Urban VI, Pope
URBAN VI, POPE
Pontificate: April 8, 1378 to Oct. 15, 1389; b. Bartolomeo Prignano, Naples, c. 1318; d. Rome. He was archbishop of Acerenza (1363) and then of Bari (1377) and had proved himself an efficient and hardworking papal official as chancellor to gregory xi. In April 1378 the cardinals chose him pope in an enigmatic election. While it is certain that both Roman officials and the Roman populace exerted pressure on the cardinals to elect a Roman, or at least an Italian, as pope (see avignon papacy), the cardinals were not sufficiently alarmed to summon the troops of the Church or to shelter themselves behind the walls of the Castel Sant' Angelo. In the summer of 1378, Urban rapidly alienated his electors and in full consistory made remarks that were so uncivil many considered him mentally deranged. This, combined with the circumstances of his election, encouraged the French cardinals to return to Avignon, where they declared Urban's election invalid and in September 1378, with the approval of the French king, Charles V, elected Robert of Geneva as antipope, clement vii, thus beginning the western schism. Contemporaries were perplexed over the validity of Urban's, and hence of Clement's, elections; and all Europe was divided in its loyalty. Neither the Council of constance nor martin v pronounced sentence on the validity of the two elections. Opinions are still divergent.
Urban wasted little time in becoming embroiled in Italian quarrels; he excommunicated Clement's adherent, Queen Joanna of Sicily (1380), replacing her with Charles of Durazzo. Then, having learned of a plot by Charles and some of the cardinals to place him under some sort of council of regency, Urban preached a crusade against Charles (1385), revoked his title of royalty, and placed Naples under interdict. Urban was besieged by Charles's forces at Nocera, but was relieved by Urbanist forces and escaped with the guilty cardinals as prisoners. Five cardinals implicated in the plot died violent
deaths; the bishop of Aquila was dispatched by dagger. Urban refused to be reconciled with the house of Durazzo even after the death of Charles (1386) and moved successively to Lucca (1386), Perugia (1387), and finally to Rome (1388), where he died, perhaps as the result of poisoning. His pontificate was marked by anarchy in the states of the church and by the draining of the Church's treasury. He decreed a holy year every 33 years and in 1389 extended the feast of the visitation of mary to the whole Church.
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