Pope Gregory XI

Last updated

Gregory XI
Bishop of Rome
Duke of Anjou leading Pope Gregory XI to the palace at Avignon, while cardinals follow (cropped).png
Gregory XI entering the Palace of the Popes, Avignon
Church Catholic Church
Papacy began30 December 1370
Papacy ended27 March 1378
Predecessor Urban V
Successor Urban VI
Ordination2 January 1371
Consecration3 January 1371
by  Guy of Boulogne
Created cardinal29 May 1348
by Clement VI
Personal details
Pierre Roger de Beaufort

c. 1329
Died27 March 1378(1378-03-27) (aged 48–49)
Rome, Papal States
Other popes named Gregory

Pope Gregory XI (Latin : Gregorius, born Pierre Roger de Beaufort; c. 1329 – 27 March 1378) was head of the Catholic Church from 30 December 1370 to his death in March 1378. He was the seventh and last Avignon pope [1] and the most recent French pope recognized by the modern Catholic Church. In 1377, Gregory XI returned the Papal court to Rome, ending nearly 70 years of papal residency in Avignon, France. His death shortly after was followed by the Western Schism involving two Avignon-based antipopes.


Early life

Pierre Roger de Beaufort was born at Maumont, France, around 1330. His uncle, Pierre Cardinal Roger, Archbishop of Rouen, was elected pope in 1342 and took the name Clement VI. Clement VI bestowed a number of benefices upon his nephew and in 1348, created the eighteen-year-old a cardinal deacon. The young cardinal attended the University of Perugia, where he became a skilled canonist and theologian. [2]

Conclave 1370

Coronation of Gregory XI 07 Gregoire XI (couronne par Guy de Boulogne).jpg
Coronation of Gregory XI

After the death of Pope Urban V (December 1370), eighteen cardinals assembled at Avignon entered the conclave on 29 December. Cardinal Roger was unanimously elected on 30 December. [3] Though initially opposing his own election, Roger eventually accepted and took the name of Gregory XI. On 4 January 1371 he was ordained to the priesthood by the Dean of the College of Cardinals, Guy de Boulogne, and on 5 January was consecrated Bishop of Rome and crowned by the new protodeacon Rinaldo Orsini in the cathedral Notre Dame des Doms in Avignon. [4]


Immediately on his accession he attempted to reconcile the Kings of France and England, but failed. Gregory confirmed a treaty between Sicily and Naples at Villeneuve-lès-Avignon on 20 August 1372, which brought about a permanent settlement between the rival kingdoms, which were both papal fiefs. [5]

Gregory also tried to undertake a crusade due to pleas from Catherine of Siena in 1376 [6] by continuing Pope Urban V’s call for Christians to stop fighting other Christians, which Urban called for in November of 1366. [7] Efforts were also made to reform corrupt practices in the various monastic orders, such as collecting fees from persons visiting holy sites and the exhibiting of faux relics of saints. [6] Many of these acts were through the persistence of letters from Catherine of Siena.

Like the preceding popes of Avignon, Gregory XI made the fatal mistake of appointing Frenchmen, who did not understand the Italians and whom the Italians hated, as legates and governors of the ecclesiastical provinces in Italy. Italian city states opposed the move of the papacy back to Rome and specifically Florence opposed to the move due to Gregory wanting to expand the Papal states upon the papal return to Rome. [8] Before moving to Rome, however, he had to give his entire attention to the turbulent affairs of Italy. Duke Bernabo Visconti of Milan, had, in 1371, made himself master of Reggio and other places that were feudatory to the Holy See. Gregory XI excommunicated him and later declared war on him in 1372 against a Florentine led coalition of Italian city states, which later became known as the War of the Eight Saints (1375-1378). After war broke out, Gregory excommunicated the city and placed the city under interdict on 31 March 1376 [9] in an attempt to quell the rebellion. Catherine of Siena tried to convince Gregory to stop the war on behalf of the Florentine state. [2] This proved to be futile as the war did not end until after Gregory’s death. The war ended with a peace treaty concluded at Tivoli in July 1378, negotiated with Pope Urban VI following the death of Gregory XI. [8]

Return to Rome

A bolognino of Gregory XI Bolognino Gregorio XI.jpg
A bolognino of Gregory XI

The return to Rome from Avignon has been an issue since Pope Clement V moved the papacy to Avignon in 1309. [10] From Popes Clement V to Urban V, the popes of the Avignon Papacy had their reasons to stay in France and not return to Rome. After 68 years of papal rule from France, Gregory XI moved the papacy back to its former seat of power of Rome in 1377.  

