian V on 11 July 1276 and died on 18 August 1276.
  16. ^ Tosti, p. 38, n. 15: ... ut ecclesias S. Nicolai in carcere Tulliano de Urbe, et de Barro in Ligonensi [Langres], et de Piliaco [? Pisiaco (Poissy, Seine et Oise)], archidiaconatum in Carnotensi [Chartres], ac ecclesiam die Thoucester, canonicatus quoque ac praebendas in Ligonensi, Carnotensi, Parisiensi, Anagnina, Tuderina, S. Audomari Morinensi [Therouanne], ac in Basilica S. Petri de Urbe retinere possit." Tosti is wrong in calling Benedetto Caetani a canon of Lyons; he misread Lugdunensi where the text twice has Lingonensi.
  17. ^ Deaconry of S. Nicola in Carcere Tulliano (GCatholic).
  18. ^ R. Morghen, "Una legazione di Benedetto Caetani nell'Umbria e la guerra tra Perugia e Foligno del 1288," Archivio della Società romana di storia patria, 52 (1929), pp. 485-490.
  19. ^ A. Theiner (ed.), Caesaris Baronii Annales Ecclesiastici Tomus 23 (Bar-le-Duc 1871), under year 1289, §31, p. 54. This fact is blown out of proportion by some commentators into a Legateship to Portugal. The business, however, was done in Rome, through Procurators of the King of Portugal. The document was signed at S. Maria Maggiore on 12 February 1289 and the ecclesiastical censures against the Portuguese withdrawn in March.
  20. ^ Conrad Eubel, Hierarchia catholica medii aevi I edition altera (Monasterii 1913), pp. 10, 47, 52.
  21. ^ Title of SS. Silvestro e Martino ai Monti (GCatholic)
  22. ^ It is sometimes said that he also received the Deaconry of S. Agnes, but S. Agnes was not a deaconry or a titulus in the XIII century.
  23. ^ Bartholomew of Lucca, in: Odoricus Raynaldus [Rainaldi], Annales Ecclesiastici Tomus Quartus [Volume XXIII] (Lucca: Leonardo Venturini 1749), sub anno 1294, p. 156: Dominus Benedictus cum aliquibus cardinalibus Caelestino persuasit ut officio cedat quia propter simplicitatem suam, licet sanctus vir, et vitae magni foret exempli, saepius adversis confundabantur ecclesiae in gratiis faciendis et circa regimen orbis.
  24. ^ also known as Hughes (Seguin) of Billom and Hughes de Billay, of the French province of the Dominican Order, former lector at the studium of Santa Sabina which would develop into the Pontifical University of Saint Thomas Aquinas, Angelicum in the 20th century. Cardinal Hugh had been created a cardinal priest by Pope Nicholas IV on 16 May 1288, with the title of Santa Sabina, and was promoted Cardinal-Bishop of the suburbicarian see of Ostia in August, 1294, by Celestine V. See Conrad Eubel, Hierarchia catholica medii aevi I edition altera (Monasterii 1913), pp. 11, 35, 46.
  25. ^ See the poem by Jacopo Stefaneschi, Subdeacon of the Holy Roman Church, who participated in the events: Ludovicus Antonius Muratori, Rerum Italicarum Scriptores Tomus Tertius (Milan 1723), 642.
  26. ^ "Frater Hugo de Bidiliomo provincie Francie, magister fuit egregius in theologia et mul<tum> famosus in romana curia; qui actu lector existens apud Sanctam Sabinam, per papam Nicolaum quartum eiusdem ecclesie factus cardinalis" [16.V.1288]; postmodum per Celestinum papam [1294] est ordinatus in episcopum ostiensem (Cr Pg 3r). http://www.e-theca.net/emiliopanella/lector12.htm Accessed May 9, 2011; See also Rome Across Time and Space: Cultural Transmission and the Exchange of Ideas, 2011, p. 275. http://books.google.com/books?id=xGiHbiqknLgC&pg=PA275&lpg=PA275&dq=%22#v=onepage&q&f=false Accessed 7-10-2011
  27. ^ Philip Daileader, The Late Middle Ages, The Teaching Company. (These are audio lectures of a college-level course, with an accompanying book containing the text.)
  28. ^ Filippo Maria Renazzi, Storia dell' Universita degli studj di Roma, detto comunamente La Sapienza Volume I (Roma: Pagliarini 1803), pp. 56-69.
  29. ^ Oswald J. Reichel, The Elements of Canon Law (London: Thomas Baker, 1889), p. 51.
  30. ^ Liber Sextus Decretalium D. Bonifacii Papae VIII, suae integritate, una cum Clementinis et Extravagantibus restitutus (Francofurdi: Ioan. Wechelus 1586), pp. 1-272.
  31. ^ Liber Sextus Decretalium D. Bonifacii Papae VIII (Francofurdi 1586), pp. 252-260.
  32. ^ cf. Medieval Italy: An Encyclopedia Christopher Kleinhenz et al. eds. Routledge, 2004, p. 178.
