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Schism within the Curia: The Twin Papal Elections of 1378

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  07 February 2008

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The Great Western Schism divided Latin Christendom along national lines, but it began in 1378 not as a conflict between two national factions of cardinals in the conclave, but in two successive elections by the same college of cardinals, none dissenting. Each of the two new popes had the same usual claim to canonical legitimacy, but since each election was flawed in its circumstances and procedure, each pope could and did condemn and excommunicate his rival. Investigating the activities of the two leading bureaucrats of the Roman Curia, the archbishops who headed its two most powerful ministries, the Chancery and Camera, this paper explores an alternative interpretation of the two elections. According to this narrative, there were two extraordinary interventions in the succession to Pope Gregory xi: the disorderly papal election of 9 April 1378 was captured by one papal minister, the deputy director of the papal Chancery, Bartolomeo Prignano, archbishop of Bari; the second election, of 20 September, which began the Great Western Schism, was a counter-coup managed by the minister in charge of the Camera Apostolica, the chamberlain Pierre de Cros, archbishop of Arles.

Research Article
Copyright © Cambridge University Press 2008

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1 The best modern summary is Howard Kaminsky, ‘The Great Schism’, in Michael Jones (ed.), The new Cambridge medieval history, Cambridge 2001, vi. 674–96. Noël Valois, La France et le grand schisme d'occident, Paris 1896–1902, repr. Hildesheim 1967, is the most detailed account of the events of 1378, with extensive transcriptions of contemporary testimony. Louis Gayet made greater use of the Libri de schismate (ASV, Armarium liv), but with some imperfect editions, in Le Grand Schisme d'occident d'après les documents déposées aux Archives secrètes du Vatican, Florence–Berlin 1889. Walter Brandmüller, Papst und Konzil im grossen Schisma (1378–1431): Studien und Quellen, Paderborn 1990, brings the bibliography closer to date and offers previously unused contemporary witnesses.

2 Valois, La France, i. 82.

3 Bernard Guillemain, ‘Sur l'Efficacité de l'administration pontificale au xive siècle’, in Werner Paravicini and Karl Ferdinand Werner (eds), Histoire comparée de l'administration, Munich 1980, 143–8. Useful insights are provided by some of the studies in Aux Origines de l'état moderne: le fonctionnement administratif de la papauté d'Avignon, Rome 1990: see especially the lapidary essay by Jean Favier, ‘Traits généraux et traits spécifiques de l'administration pontificale’, 1–4, and also Kaminsky, ‘The Great Schism’, 678–80.

4 Noël Valois wrote a full objective history of the first election over a century ago: ‘L'Élection d'Urbain VI et les origines du grand schisme d'occident’, Revue des questions historiques xlviii (1890), 353–420, a painstaking reconstruction of the events from March to September 1378. Similarly candid and detailed, with an illuminating biographical investigation of Bartolomeo Prignano, is Olderico Přerovský, L'elezione di Urbano VI e l'insorgere dello schisma d'occidente, Rome 1960.

5 BNF, ms latin 11745, fos 63r-v (oral testimony in fifteen items, edited in J. M. H. Albanès, Gallia christiana novissima: histoire des archevêchés, évêchés & abbayes de France, accompagnée des documents authentiques recueillis dans les registres du Vatican et les archives locales, III: Arles, Montbéliard 1901, no. 1669, cols 722–5) and 63v-64v (written deposition in twenty-one items, edited in Gayet, Le Grand Schisme, i. 151–5), cited hereinafter as Pierre de Cros, testimony and deposition respectively.

6 BNF, ms latin 1462, fos 7r-28v, edited by César Egasse du Boulay in Historia Universitatis Parisiensis, iv, Paris 1668, repr. Frankfurt-am-Main 1966, 485–509 (his Factum or account of events in a series of 111 legally phrased capitula), 509–12 (his list of eleven allegations supporting the argument that the cardinals could not validly elect under pressure of fear), 512–14 (his responses to those allegations). A sketch of di Ceva's official life is in Daniel Williman and Karen Corsano, ‘The interdict of Florence (31 March 1376): new documents’, Rivista di storia della chiesa in Italia lvi (2002), 427–81 at pp. 431–2.

7 Přerovský, L'elezione, 1–31, provides the early biographical details. The pope's nephew, Cardinal Rinaldo Brancaccio, founded the church of Sant'Angelo a Nilo as a family chapel just south-east of San Domenico Maggiore.

8 For comparison, Prignano's later archbishopric of Bari was taxed at 600 florins, while Pierre de Cros's Arles was worth 2,000 florins: Conrad Eubel, Hierarchia catholica medii aevi, 2nd edn, Münster 1913, i. 70, 103, 128f.

