Chapter 21

CHAPTER XXI: THE POPES RETURN TO ROME

AD 1367-1377

While the popes lived at Avignon, Rome suffered very much from their
absence. There was nothing like a regular government. The great
Roman families (such as the Colonnas, whom I have mentioned in
speaking of Boniface VIII) carried on their quarrels with each
other, and no one attempted or was strong enough to check them.
Murders, robberies, and violences of all sorts were common. The vast
and noble buildings which had remained from ancient times were
neglected; the churches and palaces fell to decay, even the manners
of the Romans became rough and rude, from the want of anybody to
teach them better and to show them an example.

And not only Rome but all Italy missed the pope's presence. The
princes carried on their wars by means of hired bands of soldiers,
who were mostly strangers from beyond the Alps. These bands hired
out their services to any one who would pay enough, and, although
they were faithful to each employer for the time that was agreed on,
they were ready at the end of that time to engage themselves for
money to one who might be their late master's enemy. The most famous
captain of such hireling soldiers was Sir John Hawkwood, an
Englishman, who is commonly said to have been a tailor in London
before he took to arms, but this I believe to be a mistake. He
fought for many years in Italy, and a picture of him on horseback,
which serves for his monument, is still to be seen in Florence
Cathedral.

The Romans again and again entreated the popes to come back to their
city. The chief poet and writer of the age, Petrarch, urged them
both in verse and in prose to return. But the cardinals, who at this
time were mostly Frenchmen, had grown so used to the pleasures of
Avignon that they did all they could to keep the popes there. At
length, in 1367, Urban V made his way back to Rome, where the
emperors both of the East and of the West met to do him honour, but
after a short stay in Italy he returned to Avignon, where he soon
after died (AD 1370). His successor, Gregory XI, however, was more
resolute, and removed the papacy to Rome in 1377; and this was the
end of what was styled the seventy years' captivity in Babylon (p
240).