Pope Boniface IX (1356 – October 1, 1404), born Piero Tomacelli, was the second Roman Pope of the Western Schism from November 2, 1389, until October 1, 1404. During his time the antipope Clement VII (1378–94) continued to hold court as pope in Avignon under the protection of the French monarchy.
Piero (also Perino, Pietro) Tomacelli came of an ancient but impoverished baronial family of Casarano in the Kingdom of Naples. An unsympathetic German contemporary source, Dietrich of Nieheim, asserted that he was illiterate (nesciens scribere etiam male cantabat); neither a trained theologian nor skilled in the business of the Curia, he was tactful and prudent in a difficult era, but Ludwig Pastor, who passes swiftly over his pontificate, says, "The numerous endeavours for unity made during this period form one of the saddest chapters in the history of the Church. Neither Pope had the magnanimity to put an end to the terrible state of affairs" by resigning. Germany, England, Hungary, Poland, and the greater part of Italy accepted him as pope, (he and the Avignon Pope Clement VII having mutually excommunicated one another) but the day before Tomacelli's election by the 14 cardinals who remained faithful to the papacy at Rome, Clement VII at Avignon had just crowned a French prince, Louis II of Anjou, King of Naples. The youthful Ladislaus was rightful heir of Charles III of Naples, assassinated in 1386, and Margaret of Durazzo, scion of a line that had traditionally supported the popes in their struggles in Rome with the anti-papal party in the city itself. Boniface IX saw to it that Ladislaus was crowned King of Naples at Gaeta May 29, 1390) and worked with him for the next decade to expel the Angevin forces from southern Italy.
During his reign, Boniface IX finally extinguished the troublesome independence of the commune of Rome and established temporal control, though it required fortifying not only the Castel Sant'Angelo, but the very bridges, and for long seasons he was forced to live in more peaceful surroundings, at Assisi or Perugia. He also took over the port of Ostia from its Cardinal Bishop. In the Papal States Boniface IX gradually regained control of the chief castles and cities, and he re-founded the States as they would appear during the fifteenth century.
Clement VII died at Avignon, September 16, 1394, but the French cardinals quickly elected a successor, on September 28: Cardinal Pedro de Luna, who took the name Benedict XIII (1394–1423). Over the next few years Boniface IX was entreated to abdicate, even by his strongest supporters: Richard II of England (in 1396), the Diet of Frankfurt (in 1397), and King Wenceslaus of Germany (at Reims, 1398). But he refused. Pressure for an ecumenical council also grew as the only way to breach the Great Schism, but the conciliar movement made no headway during Boniface IX's papacy.
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