Chapter 18

CHAPTER XVIII: THE POPES AT AVIGNON (continued) (AD 1314-1352)

Pope Clement V died a few months before Philip (April, 1314), and
was succeeded by John XXII, a Frenchman, who was seventy years old
at the time of his election, and lived to ninety. The most
remarkable thing in John's papacy was his quarrel with Lewis of
Bavaria, who had been chosen emperor by some of the electors, while
others voted for Frederick of Austria. For the choice of an emperor
(or rather of a king of the Romans) had by this time fallen into the
hands of seven German princes, of whom four were laymen and three
were the archbishops of Mentz, Cologne, and Treves. And hence it is
that at a later time we find that some German princes had "elector"
for their title, as the Electors of Hanover and the Electors of
Brandenburg; and even that the three clerical electors were more
commonly called electors than archbishops. It is not exactly known
when this way of choosing the kings of the Romans came in; but, as I
have said, it was quite settled before the time of which we are now

There was, then, a disputed election between Lewis of Bavaria and
Frederick of Austria, and Pope John was well pleased to stand by and
watch their quarrel, so long as they only weakened each other
without coming to any settlement of the question. But when Lewis had
got the better of Frederick, then John stepped in and told him that
it was for the pope to judge in such a case which of the two ought
to be king of the Romans. And he forbade all people to obey Lewis as
king, and declared that whatever he might have done as king should
be of no effect. But people had become used to such sentences, so
that they would not mind them unless they thought them just; and
thus Pope John's thunder was very little heeded. Although he
excommunicated Lewis, the sentence had no effect, and by this and
other things (especially a quarrel which John had with a part of the
Franciscan order), people were set on inquiring into the rights of
the papacy in a way which was quite new, so that their thoughts took
a direction which was very dangerous to the power of the popes.

Lewis answered the pope by setting up an antipope against him. But
this was a thing which had never succeeded; and so it was that
John's rival was obliged to submit, and, in token of the humblest
repentance, appeared with a rope round his neck at Avignon, where
the rest of his life was spent in confinement.

The pope on his part set up a rival emperor, Charles of Moravia, son
of that blind King John of Bohemia whose death at the battle of
Cressy is known to us from the history of England. But Charles found
little support in Germany so long as Lewis was alive.

The next pope, Benedict XII (AD 1334-1342), although of himself he
would have wished to make peace with Lewis, found himself prevented
from doing so by the king of France, and his successor, Clement VI.
(AD 1342-1352), who had once been tutor to Charles of Moravia,
strongly supported his old pupil. Lewis died excommunicate in 1347,
and was the last emperor who had to bear that sentence. But,
although he suffered much on account of it, he had yet kept his
title of emperor as long as he lived; and he left a strong party of
supporters, who were able to make good terms for themselves before
Charles was allowed to take peaceable possession of the empire.