Pope Clement VI

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Pope Clement VI (1291 – December 6, 1352), born Pierre Roger, the fourth of the Avignon Popes, was pope from May 1342 until his death.



Clement was born in the village of Maumont, today part of the commune of Rosiers-d'Égletons, Corrèze, in Limousin, the son of the wealthy lord of Rosiers-d'Égletons.

He entered the Benedictine order as a boy, studied at the College de Sorbonne in Paris, and became successively prior of St. Baudil, abbot of Fécamp, bishop of Arras, chancellor of France, archbishop of Sens and archbishop of Rouen. He was made cardinal-priest of Santi Nereo e Achilleo and administrator of the bishopric of Avignon by Benedict XII in 1338, and was chosen to succeed him as pope at the conclave of 1342.

Like his immediate predecessors, he was devoted to France, and he demonstrated his French sympathies by refusing a solemn invitation to return to Rome from the city's people, as well as from the poet Petrarch. He however threw a sop to the Romans by reducing the Jubilee term from one hundred years to fifty. He also purchased the sovereignty of Avignon from Queen Joan I of Naples, for 80,000 crowns.

Clement VI issued the Bull Unigenitus, January 27, 1343, to justify the power of the pope and the use of indulgences. This document was also used in the defence of indulgences after Martin Luther pinned his 95 Theses to a church in Wittenburg on October 31, 1517.

Clement VI reigned during the Black Death. This pandemic swept through Europe (as well as Asia and the Middle East) between 1347–1350, and is believed to have killed between a third and two-thirds of Europe's population. During the plague, he sought the insight of astronomers for explanation. Jehan de Murs was among the team "of three who drew up a treatise explaining the plague of 1348 by the conjunction of Saturn, Jupiter, and Mars in 1341" (Tomasello, 15). Clement VI's physicians advised him that surrounding himself with torches would block the plague. However, he soon became skeptical of this recommendation and stayed in Avignon supervising sick care, burials, and the pastoral care of the dying (Duffy, 167). He never contracted the disease. One of his physicians, Gui de Chauliac, later wrote the Chirurgia magna.

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