Post-classical history

Clement V (d. 1314)

Pope (1305-1314). Bernard of Got was born around 1255 as the son of an influential family of Gascony; he became pope under the name Clement V after an eleven-month interregnum following the death of Benedict XI.

As a former archbishop of Bordeaux, Clement had been a major ecclesiastical vassal of the kings of England, whose political interests he advanced. His close relations with Edward I and Edward II of England reflect a main goal of his pontificate; namely, papal cooperation with the leading monarchs of Christendom as a prerequisite for the launching of a new crusade.

Often blamed for having surrendered the papal Curia to the control of Philip IV of France, especially during the scandalous trials of Boniface VIII and the Templars, Clement actually succeeded in rescuing the papacy from the political impasse fostered by his predecessor while creating a propitious basis for the participation of France in the crusade. Still, collaboration with the Christian princes had its cost, and the disgraceful trial and subsequent suppression of the Order of the Temple may be regarded as a price that the pope had to pay. Reluctant to corroborate the charge of heresy following the arrest of the Templars in France, Clement gradually surrendered and collaborated with the policy of Philip the Fair. Thus, it was the pope who brought about the arrest of the Templars throughout Christendom, and it was he who eventually forced the prelates of the church to support the abolition of the order by apostolic mandate at the Council of Vienne (1312).

Elected to the papacy fourteen years after the fall of Acre (mod. ‘Akko, Israel) to the Mamlûks, Clement devoted his curial policy and resources to the implementation of a new crusade. The pope’s original scheme was based on a double alliance with the kings of France and Naples. The poor motivation of the Christian princes at the beginning of his pontificate, however, eventually encouraged Clement to appeal to the military orders as the traditional allies of the papacy in Outremer. After the dissolution of the Order of the Temple, the papal designs were essentially directed to the Order of the Hospital of St. John.

On 11 August 1308, Clement proclaimed a Hospitaller passagium particulare (that is, a limited crusade), the aim of which was to strengthen the defenses of Cyprus and Cilicia (Lesser Armenia) and to obstruct illegal Christian trade with the Muslims in the Mediterranean. Early in 1310, a fleet of twenty-six galleys departed eastward under the leadership of Fulk of Villaret, the master of the Hospital, and with the participation of the papal legate, Peter of Pleine Chassagne. This first Christian expedition to Outremer since 1291 contributed a suitable basis for launching future crusades while consolidating the order’s dominion in Rhodes, the conquest of which had begun in 1306. The Hospitaller crusade further facilitated the transfer of the order’s headquarters to the island, where it remained until 1522.

Itinerant during the first years of his pontificate, Clement never went to Rome, because of his precarious health and his desire to oversee the peace negotiations between France and England. Although he fixed his residence in Avignon only in 1309, and resided there for just 160 days, Clement V is considered as the promoter of the protracted stay of the papacy in Avignon, which lasted up to 1378. Of a pleasant character, he did not stand up to the demands of his relatives and friends, thus coloring his nominations with a nepotistic character. In the longer term, this policy fostered the Gallicanization of the Roman Curia.

Clement V died on 20 April 1314 before being able to crystallize plans for a general crusade, for which he had enlisted Christian princes and the church’s resources at the Council of Vienne.

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