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CELESTINE V

Online Encyclopedia
Originally appearing in Volume V05, Page 600 of the 1911 Encyclopedia Britannica.
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CELESTINE V. (St Peter Celestine), pope in 1294, was born of poor parents at Isernia about 1215, and early entered the Benedictine order. Living as a hermit on Monte Morrone near Sulmone in the Abruzzi, he attracted other ascetics about him and organized them into a congregation of the Benedictines which was later called the Celestines (q.v.). The assistance of a vicar enabled him to escape from the growing administrative cares and devote himself solely to asceticism, apparently the only field of human activity in which he excelled. His Opuscula, published by Telera at Naples in 164o, are probably not genuine; he was indoctus libris. A fight between the Colonna and- the Orsini, as well as hopeless dissensions among the cardinals, prevented a papal election for two years and three months after the death of Nicholas IV. Charles II. of Naples, needing a pope in order that he might regain Sicily, brought about a conclave. As the election of any cardinal seemed impossible, on the 5th of July 1294 the Sacred College united on Pietro di Morrone; the cardinals expected to rule in the name of the celebrated but incapable ascetic. Apocalyptic notions then current doubtless aided his election, for Joachim of Floris and his school looked to monasticism to furnish deliverance to the church and to the world. Multitudes came to Celestine's coronation at Aquila, and he began his reign the idol of visionaries, of extremists and of the populace. But the pope was in the power of Charles II. of Naples, and became his tool against Aragon. The king's son Louis, a layman of twenty-one, was made archbishop of Lyons. The cardinals, scarcely consulted at all, were discontented. The pope, who wanted more time for his devotions, offered to leave three cardinals in charge of affairs; but his proposition was rejected. He then wished to abdicate, and at length Benedetto Gaetano, destined to succeed him as Boniface ViII., removed all scruples against this unheard-of procedure by finding a precedent in the case of Clement I. Celestine abdicated on the 13th of December 1294. There is no sufficient ground for finding an allusion to this act hi the noted line of Dante, " Che fete per viltate it gran rifiuto " (" who made from cowardice the great refusal," Inferno, 3, 6o). Boniface at length put him in prison for safe keeping; he died in a monastic cell in the castle of Fumone near Anagni on the 19th of May 1296. He was canonized by Clement V. in 1313. See Wetzer and Welte and Herzog-Hauck (with excellent bibliography) as above; Jean Aurelien, Superieur de la Congregation des Celestins, La Vie admirable de ... Saint Pierre Cilestin (Bar-le-Duc, 1873) ; H. Finke, Aus den Tagen Bonifaz VIII. (Munster, 1902), pp. 24-43. (W. W. R.*)
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