There is no Pope in the whole history of the Church whom men have been more at pains to misrepresent, dishonor, besmirch and revile than the noble and heroic Pope Boniface VIII. No Pope has had to do the things which the holy Boniface was called upon to do. So much is all this true that even now, those who know him only from the accounts of his life built upon the incredible distortions and slanders, told and retold about him, will take issue with our use of the word holy with regard to him. And yet, would not one call a Pope holy who “. . . showing much devotion and humility in the churches, and devotion to the Holy Virgin, never failed to repair to the Church of the Lateran, and the church named after the Crucifix, where he remained to pray two full hours daily”?
Would not one call a Pope holy whose daily Mass was said in tears, tears of realization of the overwhelming sanctity of the Holy Sacrifice and of love for the Divine Victim? Would not one call a Pope holy whose tears flowed in tenderest compassion when he beheld the sacred relics of the Sancta Sanctorum, and most especially the relic of the True Cross upon which Jesus died?
Would not one call the Pope who composed the prayer which follows, a lover of the crucified Jesus?
“O Lord God, who for our Redemption, wast pleased to be reproved by the Jews, to be betrayed by the kiss of Judas, to be bound with cords, to be led as to a sacrifice, innocent and faultless conducted into the presence of Annas, Caiphas, Pilate and Herod, to be accused by false witnesses, to be pierced by sharp nails, to be scourged, to be loaded with opprobrium, crowned with thorns, to be struck with the hands, to be raised on the Cross between two thieves, to be given gall and vinegar to drink, to be pierced by a lance; O Lord God, by these most holy sufferings, to which I have recourse, Thy unworthy servant, and by the holy Cross, deliver me from all danger, assist me in my necessities whilst I live in this world; and at my death deliver me from the pains of Hell, and deign to lead me a poor sinner to that place where Thou didst lead the crucified thief, and where Thou livest and reignest with the Father and the Holy Ghost, true God forever and ever. Amen.”
The life of Pope Boniface VIII came at last to resemble so markedly the Passion of our Savior that after his martyrdom the bitter and gifted poet Dante – whose implacable hatred and unrelenting pursuit of him in immortal verse is the basis of many of the slanderous lives of the holy Pontiff – was driven to acknowledge the likeness.
“Entering Anagni, lo the fleur-de-lis,
And in His Vicar Christ a captive led!
I see Him mocked a second time;-again
The vinegar and gall produced I see;
And Christ Himself ‘twixt robbers slain.”
Dante, Purgatorio, canto XX.
An unfailing test of the holiness of a Pope is always to be found in the veneration which he shows for those chosen men upon whom Christ established His Church and those others upon whose inspired writings His faithful followers have ever depended for sure counsel, true doctrine and pure orthodoxy. In the first year of his pontificate, Pope Boniface VIII issued a decree to the whole Church ordering the celebration, with the most solemn rites, of the feasts of the Holy Apostles, the Evangelists, and the four great Latin Doctors, Saint Ambrose, Saint Augustine, Saint Jerome and Saint Gregory the Great.
The quiet holiness of the great hearted Pope Boniface VIII was well known to the renowned Augustinian friar, Augustinus Triumphus, in the years when Boniface – as Benedict Gaetani of Anagni, grandnephew of Pope Alexander IV and member of the famous Conti family to which Popes Innocent III and Gregory IX also belonged – had been associated with him in the service of the Popes. The friar knew Boniface when he was canon, priest and cardinal. He knew him when Boniface was celebrated far and wide for his virtue and great erudition; when he was one of the most illustrious of the doctors of the University of Paris, unrivaled in all Europe for his knowledge of civil and ecclesiastical law.
Augustinus Triumphus knew Boniface in the first glorious years of his young manhood, when, as Notary Apostolic and Consistorial Advocate, his tall patrician figure, a familiar sight in Rome, bore, in every line and movement, the unstudied manner and natural grace of one born to rule; when the calm strength in his fine face and the recollection of heavenly things behind the steadfast gaze of his eyes bespoke the grandeur and serenity of his priestly soul. He knew him when the keenness of intellect and fiery spirit of his boyhood, which had so delighted his noble Italian parents, had been disciplined and deepened by the purifying fire of divine love, fervently sought after and ardently returned.
He knew him when, like the great Hildebrand, Pope Gregory VII, Boniface had shared the confidence and the burdens of the line of Popes who preceded him, serving as their ambassador to the courts of Europe, in the days when all the solemn majesty of a great cardinal was upon him.
Augustinus Triumphus, who, once long before, had been the disciple of the Angelic Doctor, Saint Thomas Aquinas, lived to be eighty-five years of age. He lived, alas, to know Boniface martyred, and maligned even in his grave. He lived to hear it said, to his amazement and horror, that the great Pontiff never legitimately had been Pope; he had usurped the papacy, and imprisoned, tortured and killed his predecessor, Celestine V, the simple and saintly hermit whose lack of any knowledge of men and of the world had been the occasion of many a heartbreaking problem for Boniface, both while Celestine ruled and after he had relinquished his holy office.