9 BAV, ms Vaticani latini 6772, which came to the Vatican Library in 1798 from the Collegio di Capranica. Noted in BAV, Inventarium, viii. 197, but not yet in a published catalogue; these notes are from my direct observation. Pierre d'Estaing was the cardinal legate for whom the portfolio of special bulls was required.

10 Anne-Marie Hayez, ‘Les Livrées avignonnaises de la période pontificale’, Mémoirs de l'Académie de Vaucluse 8 sér. i (1992) 40–3. The livrée of Pierre de Monteruc was later the palace of King René, count of Provence.

11 Merceron, P., Merceron, R. and Aliquot, H., ‘Armorial des cardinaux limousins de la papauté d'Avignon’, Lemouzi lxi (1981), 259Google Scholar.

12 Přerovský, L'elezione, 19–20, citing Dietrich's De scismate, i. i, p. 9.

13 ASV, Armarium liv. 16, pp. 84 ff., edited in the pièces justificatives of Gayet, Le Grand Schisme, i. 170–1, French translation at ii. 184.

14 For instance, the Rota or Audience of the Apostolic Palace was a court much occupied with suits claiming benefices and other ecclesiastical properties and rights, but the court of the chamberlain in Treasury Chamber was given superior standing to the Rota, and busied itself with collecting the taxes due for all ecclesiastical appointments, whoever won them: Daniel Williman, ‘Summary justice in the Avignonese Camera’, in Stephan Kuttner (ed.), Proceedings of the Sixth International Congress of Medieval Canon Law (Monumenta Iuris Canonici, Series C: Subsidia vii, 1985), 443–5.

15 Daniel Williman, Calendar of the letters of Arnaud Aubert, camerarius apostolicus (1361–1371), Toronto 1992, 194.

16 ASV, Collectoriae 356, fos 80r–82v.

17 Ronald G. Witt, Hercules at the crossroads: the life, works, and thought of Coluccio Salutati, Durham, NC 1983.

18 ‘In cuius cardinalis Pampilonensis absentia, praefatus Gregorius papa, in partibus Italiae existens, praefecit dictum tunc Barensem archiepiscopum ad gubernandum officium cancellariae’: the continuation by Olderico Rinaldi, in Cesare Baronio, Annales ecclesiastici, Bar-le-Duc 1864–83, xxvi. 333.

19 I am indebted to Patrick Zutshi for notice of two original letters of Gregory xi dated 5 July 1377 (Archives Départementales des Bouches-du-Rhone, Marseilles, 2 H 258, nos 95, 96): ‘I find the initial R in the place where the vice chancellor or regens signs. I don't know who this R is, but clearly he is not Prignano.’ R was the usual signature of Jean Rousset, notary and registrar of the Camera, ‘l'un des hommes les plus actifs de l'entourage du camérier au temps du séjour à Anagni et Fondi’: Jean Favier, Les Finances pontificale à l'époque du grand schisme d'occident, 1378–1409, Paris 1966, 137. In the Curia of Clement vii at Avignon, papal bulls de curia were reviewed and endorsed by the chamberlain, and no longer by the vice-chancellor: Roger Ch. Logoz, Clément VII (Robert de Genève): sa chancellerie et le clergé romand au début du grand schisme (1378–1394), Lausanne 1974, 221.

20 See Paul Maria Baumgarten, Von der apostolischen Kanzlei, Cologne 1908, 108–9, for mention of Prignano as vices gerens on 13 February 1377. By the pope's orders, benefices which had been requested before 13 September 1376 were to be granted by letters dated as from Avignon on that date, while the first date of letters from Rome should be Rome, St Peter's, 15 March 1377: Emil von Ottenthal (ed.), Regulae Cancellariae apostolicae: die päpstlichen Kanzleiregeln von Johannes XXII bis Nicolaus V, Innsbruck 1888, repr. Aalen 1968, 43–4, rules at pp. 86–91. The appointment of papal chaplains of honour was to become an important source of revenue for Pope Urban vi, but under his predecessors at Avignon the gifts paid in gratitude by new honorary chaplains were quite unofficial and unrecorded.

