Boniface VIII

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Boniface VIII,

1235–1303, pope (1294–1303), an Italian (b. Anagni) named Benedetto Caetani; successor of St. Celestine V.

As a cardinal he was independent of the factions in the papal court, and he opposed the election of Celestine. Boniface was elected on Celestine's abdication, and during his first years he was opposed by those who had suffered from Celestine's retirement—the Neapolitans, the Colonna family, and the extreme Franciscans, among them Jacopone da Todi. To preclude schism, Boniface kept Celestine imprisoned for the rest of his life. Boniface reigned in a time of crisis in Europe. He wished to emulate St. Gregory VII and Innocent III, but he was no such statesman, and the times had changed. He interfered in Sicily, but he was openly flouted when Frederick II and the Sicilians forced Boniface to recognize Frederick as king. He brought Charles of ValoisCharles of Valois
, 1270–1325, French prince and military leader, third son of Philip III and father of Philip VI. He dominated the reign in France of his nephew Louis X.
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 into Italy to pacify Florence and succeeded only in stirring up more trouble. Dante was exiled in this struggle of Guelphs and Ghibellines.

Boniface's contest with Philip IVPhilip IV
(Philip the Fair), 1268–1314, king of France (1285–1314), son and successor of Philip III. The policies of his reign greatly strengthened the French monarchy and increased the royal revenues.
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 of France was the principal feature of his career. The pope tried to stop Philip from his illegal levies on the clergy by the bull Clericis laicos (1296), enunciating the principle that laymen could not tax clerics without the consent of the Holy See. Philip retaliated by cutting off the contributions of the French church to Rome. In England the Pope faced an equally resistant Edward IEdward I,
1239–1307, king of England (1272–1307), son of and successor to Henry III. Early Life

By his marriage (1254) to Eleanor of Castile Edward gained new claims in France and strengthened the English rights to Gascony.
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, and in a subsequent bull (1297) Boniface relaxed the ruling. The dispute began again in earnest in 1301 with the trial of Bernard SaissetSaisset, Bernard
, d. 1314, French churchman. In 1295 he became bishop of Pamiers (near Foix, S France). He was sent (1301) by Pope Boniface VIII as papal legate to King Philip IV of France to protest the king's anticlerical measures.
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, and Boniface never again yielded.

Two of his statements in the controversy are famous—the bull Ausculta fili (1301), which summoned a French synod to meet at Rome to discuss the reformation of French affairs, and the bull Unam sanctam (1302), an extreme statement (not naming Philip) of the principle that Catholic princes as well as others are subject to the pope in temporal (moral) and religious matters. Philip paid no attention, and in 1303 he sent Nogaret to Italy, soon proclaiming his intention of deposing the pope. Nogaret found the pope at Anagni and harassed him; the pope stood firm and according to tradition was slapped by Nogaret's companion, Sciarra Colonna. The outraged people of Anagni thereupon drove out the soldiery; Boniface was rescued and escorted to Rome. He died in a month.

Philip pursued Boniface dead as he had alive. In 1310 he forced Clement VClement V,
1264–1314, pope (1305–14), a Frenchman named Bertrand de Got; successor of Benedict XI. He was made archbishop of Bordeaux by Boniface VIII, who trusted him; surprisingly, he was also in some favor at the court of Philip IV, even though Philip and the pope
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 to begin a process to determine that Boniface was heretical; that accusation was abandoned, but Clement consented to repudiate such of Boniface's acts as had hurt Philip. Boniface, an excellent canon lawyer, planned and promulgated a substantial addition to the existing law, called the Sext (1298) since it was the sixth book added to the five-volume compilation of Gregory IX. He was the first to establish (1300) a holy year. He was succeeded by Benedict XI.


See C. T. Wood, Philip the Fair and Boniface VIII: State vs. Papacy (1967).

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The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.

Boniface VIII


named Benedetto Gaetani. Born about 1235 at Anagni; died Oct. 11,1303, in Rome; pope from 1294.

Boniface actively defended the papal theocracy. He endeavored to enlarge the circle of states directly dependent on the papacy. He intervened in the question of who should occupy the throne of the Holy Roman Empire and the thrones of Hungary and Poland, and he laid claim to Sicily. His claim to exercise supreme authority over states in temporal matters (stated in the bull of 1302 Unam Sanctam) met with the opposition of the centralized states that were developing in Europe. He suffered defeat in his conflict with Philip IV of France, which had begun with the publication of the papal bull Clericis Laicos in 1296 forbidding kings to levy taxes on the clergy without the consent of the pope. The political victory of Philip IV over the pope paved the way for the papal Avignon captivity. Boniface VIII instituted the celebration of holy (jubilee) years in 1300.


Boase, T. S. R. Boniface VIII. [London] 1933.
The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.

Boniface VIII

original name Benedict Caetano. ?1234--1303, pope (1294--1303)
Collins Discovery Encyclopedia, 1st edition © HarperCollins Publishers 2005