Pope Boniface VIII: Wikis


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Boniface VIII
Giotto - Bonifatius VIII.jpg
Papacy began December 24, 1294
Papacy ended October 11, 1303
Predecessor Celestine V
Successor Benedict XI
Personal details
Birth name Benedetto Caetani
Born c. 1235
Anagni, Papal States, Holy Roman Empire
Died October 11, 1303
Rome, Papal States
Other Popes named Boniface

Pope Boniface VIII (c. 1235 – October 11, 1303), born Benedetto Caetani, was Pope of the Roman Catholic Church from 1294 to 1303. Today, Boniface VIII is probably best remembered for his feuds with Dante, who placed him in a circle of Hell in his Divina Commedia, and with King Philip IV of France.



Caetani was born in 1235 in Anagni, c. 50 kilometers southeast of Rome. He was the younger son of a minor noble family, the Caetani Family, He took his first steps in the religious life when he was sent to the monastery of the Friars Minor in Velletri, where he was under the care of his uncle Fra Leonardo Patrasso [1]; he became a canon of the cathedral in Anagni in his teens. In 1252, when his uncle Peter Caetani became bishop of Todi, in Umbria, Benedetto went with him and began his legal studies there. Benedetto never forgot his roots in Todi, later describing the city as "the dwelling place of his early youth," the city which "nourished him while still of tender years," and as a place where he "held lasting memories". In 1260, Benedetto acquired a canonry in Todi, as well as the small nearby castle of Sismano. Later in life he repeatedly expressed his gratitude to Anagni, Todi, and his family.

In 1264, Benedetto became part of the Roman Curia where he served as secretary to Cardinal Simon of Brie on a mission to France. Similarly, he accompanied Cardinal Ottobono Fieschi to England (1265–1268) to suppress a rebellion by a group of barons against Henry III, the King of England. Upon Benedetto's return from England, there is an eight year period in which nothing is known about what occurred in his life. After this eight year period of uncertainty, Benedetto was sent to France to supervise the collection of a tithe in 1276 and then became a papal notary in the late 1270s. During this time, Benedetto accumulated seventeen benefices which he was permitted to keep when he was promoted, first to cardinal deacon in 1281 and then 10 years later as cardinal priest. As cardinal, he often served as papal legate in diplomatic negotiations with France, Naples, Sicily, and Aragon.

Pope Celestine V abdicated on December 13, 1294 at Naples, where he had established the papal court under the patronage of King Charles II of Sicily. There is a legend that it was Benedetto Caetani's doing that Celestine V renounced the papacy—convincing Celestine V that no person on the earth could go through life without sin. A contemporary, Ptolemy of Lucca, who was present in Naples in December of 1294 and witnessed many of the events of the abdication and election, says that Benedetto Caetani was only one of several cardinals who pressured Celestine to resign [2]. However, it is on record that Celestine V resigned by his own design after consultation with experts, and that Benedetto merely showed that it was allowed by Church law. Either way, Celestine V vacated the throne and Benedetto Caetani was elected in his place as pope, taking the name Boniface VIII. The Conclave began, in strict accordance with the rules established by Pope Gregory X at the Council of Lyons, on December 23, ten days after Celestine's resignation. Benedetto Caetani was elected pope the next day, Christmas Eve, December 24. On the first (secret) ballot, he had a majority of the votes, and at the accessio a sufficient number joined his majority to form the required two-thirds [3]. He immediately returned the Papal Curia to Rome, where he was crowned at the Vatican Basilica on Sunday, January 23, 1295. One of his first acts as pontiff was to imprison his predecessor in the Castle of Fumone in Ferentino, where he died at the age of 81, attended by two monks of his order. In 1300, Boniface VIII formalized the jubilees, which afterwards became a source of both profit and scandal to the church. Boniface VIII founded the University of Rome La Sapienza in 1303.

Boniface VIII put forward some of the strongest claims to temporal, as well as spiritual, supremacy of any Pope and constantly involved himself with foreign affairs. In his Bull of 1302, Unam Sanctam, Boniface VIII proclaimed that it "is absolutely necessary for salvation that every human creature be subject to the Roman pontiff", pushing papal supremacy to its historical extreme. These views and his intervention in "temporal" affairs led to many bitter quarrels with the Emperor Albert I of Habsburg (1291–1298), the powerful family of the Colonnas, with Philip IV of France (1285–1314) and with Dante Alighieri (who wrote De Monarchia to argue against it).

