Pope Boniface VIII

Pope Boniface VIII was born Benedetto Caetani around 1230. Born in Anagni, a comfortable summer home for many past popes, he was the sone of Roffredo Caetani, of a poor but baronial family, and Emilia Patrasso di Guarcino, the niece of Pope Alexander IV. As a young man, he went to the Monastery of the Friars Minor in Velletri, under the care of his maternal uncle, Fra Leonardo Patrasso.

His teachers recognized his intelligence and he went on to study law at Todi, when his paternal uncle became bishop, and, later, at Bologna. He was conscious of his superior intellect and used it as he saw fit over the years. His numerous statues (idolatry?), impulsiveness and short temper all contributed to his infamy and legacy.

He entered the Roman curia in 1264 and, over the years, received increasingly responsible roles. Benedetto served with the future Pope Martin IV in France. Then he served for three years in England with the future Pope Adrian IV. He had the ability to negotiate countries out of their arguments.

Pope Martin IV made him a cardinal deacon of St. Nicholas in Carcare in 1281, Ten years later he was cardinal priest of St. Martin in Montibus. At the same time, he became a papal legate to a church council in Paris. He managed to delay war between France and England and brought peace to France and Aragon.

He was a senior cardinal when the elderly Pope Celestine V was elected. When Celestine developed severe disillusionment about his ability to be an administrator several months later, Benedetto’s knowledge of canonical law gave Celestine the validity he needed to leave the papacy.

The Papacy

Benedetto quickly was elected to replace the ex-pope. But talk that others might make Celestine into an antipope caused Benedetto to take the old man into custody and hold him for a year and a half, at which time the ex-pope died.

Several international conflicts at the beginning of Boniface’s pontificate set the scene for the rest of his life. France and England were at the beginning of their Hundred Years War. Aquitane and Flanders were fighting for parts of France. Aragon had won Sicily when it broke from Naples, which Boniface reluctantly accepted. And Boniface wanted a new crusade.

Hostilities between Edward I of England and Philip IV of France developed into the kings taxing the clergy to have enough money for war. In 1296, Boniface forbad imposition of taxes on the clergy without the license of the pope, under penalty of death. This did deter England, some, but not at all in France. Instead, King Philip countered with an order forbidding the export of money and valuables from France plus the deportation of foreign merchants. This put a serious dent in papal revenue. But the straw that broke the camel’s back was the next year when armed insurrectionists, led by the anti-papal Colonna family, robbed much of the papal treasure. Military action against the Colonnas resulted in their unconditional surrender without excommunication. Boniface reconciled with King Philip and canonized Philip’s grandfather, St. Louis IX.

The conflict continued with trumped up charges against Bishop Sarsaet of Pamiers and his incarceration. Philip was determined to get the right of secular control of the clergy. Boniface refused to compromise, rebuking Philip and demanding amends including the release of the bishop. The French chancellor distorted Boniface’s words and presented the distortion to the public as truth. Even some of the French clergy took it as truth.

To bolster his case, Boniface went against Philip and granted recognition of Holy Roman Emperor to Albert I of Hapsburg, a previous ally of Philip. Albert then possessed overlordship of all other kingdoms in Europe, even France. In 1302, Boniface wrote a bull claiming that submission to the pope is necessary for salvation.

Philip had had enough. His chancellor met with Boniface’s papal legate who had turned against the pope and the king’s advisors. They went to Italy to stir up rebellion, accusing Boniface of everything from being illegally elected to heresy. They were not successful. The chancellor joined with a branch of the Colonnas and 1600 to 2000 mercenaries. They kidnapped the pope at the summer palace at Anagni and held him for two days while assaulting him. However, they also attacked the town. When the people of Anagni realized what was happening, they rescued Boniface. He successfully got back to Rome but died within a month.


External link: POPE BONIFACE VIII (catholic365.com)