21 De Cros, testimony, item 4; deposition, items 1, 3.

22 Idem, deposition, item 6.

23 Valois, ‘L'Élection’, 374–5; Jacopo di Ceva, Factum, items 11f. at pp. 487f.

24 De Cros, testimony, item 3.

25 Ibid. item 5; deposition, item 6.

26 Idem, testimony, item 10.

27 Di Ceva flatly denied the violence: Factum, item 18 at p. 489.

28 ‘I dispacci di Cristoforo da Piacenza, procuratore mantovano alla corte pontificale (1371–1383)’, ed. Arturo Segre, Archivio storico italiano 5th ser. xliii (1909), 27–95; xliv (1909), 253–326 at p. 270. See also Přerovský, L'elezione, 25. No earlier witness gave Prignano a fuller degree than doctor decretorum.

29 Valois, ‘L'Élection’, 393 n. 2; di Ceva, Factum, item 22 at p. 490. Přerovský, L'elezione, 43–64, establishes the position taken by each cardinal in the conclave.

30 Valois, La France, i. 44.

31 Di Ceva, Factum, item 35 at p. 492.

32 Valois, ‘L'Élection’, 401.

33 De Cros, deposition, item 11.

34 Di Ceva, Factum, item 61 at pp. 497f. Throughout his Factum di Ceva attends particularly to the acts, words and rituals by which each cardinal demonstrated his adherence to Urban vi.

35 Kaminsky, The Great Schism, 676.

36 ‘I dispacci’, xliv. 272–3. Note that later, in 1384, ‘the cardinals who condemned Urban as mentally unbalanced and “incompetent” (inutilis) were all of his own creation, all but one Italian’: Kaminsky, The Great Schism, 683.

37 Salvatore Fodale, La politica napoletana di Urbano VI, Rome 1973, 20–1 (texts in nn. 25–8). See also ‘I dispacci’, xliv. 271. Anna Maria Voci, in her soundly based and carefully reasoned study, ‘Giovanna I d'Angiò e l'inizio del Grande Scisma d'occidente: la doppia elezione del 1378 e la proposta conciliare’, Quellen und Forschungen aus italienischen Archiven und Bibliotheken lxxv (1995), 178–255, considers that these insults were insufficient to incline the queen to schism, and that four cardinals (Robert of Geneva, Jean de la Grange, Géraud du Puy and Pierre Flandrin) persuaded her. But there was no schism at that point, no rival pope, and those were the cardinals named by Urban as chief rebels. Giovanna's choice in July was really between adhering to an election which had become doubtful and attending to the formal written warnings of the cardinals as a college, and of Pierre de Cros. The fact that Urban had gratuitously insulted her representatives very likely inclined her toward the latter choice.

38 Přerovský, L'elezione, 91f.

39 Stefan Weiss, Rechnungswesen und Buchhandlung des avignoneser Papsttums (1316–1378): eine Quellenkunde, Hanover 2003, 69.

40 Daniel Williman, Calendar of the letters of Pierre de Cros, chamberlain to Pope Gregory XI (1371–1378), forthcoming, will include a complete biography. For an account of the executive and judicial powers of the chamberlains see idem, ‘Summary justice’.

41 Twin versions are found in ASV, Registra Vaticana 263, fos 226v-227v.

42 ‘Cardinales nihil de Camera papae recipiant, nec de aliis eidem ecclesiae tempore vacationis obvenientibus undecunque; sed ea omnia ipsa vacatione durante sub eius, cuius fidei et diligentiae Camera eadem est commissa, custodia maneant, per eum dispositioni futuri pontificis reservanda’: Liber sextus 1.6.3§1, in Emil Friedberg (ed.), Corpus iuris canonici, Leipzig 1879, repr. Graz 1959, ii. 947.

43 ‘Eo tamen proviso, quod si eiusdem ecclesiae camerarium, aut maiorem vel aliquos alios ex poenitentiariis (quorum officium per obitum eiusdem Pontificis nolumus exspirare) …’: Constitutiones Clementinae 1.3.2§1, ibid. ii. 1135–6.

44 De Cros, testimony, items 1, 2; Marc Dykmans, ‘La Bulle de Grégoire xi à la veille du Grand Schisme’, Mélanges: antiquité, moyen âge lxxxix (1977), 485–95. No original exists, and the bull is known only from later copies and an awkwardly registered version, ASV, Registra Avinionensia 204, fo. 9r, labelled ‘de Camera sine signo’. Dykmans judged that de Cros concealed the bull from the cardinals, but his evidence also permits the conclusion that the constitution was a simple forgery by de Cros. Either way, the chamberlain used his access to papal power furtively.