In the field of canon law Boniface VIII continues to have great influence. He published his 88 legal dicta known as the "Regulae Iuris" in 1298.[4] This material must be well known and understood by canon lawyers or canonists today to interpret and analyze the canons and other forms of ecclesiastical law properly. The "Regulae Iuris" appear at the end of the so-called Liber Sextus (in VI°), promulgated by Boniface VIII and now published as one of the five Decretals in the Corpus Iuris Canonici. Other systems of law also have their own "Regulae Iuris" even by the same name or something serving a similar function.[5]


Conflicts with Philip IV

The conflict between Boniface VIII and Philip IV of France came at a time of expanding nation states and the desire for the consolidation of power by the increasingly powerful monarchs. The increase in monarchical power in the rising nation states and its conflicts with the Church of Rome were only exacerbated by the rise to power of Philip IV. In France, the process of centralizing royal power and developing a genuine national state began with the Capetian kings. During his reign, Philip surrounded himself with the best civil lawyers, and decidedly expelled the clergy from all participation in the administration of the law. With the clergy beginning to be taxed in Theri and England to finance their ongoing wars against each other, Boniface took a hard stand against it. He saw the taxation as an assault on traditional clerical rights, and ordered the bull Clericis laicos in February 1296, forbidding lay taxation of the clergy without prior papal approval. In the bull, Boniface states "they exact and demand from the same the half, tithe, or twentieth, or any other portion or proportion of their revenues or goods; and in many ways they try to bring them into slavery, and subject them to their authority. And also whatsoever emperors, kings, or princes, dukes, earls or barons...presume to take possession of things anywhere deposited in holy buildings...should incur sentence of excommunication." It was during the issuing of Clericis Laicos that hostilities between Boniface and Philip began. Philip retaliated against the bull by denying the exportation of money from France to Rome, funds that the Church required to operate. Boniface had no choice but to meet Philip's demands quickly by allowing taxation only "during an emergency".

After complications involving the capture of Bernard Saisset by Philip, the conflict was re-ignited. In December of 1301, Philip was sent the Papal Bull Ausculta fili ("Listen, My Son"), informing Philip that "God has set popes over kings and kingdoms."

The feud between the two reached its peak in the early 14th century when Philip began to launch a strong anti-papal campaign against Boniface. On November 18, 1302, Boniface issued one of the most important papal bulls of Catholic history: Unam sanctam. It declared that both spiritual and temporal power were under the pope's jurisdiction, and that kings were subordinate to the power of the Church.

The Slap

In response, Guillaume de Nogaret, Philip's chief minister, denounced Boniface as a heretical criminal to the French clergy. In 1303, Philip and Nogaret were excommunicated.[6] However, on September 7, 1303 an army led by Nogaret and Sciarra Colonna of the Colonna family surprised Boniface at his retreat in Anagni. The King and the Colonnas demanded that he resign, to which Boniface VIII responded that he would "sooner die". In response, Colonna hit Boniface, a "slap" that is still remembered in the local lore of Anagni.

Boniface was beaten badly and nearly executed but was released from captivity after three days. He died of kidney stones and humiliation on October 11, 1303.[7] There were rumors he had died of suicide from "gnawing through his own arm" and bashing his skull into a wall.[8]

Posthumous trial

After the papacy had been removed to Avignon during the time of Pope Clement V in 1309, he consented to a post-mortem trial by an ecclesiastical consistory at Groseau, near Avignon, which held preliminary examinations in August and September of 1310.

A process (judicial investigation) against the memory of Boniface was held [9] and collected testimonies that alleged many heretical opinions of Boniface VIII. This included the offence of sodomy, although there is little substantive evidence for this and it is more likely that this was the standard accusation Philip made against enemies.[10]

Before the actual trial could be held, Clement persuaded Philip to leave the question of Boniface's guilt to the Council of Vienne, which met in 1311. When the council met, three cardinals appeared before it and testified to the orthodoxy and morality of the dead pope. Two knights, as challengers, threw down their gauntlets to maintain his innocence by wager of battle. No one accepted the challenge, and the Council declared the matter closed.[11]

Statue of Pope Boniface VIII at the Museo dell'Opera del Duomo in Florence

Burial and Exhumation

The body of Boniface VIII was buried in 1303 in a special chapel that also housed the remains for Pope Boniface IV. Boniface VIII had arranged that this would be done to offset the fact that his predecessor was still alive, which caused him to worry that the legitimacy of his own papacy would be thrown into doubt. In choosing such a burial, Boniface VIII was trying to show that he was a legitimate pope with the implicit support from the grave of a popular predecessor, Boniface IV.

