02 Fourteenth-Century Europe II: Christianity, the Church, the Papacy

   Importance of Christianity and Church in Renaissance Europe

  • Numerically: most Europeans were Christians. Some Jews, fewer Muslims
  • Christian religion, Church organization built into political, social structure

1300 Major issues to consider

  • What is “the Church” anyway? Who are the clergy?
  • What was the papacy?
  • what were the big issues in religious thought, reform?

ECCLESIA: “The Church”

Took shape after Constantine, 4th c
social welfare for members
hierarchy: apostolic succession
church organization parallel to Roman bureaucracy
Sacraments: divine actions in this world

  14th c: Organization of clergy

  • complications: lines of authority. secular, regular clergy
  • religious, lay political powers

Financial support:
Fief or Benefice


  • Pluralism (one person holding many benefices)
  • absenteeism, daily duties exercised by a substitute (vicar)
  • lay political connections
  • taxation and political leaders
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Regular clergy

Benedictine OSB



Crusades: Templars,  Hospitalers, etc.



Franciscans (OFM)

Giotto, Legend of St. Francis: Apparition at Arles, 1297-1300
Fresco, Upper Church, San Francesco, Assisi

Dominicans (OP)

Francesco Traini, Triumph of St Thomas Aquinas c. 1340
Pisa Santa Caterina

Papacy: Babylonian Captivity, Schism

St. John Lateran
College of Cardinals
religious practice
political power on Italian peninsula
14c crises
“Babylonian Captivity” (1303-73): Avignon
Boniface VIII (1294-1303)



Boniface VIII, Arnolfo di Cambio, Museo dell’Opera del Duomo, Florence

Clement V  (1305-14)

Avignon Papacy (“Babylonian Captivity”) 1309-77)





Avignon, before Pope Clement VII. (BNF, FR 2646)
Jean Froissart, Chronicles fol. 14v; Flandres, Bruges 15th Century.


Great Schism (1378-1417)

Gregory XI
Urban VI
Clement VII

Conciliar Movement (Councils)

1409 Council of Pisa
1414-17 Council of Constance
Martin V

Belief and practice
Standards for clergy
Standards for laity
“lay piety”
contemplation and inner life