Clement V

Clement V (1264-1314) reigned as pope from 1305 to 1314. He was the first pope of the "Babylonian Captivity," when the papacy was located in Avignon, France.

Bertrand de Got, who became Pope Clement V, was a nobleman and a native of Gascony, France. He became archbishop of Bordeaux in 1299. His election to the papacy in 1305 followed the pontificate of Boniface VIII (and the brief rule of Benedict XI), during which a long quarrel between France and the papacy culminated in Boniface's capture and mistreatment by henchmen of the French king, Philip IV, at Anagni, Italy, in 1303. France had humiliated the papacy, and the cardinals chose de Got as a compromise candidate who had neither opposed Boniface nor displeased Philip. Although Clement V was not a mere tool of France, throughout his reign he was pressured by Philip IV. At Philip's request Clement was crowned at Lyons; there he suffered a fall from his horse which may have affected his health permanently, for chronic illness contributed to his submission to French demands. Philip IV urged a posthumous heresy trial of Boniface VIII, and it was probably to avoid this that Clement agreed to settle in Avignon in 1309. Further submission is shown by Clement's approval of Philip's bloody suppression of the Knights Templar; his withdrawal of Boniface VIII's bull Clericis laicos; and his withdrawal of support for Emperor Henry VII's activities in Italy.

Clement V took important financial and political actions as pope. He introduced the annates, a lucrative papal tax, and thus refilled the papal treasury; but he spent the money unwisely, much of it on his relatives and on loans to France and England. He created 24 cardinals, of whom 23 were French and Gascon, thus producing a French majority. He was condemned for his nepotism, accused of simony, and disliked for his luxurious style of living. But he was also a scholarly man, and he ordered the study of the Hebrew, Syriac, and Arabic languages at the universities of Paris, Bologna, Oxford, and Salamanca. He added to canon law the sixth book of the Decretals, named "Clementines" after him.

Clement's reputation today is predominately unfavorable because of his submission to French domination and his role in creating the Avignon papacy. But much evidence suggests that his intentions were good. It was always his wish to return the papacy to Rome, but poor health and fear of "another Anagni" made him unable to resist Philip IV. Clement died on April 14, 1314.


Further Reading on Clement V

The best source of information about Clement V is Guillaume Mollat, The Popes at Avignon, 1305-1378 (9th ed. 1949; trans. 1963), translated from the French, this is the classic book on the Avignon papacy and sets Clement's career in the context of his time. The ideology and consequences of the Avignon period are presented in Walter Ullmann, The Origins of the Great Schism (1948).