  33. ^ http://www.ewtn.com/library/PAPALDOC/B7UNAM.HTM
  34. ^ "The Bad Popes" by ER Chamberlin 1969, 1986 ISBN 0-88029-116-8 Chapter III "The Lord of Europe" page 102-104.
  35. ^ Conrad Eubel, Hierarchia catholica medii aevi I edition altera (Monasterii 1913), pp. 12-13.
  36. ^ Catholic Encyclopedia, II, 663d
  37. ^ Dante Alighierli, Divine Comedy, Inferno, 19.49–63
  38. ^ A. Theiner (ed.), Caesaris Baronii Annales Ecclesiastici Tomus 23 (Bar-le-Duc 1871), under year 1296, §17, pp. 188-189; under year 1300, §26, p. 272-273.
  39. ^ A. Theiner (ed.), Caesaris Baronii Annales Ecclesiastici Tomus 23 (Bar-le-Duc 1871), under year 1296, §24-32, pp. 193-196.
  40. ^ Herbert Thurston, The Holy Year of Jubilee (St. Louis MO: B. Herder 1900), pp. 6-25.
  41. ^ Thurston, p. 17.
  42. ^ Jacopo Stefaneschi, "Jacobi Sancti Georgii ad Velum aureum diaconi Cardinalis, de centesimo seu iubileo anno Liber," Margarino de la Bigne (editor), Maxima Bibliotheca veterum Patrum et antiquorum scriptorum ecclesiasticorum Tomus 25 (Lugduni 1677), pp. 936-944, at p. 940. Stefaneschi was an eyewitness.
  43. ^ A. Theiner (ed.), Caesaris Baronii Annales Ecclesiastici Tomus 23 (Bar-le-Duc 1871), under year 1300, §6, p. 264.
  44. ^ François Guizot and Mme. Guizot de Witt, History of France from the Earliest Times to 1848 Volume I (New York 1885), p. 474.
  45. ^ Catholic Encyclopedia
  46. ^ A. Theiner (ed.), Caesaris Baronii Annales Ecclesiastici Tomus 23 (Bar-le-Duc 1871), under year 1303, §33, p. 325-326.
  47. ^ Joannes Dominicus Mansi, Sacrorum Conciliorum nova et amplissima Collectio novissima edition, Tomus vicesimus quintus (Venetiis 1782), pp. 97-100.
  48. ^ A. Theiner (ed.), Caesaris Baronii Annales Ecclesiastici Tomus 23 (Bar-le-Duc 1871), under year 1302, §13-15, p. 303-304.
  49. ^ A. Tomassetti, Bullarum diplomatum et privilegiorum sanctorum Romanorum pontificum Tomus IV (Augustae Taurinorum 1859), pp. 170-174. The date of September 8 has caused much scholarly controversy. Chamberlain, E.R. "The Lord of Europe". The Bad Popes. Barnes and Noble. p. 120.  Ian Mortimer: "Barriers to the Truth" History Today: 60:12: December 2010: 13
  50. ^ See the extensive narrative of Gregorovius, 588-596. The building still exists: http://www.palazzobonifacioviii.it/
  51. ^ Reardon, Wendy. The Deaths of the Popes. McFarland. p. 120. . Reardon's narrative does not appear to accord with contemporary sources.
  52. ^ Giovanni Villani, Historia universalis, Book VIII, chapter 65. R. E. Selfe and P. H. Wicksteed, Selections from the First Nine Books of the Croniche Fiorentine of Giovanni Villani (Westminster, 1898), pp. 346-350.
  53. ^ A. Theiner (ed.), Caesaris Baronii Annales Ecclesiastici Tomus 23 (Bar-le-Duc 1871), under year 1303, §34, pp. 333. A. L. Frothingham, Jr., "Procès-verbal by Giacomo Grimaldi of the Opening of the Tomb of Pope Boniface VIII in the Basilica of San Pietro in Vaticano in 1605," American Journal of Archaeology 4 (1888), 330-332.
  54. ^ The body was seen several times by the Papal Master of Ceremonies, Giovanni Paolo Mucanzio, who reported the details in his Diary, under 11 October 1605: Joannes Baptista Gattico, Acta Selecta Caeremonialia Sanctae Romanae Ecclesiae ex variis mss. codicibus et diariis saeculi xv. xvi. xvii. Tomus I (Romae 1753), p. 478-479. The body had been discovered accidentally during the removal of several altars from the old St. Peter's to make way for the walls and new chapels of Maderno's nave.
  55. ^ Reardon, Wendy. The Deaths of the Popes. Comprehensive Accounts Including Funeral, Burial Places and Epitaphs. McFarland. pp. 120–123. . Her date of 1606 is incorrect.
  56. ^ Gallia christiana I (Paris 1716), pp. 919-920.
  57. ^ Bernardus Guidonis says. "...in publico consistorio pronuntiavit, ut liceret prosequi volentibus procedere contra memoriam Bonifacii papae VIII defuncti." A. Theiner (ed.), Caesaris Baronii Annales Ecclesiastici Tomus 23 (Bar-le-Duc 1871), under year 1309, §4, p. 428.
