1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/John XXII (pope)

JOHN XXII., pope from 1316 to 1334, was born at Cahors, France, in 1249. His original name was Jacques Duèse, and he came either of a family of petty nobility or else of well-to-do middle-class parents, and was not, as has been popularly supposed, the son of a shoemaker. He began his education with the Dominicans at Cahors, subsequently studied law at Montpellier, and law and medicine in Paris, and finally taught at Cahors and Toulouse. At Toulouse he became intimate with the bishop Louis, son of Charles II., king of Naples. In 1300 he was elevated to the episcopal see of Fréjus by Pope Boniface VIII. at the instance of the king of Naples, and in 1308 was made chancellor of Naples by Charles, retaining this office under Charles’s successor, Robert of Anjou. In 1310 Pope Clement V. summoned Jacques to Avignon and instructed him to advise upon the affair of the Templars and also upon the question of condemning the memory of Boniface VIII. Jacques decided on the legality of suppressing the order of the Templars, holding that the pope would be serving the best interests of the church by pronouncing its suppression; but he rejected the condemnation of Boniface as a sacrilegious affront to the church and a monstrous abuse of the lay power. On the 23rd of December 1312 Clement appointed him cardinal-bishop of Porto, and it was while cardinal of Porto that he was elected pope, on the 7th of August 1316. Clement had died in April 1314, but the cardinals assembled at Carpentras were unable to agree as to his successor. As the two-thirds majority requisite for an election could not be obtained, the cardinals separated, and it was not until the 28th of June 1316 that they reassembled in the cloister of the Dominicans at Lyons, and then only in deference to the pressure exerted upon them by Philip V. of France. After deliberating for more than a month they elected Robert of Anjou’s candidate, Jacques Duèse, who was crowned on the 5th of September, and on the 2nd of October arrived at Avignon, where he remained for the rest of his life.

More jurist than theologian, John defended the rights of the papacy with rigorous zeal and as rigorous logic. For the restoration of the papacy to its old independence, which had been so gravely compromised under his immediate predecessors, and for the execution of the vast enterprises which the papacy deemed useful for its prestige and for Christendom, considerable sums were required; and to raise the necessary money John burdened Christian Europe with new taxes and a complicated fiscal system, which was fraught with serious consequences. For his personal use, however, he retained but a very small fraction of the sums thus acquired, and at his death his private fortune amounted to scarce a million florins. The essentially practical character of his administration has led many historians to tax him with avarice, but later research on the fiscal system of the papacy of the period, particularly the joint work of Samaran and Mollat, enables us very sensibly to modify the severe judgment passed on John by Gregorovius and others.

John’s pontificate was continually disturbed by his conflict with Louis of Bavaria and by the theological revolt of the Spiritual Franciscans. In October 1314 Louis of Bavaria and Frederick of Austria had each been elected German king by the divided electors. Louis was gradually recognized by the whole of Germany, especially after his victory at Mühldorf (1322), and gained numerous adherents in Italy, where he supported the Visconti, who had been condemned as heretics by the pope. John affected to ignore the successes of Louis, and on the 8th of October 1323 forbade his recognition as king of the Romans. After demanding a respite, Louis abruptly appealed at Nuremberg from the future sentence of the pope to a general council (December 8, 1323). The conflict then assumed a grave doctrinal character. The doctrine of the rights of the lay monarchy sustained by Occam and John of Paris, by Marsilius of Padua, John of Jandun and Leopold of Bamberg, was affirmed by the jurists and theologians, penetrated into the parlements and the universities, and was combated by the upholders of papal absolutism, such as Alvaro Pelayo and Alonzo Trionfo. Excommunicated on the 21st of March 1324, Louis retorted by appealing for a second time to a general council, which was held on the 22nd of May 1324, and accused John of being an enemy to the peace and the law, stigmatizing him as a heretic on the ground that he opposed the principle of evangelical poverty as professed by the strict Franciscans. From this moment Louis appeared in the character of the natural ally and even the protector of the Spirituals against the persecution of the pope. On the 11th of July 1324 the pope laid under an interdict the places where Louis or his adherents resided, but this bull had no effect in Germany. Equally futile was John’s declaration (April 3, 1327) that Louis had forfeited his crown and abetted heresy by granting protection to Marsilius of Padua. Having reconciled himself with Frederick of Austria, Louis penetrated into Italy and seized Rome on the 7th of January 1328, with the help of the Roman Ghibellines led by Sciarra Colonna. After installing himself in the Vatican, Louis got himself crowned by the deputies of the Roman people; instituted proceedings for the deposition of John, whom the Roman people, displeased by the spectacle of the papacy abandoning Rome, declared to have forfeited the pontificate (April 18, 1328); and finally caused a Minorite friar, Pietro Rainalucci da Corvara, to be elected pope under the name of Nicholas V. John preached a platonic crusade against Louis, who burned the pope’s effigy at Pisa and in Amelia. Soon, however, Louis felt his power waning, and quitted Rome and Italy (1329). Incapable of independent action, the antipope was abandoned by the Romans and handed over to John, who forced him to make a solemn submission with a halter round his neck (August 15, 1330). Nicholas was condemned to perpetual imprisonment, and died in obscurity at Avignon; while the Roman people submitted to King Robert, who governed the church through his vicars. In 1317, in execution of a bull of Clement V., the royal vicariate in Italy had been conferred by John on Robert of Anjou, and this appointment was renewed in 1322 and 1324, with threats of excommunication against any one who should seize the vicariate of Italy without the authorization of the pope. One of John’s last acts was his decision to separate Italy from the Empire, but this bull was of no avail and fell into oblivion. After his death, however, the interdict was not removed from Germany, and the resistance of Louis and his theologians continued.