45 The castellan's uncle, captain of the garrison, told of the oath in a letter to the king of Castile, BNF, ms lat. 11745, fo. 64v. The bishop of Cordoba, an eyewitness, declared that the Breton officers flew Urban vi's eagle banner over the Castel until the new pope ordered Rostaing to hand it over to a new, Neapolitan, castellan, which Rostaing refused to do until he was paid a very large indemnity for his wages and his repairs to the Castel (ibid. fo. 136r). Both texts are edited in Étienne Baluze, Vitae paparum avenionensium, ed. Guillaume Mollat, Paris 1922, ii. 729. Urban vi finally wrote to the cardinals at Avignon on 15 June 1378, calling the story of the oath false but nevertheless asking them to write the required release: the pope's original letter close is ASV, Instrumenta miscellanea 2991.

46 Di Ceva, Factum, items 7, 15 at pp. 486, 489.

47 De Cros, testimony, items 5–7; deposition, item 4.

48 Idem, testimony, item 9; di Ceva, Factum, item 16 at p. 489.

49 De Cros, testimony, item 11.

50 Ibid. item 13.

51 Idem, deposition, item 12.

52 Biblioteca comunale, Viterbo, Pergamene sciolte no. 2373; my thanks to the discoverer, Karen Corsano. For comparison, the two last known letters of the chamberlain before the death of Gregory xi ended with the clause ‘Datum Rome apud Sanctumpetrum die decima mensis Martii, anno a nativitate Domini millesimo trecentesimo septuagesimo octavo, indictione xv, pontificatus sanctissimi in Christo patris et domini, domini Gregorii, divina providentia pape XI anno octavo’: ASV, Collectoriae 359, 3rv.

53 Except di Ceva, who recounts this consistory without the harsh words: Factum, item 89 at p. 502.

54 ‘I dispacci’, xliv. 272 n. 1.

55 Di Ceva, Factum, items 106–8 at pp. 506f.

56 ‘I dispacci’, lxiv. 273.

57 ‘Rome apud S. Petrum, 25 mensis Junii’ is the date of an unfinished draft of a quittance by de Cros: ASV, Registra Avenionensia 220, 373v. In ASV, Collectoriae 393, 92v–93r, there is a copy of the chamberlain's letter renewing on his own authority the appointment of the treasurer in Avignon, dated Anagni, sede vacante, 1 July 1378. Cf. de Cros, deposition, item 13.

58 Přerovský, L'elezione, 124 n. 46; Chronicon Siculum incerti authoris ab anno 340 ad annum 1396 in forma diary ex inedito Codice Ottoboniano [no. 2940], cura et studio Josephi de Blasiis, Naples 1887, 31.

59 De Cros, deposition, item 20.

60 Daniel Williman, ‘The camerary and the schism’, in Genèse et débuts du Grand Schisme d'occident, Paris 1980, 65–71 at p. 70–1 The churches were Marseille, Grasse, St-Paul-trois-Châteaux and Valence-Die.

61 Baluze, Vitae paparum avenionensium, iv. 173–84.

62 ASV, Registra Avenionensia 220, fos 327r–328r, 332rv. For the Camera's continuity in the Avignon obedience and clumsy improvisation in the Roman see Favier, Finances pontificales, 136–46.

63 Mazel's cameral dossier was later bound into ASV, Collectoriae 393. The Chancery material, the original papal bulls addressed to Mazel and to Robert of Geneva, are now to be found in ASV, Bullarium generale, vol. 2, for which see the repertory of Angelo Mercati, Sussidi per la consultazione dell'Archivio Vaticano iii (Studi e testi cxxxiv, 1947), 38–49.

64 Both the illiterate Cistercian lay brothers who performed the manual work of appending the bull also joined Clement vii at Fondi: Paul Maria Baumgarten, Aus Kanzlei und Kammer, Freiburg-im-Breisgau 1907, 161 nn. 20–2.

65 BAV, ms Vaticani latini 6330, described in BAV, Inventarium 7 as ‘Formularium litterarum apostolicarum Urbani VI’, 492 folia, preceded by a table of contents. See now Patrick Zutshi, ‘Unpublished fragments of the registers of common letters of Pope Urban vi (1378)’, in Brigitte Flug, Michael Matheus and Andreas Rehberg (eds), Kurie und Region: Festschrift für Brigide Schwarz sum 65. Geburtstag, Stuttgart 2005, 41–61.

66 ‘I dispacci’, xliv. 274; Baumgarten, Von der apostolischen Kanzlei, 111. Ranulphe de Gorse died in 1382 and was succeeded as vice-chancellor by Francesco Moricotti Prignano, cardinal bishop of Preneste.

67 ASV, Registrum Supplicationum 68, fos 167–72, is a roll of petitions for benefices for Pierre de Monteruc's household, presented by the executors of his testament to Clement vii (Avignon, 1 July 1385).