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BONIFACE VIII

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Originally appearing in Volume V04, Page 207 of the 1911 Encyclopedia Britannica.
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BONIFACE VIII. (Benedetto Gaetano), pope from 1294 to 1303, was born of noble family at Anagni, studied canon and civil law in Italy and possibly at Paris. After being appointed to canonicates at Todi (June 126o) and in France, he became an advocate and then a notary at the papal court. With Cardinal Ottoboni, who was to aid the English king, Henry III., against the bishops of the baronial party, he was besieged in the Tower of London by the rebellious earl of Gloucester, but was rescued by the future Edward I., on the 27th of April 1267. Created cardinal deacon in 1281, and in 1291 cardinal priest (SS. Sylvestri et Martini), he was entrusted with many diplomatic missions and became very influential in the Sacred College. He helped the ineffective Celestine V. to abdicate, and was him-self chosen pope at Naples on the 24th of December 1294. Contrary to custom, the election was not made unanimous, probably because of the hostility of certain French cardinals. Celestine attempted to rule in extreme monastic poverty and humility; not so Boniface, who ardently asserted the lordship of the papacy over all the kingdoms of the world. He was crowned at Rome in January 1295 with great pomp. He planned to pacify the West and then recover the Holy Land from the infidel; but during his nine years' reign, so far from being a peacemaker, he involved the papacy itself in a series of controversies with leading European powers. Avarice, lofty claims and frequent exhibitions of arrogance made him many foes. The policy of supporting the interests of the house of Anjou in Sicily proved a grand failure. The attempt to build up great estates for his family made most of the Colonna his enemies. Until 1303 he refused to recognize Albert of Austria as the rightful German king. Assuming that he was overlord of Hungary, he declared that its crown should fall to the house of Anjou. He humbled Eric VI. of Denmark, but was unsuccessful in the attempt to try Edward I., the conqueror of Scotland, on the charge of interfering with a papal fief; for parliament declared in 1301 that Scotland had never been a fief of Rome. The most noted conflict of Boniface was that with Philip IV. of France. In 1296, by the bull Clericis laicos, the pope forbade the levying of taxes, however disguised, on the clergy without his consent. Forced to recede from this position, Boniface canonized Louis IX. (1297). The hostilities were later renewed; in 1302 Boniface himself drafted and published the indubitably genuine bull Unam sanctam, one of the strongest official statements of the papal prerogative ever made. The weight of opinion now tends to deny that any part of this much-discussed document sale the last sentence bears the marks of an infallible utterance. The French vice-chancellor Guillaume de Nogaret was sent to arrest the pope, against whom grave charges had been brought, and bring him to France to be deposed by an oecumenical council. The accusation of heresy has usually been dismissed as a slander; but recent investigations make it probable, though not quite certain, that Boniface privately held certain Averroistic tenets, such as the denial of the immortality of the soul. With Sciarra Colonna, Nogaret surprised Boniface at Anagni, on the 7th of September 1303, as the latter was about to pronounce the sentence of excommunication207 against the king. After a nine-hours' truce the palace was stormed, and Boniface was found lying in his bed, a cross clasped to his breast; that he was sitting in full regalia on the papal throne is a legend. Nogaret claimed that he saved the pope's life from the vengeful Colonna. Threatened, but not maltreated, the pope had remained three days under arrest when the citizens of Anagni freed him. He was conducted to Rome, only to be confined in the Vatican by the Orsini. He died on the rith or 12th of October 1303, not eighty-six years old, as has commonly been believed, but perhaps under seventy, at all events not over seventy-five. " He shall come in like a fox, reign like a lion, die like a dog," is a gibe wrongly held to be a prophecy of his unfortunate predecessor. Dante, who had become embittered against Boniface while on a political mission in Rome, calls him the " Prince of the new Pharisees " (Inferno, 27, 85), but laments that " in his Vicar Christ was made a cap tive," and was "mocked a second time" (Purgatory, 20, 87 f.). AurnoRITIEs.—Digard, Faucon and Thomas, Les Registres de Boniface VIII (Paris, 1884 ff.) ; Wetzer and Welte, Kirchenlexikon, vol. ii. (2nd ed., Freiburg, 1883), 1037–1062; Herzog-Hauck, Realencyklopadie, vol. iii. (3rd ed., Leipzig, 1897), 291-300, contains an elaborate bibliography; J. Loserth, Geschiclzte des spateren Mittelalters (Munich, 1903), 206-232; H. Finke, Aus den Tagen Bonifaz VIII. (Munster, 1902) is dreary but epoch-making; Gottingische gelehrte Anzeigen, Jahrgang 166, 857-869 (Berlin, 1904) ; R. Scholz, Die Publizistik zur Zest Philipps des Schonen and Bonifaz VIII. (Stuttgart, 1903) ; K. Wendt, " War Bonifaz VIII. ein Ketzer?" in von Sybel's Historische Zeitschrift, vol. xciv. (Munich, 1905), 1-66. Special literature on Unam Sanctam: C. Mirbt, Quellen zur Geschichte des Papsttums (2nd ed., Tubingen, 1901), 148 f.; Kirchenlexikon, xii. (1901), 229-240, an exhaustive discussion; H. Finke, 146-190; J. H. Robinson, Readings in European History, vol. i. (Boston, 1904), 346 if. On Clericis laicos: Gee and Hardy, Documents Illustrative of English Church History (London, 1896), 87 if. (W. W. R.*)
End of Article: BONIFACE VIII
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