Unam sanctam
On 18 November 1302, Pope Boniface VIII
Pope Boniface VIII
Pope Boniface VIII , born Benedetto Gaetani, was Pope of the Catholic Church from 1294 to 1303. Today, Boniface VIII is probably best remembered for his feuds with Dante, who placed him in the Eighth circle of Hell in his Divina Commedia, among the Simonists.- Biography :Gaetani was born in 1235 in...

 issued the Papal bull
Papal bull
A Papal bull is a particular type of letters patent or charter issued by a Pope of the Catholic Church. It is named after the bulla that was appended to the end in order to authenticate it....

 Unam sanctam which historians consider one of the most extreme statements of Papal spiritual supremacy
Papal supremacy
Papal supremacy refers to the doctrine of the Roman Catholic Church that the pope, by reason of his office as Vicar of Christ and as pastor of the entire Christian Church, has full, supreme, and universal power over the whole Church, a power which he can always exercise unhindered: that, in brief,...

 ever made. The original document is lost but a version of the text can be found in the registers of Boniface VIII in the Vatican Archives.

The Bull lays down dogmatic propositions on the unity of the Catholic Church, the necessity of belonging to it for eternal salvation, the position of the pope as supreme head of the Church, and the duty thence arising of submission to the pope in order to belong to the Church and thus to attain salvation. The pope further emphasizes the higher position of the spiritual in comparison with the secular order.

The main propositions of the Bull are the following: First, the unity of the Church and its necessity for salvation are declared and established by various passages from the Bible and by reference to the one Ark of the Flood, and to the seamless garment of Christ. The pope then affirms that, as the unity of the body of the Church so is the unity of its head established in Saint Peter
Saint Peter
Saint Peter or Simon Peter was an early Christian leader, who is featured prominently in the New Testament Gospels and the Acts of the Apostles. The son of John or of Jonah and from the village of Bethsaida in the province of Galilee, his brother Andrew was also an apostle...

 and his successors. Consequently, all who wish to belong to the fold of Christ are placed under the dominion of Peter and his successors.


Most significantly, the bull proclaimed, "outside of her (the Church) there is neither salvation nor the remission of sins". It is an extreme form of the concept known as "plenitudo potestatis" or the plenitude of power; it declares that those who resist the Roman Pontiff are resisting God's ordination.

The bull also declared that the Church must be united, that the Pope was the sole and absolute head of the Church:

The Bull also stated:The swords being referred to are a customary reference to the swords yielded by the Apostles upon Christ's arrest, which were said to have been buried next to the Apostle Peter. Early theologians believed that if there are two swords one must be subordinate to the other. It then became a spiritual hierarchal ladder, the spiritual judges the secular "on account of its greatness and sublimity, while the lower spiritual power is judged by the higher spiritual power, etc. Thus, it was concluded, the temporal
State (polity)
A state is an organized political community, living under a government. States may be sovereign and may enjoy a monopoly on the legal initiation of force and are not dependent on, or subject to any other power or state. Many states are federated states which participate in a federal union...

 authorities must submit to the spiritual
Spirituality can refer to an ultimate or an alleged immaterial reality; an inner path enabling a person to discover the essence of his/her being; or the “deepest values and meanings by which people live.” Spiritual practices, including meditation, prayer and contemplation, are intended to develop...

 authorities, not merely on matters concerning doctrine and morality: "For with truth as our witness, it belongs to spiritual power to establish the terrestrial power and to pass judgment if it has not been good."

The bull ends:In the bull, Boniface reiterates what popes since the time of Gregory VII had been declaring. Much of what is said can be taken from the writings of Bernard of Clairvaux
Bernard of Clairvaux
Bernard of Clairvaux, O.Cist was a French abbot and the primary builder of the reforming Cistercian order.After the death of his mother, Bernard sought admission into the Cistercian order. Three years later, he was sent to found a new abbey at an isolated clearing in a glen known as the Val...

