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Schism, Great

Great Schism, or Schism of the West, division in the Roman Catholic Church from 1378 to 1417. There was no question of faith or practice involved; the schism was a matter of persons and politics. Shortly after Gregory XI had returned the papacy from Avignon to Rome, he died (Mar. 27, 1378). The Romans feared that the papal court might be returned to Avignon, and there was rioting, with the mob demanding a Roman, or at least an Italian, pope. On Apr. 8 the 16 cardinals present elected Urban VI. The new pope was soon acting very offensively to all in the church. The cardinals met at Agnani and on Aug. 2 declared Urban's election null. At Fondi on Sept. 20 they elected Robert of Geneva pope as Clement VII. Urban VI remained in Rome, refusing to step down, and Clement VII fled to Avignon, where he reigned surrounded by the former Roman court. There were thus two lines of popes. The popes at Rome were Urban VI (1378–89), Boniface IX (1389–1404), Innocent VII (1404–6), and Gregory XII (1406–15). Those of the rival line at Avignon were Clement VII (1378–94) and Benedict XIII (1394–1417; see Luna, Pedro de). Schism within schism ensued. France withdrew from obedience to Benedict XIII and recognized no pope (1398–1403, 1408–9). Theologians of the Univ. of Paris, led by Pierre d'Ailly and John Gerson, were anxious to end the schism, and they developed the theory that popes are subject to general councils. The Council of Pisa (1409; see Pisa, Council of) was the result. This meeting declared that Gregory XII of the Roman (or Urbanist) line and Benedict XIII of the Avignon (or Clementine) line were not popes and elected another, Alexander V. He died soon after, but his energetic successor, Baldassare Cossa (John XXIII, 1410–15), detached most of Europe from his rivals. In 1414 John reluctantly convened the Council of Constance (see Constance, Council of). Gregory XII resigned. John XXIII and Benedict XIII, who refused to resign, were declared deposed by the council. Martin V was elected, and the schism was at an end. The main effects of the schism were to delay needed reforms in the church and to give rise to the conciliar theory, which was revived at the Council of Basel (see Basel, Council of). It is generally agreed by Roman Catholic scholars that the line of popes from Urban to Gregory was the canonical one.

See W. Ullmann, Origins of the Great Schism (1948, repr. 1972); B. Tierney, Foundations of the Conciliar Theory (1955, repr. 1969); E. F. Jacob, Essays in the Conciliar Epoch (3d ed. 1963); M. Gail, The Three Popes (1969); J. H. Smith, The Great Schism (1970).

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Great Schism

Great Schism

A divide in the Catholic Church that brought an institution that dominated medieval Europe to the lowest point of its reputation, and became a key impetus for the Protestant Reformation. In 1377, the papal court, which had resided in the southern French town of Avignon, was returned to Rome on the orders of Pope Gregory XI. In the next year, Gregory's death was followed by the election of Urban VI who, much to the chagrin of the cardinals who had elected him, soon took steps to reform the corrupt bureaucracy of the church. A faction of French cardinals met in the town of Agnani and declared the election of Urban as null. They elected Robert of Geneva as Clement VII, a French-speaking rival pope who returned to Avignon. Urban's papal court in Rome survived, and Christians throughout Europe found their loyalties demanded by two separate and hostile factions of Italian and French prelates. Urban VI was followed in Rome by Boniface IX (13891404), Innocent VII (14041406), and Gregory XII (14061415). Clement was succeeded in Avignon by Benedict XIII (13941417). To resolve the schism, the cardinals gathered in the Tuscan city of Pisa, on the advice of religious scholars that the pope was subject to the decisions of a holy council. The Council of Pisa then elected a third pope, Alexander V, who was not recognized by either of the popes in Rome and Avignon. The Holy Roman Emperor summoned church officials to the Council of Constance in 1414. The council declared the two rival popes deposed and elected Martin V. This pope managed to return the Papacy permanently to Rome, but not before the church suffered a serious loss in its reputation as the supreme religious authority, paving the way for the dissidents and Protestants whose movement would sweep northern Europe in the sixteenth century.

See Also: Hus, Jan; Luther, Martin; Reformation, Protestant

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Great Schism

Great Schism, 1378–1417. After the papacy's stay from 1309 at Avignon, an enclave in southern France, the Roman populace in 1378 demanded an Italian pope and the conclave, intimidated, elected Urban VI. Within three months, his conduct had alienated many supporters, who elected Clement VII. The rival pope established himself once more at Avignon. The rift perpetuated itself and the Council of Pisa in 1409, summoned to restore church unity, merely succeeded in electing a third pope, Alexander V. Not until the Council of Constance in 1417 was unity restored with the election of Martin V. The response of governments to the schism was almost purely political. The king of France supported the Avignon popes, who were more likely to be under French influence. The English, bitterly opposed to France, recognized the Roman popes. The Scots, allied to France, joined in acknowledging Avignon. An Irish synod at Roscommon in 1383 also supported Avignon. The rival popes, greatly weakened, were obliged to make substantial concessions. Scotland received from the Avignon popes its first cardinal and its first university at St Andrews, granted by Benedict XIII in 1414. The Scots even stayed with Benedict after Martin V had been elected until the Faculty of Arts of the new university carried the day to abandon its benefactor. In 1406 Owain Glyndŵr, in rebellion against Henry IV, offered submission to Benedict if he would confer archiepiscopal status on St Davids, establish a university for Wales, and declare Henry IV a usurper.

J. A. Cannon

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Great Schism

Great Schism (1378–1417) Split within the Roman Catholic Church following the election of two rival popes to succeed Gregory XI. In 1309, Pope Clement V moved the papacy from Rome to Avignon, France. The attempt to return the papacy to Rome saw the Italian cardinals elect an Italian pope, Urban VI, and the French cardinals elect a rival ‘Antipope’, Clement VII. The schism ended with the Council of Constance, which established Martin V as sole pope.

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Great schism

Great schism. Either (1) the excommunication by Rome in 1054 of the patriarch of Constantinople, and the patriarch's excommunication of the pope; or (2) the schism in the W. Church, 1378–1417 when there were two, and for a time three, contenders for the title of pope.

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Great Schism

Great Schism: see Schism, Great.

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