The Augustinian friar heard it said that Boniface was grasping and greedy, when he knew him to be generous almost to a fault; simoniacal, when he knew him to be utterly incapable of it; ambitious, when he knew him to covet above all things the welfare of the Church; proud, when he knew him to be the most wistful and humble of men. That he had been driven to a sternness of manner and severity of conduct, he would admit; but that he was proud, never!
In anguish, the friar heard Boniface portrayed as haughty, overbearing, tyrannical, without mercy, rapacious, unforgiving, lusting after power. He heard them call him base and treacherous and cunning and full of deceits. He heard him, the chastely orthodox, labeled the vilest of heretics. He heard him, the lover of peace and justice, accused of being contentious, dishonest, biased. He heard him, of whom Petrarch was to write, “He was the wonder of peoples and kings, and of the world . . .” ranked among the wicked Popes.
He heard every act of his pontificate impugned, his every motive declared unworthy, his every thought and word and deed distorted. He heard them contradict themselves in their calumny. His magnificent “Jubilee Year,” they said, was inaugurated to celebrate his victory over the enemy Colonnas; it was a scheme to raise money; it was to impress the King of France with his power; it was to effect a Crusade!
And when he had died – even though eight cardinals surrounded his deathbed, among them Cardinal Stephaneschi, whose testimony together with the process drawn up for the acts of Pope Boniface’s pontificate, attests to the calm beauty of his death – his infamous enemies, in the manner of ones possessed, declared that he died in the depths of despair; he became mad and took poison; he shut himself up alone in his room, gnawed his hands to the bone, dashed his head against the wall until he fractured his skull; he strangled himself with his bedclothes!
When he could stand the lies no longer, Augustinus Triumphus, out of his own knowledge, wrote and published a tract defending the incredibly slandered Pontiff who had been at once his old friend and his revered Holy Father. His words on the three ends which Pope Boniface had in view for his pontificate have been preserved for us by Monsignor Mann.
“The first [end] was the promotion, whenever they were made known to him, of good men whom he ever loved. He raised the poor ones among them by giving them money, and the rich ones by imparting to them knowledge and virtue, so that all then might sit with the princes of the earth. In the second place he ever strove to put down the haughty and tyrannical, because, as Judith said (Judith 9:16), from the beginning the proud were not acceptable to him, but the prayer of the humble and the meek ever pleased him. His third aim was to promote the reign of truth and justice; for wherever there was obscurity in the law and in what appertained to the forms of law and the instruction of the whole Christian people, there he introduced light and order. If then an effort is being made to secure the canonization of Celestine, his predecessor, with much greater reason should the canonization of Boniface be sought. In the first case petitions are presented for the canonization of a man who worked merely for his own soul, and died in his simplicity; but, in the case of the latter, there is a question of a man who worked for his own soul, and for that of others, and died for the freedom of the Church. Nay, Boniface ought to be regarded by the faithful not only as a confessor because he labored for the advancement of the good men, for the humbling of the proud, and for the development of truth and learning, but also as a martyr, because he was seized by the enemies of the Church, covered with insult and injury, and finally died for justice, and for the preservation of ecclesiastical liberty.”
But no words, even those of Augustinus Triumphus, could stem the tide of vituperation. Pope Celestine was canonized, and Pope Boniface lay for centuries beneath the mountain of calumny heaped upon him by those who hated him for what he so unflinchingly had said and for what he so thunderingly had stood for.
Pope Boniface was the last of the great Popes of the Middle Ages. Pope Boniface, like his illustrious relative, Pope Innocent III, reigned at the turn of a century. In the hundred years which passed from the beginning of the thirteenth to the opening of the fourteenth century, the Middle Ages had come to the very height of magnificence and glory. They had dazzled the world with the brilliance of their accomplishments. All the facets through which truth and goodness and beauty could be poured out were opened wide upon a completely God-centered people. All Europe was Catholic. The heresies of the time were but the deep shadows which accentuated the light. The revolting impurity of their cults betrayed the wild rage and chagrin of Lucifer before a world wherein everything spoke of God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Ghost, and of which the Immaculate Mother of Jesus was the refuge and the Queen.
The Church had at last converted and civilized the barbarian. It had fed him on the Bread of Life, and a fire that was divine consumed his soul. It burned in the great cathedrals which he raised into the skies; in the lonely caves and anchor holds and cells within monasteries, where he shut himself up alone to pray; in the classrooms of vast universities and in silent libraries where his mind sought the solution of heavenly things; in his Trade Guilds; on the thrones where he sat and where saint-kings ruled; in his unparalleled art and sculpture and poetry and song; in his hospitals and hostels and hovels; in his Crusades and chivalry and knighthood.
For the Church had given the barbarian a Lady Fair, who dwelled beyond the farthest star and who won his warrior’s heart’s supremest homage because she was at once “fair as the moon, bright as the sun, terrible as an army set in array.” For the medieval knight, every Catholic maiden was an image of Mary, the perfect Daughter of God the Father, the perfect Mother of God the Son, the perfect Spouse of God the Holy Spirit.
