Pope Urban VI

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Pope Urban VI (c. 1318 – October 15, 1389), born Bartolomeo Prignano, was Pope from 1378 to 1389.



Born in Naples, he was a devout monk and learned casuist, trained at Avignon. On March 21, 1364, he was consecrated Archbishop of Acerenza in the Kingdom of Naples. He became Archbishop of Bari in 1377, and, on the death of Pope Gregory XI (1370–78), the Roman populace, who surrounded the conclave, clamorously demanded a Roman pope; the cardinals being under some haste and great pressure to avoid the return of the Papal seat to Avignon, Prignano was unanimously chosen (April 8, 1378) as acceptable as well to the disunited[1] majority of French cardinals, taking the name Urban VI. Not being a Cardinal,[2] he was not well known. Immediately following the conclave most of the cardinals fled Rome before the mob could learn that not a Roman (though not a Frenchman either), but a subject of Joan I of Naples, had been chosen.

Prignano had developed a reputation for simplicity and frugality, even austerity, a head for business when acting Vice-Chancellor and a penchant for learning, and, according to Cristoforo di Piacenza,[3] he was without famiglia in an age of nepotism, although once in the Papal chair he elevated four cardinal-nephews and sought to place one of them in control of Naples. His great faults undid his virtues: Ludwig Pastor summed up his character: "He lacked Christian gentleness and charity. He was naturally arbitrary and extremely violent and imprudent, and when he came to deal with the burning ecclesiastical question of the day, that of reform, the consequences were disastrous."[4]

Though the coronation was carried out in scrupulous detail, leaving no doubt as to the legitimacy of the new pontiff,[5] the French were not particularly happy with this move and began immediately to conspire against this pope from the Regno. Urban VI did himself no favors; whereas the cardinals had expected him pliant, he was considered arrogant and angry by many of his contemporaries. Dietrich of Nieheim considered that the cardinals concluded that his elevation had turned his head,[6] and Froissart, Leonardo Aretino, Tommaso de Acerno[7] and St. Antoninus of Florence recorded similar conclusions.[8]

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