The decadence of the Avignon Papacy

The Avignon Papacy was the period from 1309 to 1378, during which seven successive popes resided in Avignon, in France, rather than in Rome.

Pope Clement V, a Frenchman, was elected as Pope in 1305. Clement declined to move to Rome, remaining in France, and in 1309 moved his court to the papal enclave at Avignon, where it remained for the next 67 years. ... A total of seven popes reigned at Avignon; all were French, and they increasingly fell under the influence of the French Crown. In 1376, Gregory XI abandoned Avignon and moved his court to Rome, but despite this return, in 1378 the breakdown in relations between the cardinals and Gregory's successor, Urban VI, gave rise to the Western Schism. This started a second line of Avignon popes, now regarded as illegitimate. The last Avignon pope, Benedict XIII, lost most of his support in 1398. The schism ended in 1417 at the Council of Constance.

The period has been called the "Babylonian Captivity" (or "Babylonish Captivity") of the Popes (or the Church), particularly by Martin Luther. This nick-name is polemical, in that it refers to the claim by critics that the fabulous prosperity of the church at this time was accompanied by a profound compromise of the Papacy's spiritual integrity, especially in the alleged subordination of the powers of the Church to the ambitions of the Frankish emperor.
Source: http://faculty.ucc.edu/egh-damerow/avignon_papacy.htm

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