The Church which had lifted up the barbarian, sustained him by the visible, guiding hand of the Father of Christendom, the Holy Roman Pontiff. And the barbarian gave to the Church his virility and youth and strength and robust heart. He gave to the Catholic world men capable of fierce passions, enormous enthusiasms, undying loves. These became the Popes and cardinals and bishops and monks and nuns. These became the saints – Louis of France, Ferdinand of Castile, Thomas of Aquin, Albertus Magnus, Francis, Dominic, Bernard, Anthony, Bonaventure, Gertrude, Clare, and all the long line of haunting, unforgettable, peerless saints of the glorious Middle Ages.
The barbarian gave to the Church men capable of terrible transgressions, consuming lusts, violent angers and, frequently, overwhelming repentances. These became the sinners. But there is this to be said even for them: they were never known not to acknowledge the sorrowful fact that they were sinners. They never said there was no such thing as sin. They confessed God and their sins with equal intensity. They did not lose their Faith even though they lost their grace, these men of the thirteenth century. Never could it be said of them that they were that thing detested of the Lord, the lukewarm.
“I know thy works, that thou art neither cold, nor hot. I would thou wert cold, or hot.
“But because thou art lukewarm, and neither cold, nor hot, I will begin to vomit thee out of My mouth.” (Apoc. 3:15, 16.)
To what, then, can be attributed the fact that Pope Boniface VIII – of one heart and blood and mind with the men of the thirteenth century, and so supremely fitted by grace and character, virtue and learning to rule the Church every bit as gloriously as had his illustrious predecessors – died utterly defeated in his legitimate and lofty aims? These aims, which were no more than those for which Popes Alexander III, Gregory VII and Innocent III had struggled, when he enunciated them, were fiercely resented and even denied. What had happened?
And what was there in the martyrdom of Pope Boniface VIII which so deeply wounded and displeased God that He was moved in unmistakable fashion to visit His punishment not only upon the men directly responsible but upon the whole Christian world – from which, may we say, it has not yet recovered? For Christendom never regained certain blessings which it had before the outrage upon Pope Boniface and the mysterious death of his immediate successor one month after his publication of a Bull censuring the attackers of Boniface and defending the dead Pope.
We know from the history of the Church that it had been God’s way, through all the preceding centuries, to mete out punishment for heinous sins, not upon Christians as a whole, but upon individuals, or individual nations. We know that the pagan Emperors who killed the Popes were smitten, but the Church was blest. We know that Constans died miserably in the midst of the travail he had brought upon his unhappy empire by the martyrdom of Pope Saint Martin I, but the papacy triumphed gloriously over heresy and consolidated the nations into the great Christian Republic of the Middle Ages, whose temporal as well as spiritual destinies were presided over by the Popes when they – exercising their divinely given rights – pronounced on what was sinful in the conduct of princes, arbitrated quarrels, witnessed treaties, pleaded for peace, organized Crusades, anathematized heretics, and censured wrongdoing by placing nations under interdict and excommunicating Emperors and kings.
But after the death of Pope Boniface VIII, a blight came over the world. The papacy was enshrouded in the gloom of a series of great catastrophes, and the entire Catholic world was immersed in shadow. Here and there, over the centuries which since have passed, great saints and Doctors, martyrs and confessors have arisen, whose heroic and glorious lives bear witness to Christ’s promise that the gates of Hell shall never prevail against His Church. These have been the heavenly beacons, beckoning on those of good will who were seeking the one true Church, within the warmth of whose holy bosom there never ceased to be the ineffable solace of Jesus in the Blessed Eucharist, the Seven Sacraments, the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, the Divine Maternity of Mary – waiting to be shared with every new child incorporated into the Body of her Divine Child – and intimate and sure union with God in the Adorable Trinity. “If any one love Me, he will keep My word, and My Father will love him, and We will come to him, and will make our abode with him.” (John 14:23.)
But even Saint Teresa of Avila, Saint Pius V, Saint Ignatius, Saint Charles Borromeo, Saint Francis Xavier, Saint Thomas More, Saint John Fisher, Stint Francis de Sales, Saint Alphonsus Maria de Liguori, Saint Robert Bellarmine, Saint Peter Canisius, Saint Therese of Lisieux, Saint Bernadette, and all the other saints who have been the glory of the Church in the centuries since 1303, have not been able permanently to arrest the spirit of revolt against the sweet yoke of the Vicar of Christ, on its way from the days of Frederick Barbarossa and his revival of Roman Law, but which had its first great triumph in the death of Pope Boniface VIII. This revolt has continued down to our day to what will surely be the destruction of the world unless it is speedily overcome and the hearts and minds of men turned once again completely toward God under the spiritual guidance of His Vicar on earth, the Holy Roman Pontiff.
