Clement V, Pope
CLEMENT V, POPE
Pontificate: June 5, 1305, to April 20, 1314; b. Bertrand de Got, in Villandraut (Gironde) in the mid-13th century; d. Roquemaure (Gard). Clement V had a successful ecclesiastical career up to his accession to the papacy. Having studied canon and Roman law in Orléans and Bologna, he was consecrated bishop of Comminges in March 1295 and archbishop of Bordeaux in December 1299. After a protracted conclave, in Perugia, he was elected pope by a majority of 10 of the 15 votes. The cardinals' difficulties in reaching a consensus eventually facilitated his election, since the former archbishop of Bordeaux had developed good relations with both Pope boniface viii and King philip iv of france. Besides, many cardinals knew Bertrand well from his services in the papal curia. His candidacy was supported by Philip IV, a fact that inflamed rumors about French interference in the conclave and the pope's compliance with French interests.
The pro-French bias that is usually attributed to Clement V stems, to some degree, from his family roots in Gascony. Such an assumption, the origins of which go back to the 14th century, overlooks the fact that Gascony was dependent on England and that the former archbishop of Bordeaux was the senior prelate in the continental domain of Edward I. Indeed, analysis of Clement's pontificate clearly evinces his strong support of the kings of England, both in their internal crises and in their belligerent policy in Scotland. This course eventually placed the pope at odds with most barons and prelates of England and impaired his ability to arbitrate in Christendom.
Clement's policy in France, as well, offers a rather complex picture: the pope may have given vociferous support to Philip IV, but he implemented an independent policy based on his own scale of priorities. In the most crucial events of Philip's reign, such as the trials of the templars and Pope Boniface, Clement succeeded in sabotaging the original plans of Philip IV, while protecting papal aims. Given the circumstances dictated by the king of France in the Templars affair, Clement perceived the abolition of the order by apostolic decision to be the only way to protect ecclesiastical immunity. Yet, both the avoidance of a clear verdict on the guilt of the order and the transfer of Templar wealth to the Hospital clearly contradicted the French king's original expectations. Moreover, the pope had to moderate the zeal of Philip IV in attacking his predecessor Boniface VIII more than once. In a clear do ut des, Clement succeeded in protecting the memory of Boniface and voiding the charges of heresy brought against him. Yet, he exonerated Philip of the outrage at Anagni and conditionally absolved its main protagonist, Guillaume de Nogaret (1311). The canonization of celestine v (1313)—Boniface's predecessor, who had resigned the papacy and whose mysterious death was also charged to Boniface's account—reflects yet another papal concession to Capetian demands.
By trying to navigate a middle course between papal and royal interests, Clement prevented an open conflict
with the king of France that might have put an end to the dearest goal of his pontificate: the crusade. Clement's belief in the Gesta Dei per Francos led to the assignment of Church resources to the Capetian treasury and fostered the nomination of royal protégés to leading ecclesiastical positions. In joining forces with the kings of England and France, Clement attempted to safeguard the papal monarchy in the framework of the limitations posed by the emergence of the national state. In this regard, Clement V paved the way for the papacy in the modern era, when ecclesiastical prerogatives were no longer unquestionably acknowledged; they became, rather, a subject of painful bargaining between the king and the clergy, and then between the king, the clergy, and the pope. From an ecclesiastical perspective, the consequences of Clement's alliance with the western kings were hardly satisfactory. Papal taxation covered the growing needs of royal treasuries while papal provisions became a convenient compensation for royal clerks. The curia thus lost both income from and influence in the national churches.
In Italy, Clement's policy was aimed at advancing papal authority, a rather difficult goal to achieve from the Comtat-Venaissin. Papal diplomacy tried to maintain the delicate political equilibrium among rival factions while preventing any one of them from gaining preeminence. Although Clement never abandoned his design to return to Rome, the negotiations for a peace treaty between England and France, coupled with the pope's deteriorating health, ultimately dictated his permanent absence from the Apostolic See. Until 1309, when Clement fixed his residence in Avignon, the papal curia was itinerant. During his whole pontificate, the pope did not reside in Avignon for more than 160 days, a fact that does not support reference to Clement V as the first pope of Avignon. On the other hand, papal nominations to the College of Cardinals paved the way for the Avignon papacy and, especially, its protracted absence from Italy; they also substantiated the nepotistic bias attributed to Clement V. Of the 24 cardinals whom he nominated, 23 were from France—9 of them from Languedoc—and 6 of these were the pope's relatives.
As a whole, papal policy in the Church was conducted along the centralizing lines established during the previous century, which gave the Roman pontiff full control, by provision or reservation, of all churches, parsonages, dignities, and other ecclesiastical benefices. Although Clement V has often been criticized for his lack of initiative, there was hardly an issue concerning the Church that escaped his attention. Clement analyzed in depth the Church's fragile balance with the rulers of Christendom as well as the different facets of ecclesiastical life, in both the secular and monastic orders, and the ties between the exempt orders and the secular clergy, and the franciscan spirituals and the Conventuals (see franciscans, first order). The result, in the form of a juridical document, the clementinae, gives ample proof of the pope's legal skills. As the seventh book of the decretals, the Clementinae complemented the legislative process that had begun in the 13th century, the classic era of Canon Law.
Being a man of letters, Clement encouraged the founding of universities at Orléans, Dublin, and Perugia and supported those of Bologna and Toulouse. At the Council of vienne (1311–12), he promoted chairs of Hebrew, Arabic, and "Chaldean" at the universities of Paris, Bologna, Oxford, and Salamanca and in the papal curia.
Bibliography: Regestum Clementis papae V, 9 v. in 8 (Rome 1885–92). Tables des registres de Clément V, ed. y. lanhers and c. vogel, 2 v. (Paris 1948–57). e. baluze, Vitae paparum Avenionensium, ed. g. mollat, 4 v. (Paris 1914–27). g. mollat, The Popes at Avignon, 1305–1378, tr. j. love (New York 1963). s. menache, Clement V (Cambridge 1998). h. finke, Papsttum und Untergang des Templerordens, 2 v. (Münster 1907). h. g. richardson, "Clement V and the See of Canterbury," English Historical Review 56 (1941) 97–103. w. bowsky, "Clement V and the Emperor-Elect," Medievalia et Humanistica 12 (1958) 52–69. j. h. denton, "Pope Clement V's Early Career as a Royal Clerk," English Historical Review 83 (1968) 303–314. n. housley, "Pope Clement V and the Crusaders of 1309–10," Journal of Medieval History 8 (1982) 29–43. c. t. wood, "Celestine V, Boniface VIII and the Authority of Parliament," Journal of Medieval History 8(1982) 45–62. b. guillemain, "Il papato sotto la pressione del re di Francia," Storia della chiesa 11 (1994) 177–232.