The body was exhumed in 1606, the results recorded by Giacomo Grimaldi. The body lay within three coffins, the outermost of wood, the middle of lead, and the innermost of pine. The corporal remains were described as being "Unusually tall" measuring seven palms when examined by doctors. The body wore ecclesiatical vestments common for Boniface's lifetime: long stockings covered legs and thighs, and it was garbed also with the maniple, soutain, and pontifical habit made of black silk, as well as stole, chasuble, rings, and bejeweled gloves.

After this exhumation and examination, Boniface's body was moved to the Chapels of Pope Gregory and Andrew. It is now located in the grottoes.[12]



  1. ^ Tosti, p. 37, citing Teuli, History of Velletri, Book 2, chapter 5.
  2. ^ Ptolemy of Lucca (Odoricus Raynaldus [Rainaldi], Annales Ecclesiastici Tomus Quartus [Volume XXIII] (Lucca: Leonardo Venturini 1749), sub anno 1294, p. 156: Dominus Benedictus cum aliquibus cardinalibus Caelestino persuasit ut officio cedat quia propter simplicitatem suam, licet sanctus vir, et vitae magni foret exempli, saepius adversis confundabantur ecclesiae in gratiis faciendis et circa regimen orbis.
  3. ^ See the poem by Jacopo Stefaneschi, Subdeacon of the Holy Roman Church, who participated in the events: Ludovicus Antonius Muratori, Rerum Italicarum Scriptores Tomus Tertius (Milan 1723), 642.
  4. ^ Regulae iuris In VI Decretalium Bonifacii VIII. Unfortunately, there does not seem to be an English translation on the Internet.
  5. ^ cf. Medieval Italy: An Encyclopedia Christopher Kleinhenz et al. eds. Routledge, 2004, p. 178.
  6. ^ Chamberlain, E.R.. "The Lord of Europe" (in English). The Bad Popes. Barnes and Noble. pp. 120. 
  7. ^ Reardon, Wendy (in English). The Deaths of the Popes. McFarland. pp. 120. 
  8. ^ Chamberlain. "the Lord of Europe". The Bad Popes. Barnes and Noble. 
  9. ^ Its records were republished in a critical edition by J. Coste (1995).
  10. ^ James Brundage, Law, Sex and Christianity in Medieval Europe, University of Chicago, 1990.
  11. ^ The Age of Faith, Will Durant, 1950, 13th printing, page 816
  12. ^ Reardon, Wendy (in English). The Deaths of the Popes. Comprehensive Accounts Including Funeral, Burial Places and Epitaphs. McFarland. pp. 120-123. 
  • Paravicini Bagliani, Agostino (2003). Boniface VIII. Un pape hérétique?. Paris: Payot. 
  • Boase, Thomas S. R. (1933). Boniface VIII. London: Constable. 
  • Coppa, Frank J, ed. (2002). The Great Popes Through History. Connecticut. Greenwood Press. 
  • Coste, Jean, ed (1995). Boniface VIII en procès. Articles d'accusation et dépositions des témoins (1303–1311). Rome: L'Erma di Bretschneider. ISBN 88-7062-914-7. 
  • Finke, Heinrich (1902). Aus den Tagen Bonifaz VIII. Funde und Forschungen. Muenster. 
  • Rubeus, Joannes, ed (1651). Bonifacius VIII e familia Caietanorum Principium Romanus Pontifex. Rome: Corbelletti. 
  • Schmidt, Tilmann (1989). Der Bonifaz-Prozeß. Verfahren der Papstanklage zur Zeit Bonifaz' VIII. und Clemens' V.. Cologne, Vienna: Böhlau. 
  • Scholz, Richard (1903). Die Publizistik zur Zeit Philipps des Schoenen und Bonifaz' VIII. Stuttgart. 
  • Souchon, Martin (1888). Die Papstwahlen von Bonifaz VIII bis Urban VI. Braunschweig: Benno Goeritz. 
  • Tierney, Brian (1964). Crisis of Church and State. New Jersey: Prentice-Hall. 
  • Tosti, Louis (Luigi) (1911). History of Pope Boniface VIII and his times (tr. E. J. Donnelly). New York. 
  • Wood, Charles, T. (1967). Phillip the Fair and Boniface VIII: State vs Papacy. New York: Holt, Rhinehart, and Winston. 