A change had come over the nations of Europe as the thirteenth century drew to a close. The God-centered, completely Catholic spirit of the Middle Ages was dying. The glorious, inspired, unselfish enthusiasm of the Crusades was already dead in the hearts of men. Never again would it be possible for a Pope successfully to preach a Crusade. Never again would men rise up and in utter abandonment to a religious impulse leave homes and kingdoms and wives and children, and march to the rescue of fellow Christians from the impious hands of infidels and God’s tomb from the desecration of unbelievers.
Sinister and subversive forces had entered Europe with the return of the Crusaders from the East. Especially was this true in the case of those Knights who, even though they were pledged by religious vows to poverty, chastity and obedience, had acquired fabulous wealth and mysterious knowledges by the site of the Temple of Solomon, their headquarters, in close proximity to that traitorous race whose ancient dream of a kingdom of this world has kept their thought and their financial skills fixed at an international level.
The sins of the East had come to the West. Europe had marched to Jerusalem; it had discovered Babylon. Cain had returned; Seth had remained, in chains.
As the thirteenth century closed, the rule of Christian society was being violently wrenched from the consecrated hands of Christ’s Vicar by what has ever since been known as the Lay State. Lucifer and his powers of darkness had raged not in vain against the papacy and its Christian Republic of Nations, during the long years of the Middle Ages. Playing upon the pride of monarchs and their ambition to be gods, the currents which he, the master, had set in motion, at last were sweeping everything before them. That group of men, the lawyers, who by the very subtlety of their trade were able to adapt themselves to every kind of government, had convinced not only the German Emperors, but every king and petty prince as well, that each had a destiny to rule in the manner of the pagan Roman Emperors, a law unto themselves, responsible to no one for the morality of their acts.
Pope Boniface VIII, the last of the glorious Popes of the Middle Ages, tried with every breath of his priestly heart, every effort of his extraordinarily gifted mind, every pleading, every diplomacy, every benevolence, every patience, every censure, every anathema, every excommunication within his power, to stem the tide of revolution, only to go down to terrible defeat before the same diabolic forces which achieved the religious revolution of Luther in 1517, and the French Revolution of 1789.
Pope Boniface, during all of his pontificate, strove to preserve unimpaired, as he had received them from his predecessors, the rights of the Church and of the Holy See, not only in the sanctuary, but also in the heart of civil society. Philip the Fair of France and his lawyers, Pierre Flotte, Pierre Dubois, William of Nogaret – who were the real power behind the throne – determined to defeat the great Pontiff and establish the French King as an absolute monarch, completely independent of spiritual restraint.
The struggles of the Popes through the long centuries from the death of Charlemagne had been, as we saw, against the encroachments of the imperial power of the German Emperors. However, it was not Germany but France, the eldest daughter of the Church, who at last brought about the triumph of Caesar over Peter, of the temporalty over the spiritualty, of the Lay State, self-sufficient, aloof and deaf to the voice of the Supreme Spiritual Head of Christendom.
His quarrel with the French King, Philip the Fair, dwarfs any other of the many trials of Pope Boniface’s pontificate, even those brought on by his censure of the powerful Colonna Cardinals, James and Peter, and the outright war which he was obliged to wage against them. His quarrel with Philip dwarfs all his other anxieties – the war with Sicily, the restlessness of certain nations, the antagonisms of the Guelphs and Ghibellines, the rivalries of the Blacks and the Whites, the unhealthy mysticism of the “Spirituals,” the enmity of the Fraticelli, that wicked and impure sect which called itself an offshoot of the Franciscan Order but which resembled nothing so much as the Manichean Albigenses, and whose central hymn opened with the words, “Rejoice, O Harlot Church!”
His quarrel with Philip overshadowed the great triumph of the First Jubilee, instituted by Pope Boniface and celebrated in Rome in the year 1300, when two hundred thousand pilgrims, not counting those coming and going, filled Rome day and night, “all suitably supplied and satisfied with provisions, horses as well as persons, and all well ordered and without tumult and strife.” The abundance of food was provided by the happy Holy Father who overlooked his children and blessed them from his room in the papal palace. An eyewitness tells us that he saw “many young men who in want of money were carrying their fathers or mothers on their backs,” to secure the great indulgences of the Jubilee, the blessed news of which had gone out over the world.
The throngs at last reached a peak so great that a breach had to be made in the walls of Rome in order to allow the entrance and the departure of the enormous multitude gathered within and without the walls. Cardinals, bishops, priests, monks, nuns, barons, knights, laymen – rich, poor, and the new middle class – people from every land in Christendom, came at every hour of the day and night, and were all to be found before the Christian shrines and the tombs of the Apostles.
But the heart of the great Pontiff, now an old man and approaching his eightieth year, was, through it all, never without foreboding. It has wrongfully been said of him that he failed to read the signs of the times, failed to realize that the world had changed and was no more as it had been in the days of Innocent III. Pope Boniface had well learned, to his profound sorrow, especially in the diplomatic missions which he had undertaken to the courts of Europe at the behest of his predecessor, Pope Nicholas IV (1288-1292), that in these times when the Pope raised his voice, even in warnings safeguarding the best interests of the princes, his words were of little effect; they fell upon deaf ears.