, Hugh of St. Victor, and Thomas Aquinas
Thomas Aquinas
Thomas Aquinas, O.P. , also Thomas of Aquin or Aquino, was an Italian Dominican priest of the Catholic Church, and an immensely influential philosopher and theologian in the tradition of scholasticism, known as Doctor Angelicus, Doctor Communis, or Doctor Universalis...

. The bull also contains writing from the letters of Innocent III
Pope Innocent III
Pope Innocent III was Pope from 8 January 1198 until his death. His birth name was Lotario dei Conti di Segni, sometimes anglicised to Lothar of Segni....

, who mainly reasserted the spiritual power and the "plenitudo potestatis" of the papacy. A voice heavily noticed in the bull is Egidius Romanus (Giles of Rome), who some hold might have been the actual writer of the bull. In his writing On Ecclesiastical Power, Giles voices the supremacy of the Roman Pontiff over the material world. His line of argument states that since the body is governed by the soul and the soul is governed by the ruler of the spiritual, the Roman Pontiff therefore is governor of both soul and body.

According to the Catholic Encyclopedia in the registers, on the margin of the text of the record, the last sentence is noted as its real definition: "Declaratio quod subesse Romano Pontifici est omni humanae creaturae de necessitate salutis"; thus this phrase, like some in canonic scripture, may have moved from an original position as a marginal gloss to an integral part of the text as it has been accepted. Some believe that this is the only dogmatic definition in the bull because the rest is based on differing "papal claims of the thirteenth century".

Political context

The furious reaction of Philip IV, King of France
Philip IV of France
Philip the Fair was, as Philip IV, King of France from 1285 until his death. He was the husband of Joan I of Navarre, by virtue of which he was, as Philip I, King of Navarre and Count of Champagne from 1284 to 1305.-Youth:A member of the House of Capet, Philip was born at the Palace of...

 and his ministry cannot be understood outside the context of a conflict between the increasing power of secular rulers in France and England (who had come to blows) with attempts to tax the clergy to support warfare that was no different from some of the "crusades" that had been authorized during the thirteenth century — against the king of Aragon
Aragonese Crusade
The Aragonese Crusade or Crusade of Aragon, a part of the larger War of the Sicilian Vespers, was declared by Pope Martin IV against the King of Aragon, Peter III the Great, in 1284 and 1285...

 for instance — save that the warfare had not been authorized by the Pope and the taxes were also to be levied on the clergy. Known for his very impulsive interference in international affairs, Boniface's stringent reaction was the fierce bull Clericis laicos
Clericis laicos
Clericis laicos was a Papal bull issued on February 5, 1296 by Pope Boniface VIII in an attempt to prevent the secular states of Europe, in particular France and England, from appropriating church revenues without the express prior permission of the pope...

of 1296.

In England, Edward I
Edward I of England
Edward I , also known as Edward Longshanks and the Hammer of the Scots, was King of England from 1272 to 1307. The first son of Henry III, Edward was involved early in the political intrigues of his father's reign, which included an outright rebellion by the English barons...

 withdrew the protection of the English Common Law from the clergy, an action with fearful possibilities. Philip's ministers reacted with their own typical methods: they banished all non-French bankers from France and forbade the export of bullion from the King's territories, without exception. The supply of French money to the Roman curia dried up completely. The royal ministers and their allies circulated open letters asserting the sovereignty of the king within his realm and the duty of the Church to help in the defense of the realm.

Boniface made the tactical error of backing down from some positions. In September 1296, he sent an indignant protest to Philip headed Ineffabilis Amor, declaring that he would rather suffer death than surrender any of the rightful prerogatives of the Church; but he explained in conciliatory terms that his recent bull had not been intended to apply to any of the customary feudal taxes due the King from the lands of the Church.

Then came the Jubilee
Jubilee (Christian)
The concept of the Jubilee is a special year of remission of sins and universal pardon. In the Biblical Book of Leviticus, a Jubilee year is mentioned to occur every fifty years, in which slaves and prisoners would be freed, debts would be forgiven and the mercies of God would be particularly...

 year of 1300, that filled Rome with the fervent masses of pilgrims and made up for the lack of French gold in the treasury. The following year, Philip's ministers overstepped their bounds. Bernard Saisset
Bernard Saisset
Bernard Saisset was an Occitan bishop of Pamiers, in the County of Foix in the south of France, whose outspoken disrespect for Philip IV of France incurred charges of high treason in the overheated atmosphere of tension between the King and his ministry and Pope Boniface VIII, leading up to the...