Gregory was constantly receiving pleas and threats from Catherine of Siena through letters. In total, she wrote 14 letters between 1375 and 1378 until Gregory died. These letters delt with different matters such as peace, church reform, and moving the papacy back to Rome. Catherine persuades him by saying that it is easier to achieve Gregory’s goal of peace among the city states in Italy by expanding the influence of the Papal states if the papacy is back in Rome. [6] Catherine’s goals of church reform in her eyes seems more plausible if the papacy is in Rome as well.  

The return of the Curia to Rome began on 13 September 1376. Despite the protests of the French king and the majority of the cardinals, Gregory left Avignon on that day and made his way to Marseilles, where he boarded a ship on 2 October. Arriving at Corneto on 6 December, he decided to remain there until arrangements were made in Rome concerning its future government. On 13 January 1377, he left Corneto, landed at Ostia the next day, and from there sailed up the Tiber to the monastery of San Paolo. On 17 January he left the monastery to make a solemn entrance into Rome that same day. [11] [12] [13]


Gregory XI did not survive much longer after his move to Rome. He died on 27 March 1378 aged 48–49. [14] Pope Urban VI, an Italian, was elected to the papacy after his death. However, his decision to move the papacy back to Rome led to the Western Schism and the rise of the Antipopes. Most of Europe supported Clement VII (now considered an antipope) as the true pope. [15] While the papacy was in Rome following Gregory’s death, it took another century of popes fighting to restore the papacy to its former glory and to firmly establish itself back in Rome.

Subsequently, the Western Schism created by the selection of rival popes forced Europe into a dilemma of papal allegiance. This schism was not resolved fully until the Council of Constance (1414–1418). [16]

See also


  1. Richard P. McBrien, Lives of the Popes, (HarperCollins, 2000), 245.
  2. 1 2 Wikisource-logo.svg One or more of the preceding sentences incorporates text from a publication now in the public domain : Ott, Michael (1909). "Pope Gregory XI". In Herbermann, Charles (ed.). Catholic Encyclopedia . Vol. 6. New York: Robert Appleton Company.
  3. G. Mollat The Popes at Avignon 1305–1378, London 1963, p. 59
  4. S. Miranda Cardinal Pierre Roger de Beaufort (Pope Gregory XI)
  5. Hayez, Michel (2002). "Gregorio XI, papa". Dizionario Biografico degli Italiani. Vol. 59. Rome: Istituto della Enciclopedia Italiana.
  6. 1 2 3 Villegas, D., 2021. Catherine of Siena’s spirituality of political engagement. HTS Teologiese Studies / Theological Studies, 77(2).
  7. Clarke, Peter D. “BETWEEN AVIGNON AND ROME: MINOR PENITENTIARIES AT THE PAPAL CURIA IN THE THIRTEENTH AND FOURTEENTH CENTURIES.” Rivista Di Storia Della Chiesa in Italia, vol. 63, no. 2, 2009, pp. 455–510
  8. 1 2 Peterson, David S. 2002. "The War of the Eight Saints in Florentine Memory and Oblivion." In Society and Individual in Renaissance Florence, Ed. William J. Connell.
  9. Williman, Daniel, and Karen Corsano. “THE INTERDICT OF FLORENCE (31 MARCH 1376): NEW DOCUMENTS.” Rivista Di Storia Della Chiesa in Italia, vol. 56, no. 2, 2002, pp. 427–81
  10. Rollo-Koster, J., 2015. Avignon and Its Papacy, 1309–1417: Popes, Institutions, and Society.
  11. Joëlle Rollo-Koster, Raiding Saint Peter: Empty Sees, Violence, and the Initiation of the Great Western Schism (1378), (Brill, 2008), 182.
  12. Francis Thomas Luongo, The Saintly Politics of Catherine of Siena, xii.
  13. Harvey, Margaret The English in Rome, 1362–1420: Portrait of an Expatriate Community, (Cambridge University Press, 2004), 3.
  14. Richardson, C., 2009. Reclaiming Rome: Cardinals in the Fifteenth Century. Leiden: Brill.
  15. Walsh, M., 2011. The Cardinals: Thirteen Centuries of the Men Behind the Papal Throne. Grand Rapids, Mich.: William B. Eerdmans Pub.
  16. Welsh, Frank (2008). The Battle for Christendom The Council of Constance, the East-West Conflict, and the Dawn of Modern Europe . New York: The Overlook Press. pp. 117–153. ISBN   978-1-59020-123-7.