All too well he had come to know that the Pope, speaking to the princes in the name of justice, was met invariably with pride and arrogance and refusal. The princes of Europe were no longer the reverent sons of the most Holy Father; they were imperious jurists. Of all the evils which beset the Church at the end of the thirteenth century, Pope Boniface VIII was well aware that the usurpation of ecclesiastical rights by princes – in virtue not of an existing right having basis in fact, but of a right created by unscrupulous civil lawyers and backed by force – was above everything else the thing most threatening and full of dire promise.
And of all the princes of Christendom, Pope Boniface well knew, by the year 1300, that Philip the Fair of France was the one who outstripped them all in sheer power for evil. Philip IV, surnamed Philip the Fair, grandson of Saint Louis IX of France (whom Pope Boniface VIII canonized), was but seventeen years of age when he became King of France. Since the laws of France adjudged a king to have attained his majority at the age of thirteen, Philip assumed at once the reins of government, and because of his youth, his lack of experience, the absence of any sound or wise advice to which he would listen, he became almost immediately the prey of the courtiers who flattered him and the unscrupulous lawyers who used him.
Philip is described by some as a singularly unprincipled, selfish, hard, cold, brutal man, full of evil daring; and by others as a marvelously handsome king of exceptionally weak character, thoroughly imbued with the principles of the civil lawyers as to the absolute right of kings over their lands and over their subjects, and of those lawyers Philip was but the tool. Be all that as it may, Pope Boniface VIII, in 1290, when as Cardinal Gaetani he had been sent to France as a legate by Pope Nicholas IV, found King Philip to be insolent, avaricious, bitter and savage.
Philip was a hunter, a sportsman, and a gambler. His insatiable thirst for gold – exceeded only by that of his ministers – is explained by his need for money to sustain his enormous gambling losses. One of his closest friends, Enguerrand de Marigny – called by many the “Second King of France” – was his favorite gambling companion. Philip’s son, Louis X, ordered de Marigny to be hanged. There is no doubt, however, that Philip, be he pawn or instigator, weakling or strong man, was morally thoroughly responsible for his unspeakably evil actions.
Pope Boniface, in order to protect the Church against Philip’s usurpation of ecclesiastical rights – his levying of taxes upon the clergy and upon Church property, his outright seizure of Church lands, his appropriation of the revenues of vacant benefices, his coinage of counterfeit money, his deposing of bishops known to be favorable to the Holy See, his conferring of benefices upon his favorites – sent, in answer to the pleas of the French and English clergy that he do everything in his power to end Philip’s war with England, innumerable letters, innumerable embassies, innumerable constitutions to Philip, and all without avail.
“We pass the night lying awake,” the Pope wrote Adolph, King of the Romans, who had become embroiled in the French-English war, “in order that between you and Edward King of England and Philip of France, our most dear sons in Christ, we may be able, by a peace or truce, to prepare and establish quiet and peace in Christendom, whereby the faithful chieftains and their followers will not turn against one another those swords which should be unsheathed against the enemies of the Cross and the Faith for the recovery of the Holy Land….”
“Antiquity shows us,” the weary Pope wrote in the Bull, Clericis laicos, “the enmity of laymen against the clergy, and our experience in the present time manifestly supports that teaching, since without considering that they have no power over the persons or property of ecclesiastics, the laity lay imposts on the prelates and clergy, both regular and secular; and we grieve to say, that some prelates and ecclesiastics, having more fear of the temporal majesty than of the eternal, acquiesce in that abuse….”
“The time is ill-suited,” Pope Boniface cried out in the Bull, Ineffabilis, written when he found out what false construction had been placed upon Clericis laicos, “to the provocation of a dispute with the Vicar of Jesus Christ, since from the moment of our accession we have not ceased to watch with heartfelt earnestness over your interests and endeavored to effect an honorable reconciliation between France and England. We have not decreed that ecclesiastics should not contribute to the defense and wants of the kingdom, but that our leave is necessary . . . in order to put a stop to the unbearable exactions of your agents over the clergy. In cases of need we would rather sell the sacred vessels and crosses of the churches than expose to the least a kingdom such as France, always so dear and so devoted to the Holy See….”
And the Pope issued a brief, in 1297, allowing Philip the tithes of the French Church for three years. But again all was of no use. Philip never for an instant complied with the conditions set down in Clericis laicos. It had never been his intention to acknowledge the Pope as the head of Christendom, and neither the Pontiff’s favors nor his censures moved him.
In 1301, Philip had the Pope’s legate seized immediately upon his arrival in Paris on a mission from Boniface to entreat him to release the imprisoned Count of Flanders and his wife and daughter whom the King was unlawfully holding in order that he might appropriate their property. Philip had the papal legate arrested, and eventually tried by two of his ablest rogues, the lawyers Pierre Flotte and William of Nogaret, before a supreme council of the nation; of course on false charges. The Bishop was declared guilty, and imprisoned!