External links

Catholic Church titles
Preceded by
Celestine V
Succeeded by
Benedict XI


Up to date as of January 14, 2010

From Wikiquote

Boniface VIII, né Benedetto Caetani (Anagni, ca. 1235 – October 11, 1303) was Pope of the Roman Catholic Church from 1294 to 1303.


Unam sanctam (1302)

  • Unam sanctam ecclesiam catholicam et ipsam apostolicam urgente fide credere cogimur et tenere, nosque hanc frmiter credimus et simpliciter confitemur, extra quam nec salus est, nec remissio peccatorum,
    • Translation: WE ARE COMPELLED, OUR FAITH URGING us, to believe and to hold—and we do firmly believe and simply confess—that there is one holy Catholic and Apostolic Church, outside of which there is neither salvation nor remission of sins
  • Sive ergo Graeci sive alii se dicant Petro ejusque successoribus non esse commissos: fateantur necesse est, se de ovibus Christi non esse, dicente Domino in Joanne, unum ovile et unicum esse pastorem.
    • If, then, the Greeks or others say that they were not committed to the care of Peter and his successors, they necessarily confess that they are not of the sheep of Christ; for the Lord says, in John, that there is one fold, one shepherd, and one only.
  • In hac ejusque potestate duos esse gladios, spiritualem videlicet et temporalem, evangelicis dictis instruimur. […] Uterque ergo est in potestate ecclesiae, spiritualis scilicet gladius et materialis. Sed is quidem pro ecclesia, ille vero ab ecclesia exercendus, ille sacerdotis, is manu regum et militum, sed ad nutum et patientiam sacerdotis.
    • We are told by the word of the Gospel that in this His fold there are two swords—a spiritual, namely, and a temporal. […] Both swords, the spiritual and the material, therefore, are in the power of the Church; the one, indeed, to be wielded for the Church, the other by the Church; the one by the hand of the priest, the other by the hand of kings and knights, but at the will and sufferance of the priest.
  • Porro subesse Romano Pontifici omni humanae creaturae declaramus dicimus, definimus et pronunciamus omnino esse de necessitate salutis.
    • Indeed we declare, say, pronounce, and define that it is altogether necessary to salvation for every human creature to be subject to the Roman Pontiff.

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Simple English

Pope Boniface VIII (c. 1235 – October 11, 1303), born Benedetto Caetani, was Pope of the Roman Catholic Church from 1294 to 1303.


Boniface VIII was born in 1235, Anagni as Benedetto Caetani.

He was elected in 1294 after Pope Celestine V abdicated. There is a legend that it was Boniface VIII's doing that Celestine V renounced the papacy - for Boniface, previously Benedetto, convinced Celestine V that no person on the earth could go through life without sin. However, in later times, it is a more common understanding that Celestine V resigned by his own designs and Benedetto merely showed that it was allowed by Church law.

Boniface VIII put forward some of the strongest claims to temporal, as well as spiritual, supremacy of any Pope and constantly involved himself with foreign affairs. In his Bull of 1302, Unam Sanctam, Boniface VIII proclaimed that it "is absolutely necessary for salvation that every human creature be subject to the Roman pontiff", so he pushed papal supremacy to its historical extreme. These views and his intervention in 'temporal' affairs led to many bitter quarrels with the Emperor Albert I of Hapsburg (1291–98), the powerful family of the Colonnas and with Philip IV of France (1285–1314).


  • Boase, Thomas S. R. (1933). Boniface VIII. London: Constable. 
  • Jean Coste (ed.), ed (1995). Boniface VIII en procès. Articles d'accusation et dépositions des témoins (1303–1311). Rome: L'Erma di Bretschneider. ISBN 88-7062-914-7. 

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Wikisource has original works written by or about:


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