, the Bishop of Pamiers in Foix
Foix is a commune, the capital of the Ariège department in southwestern France. It is the least populous administrative centre of a department in all of France, although it is only very slightly smaller than Privas...

, the farthest southern march
A march or mark refers to a border region similar to a frontier, such as the Welsh Marches, the borderland between England and Wales. During the Frankish Carolingian Dynasty, the word spread throughout Europe....

 of Languedoc
Languedoc is a former province of France, now continued in the modern-day régions of Languedoc-Roussillon and Midi-Pyrénées in the south of France, and whose capital city was Toulouse, now in Midi-Pyrénées. It had an area of approximately 42,700 km² .-Geographical Extent:The traditional...

 was recalcitrant and difficult. There was no love between the south, that had suffered so recently with the Albigensian Crusade
Albigensian Crusade
The Albigensian Crusade or Cathar Crusade was a 20-year military campaign initiated by the Catholic Church to eliminate Catharism in Languedoc...

, and the Frankish north. Pamiers was one of the last strongholds of the Cathar
Catharism was a name given to a Christian religious sect with dualistic and gnostic elements that appeared in the Languedoc region of France and other parts of Europe in the 11th century and flourished in the 12th and 13th centuries...

s. Saisset made no secret of his disrespect for the King of France. Philip's ministry decided to make an example of the bishop. He was brought before Philip and his court, on 24 October 1301, where the chancellor, Pierre Flotte, charged him with high treason, and he was placed in the keeping of the archbishop of Narbonne, his metropolitan. Before they could attack him in the courts, the royal ministry needed the Pope to remove him from his See and strip him of his clerical protections, so that he could be tried for treason. Philip IV tried to obtain from the pope this "canonical degradation". Instead, Boniface ordered the king in December 1301 to free the bishop to go to Rome to justify himself. In the Bull, Ausculta Fili
Ausculta Fili
Ausculta Fili is a letter addressed 5 December 1301, by Pope Boniface VIII to Philip the Fair, King of France....

("Give ear, my son") he accused Philip of sinfully subverting the Church in France, and not in terms that were conciliatory:
"Let no one persuade you that you have no superior or that you are not subject to the head of the ecclesiastical hierarchy, for he is a fool who so thinks."

At the same time, Boniface sent out a more general bull Salvator mundi that strongly reiterated some of the same ground of Clericis laicos.

Then, at the end of the year, Boniface, with his customary tactlessness having criticized Philip for his personal behavior and the unscrupulousness of his ministry (that being an assessment with which many modern historians would agree), summoned a council of French bishops for November 1302, intended to reform Church matters in France — at Rome. Philip forbade Saisset or any of them to attend and forestalled Boniface by organizing a counter-assembly of his own, held in Paris in April 1302. Nobles, burgesses, and clergy met to denounce the Pope and pass around a crude forgery titled Deum Time ("Fear God"), which made out that Boniface claimed to be feudal overlord of France. The French clergy politely protested against Boniface's "unheard-of assertions". Boniface denied the document and its claims, but he reminded them that previous popes had deposed three French kings.

This was the atmosphere in which Unam sanctam was promulgated weeks later. Reading of the "two swords" in the Bull, one of Philip's ministers is alleged to have remarked, "My master's sword is steel; the Pope's is made of words."

The response to Unam sanctam

Boniface's reputation for always trying to increase the papal power made it difficult to accept such an extreme declaration. His assertion over the temporal was seen as hollow and misguided and it's said the document was not seen as authoritative because the body of faith did not accept it.

In response to the bull, Philip had the Dominican
Dominican Order
The Order of Preachers , after the 15th century more commonly known as the Dominican Order or Dominicans, is a Catholic religious order founded by Saint Dominic and approved by Pope Honorius III on 22 December 1216 in France...

