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hold him up as a very excellent man, hitherto libelled by historians. When we observe him described as a pontiff“who “ devoted through all his reign the energies of a great mind, “ cultivated by profound learning, and matured by long ex“perience in the most delicate ecclesiastical affairs, to the at“ tainment of a truly noble end;" when we are assured that he has left examples “ of forgiveness and gentleness," that 6 we do not find in any writer, however hostile to hirn, the “ slightest insinuation against his moral conduct and cha“racter,” and that “ all his negotiations between powers “ were to bring about peace*,"—we think it important to inquire into the life of this personage, in order alsó to ascertain what must be the political views of the party praising so much the attainment of the noble end which Boniface proposed to himself ;-the nature of this end being only ascertainable by inquiring into the particulars of the actions of this hitherto injured man.
The modern champion of Boniface was led by a portrait of this Pope “ to the examination of several popular assertions affecting his moral and ecclesiastical conduct," which he had previously stated to have been unfortunately misrepresented by writers “ whom political feelings arrayed ha
bitually in hostility to the ecclesiastical power, whenever it “ came in conflict with the secular.” We must, in limine, protest against these unfair general assertions, tending to cast a slur on the impartiality of those who differ from him who makes them, intending to monopolize for himself and friends all the fairness and independence. Two historians of the last century,—Roman Catholics,-both clergymen, the one an archbishop, of matchless erudition and of the highest authority in points of ecclesiastical history-both countrymen of Boniface, Muratori and Mansi, speak of him in the following terms :“Such,"
says Muratori, “was the end of Boniface; a person who in greatness of mind, in magnificence, eloquence, and foresight in choosing right persons to fill offices, in kuowledge of civil as well as canon law, had few equals ; but as he was wanting in that humility which befits all, --more particularly him who fills the place of vicar of Christ, the pattern of all virtues, and of this particularly,—and as he was full of pride and haughtiness, he was liked by few, hated by a great many, and feared by all. He left
* Dublin Review.
nothing undone to enrich and elevate his relations, and to gather money even by unworthy means. He was full of worldly thoughts ; an implacable enemy of the Ghibellines, he persecuted them with all his might, whilst in return they cursed his memory, and put him in hell, as one may see in Dante.”-Annal. 1303.
“ Boniface was endowed with splendid gifts of mind, but more fitting a temporal than a spiritual prince. Besides being the most learned man of his day in the knowledge of civil and ecclesiastical laws, he had great tact in transacting affairs, although he was not always successful. He accumulated great riches to support the dignity of the popedom, and was hence accused of avarice. Magnificent in his station, he adorned splendidly the pontifical palaces......He moreover displayed a firmness worthy of a pope, which if he had mixed with prudence, he would have acted better by the church, and avoided the accusation of being a furious and violent man. But although there are many points in him which seem to deserve censure, there are many more imputations against him,-a man perhaps ambitious, avaricious and violent,—which are manifestly false.”- Ad Raynal. Ann. 1303, § 41.
No one can doubt that these writers, the latter more particularly, said all they could for Boniface, and as little as they could against him. We claim no more credit for impartiality than one is disposed to give to Mansi, and surely our claims are not unreasonable.
Benedetto, born of the very old and noble family Gaetani of Anagni, connected with all the noble houses of the country, after having filled various responsible situations in the service of the court of Rome, was created cardinal by Martin IV., and promoted by Nicholas IV. After the death of the latter, Pietro Morone, Celestin V., was elected, and, on his abdication, the choice fell on Benedetto Gaetani, who took the name of Boniface VIII.
To appreciate the grounds on which it was said, if not prophesied, that Cardinal Gaetani would sneak into power like a fox, it is necessary to recall the circumstances under which the election as well as the abdication of Celestin V. took place. Nicholas IV. died at the beginning of April 1292, and in the spring of 1294 the cardinals had not yet agreed on his successor. Charles II., king of Naples, went to Perugia, where they were holding their conclave, to urge them to come to an understanding ; at which Cardinal Gaetani was very angry, and high words passed between the king and him. In June Cardinal Latino Malabranca, of the Orsini family,
assured Cardinal Gaetani that a holy man had been warned that something terrible would befall them if they did not elect a pope before next November. “ This is one of the visions of your friend Pier Morone,” said Gaetani sneeringly. The eyes of the cardinals were at once turned to this very man as fit to fill the chair of St. Peter's, and at the beginning of July he was unanimously chosen.
Pietro Morone was born at Isernia, in Terra di Lavoro, and from his earliest days performed sundry miracles, and successfully fought the devil (occasionally by the help of angels), who, by day and by night, attacked him in a variety of ways too long to relate and too difficult to believe*. He chose to live a solitary life, and was afterwards prevailed upon to take orders, and to become a Benedictine. After he had made himself well acquainted with the constitution of the order, he thought it wanted reform, and he undertook it; in consequence the Celestine monks were established, and in due time legalized by the Pope; he then retired again to Morone, a wild mountain in the province of Sulmona, where he lived the hardest life of an anchorite, celebrated over all that part of the world for his miracles. On receiving the news of his election, he accepted, after some hesitation, and, instead of going to Rome, he went to Aquila to be consecrated Pope. He rode into this city on a donkey, all through humility, amidst the acclamations of two hundred thousand people, who had crowded to see the poor hermit installed in the highest dignity in Christendom.
