Pope Innocent VII (born probably in 1339 – died on November 6, 1406), born Cosimo de' Migliorati, was briefly Pope at Rome, from 1404 to his death, during the Western Schism (1378–1417) while there was a rival Pope, antipope Benedict XIII (1394–1423), at Avignon.
Migliorati was born to a simple family of Sulmona in the Abruzzi. He distinguished himself by his learning in both civil and Canon Law, which he taught for a time at Perugia and Padua. His teacher Giovanni da Legnano sponsored him at Rome, where Pope Urban VI (1378–89) took him into the Curia, sent him for ten years as papal collector to England, made him bishop of Bologna in 1386, at a time of strife in that city, and archbishop of Ravenna in 1387.
Pope Boniface IX (1389–1404) made him cardinal-priest of S. Croce in Gerusalemme (1389) and employed him as legate in several delicate and important missions. When Boniface IX died, there were present in Rome delegates from the rival Pope at Avignon, Benedict XIII. The Roman cardinals asked these delegates if their master would abdicate, if the cardinals refrained from holding an election. When they were bluntly told that Benedict XIII would never abdicate (indeed he never did), the cardinals proceeded to an election. First, however, they all undertook a solemn oath to leave nothing undone, and, if need be, to lay down the tiara, to end the schism.
Migliorati was unanimously chosen – by eight cardinals – (October 17, 1404) and took the name of Innocent VII. There was a general riot by the Ghibelline party in Rome when news of his election got out, but peace was maintained by the aid of King Ladislaus of Naples (1399–1414), who hastened to Rome with a band of soldiers to assist the Pope in suppressing the insurrection. For his services the King extorted various concessions from Innocent VII, among them the promise that he would not reach any accommodation with the rival Pope in Avignon that would compromise Ladislas' claims to Naples, which had been challenged until very recently by Louis II of Anjou. That suited Innocent VII, who had no intention of reaching an agreement with Avignon that would compromise his claims to the Papal States, either. Thus Innocent VII was laid under embarrassing obligations, from which he freed himself.
Innocent VII had made the great mistake of elevating his highly unsuitable nephew, Ludovico Migliorati – a colorful condottiere formerly in the pay of Giangaleazzo Visconti of Milan, most of whose violent career as a soldier of fortune lay ahead of him – to the cardinalate, an act of nepotism that cost him dearly. In August 1405, the cardinal waylaid eleven members of the obstreperous Roman partisans on their return from a conference with the Pope, and had them assassinated in his own house and their bodies thrown from the windows of the hospital of Santo Spirito into the street. There was an uproar. Pope, court and cardinals, with the Migliorati faction, fled towards Viterbo. Ludovico took the occasion of driving off cattle that were grazing outside the walls, and the Papal party were pursued by furious Romans, losing thirty members, whose bodies were abandoned in the flight, including the Abbot of Perugia, struck down under the eyes of the Pope.
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