A violent manifestation of this resistance took place in connexion with the accusation of heresy brought against the pope. On the third Sunday in Advent 1329, and afterwards in public consistory, John had preached that the souls of those who have died in a state of grace go into Abraham’s bosom, sub altari Dei, and do not enjoy the beatific vision (visio facie ad faciem) of the Lord until after the Last Judgment and the Resurrection; and he had even instructed a Minorite friar, Gauthier of Dijon, to collect the passages in the Fathers which were in favour of this doctrine. On the 27th of December 1331 a Dominican, Thomas of England, preached against this doctrine at Avignon itself and was thrown into prison. When news of this affair had reached Paris, the pope sent the general of the Minorites, Gerard Odonis, accompanied by a Dominican, to sustain his doctrine in that city, but King Philip VI., perhaps at the instigation of the refugee Spirituals in Paris, referred the question to the faculty of theology, which, on the 2nd of January 1333, declared that the souls of the blessed were elevated to the beatific vision immediately after death; the faculty, nevertheless, were of opinion that the pope should have propounded his erroneous doctrine only “recitando,” and not “determinando, asserendo, seu etiam opinando.” The king notified this decision to the pope, who assembled his consistory in November 1333, and gave a haughty reply. The theologians in Louis’s following who were opposed to papal absolutism already spoke of “the new heretic, Jacques de Cahors,” and reiterated with increasing insistency their demands for the convocation of a general council to try the pope. John appears to have retracted shortly before his death, which occurred on the 4th of December 1334.[1]

John had kindled very keen animosity, not only among the upholders of the independence of the lay power, but also among the upholders of absolute religious poverty, the exalted Franciscans. Clement V., at the council of Vienne, had attempted to bring back the Spirituals to the common rule by concessions; John, on the other hand, in the bull Quorundam exigit (April 13, 1317), adopted an uncompromising and absolute attitude, and by the bull Gloriosam ecclesiam (January 23, 1318) condemned the protests which had been raised against the bull Quorundam by a group of seventy-four Spirituals and conveyed to Avignon by the monk Bernard Délicieux. Shortly afterwards four Spirituals were burned at Marseilles. These were immediately hailed as martyrs, and in the eyes of the exalted Franciscans at Naples and in Sicily and the south of France the pope was regarded as antichrist. In the bull Sancta Romana et universa ecclesia (December 28, 1318) John definitively excommunicated them and condemned their principal book, the Postil (commentary) on the Apocalypse (February 8, 1326). The bull Quia nonnunquam (March 26, 1322) defined the derogations from the rule punished by the pope, and the bull Cum inter nonnullos (November 12, 1323) condemned the proposition which had been admitted at the general chapter of the Franciscans held at Perugia in 1322, according to which Christ and the Apostles were represented as possessing no property, either personal or common. The minister general, Michael of Cesena, though opposed to the exaggerations of the Spirituals, joined with them in protesting against the condemnation of the fundamental principle of evangelical poverty, and the agitation gradually gained ground. The pope, by the bull Quia quorundam (November 10, 1324), cited Michael to appear at Avignon at the same time as Occam and Bonagratia. All three fled to the court of Louis of Bavaria (May 26, 1328), while the majority of the Franciscans made submission and elected a general entirely devoted to the pope. But the resistance, aided by Louis and merged as it now was in the cause sustained by Marsilius of Padua and John of Jandun, became daily bolder. Treatises on poverty appeared on every side; the party of Occam clamoured with increasing imperiousness for the condemnation of John by a general council; and the Spirituals, confounded in the persecution with the Beghards and with Fraticelli of every description, maintained themselves in the south of France in spite of the reign of terror instituted in that region by the Inquisition.

See M. Souchon, Die Papstwahlen von Bonifaz VIII. bis Urban VI. (Brunswick, 1888); Abbé Albe, Autour de Jean XXII. (Rome, 1904); K. Müller, Der Kampf Ludwigs des Bayern mit der Curie (Tübingen, 1879 seq.); W. Preger, “Mémoires sur la lutte entre Jean XXII. et Louis de Bavière” in Abhandl. der bayr. Akad., hist. sec., xv., xvi., xvii.; S. Riezler, Die litterar. Widersacher der Päpste zur Zeit Ludwigs des Baiers (Leipzig, 1874); F. Ehrle, “Die Spiritualen” in Archiv für Litteratur-und Kirchengeschichte des Mittelalters (vols. i. and ii.); C. Samaran and G. Mollat, La Fiscalité pontificale en France au xive siècle (Paris, 1905); A. Coulon and G. Mollat, Lettres secrètes et curiales de Jean XXII. se rapportant à la France (Paris, 1899, seq.).  (P. A.) 

  1. On the 29th of January 1336 Pope Benedict XII. pronounced a long judgment on this point of doctrine, a judgment which he declared had been included by John in a bull which death had prevented him from sealing.