Unam sanctam

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On November 18, 1302, Pope Boniface VIII issued the Papal bull Unam sanctam ("The One Holy"), which historians consider one of the most extreme statements of Papal spiritual supremacy ever made. It arose due to the Pope's conflict with Philip IV of France over attempts of each to prevent the other from receiving money from taxes.

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Most significantly, the bull proclaimed, "outside of her (the Church) there is neither salvation nor the remission of sins". (See Extra Ecclesiam Nulla Salus.)

The bull also declared that the Church must be united, that the Pope was the sole and absolute head of the Church: "Therefore, of the one and only Church there is one body and one head, not two heads like a monster." The Bull also stated, "We are informed by the texts of the gospels that in this Church and in its power are two swords; namely, the spiritual and the temporal." Thus, it was concluded, the temporal authorities must submit to the spiritual authorities: "For with truth as our witness, it belongs to spiritual power to establish the terrestrial power and to pass judgement if it has not been good."

The bull ends "Furthermore, we declare, we proclaim, we define that it is absolutely necessary for salvation that every human creature be subject to the Roman Pontiff." The original document is lost, but 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.

Following custom, the premises are not based on logical reasoning, but on allegorical interpretations of images in scripture, drawn from the Hebrew bible as well as the New Testament. The bull is brief, and anyone interested in it should read the original text (see links).

Political context

The furious reaction of Philip 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 13th century — against the king of Aragon for instance — save that the warfare had not been authorized by the Pope and the taxes were also to be levied on the clergy. Boniface's stringent reaction was the fierce bull Clericis laicos of 1294.

In England, Edward I 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 sovreignty 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 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, the Bishop of Pamiers in Foix, the farthest southern march of Languedoc was recalcitrant and difficult. There was no love between the south, that had suffered so recently with the Albigensian Crusade, and the Frankish north. Pamiers was one of the last strongholds of the Cathars. 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 October 24 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 ("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

In response to the bull, Philip had the Dominican Jean Quidort issue a refutation. Pope Boniface reacted by excommunicating the king. Phillip 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 led a band of 2000 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, the notorious "Outrage of Anagni". The Pope's attendants and his beloved nephew Francesco all soon fled; only a Spaniard, the 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). Still, 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, Bonifice was clearly 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 states that his close advisors would later maintain that he died of a "profound chagrin".

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