Medieval Western Christendom 1303–1420


Map Code: Ax02497

Owing to civil unrest in Rome, Pope Clement V moved the papal court to Avignon in 1309. Pope Gregory XI returned to Rome in 1377, but soon regretted his decision. He planned to return to Avignon but died before the move could be executed: in the ensuing chaos, rival popes were elected by pro-Rome and pro-Avignon factions initiating the Western Schism (1378–1417). The papacy would not be reunified until the Council of Constance (1409–17). The long vacuum of leadership in the Church – and rampant corruption and laxity in the clerical hierarchy – inspired a proliferation of religious protest movements branded heretical by the papal authorities. Movements such as Lollardy in England, the Free Spirits in the Low Countries, the Hussites in Bohemia and the Fraticelli in Italy were critical of the venality of the mainstream Church and challenged its positions on doctrine. The Church fought back with proscription, inquisitions and executions of, amongst others, John Hus and the Free Spirit preacher, Nicholas of Basel.

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