 Jean Quidort issue a refutation. Pope Boniface reacted by excommunicating
Excommunication is a religious censure used to deprive, suspend or limit membership in a religious community. The word means putting [someone] out of communion. In some religions, excommunication includes spiritual condemnation of the member or group...

 the king. Philip then called an assembly in which twenty-nine accusations against the pope were made, including infidelity, heresy, simony, gross and unnatural immorality, idolatry, magic, loss of the Holy Land, and the death of Celestine V. Five archbishops and twenty-one bishops sided with the king.

Boniface VIII could only respond by denouncing the charges; but it was already too late for him. On 7 September 1303, the king's advisor Guillaume de Nogaret
Guillaume de Nogaret
Guillaume de Nogaret or William of Nogaret was councillor and keeper of the seal to Philip IV of France.- Early life :...

 led a band of two thousand mercenaries on horse and foot. They joined locals in an attack on the palaces of the pope and his nephew at the papal residence at Anagni
Anagni is an ancient town and comune in Latium, central Italy, in the hills east-southeast of Rome. It is a historical center in Ciociaria.-Geography:...

, later referred to as the Outrage of Anagni. The Pope's attendants and his beloved nephew Francesco all soon fled; only the Spaniard Pedro Rodríguez, Cardinal of Santa Sabina, remained at his side to the end.

The palace was plundered and Boniface was nearly killed (Nogaret prevented his troops from murdering the pope). Boniface was subjected to harassment and held prisoner for three days during which no one brought him food or drink. Eventually the townsfolk expelled the marauders and Boniface pardoned those who were captured. He returned to Rome on 13 September 1303.

Despite his stoicism, Boniface was shaken by the incident. He developed a violent fever and died on 11 October 1303. In A Distant Mirror: The Calamitous Fourteenth Century, Barbara Tuchman
Barbara Tuchman
Barbara Wertheim Tuchman was an American historian and author. She became known for her best-selling book The Guns of August, a history of the prelude to and first month of World War I, which won the Pulitzer Prize for General Non-Fiction in 1963....

 states that his close advisors would later maintain that he died of a "profound chagrin".

Boniface VIII's successor, Benedict XI, lasted only nine months before dying in exile. The Conclave to pick his successor was in deadlock for eleven months before deciding on Pope Clement V
Pope Clement V
Pope Clement V, born Raymond Bertrand de Got was Pope from 1305 to his death...

. To please Philip IV of France, Clement moved the papacy to Avignon
Avignon Papacy
The Avignon Papacy was the period from 1309 to 1376 during which seven Popes resided in Avignon, in modern-day France. This arose from the conflict between the Papacy and the French crown....

. From this point until around 1378 the papacy, in an effort to keep tensions loose with France, fell under the immense pressure of Philip IV's monarchy. Some theologians feel this stemmed from Boniface VIII's and Philip IV's battle against each other. Philip was said to have held a vendetta against the Roman papacy until his death.

It was not just the French monarchy and clergy who disapproved of Boniface and his assertions. There were many texts circulating around Europe that attacked the bull and Boniface's bold claims for the power of the papacy over the temporal. One of the more notable writers who opposed Boniface and his beliefs was the Florentine poet Dante
Delivery of Advanced Network Technology to Europe is a not-for-profit organisation that plans, builds and operates the international networks that interconnect the various national research and education networks in Europe and surrounding regions...

, who expressed his need for another strong Holy Roman Emperor. His treatise Monarchia
De Monarchia
De Monarchia is a treatise on secular and religious power by Dante Alighieri. With this Latin text, the poet intervened in one of the most controversial subjects of his period: the relationship between secular authority and religious authority...

attempted to refute the papacy's claim that the spiritual sword had power over the temporal sword. Dante pointed out that the Pope and Roman Emperor were both human, and no peer had power over another peer. Only a higher power could judge the two "equal swords", as each was given power by God to rule over their respected domains.

External links

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