The Great Schism (1378-1417) was the most famous crisis within the papacy of the Roman Catholic Church in the Middle Ages. After the death of Pope Gregory XI, a Roman mob coerced the cardinals to appoint an Italian pope (http://www. vlib. us, n. d. , n. pag. ). The cardinals elected Pope Urban VI, thinking that they can easily manipulate him into serving their interests (http://www. vlib. us, n. d. , n. pag. ).
The cardinals were mistaken – he insisted that both pope and papal administration should continue to be based in Rome and that the college of cardinals should have greater Italian representation (http://www. vlib. us, n. d. , n. pag. ). While the Italian cardinals sided with Urban VI, the French cardinals claimed that his election was fraudulent because the cardinals were forced to vote for him (http://www. vlib. us, n. d. , n. pag. ). The French cardinals then appointed Pope Clement VII and established their own papacy in Avignon.
The Great Schism proved to be very detrimental for the Roman Catholic Church because “the clergy had worked long and hard to establish the principles that the Church was independent of the State and immune from secular sanctions for its actions, and that the pope, once selected as bishop of Rome by the College of Cardinals, held absolute and supreme power within the Church” (http://www. vlib. us, n. d. , n. pag. ). What the French cardinals did violated these rules. Furthermore, having two papal capitals to maintain proved to be too costly and tedious.
The Council of Constance of 1414 ended the Great Schism. Significance of the Crisis of the Papacy The Great Schism was very relevant in the history of Europe, as it showed that the Roman Catholic Church was not as credible as it claimed it was (http://www. thenagain. info, n. d. , n. pag. ). With the Great Schism, theocracy (the philosphy that God was the center of human existence) can no longer be as imposing as it once was on the people. The two papacies that was produced by the Great Schism were both upopular with the people (http://www. thenagain. info, n. d. , n.pag. ).
Furthermore, the idea of the Roman Catholic Church having two popes created confusion among its followers, as stated by the paragraph below: Now Western Europe was politically divided over which pope to support. Of course France supported the Avignon pope. Along with France were Sicily, Scotland, Castile, Aragon, and Portugal. On the other side, Rome supported the Roman pope, as did Flanders, Poland, Hungary and Germany. Many citizens were confused over this split, but those who were not decided to take advantage of it. The two popes were constant rivals.
It was common to hear each calling the other the anti-pope and also trying to get him out of a position of leadership. Their main motive for these actions was to gain allies for themselves. There were very few people who actually took the claims of these so-called spiritual leaders seriously because of the fact that they were competing constantly with one another just like anyone dealing with worldly politics. The effects of this split on the general population can be summarized as follows, “The papal office suffered the most; the pope’s authority diminished as pious Christians became bewildered and disgusted” (http://www.thenagain. info, n. d. , n. pag. ).
Conclusion Despite their adverse impacts, both the Black Death and the Crisis of the Papacy prompted ordinary citizens to question the norms that the status quo imposed on them. In doing so, they realized that reason, hard work and initiative alone can both bring personal advancement and solve society’s ills. Indeed, the two aformentioned events prepared the western world for the advent of the Renaissance. References James, T. (2006, September 26). British History: Middle Ages.
Retrieved February 19, 2008, from http://www. bbc. co. uk/history/british/middle_ages/ overview_middleages_01. shtml Payne, Carroll. (2002, February). The Effects of the Black Death (1347-1667) on European Society. Retrieved February 19, 2008, from http://www. globalterrorism101. com/EffectofBlackDeathonEurope. html EncartaMSN. (n. d. ). Middle Ages. Retrieved February 19, 2008, from http://encarta. msn. com/encyclopedia_761578474/middle_ages. html Lectures in Medieval History. (n. d. ). The Great Schism, 1378-1415.
Retrieved February 19, 2008, from http://www. vlib. us/medieval/lectures/great_schism. html History of Western Civilization. (n. d. ). The Middle Ages: The Black Death. Retrieved February 19, 2008, from http://history. boisestate. edu/westciv/plague/ Insecta-inspecta. com. (n. d. ). The Black Death: 1347 – 1350. Retrieved February 19, 2008, from http://www. insecta-inspecta. com/fleas/bdeath/ Then Again… (n. d. ). The Great Schism: 1378-1415. Retrieved February 19, 2008, from http://www. thenagain. info/WebChron/WestEurope/GreatSchism. html.