“Listen, my son,” the deeply wounded Pope wrote to Philip in the Bull Ausculta fili after this sacrilegious outrage, “to the precepts of a father and to the instructions of a master, who holds the place of Him Who is the sole Master and Lord; open your heart to the admonitions of a most loving mother, the Church; dispose yourself to return to God from Whom either by weakness, or by the bad advice of others, you have strayed away…. Let not the King flatter himself that he has no superior on earth but God, and that he is not subject to the power of the Pope. He who thinks thus is an infidel….” (Italics ours.)
Pierre Flotte, by that time present in Rome, impudently replied to the venerable Pontiff, “Your sword is only verbal, but that of my master is real and well tempered.” Flotte then set about preparing a forgery, a letter, brief and bitter and crude, to which he attached the Pope’s name, as its author, and which he sent to Philip to be circulated throughout France as the Bull, Ausculta fili!
The atrocities which followed upon this were many and, did we not know the source, unbelievable. The blackest calumnies were circulated about the Pope. Philip, on February 11, 1302, ordered the forged and altered Bull to be burned publicly in the presence of all the nobility in Paris, and the news of the burning to be proclaimed by the public crier through the streets. Martin Luther also would burn a Papal Bull one day, two hundred years later, at Wittenberg, in Germany.
Philip placed guards at the frontiers of France, forbade the French clergy to go to Rome or to send money to the Holy Father. He summoned a parliament, which the infamous Pierre Flotte addressed. The lawyer called for a revolt against the Pope, after he had built up a false case against him. The French bishops who were present later called on the King and counseled him that Flotte had deliberately misrepresented the claims of the Pope as to the non limits of his temporal power. But neither Philip nor his barons would listen, and in the end Philip triumphed over the bishops, who proved weak and cowardly. It has been said of Pierre Flotte that he was possessed by the devil, and certainly his satanically evil conduct bears this out. A letter, judged to have been entirely his work, was sent by Philip to Pope Boniface, who, it so happened, received the messengers in full consistory. The Pope and his cardinals sat stunned through the reading of the unspeakably insolent and violently abusive document, which began:
“Philip, by the grace of God, King of the French, to Boniface, who giveth himself out for Sovereign Pontiff, little or no greeting. Let thy Extreme Fatuity know that we are subject to no one in things temporal, that the presentation of churches and prebends that are vacant belongeth to us by kingly right, and the revenues therefrom are ours; that the presentations already made and to be made are valid both now and hereafter, that we will firmly support the possessors of them, and that we hold as senseless and demented those who think otherwise.”
John Cardinal Minio, of the Friars Minor and Bishop of Porto, at last arose, and in a voice full of grief and indignation, he addressed the consistory, taking as his text the words of the prophet Jeremias:
“‘Lo, I have set thee this day over the nations and over kingdoms, to root up and to pull down, and to waste, and to destroy and to build and to plant.’ How truly applicable to Peter and his successors are those divinely revealed words of the prophet, that he was placed over all to destroy and to build up, just as one deputed for the degradation of the wicked and the exaltation of the good. There has arisen a quarrel between the Pope and the Roman Church on one side, and the King of France and his ministers on the other, which in truly slight and trivial causes had its origin.
“But if the causes of the irritation were slight, most serious were those which moved the Papal mind to resort to remedies. A long and serious complaint had been made to the Pontiff in relation to the disturbed state of affairs in the French kingdom, and of the oppression of the churches. Therefore a private letter was written with the consent of the Pope and the cardinals, which was read and reread often, pondered and considered in full consistory, and was full of charity and sweetness, and kind admonitions to the King. Some went about declaring that in it was contained that judgment that the King owes the crown he wears to the Church, whereas there was not a syllable of this either in that letter, or on the lips of the Pope or the cardinals….”
The Cardinal then goes on to question Philip’s actions and his usurpation of the prerogatives of the Pope. And he ends:
“Why did Philip show himself so badly disposed to the pleasure of the Church in the matter of conferring prebends? The right of patronage and presentation is admitted, but the bestowal and enjoyment of them without papal approval did not belong to a layman…. That the Pontiff has the fullness of power, inheriting it from Christ, is a truth that is to be witnessed to even by blood; and for this reason not only does he become judge in spiritual things, but also in temporal things whenever there enters the question of sin.”
Pope Boniface, with amazing sweetness and forbearance, then reviewed the whole story of his relations with the French King. When he related the forgery which Pierre Flotte had perpetrated upon his constitution, “Listen, my son,” his voice became resolute and full of the power of his holy office.