Related Research Articles

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Antipope John XXIII</span> Italian bishop; Pisan antipope (1410–1415)

Baldassarre Cossa was Pisan antipope John XXIII (1410–1415) during the Western Schism. The Catholic Church regards him as an antipope, as he opposed Pope Gregory XII whom the Catholic Church now recognizes as the rightful successor of Saint Peter. He was also an opponent of Antipope Benedict XIII, who was recognized by the French bishop as legitimate Pontiff.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Catherine of Siena</span> Italian Dominican saint (1347–1380)

Catherine of Siena , a member of the Third Order of Saint Dominic, was a mystic, activist, and author who had a great influence on Italian literature and on the Catholic Church. Canonized in 1461, she is also a Doctor of the Church.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Pope Urban V</span> Head of the Catholic Church from 1362 to 1370

Pope Urban V, born Guillaume de Grimoard, was the head of the Catholic Church from 28 September 1362 until his death in December 1370 and was also a member of the Order of Saint Benedict. He was the only Avignon pope to be beatified.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Pope Urban VI</span> Head of the Catholic Church from 1378 to 1389

Pope Urban VI, born Bartolomeo Prignano, was head of the Catholic Church from 8 April 1378 to his death in October 1389. He was the most recent pope to be elected from outside the College of Cardinals. His pontificate began shortly after the end of the Avignon Papacy. It was marked by immense conflict between rival factions as part of the Western Schism, with much of Europe recognizing Clement VII, based in Avignon, as the true pope.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Avignon Papacy</span> Period during which the Pope lived in Avignon, France in the 14th century

The Avignon Papacy was the period from 1309 to 1376 during which seven successive popes resided in Avignon, then in the Kingdom of Arles, part of the Holy Roman Empire, now in France, rather than in Rome. The situation arose from the conflict between the papacy and the French crown, culminating in the death of Pope Boniface VIII after his arrest and maltreatment by Philip IV of France. Following the further death of Pope Benedict XI, Philip forced a deadlocked conclave to elect the French Clement V as pope in 1305. Clement refused to move to Rome, and in 1309 he moved his court to the papal enclave at Avignon, where it remained for the next 67 years. This absence from Rome is sometimes referred to as the "Babylonian captivity of the Papacy".

Year 1376 (MCCCLXXVI) was a leap year starting on Tuesday of the Julian calendar.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Western Schism</span> Split within the Catholic Church from 1378 to 1417

The Western Schism, also known as the Papal Schism, the Vatican Standoff, the Great Occidental Schism, or the Schism of 1378, was a split within the Catholic Church lasting from 1378 to 1417 in which bishops residing in Rome and Avignon both claimed to be the true pope, and were joined by a third line of Pisan claimants in 1409. The schism was driven by personalities and political allegiances, with the Avignon papacy being closely associated with the French monarchy. These rival claims to the papal throne damaged the prestige of the office.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Antipope Benedict XIII</span> Antipope from 1394 to 1423

Pedro Martínez de Luna y Pérez de Gotor, known as el Papa Luna in Spanish and Pope Luna in English, was an Aragonese nobleman, who as Benedict XIII, is considered an antipope by the Catholic Church.

The War of the Eight Saints (1375–1378) was a war between Pope Gregory XI and a coalition of Italian city-states led by Florence that contributed to the end of the Avignon Papacy.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Gui de Maillesec</span> French Catholic cardinal (died 1412)

Guy de Malsec was a French bishop and cardinal. He was born at the family's fief at Malsec (Maillesec), in the diocese of Tulle. He had two sisters, Berauda and Agnes, who both became nuns at the Monastery of Pruliano (Pruilly) in the diocese of Carcassonne, and two nieces Heliota and Florence, who became nuns at the Monastery of S. Prassede in Avignon. He was a nephew of Pope Gregory XI, or perhaps a more distant relative. He was also a nephew of Pope Innocent VI. Guy was baptized in the church of S. Privatus, some 30 km southeast of Tulle. He played a part in the election of Benedict XIII of the Avignon Obedience in 1394, in his status as second most senior cardinal. He played an even more prominent role in Benedict's repudiation and deposition. Guy de Malsec was sometimes referred to as the 'Cardinal of Poitiers' (Pictavensis) or the 'Cardinal of Palestrina' (Penestrinus).

