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Boniface VIII

Boniface VIII, 1235–1303, pope (1294–1303), an Italian (b. Anagni) named Benedetto Caetani; successor of St. Celestine V.

As a cardinal he was independent of the factions in the papal court, and he opposed the election of Celestine. Boniface was elected on Celestine's abdication, and during his first years he was opposed by those who had suffered from Celestine's retirement—the Neapolitans, the Colonna family, and the extreme Franciscans, among them Jacopone da Todi. To preclude schism, Boniface kept Celestine imprisoned for the rest of his life. Boniface reigned in a time of crisis in Europe. He wished to emulate St. Gregory VII and Innocent III, but he was no such statesman, and the times had changed. He interfered in Sicily, but he was openly flouted when Frederick II and the Sicilians forced Boniface to recognize Frederick as king. He brought Charles of Valois into Italy to pacify Florence and succeeded only in stirring up more trouble. Dante was exiled in this struggle of Guelphs and Ghibellines.

Boniface's contest with Philip IV of France was the principal feature of his career. The pope tried to stop Philip from his illegal levies on the clergy by the bull Clericis laicos (1296), enunciating the principle that laymen could not tax clerics without the consent of the Holy See. Philip retaliated by cutting off the contributions of the French church to Rome. In England the Pope faced an equally resistant Edward I, and in a subsequent bull (1297) Boniface relaxed the ruling. The dispute began again in earnest in 1301 with the trial of Bernard Saisset, and Boniface never again yielded.

Two of his statements in the controversy are famous—the bull Ausculta fili (1301), which summoned a French synod to meet at Rome to discuss the reformation of French affairs, and the bull Unam sanctam (1302), an extreme statement (not naming Philip) of the principle that Catholic princes as well as others are subject to the pope in temporal (moral) and religious matters. Philip paid no attention, and in 1303 he sent Nogaret to Italy, soon proclaiming his intention of deposing the pope. Nogaret found the pope at Anagni and harassed him; the pope stood firm and according to tradition was slapped by Nogaret's companion, Sciarra Colonna. The outraged people of Anagni thereupon drove out the soldiery; Boniface was rescued and escorted to Rome. He died in a month.

Philip pursued Boniface dead as he had alive. In 1310 he forced Clement V to begin a process to determine that Boniface was heretical; that accusation was abandoned, but Clement consented to repudiate such of Boniface's acts as had hurt Philip. Boniface, an excellent canon lawyer, planned and promulgated a substantial addition to the existing law, called the Sext (1298) since it was the sixth book added to the five-volume compilation of Gregory IX. He was the first to establish (1300) a holy year. He was succeeded by Benedict XI.

See C. T. Wood, Philip the Fair and Boniface VIII: State vs. Papacy (1967).

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Boniface VIII (Benedetto Gaetano) (ca. 1228-1303)

Boniface VIII (Benedetto Gaetano) (ca. 1228-1303)

Pope who gained an unenviable notoriety in Dante's Inferno as "Prince of the new Pharisees" and was regarded by many people as an exponent of black magic. A noted jurist, Boniface was born at Anagni in a noble family and was elected pope in 1294. In 1296 he quarreled seriously with Phillippe le Bel, king of France, who wanted to tax the church, and prepared to excommunicate the king. The quarrel arose when Boniface was determined to extend the rule of the papacy throughout the kingdoms of the world and to build up great estates for his family.

In 1303, Phillippe's ministers and agents boldly accused Boniface of heresy and sorcery, and the king called a council at Paris to hear witnesses and pronounce judgment. The pope resisted and refused to acknowledge a council not called by himself. Then the king planned to abduct Boniface and bring him to France. The French attacked the pope in his residence, but could not carry off their escape, and the mistreatment to which Boniface was exposed proved too much for him. He died the same year, in the midst of these vindictive proceedings. His enemies spread abroad a report that in his last moments he had confessed his league with the demon, and that his death was attended with "so much thunder and tempest, with dragons flying in the air and vomiting flames, and such lightning and other prodigies, that the people of Rome believed that the whole city was going to be swallowed up in the abyss."

His successor, Benedict XI, undertook to defend his predecessor's memory, but he died in 1304, the first year of his pontificate (some said he was poisoned), and the holy see remained vacant for 11 months. In mid-June 1305 the archbishop of Bordeaux was elected to the papal chair under the title Clement V. This election was ascribed to the influence of the king, who was said to have stipulated as one condition that Clement should support proceedings against Boniface that would make his memory infamous. However, the prosecution was dropped, and in 1312 Boniface was declared innocent of all offenses with which he had been charged. These had included wild accusations of infidelity, skepticism, and communication with demons. One witness deposed that he had a demon enclosed in a ring which he wore on his finger; one friar (Brother Bernard de Sorano) deposed that when Boniface was a cardinal, he was seen to enter a garden adjacent to the palace of Nicholas III and perform a magical ceremony with a sacrificed cock and a book of spells, conjuring up demons. Such statements must be judged in the light of the king's opposition to Boniface and the superstitions of the time.

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Boniface VIII

Boniface VIII (c.1235–1303). Pope from 24 Dec. 1294. He was born Benedict Gaetani, and after studying law, served in a variety of posts in the Roman curia. As a cardinal he was instrumental in 1294 in persuading Celestine V to resign the papacy, and was elected in Celestine's place. His pontificate was dominated by the struggle with Philip the Fair of France, which led to the bull Unam Sanctam proclaiming that there is no salvation or remission of sins outside communion with the bishop of Rome (see EXTRA ECCLESIAM NULLA SALUS). Boniface was on the point of excommunicating Philip in Sept. 1303 when his palace at Anagni was attacked by the Colonnas and French-led mercenaries. The pope was briefly held captive, and died a month later as a consequence of his treatment.

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Boniface VIII

Boniface VIII (1235–1303) Pope (1294–1303), b. Benedetto Gaetani. To bring order to Rome and prevent schism, he imprisoned his predecessor Celestine V. He offered the first plenary indulgence (1300) for all who made a pilgrimage to Rome.

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