“During forty years we have studied law,” he said, “and have learned that on earth two powers, the temporal and the spiritual, have been ordained by God. Who can believe that such foolishness can have entered into our mind to unite in the Pontiff one supreme power? But on the other hand who can pronounce in matters of sin? And coming to the question of the conferring of benefices, we have often declared to the messengers of the King that it is our wish, for his spiritual good that he do licitly that which he had done illicitly, being most ready to gratify his every wish; for it is certain that the Canons forbid benefices to be conferred by a layman, as if he were invested with spiritual power. We have conceded to the King the power to confer one canonry in each church of the kingdom; and to dispose of all the prebends in the church of Paris, provided they be conferred on Doctors of Divinity, or Law, or any other ecclesiastics distinguished for learning…. We desire nothing more than peace and friendship with the King, as we have always had an affection for France, insomuch that we were considered more French than Italian. But if then Philip does not retrace his steps, and allow the prelates to come, it is our duty not to allow the affair to go unpunished.” (The Pontiff is referring to the council of French bishops which he had already summoned to meet in Rome, in November of 1302, and which Philip had forbidden the bishops to attend.)
Despite Philip’s ban, four archbishops, thirty-five bishops and six abbots came from France for the Council, and it was out of this Council that the famous Bull, Unam Sanctam, came, published by Pope Boniface VIII on November 18, 1302. It was because of this Bull that the intrepid Pope was killed. It was principally because of the Unam Sanctam that Pope Boniface VIII was so horribly calumniated after his death; because of the Unam Sanctam that the otherwise exemplary Bishop Bossuet missed his chance for canonization and went down in history, not as a great son of the Pope, but as a great subject of the King, Louis XIV. The gifted Bishop of Meaux, Bossuet, was, alas, but a great Gallican.
“For when a man comes to be identified with a theory,” writes Don Louis Tosti of Pope Boniface, “in such a manner that war against the theory means war against him who defends it, it must be that the soul of this man is capable of comprehending it, and able to defend it alone. Hence hatreds have survived against Boniface, because the truth he defended has survived. And whenever the hand of the powerful attacks the Church in her rights, it digs up from the tomb the ashes of that magnanimous soul in order to execrate them. Four centuries have elapsed since the death of Boniface, and yet Bossuet rushed against him with the same fury as was displayed against him in the assembly of Senlis.” The Bull Unam Sanctam sets forth: (1) There is but one Church, outside of which there is no salvation. (2) Its invisible head is Christ, and its visible head is the Holy Roman Pontiff, the successor of Saint Peter in his See at Rome. (3) In the power of the Church are two swords, the spiritual and the temporal, the one in the hands of the priesthood, the other in the hands of the State, to be exercised for the good of Christendom. (4) The spiritual power is superior to the temporal. If the temporal power errs, it is to be judged by the spiritual. (5) It is of the Faith that all men must be subject to the Pope for salvation.
“Urged by Faith,” Unam Sanctam begins, “we are obliged to believe and to hold that the Church is one, holy, Catholic, and also Apostolic. We firmly believe in her, and we confess absolutely that outside of her there is neither salvation nor the remission of sins, as the Spouse in the Canticles proclaims: ‘One is my dove, my perfect one. She is the only one of her mother, the chosen of her that bore her,’ who represents one Mystical Body, whose head is Christ…. In her there is one Lord, one Faith, one Baptism. There was indeed at the time of the deluge only one Ark of Noah, prefiguring the one Church, which Ark . . . had only one pilot and guide, i.e., Noah, outside of which, as we read, all that subsisted on the earth was destroyed. This one Church do we revere, and (we pray) with the Lord in the words of the prophet: ‘Deliver, O God, my soul from the sword, my only one from the clutch of the dog.’ He prayed at one and the same time for His soul, i.e., for Himself, the Head, and for His body . . .; for the Lord said to Peter: ‘Feed My sheep.’ He said ‘My sheep,’ speaking of all of them, not these or those sheep in any particular sense. We must then understand that all were committed to him. Should then Greeks or others contend that they have not been committed to the charge of Peter and his successors, they thereby declare that they are not Christ’s sheep, for He said by Saint John that there ‘shall be one fold and one shepherd.'”
The Pope then continues with an explanation of the meaning of the symbol of the “two swords.” Pope Boniface was not the first to make use of this symbol, for the passages in Holy Scripture in which the use of the two swords as a symbol of the two powers, spiritual and temporal – the one being subordinate to the other – occurred, was first discovered by Saint Bernard of Clairvaux.
Unam Sanctam closes with the awesome and glorious thunder of infallibility. For the Pope, with the support of the bishops present, solemnly defined:
“Furthermore, we declare, say, define and pronounce, that it is wholly necessary for the salvation of every human creature to be subject to the Roman Pontiff. Given at the Lateran on the fourteenth of the Calends of December in the eighth year of our pontificate.”
Unam Sanctam was but a reiteration by Pope Boniface of all that he had said previously in his pontificate, and of all that the Popes who preceded him had proclaimed throughout all the Christian centuries. There was contained in it nothing that was new. Its truths had always been generally known, accepted and believed by the whole of Christendom. Even the Greeks professed them anew in the fifteenth century, and it was not until, a short while after this profession, they willfully chose again to depart from allegiance to the Holy Roman Pontiff, that God at last allowed to come upon them the fate which for hundreds of years had threatened them, but from which His Divine Providence had, up until then, spared them.