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Raymond of Capua</span> Leading member of the Dominican Order

Raymond of Capua, was a leading member of the Dominican Order and served as its Master General from 1380 until his death. First as Prior Provincial of Lombardy and then as Master General of the Order, Raymond undertook the restoration of Dominican religious life. For his success in this endeavor, he is referred to as its "second founder".

Gérard du Puy was a French cardinal of the Roman Catholic Church and cardinal-nephew of Pope Gregory XI.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">1370 papal conclave</span> Election of the Pope

The 1370 papal conclave, held after the death of Pope Urban V, elected as his successor Cardinal Pierre Roger de Beaufort, who under the name Gregory XI became seventh and the last pope of the period of Avignon Papacy.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Angel de Grimoard</span>

Anglic de Grimoard, also recorded as Angelic, was a French canon regular and a Cardinal. He was the younger brother of Pope Urban V.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">1314–1316 papal conclave</span>

The 1314–16 papal conclave, held in the apostolic palace of Carpentras and then the Dominican house in Lyon, was one of the longest conclaves in the history of the Roman Catholic Church and the first conclave of the Avignon Papacy. The length of the conclave was due to the division of the cardinals into three factions: Italian, Gascon, and French/Provençal.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">1378 papal conclave</span>

The 1378 papal conclave which was held from April 7 to 9, 1378, was the papal conclave which was the immediate cause of the Western Schism in the Catholic Church. The conclave was one of the shortest in the history of the Catholic Church. The conclave was also the first since 1159 held in the Vatican and in Old St. Peter's Basilica.

Ubi periculum is a papal bull promulgated by Pope Gregory X during the Second Council of Lyon on 7 July 1274 that established the papal conclave format as the method for selecting a pope, specifically the confinement and isolation of the cardinals in conditions designed to speed them to reach a broad consensus. Its title, as is traditional for such documents, is taken from the opening words of the original Latin text, Ubi periculum maius intenditur, 'Where greater danger lies'. Its adoption was supported by the hundreds of bishops at that council over the objections of the cardinals. The regulations were formulated in response to the tactics used against the cardinals by the magistrates of Viterbo during the protracted papal election of 1268–1271, which took almost three years to elect Gregory X. In requiring that the cardinals meet in isolation, Gregory was not innovating but implementing a practice that the cardinals had either adopted on their own initiative or had forced upon them by civil authorities. After later popes suspended the rules of Ubi periculum and several were elected in traditional elections rather than conclaves, Pope Boniface VIII incorporated Ubi periculum into canon law in 1298.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Pierre de Murat de Cros</span>

Pierre de Murat de Cros, O.S.B., was a French monk of aristocratic origins who became a cardinal of the Avignon Obedience during the Great Schism, as well as the Archbishop of Arles and the Chamberlain of the Apostolic Camera. Refusing from the day of his election to support Bartolomeo Prignano after the Papal Conclave of 1378, de Cros played a critical role in delivering a considerable portion of the Roman Curia to the rival claimant Robert of Geneva, who took the name Clement VII. Historian Daniel Williman calls Murat de Cros's actions a "counter-coup".

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Antipope Clement VII</span> Antipope from 1378 to 1394

Robert of Geneva, elected to the papacy as Clement VII by the cardinals who opposed Pope Urban VI, was the first antipope residing in Avignon, France. His election led to the Western Schism.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Niccolò Brancaccio</span> Catholic cardinal

Niccolò Brancaccio was born in the Kingdom of Naples, perhaps in Naples itself. He was Archbishop of Bari and then Archbishop of Cosenza, while serving in the Roman Curia in Avignon. He became a cardinal of the Avignon Obedience in 1378, and was Cardinal Priest of Santa Maria in Trastevere and then Cardinal Bishop of Albano. He participated in the Council of Pisa in 1409, and was one of the electors of Pope Alexander V and of Pope John XXIII.



Catholic Church titles
Preceded by Pope
Succeeded byas Roman pope
Succeeded byas Avignon pope