But he had no sooner been invested with it, than he proved how unfit he was for his lofty station; he not only granted favours thoughtlessly, but appointed more than one person to the same office, and gave blank bulls, to be filled up as they pleased, to persons who took advantage of his weakness. The king of Naples, to have him entirely under his control, prevailed on him to fix his residence at Naples instead of Rome, and thither the Pope rode on his donkey. Most persons were of opinion that Cardinal Gaetani would not venture to join the pontiff in the capital of a sovereign whom he had
" Antiquus hostis laqueos illi perpetuo tendere non desinebat. Vigilanti enim et item dormienti duarum mulierum formam objiciebat......quin et earum unam utrinque ad latera dormientis collocabat, nudam quidem eam pellicientemque sanctum juvenem ad turpia, et quasi vim inferentem.”
offended, as we said ; but they were deceived. Cardinal Gaetani did go to Naples, and out of thirteen cardinals, all creatures of the king of Naples, whom Celestin created, there was but one Roman, and that one a nephew of Cardinal Gaetani, who thus proved his interest both with the Pope and with the King, and who from that day was considered the most influential man at court.
The cardinals perceived, when it was too late, the solemn blunder they had committed in choosing a saint as Pope, and they began to think of a remedy; it occurred to them, at least to some of them, that the only way would be to prevail on the Pope to resign. Celestin V. was still Pier di Morone,more fond of prayers than of government, more happy in a hut than in a palace, preferring a quiet ride on his donkey to an ovation on a triumphal car, and solitude to the company of monarchs, cardinals and gentlemen, with whom he could not feel at ease, not having one idea in common with them. On its being represented to him that the good of Christendom required his abdication, he humbly listened to the suggestion, and conscientiously entertained it; but the king of Naples and the bulk of the clergy did not wish for any change. The former well knew that it would be impossible to find a Pope more docile to his wishes, whilst the lower clergy and the people at large were glad to see at the head of the church a holy man, single-hearted and without earthly ends in view, bringing back the church to its apostolical simplicity. The changes of time and position were not taken into consideration, and the evils which must eventually flow from the plenitude of simplicity of an anchorite were not yet so visible to all as the mischief which had been seen to proceed from the plenitude of power of worldly Popes*. At a procession which took place with the king's consent, if not at his instigation, the Pope was requested not to abdicate, which he seemed to promise, but in a manner that could not bind him; and being still urged to do so, he resigned on the 13th of December 1294. On Christmas-eve of the same year, Cardinal Gaetani was elected Pope. He was scarcely seated on the
* James de Voragine, archbishop of Genoa, a contemporary, says that Celestin made twelve cardinals de plenitudine potestatis, and an archbishop de plenitudine simplicitatis.- Rer. Ital. Script. ix. 54.
throne, when the king of Naples showered favours on his family. On the other hand, poor Pope Celestin, now plain Pier Morone once more, who wished to retire again to his solitude, was prevented by order of Boniface, who had him eventually confined in the tower of Fumone, a feudal castle near Anagni, where the new Pope could see from his own palace the prison in which his predecessor was detained.
The memory of Boniface has been hitherto subject to the imputation of having by unfair means not only procured the abdication of his predecessor, but also his own election. Many of his contemporaries declared him an intruder, both because the abdication of a Pope was void in law, and because in fact that of Celestin had been brought about by Boniface's intrigues and artifices. But now a new light bursts on biographers: it is contended that, although Boniface may have encouraged the inclination of Celestin to resign, he did so in a proper and straightforward manner; and that if he advised him to abdicate, he did no more than his duty. Known and unknown historians are quoted, to make out a favourable case, but, it seems to us, with very
little success. We think first of all, that if the transaction is to be judged of by the number of writers of the time who are for and against Boniface, the great majority are not in his favour; for even those who state that he advised Celestin to resign, on hearing that this simple man was inclined to do so, speak of the advice in such terms as not to give us a very good opinion of Boniface's straightforwardness : they all either imply or say that he did not give a fair and unbiassed opinion, but that he advised and did all that he thought would advance his own ambitious schemes, little caring either for Celestin or the spiritual welfare of the church. The two authorities especially relied on by the modern defender of Boniface, that of Cardinal Jacopo Stefaneschi, and of an unknown writer, author of a manuscript life of Celestin, cannot have much weight. A great deal is said about Cardinal Stefaneschi being one who had conversed on intimate terms with Pope Celestin, but it seems that it is not known, or it is forgotten, that this cardinal was a relation of Boniface, being a Gaetani degli Stefaneschi. His father Pietro was son of Stefano Gaetani, and hence that branch of the family took the name of Stefaneschi in addition