  58. ^ A. Theiner (ed.), Caesaris Baronii Annales Ecclesiastici Tomus 23 (Bar-le-Duc 1871), under year 1311, §50, p. 495.
  59. ^ A. Theiner (ed.), Caesaris Baronii Annales Ecclesiastici Tomus 23 (Bar-le-Duc 1871), under year 1310, §37-38, pp. 463-464.
  60. ^ Its records were republished in a critical edition by Jean Coste, Boniface VIII en procès: articles d'accusation et dépositions des témoins (1303-1311) (Rome: 'L'Erma' di Bretschneider 1995). See especially pp. 547-732.
  61. ^ James Brundage, Law, Sex and Christianity in Medieval Europe (University of Chicago, 1990), p. 473
  62. ^ A. Theiner (ed.), Caesaris Baronii Annales Ecclesiastici Tomus 23 (Bar-le-Duc 1871), under year 1311, §25-30, p. 481-483.
  63. ^ The Age of Faith, Will Durant, 1950, 13th printing, page 816--but without citing a source. Durant's authority is not high. It seems quite unlikely that the Church, especially during an Ecumenical Council, would have acquiesced in a trial for heresy by combat--which was contrary to Church policy. And there is evidence that a legal brief had been prepared by an eminent lawyer of Bologna for a trial of Boniface VIII at the Council: Joannes Dominicus Mansi, Sacrorum Conciliorum nova et amplissima Collectio novissima edition, Tomus vicesimus quintus (Venetiis 1782), pp. 415-426; it is pointed out in several places in the same work that the case of Boniface was presented to the Council by Pope Clement, and that the Council rejected it.
  64. ^ Robin Healey, Italian Literature Before 1900 In English Translation: An Annotated Bibliography 1929–2008, page 390 (University of Toronto Press Incorporated, 2011). ISBN 978-1-4426-4269-0. He is not listed as a physician of Boniface VIII by Gaetano Marini, Degli archiatri pontificj I (Roma: Pagliarini 1784), pp. 32-42.


  • Rubeus (Rossi), Joannes (Giovanni) (1651). Bonifacius VIII e familia Caietanorum principum Romanus Pontifex. Romae: Corbelletti. 
  • Paravicini Bagliani, Agostino (2003). Boniface VIII. Un pape hérétique?. Paris: Payot. 
  • Paravicini Bagliani, Agostino (2003). Bonifacio VIII. Torino: Einaudi. 
  • Boase, Thomas S. R. (1933). Boniface VIII. London: Constable. 
  • Coppa, Frank J, ed. (2002). The Great Popes Through History. Connecticut. Greenwood Press. 
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  • Finke, Heinrich (1902). Aus den Tagen Bonifaz VIII. Funde und Forschungen. Muenster. 
  • Gregorovius, Ferdinand (1906). History of the City of Rome in the Middle Ages Volume V part 2 (A.D. 1260-1305). London: George Bell and Sons. 
  • Schmidt, Tilmann (1989). Der Bonifaz-Prozeß. Verfahren der Papstanklage zur Zeit Bonifaz' VIII. und Clemens' V. Cologne, Vienna: Böhlau. 
  • Scholz, Richard (1903). Die Publizistik zur Zeit Philipps des Schönen und Bonifaz' VIII. Stuttgart. 
  • Souchon, Martin (1888). Die Papstwahlen von Bonifaz VIII bis Urban VI. Braunschweig: Benno Goeritz. 
  • Celidonio, Giuseppe (1896). Vita di S. Pietro del Morrone, Celestino Papa V, scritta su documenti coevi 3 volumes. Sulmone: Angeletti. 
  • Tierney, Brian (1964). Crisis of Church and State. Totowa, New Jersey: Prentice-Hall. 
  • Tosti, Louis (Luigi) (1911). History of Pope Boniface VIII and his times (tr. E. J. Donnelly). New York. 
  • Wood, Charles, T. (1967). Phillip the Fair and Boniface VIII: State vs Papacy. New York: Holt, Rhinehart, and Winston. 
  • H. Denifle, "Die Denkschriften der Colonna gegen Bonifaz VIII. und der Cardinale gegen die Colonna," Archiv fur Literatur- und Kirchen- geschichte V (Freiburg im Breisgau 1889), 493-529.
  • A. Rociglio, "La rinuncia di Celestino V," Celestino V ed il VI centenario della sua Incornazione (Aquila 1894), 209-247.
  • R. Morghen, "Una legazione di Benedetto Caetani nell'Umbria e la guerra tra Perugia e Foligno del 1288," Archivio della Società romana di storia patria, 52 (1929), pp. 485–490.
  • A. Frugoni, "Il giubileo di Bonifacio VIII," Bulletino dell'Istituto storico per il Medioevo LXII (1950), pp. 1–121.
  • H. Schmidinger, "Ein vergessener Bericht über das Attentat von Anagni," Mélanges Tisserant V (Roma 1964), pp. 373–388.

External links[edit]

Catholic Church titles
Preceded by
Celestine V
24 December 1294 – 11 October 1303
Succeeded by
Benedict XI