The Avignon Papacy Contested: An Intellectual History from Dante to Catherine of Siena

The Avignon Papacy Contested: An Intellectual History from Dante to Catherine of Siena

by Unn Falkeid

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The Avignon papacy (1309–1377) represented the zenith of papal power in Europe. The Roman curia’s move to southern France enlarged its bureaucracy, centralized its authority, and initiated closer contact with secular institutions. The pope’s presence also attracted leading minds to Avignon, transforming a modest city into a cosmopolitan center of learning. But a crisis of legitimacy was brewing among leading thinkers of the day. The Avignon Papacy Contested considers the work of six fourteenth-century writers who waged literary war against the Catholic Church’s increasing claims of supremacy over secular rulers—a conflict that engaged contemporary critics from every corner of Europe.

Unn Falkeid uncovers the dispute’s origins in Dante’s Paradiso and Monarchia, where she identifies a sophisticated argument for the separation of church and state. In Petrarch’s writings she traces growing concern about papal authority, precipitated by the curia’s exile from Rome. Marsilius of Padua’s theory of citizen agency indicates a resistance to the pope’s encroaching power, which finds richer expression in William of Ockham’s philosophy of individual liberty. Both men were branded as heretics. The mystical writings of Birgitta of Sweden and Catherine of Siena, in Falkeid’s reading, contain cloaked confrontations over papal ethics and church governance even though these women were later canonized.

While each of the six writers responded creatively to the implications of the Avignon papacy, they shared a concern for the breakdown of secular order implied by the expansion of papal power and a willingness to speak their minds.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780674971844
Publisher: Harvard
Publication date: 08/21/2017
Series: I Tatti Studies in Italian Renaissance History , #21
Edition description: New Edition
Pages: 288
Product dimensions: 6.10(w) x 9.40(h) x 1.00(d)

About the Author

Unn Falkeid is Associate Professor of History of Ideas at the University of Oslo.

Table of Contents

Introduction 1

1 The Eagle's Flight: Dante's Paradiso VI and the Monarchia 25

2 Marsilius of Padua and the Question of Legitimacy 52

3 Individual Freedom in William of Ockham's Breviloquium 75

4 Petrarch, Cola di Rienzo, and the Battle of Rome 95

5 The Prophetic Widow: Birgitta of Sweden and the Revelaciones 121

6 Catherine of Siena and the Mystical Body of the Church 146

Conclusion 173

Chronology 181

Notes 185

Bibliography 237

Acknowledgments 257

Index 261

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