In 1453, after the Greek bishops and people repudiated their reunion with the Church, achieved in the Council of Florence in 1439, God’s protecting hand was withdrawn from them. “Sooner slavery to the Turk than submission to the See of Rome!” they had cried. And so it was. The terrible Turkish army triumphantly entered Constantinople on May 29, 1453, sacked the ancient city of the Emperors with all the wild depravity of infidel fanaticism, and proclaimed themselves the conquerors of the Christian East. And there they have remained to this day. Constantinople has become Istanbul; the Crescent has replaced the sign of the Cross.
It was the Pope of the Council of Florence, Eugene IV, descended from a family of Popes and Princes of the Church (his family gave to the Church three Sovereign Pontiffs, nine cardinals, six patriarchs and eleven bishops) who defined in his Bull, Cantate Domino, of February 4, 1441, the same doctrine which Pope Boniface VIII infallibly defined in the Unam Sanctam, and which every Pope had taught from the time of the Apostles.
“The most Holy Roman Church firmly believes, professes and preaches,” Pope Eugene IV solemnly pronounced, “that none of those existing outside the Catholic Church, not only pagans, but also Jews and heretics and schismatics, can have a share in life eternal; but that they will go into the eternal fire, ‘which was prepared for the devil and his angels,’ unless before death they are joined with her; and that so important is the unity of this ecclesiastical body that only those remaining within this unity can profit by the Sacraments of the Church unto salvation, and they alone can receive an eternal recompense for their fasts, their almsgiving, their other works of Christian piety, and the duties of a Christian soldier. No one, let his alms giving be as great as it may, no one, even if he pour out his blood for the name of Christ, can be saved, unless he remain within the bosom and the unity of the Catholic Church.”
Philip the Fair of France replied to the Unam Sanctam of Pope Boniface by confiscating the property of the French bishops who had attended the Council in Rome. He placed the Cardinal-legate, whom the Pope had sent to him with a copy of the Bull, under armed guard the moment he arrived in Paris. Pope Boniface, convinced at last that all hopes of reconciliation with Philip were vain, on April 13, 1303, wrote the King of the sentence of excommunication which he was incurring. Philip, in June, retaliated. He convened a national assembly, at which charges, wild, fantastic and without proof, drawn up by his lawyers, were made against the Holy Father. And so clever was the tissue of lies, so sweeping the misrepresentations and so threatening the intimidations, that the great body of clergy and laity were actually prevailed upon to appeal against Pope Boniface to a general council, and to “a future lawful Pope!”
Pope Boniface was at Anagni when the news was brought to him. On August 15, the feast of Our Lady’s Assumption, in one of the most heartrending documents in the whole history of the Church, the grief-stricken Pontiff replied, in consistory, to the malicious and false charges made against him. He was forced to undergo the humiliation of swearing, under oath, that he was innocent, and the charges untrue. And still he did not, even at this time, personally excommunicate Philip.
The long hot days of August drew to a close; the birthday of Our Lady was approaching. When the passing days brought no word of contrition from Philip, and his sacrilegious insolences continued, the anguished Pope drew up at last, for publication on September 8, his personal excommunication of the King. The Bull was to be affixed to the doors of the church of Anagni.
Word reached Philip of the Pope’s plan, and he immediately set about perfecting one of his own. On the night of the sixth of September, the gates having been treacherously opened for them, there streamed into Anagni six hundred horsemen and more than a thousand men-at-arms, led by William of Nogaret and Sciarra Colonna. The standard which they flaunted bore upon it the fleur-de-lis. It was the banner of the King of France. Shouting, they advanced. “Death to Boniface! Long live the King of France!” they cried. “Death to Boniface!”
Behind them, in terrible betrayal, marched the people of Anagni, delivering up not only the august Vicar of Christ, but their own lordly patron, Benedict Gaetani, born among them, whose faithful love, through all his honors, had never left them and whose devotion remains still to be seen, preserved in the marble monuments of Anagni.
Very early on the morning of September 7, the brutal army arrived before the doors of the pontifical palace, where, in his own rooms, His Holiness, Pope Boniface VIII, was sleeping. He was alone, but for two men. His cardinals had already fled in disguise, fearing for their lives. Two only remained at his side, Nicholas Boccassini, Bishop of Ostia, and Peter of Spain, Bishop of Sabina.
All through the long day, the palace was bombarded. But the massive doors held. Several times the valiant Pope made efforts to persuade the people of Anagni, his people, to rescue him, but always without result. And then, at last, his enemies found a way. The Cathedral of Anagni was joined to the pontifical palace, and through the dim old church they forced an entrance. As they passed, they set fire to the house of God. It was evening, by that time, and the flames of the burning church leaped weirdly into the sky. The Pope watched from his windows. He spoke to the two Cardinals beside him, one of whom, Nicholas Boccassini, would succeed him, would take as Pope, in tribute to him, his baptismal name of Benedict, would die in defense of him, and would one day be beatified.
“Now since I have been betrayed like Jesus Christ,” Pope Boniface said, “and delivered into the hands of my enemies to be put to death, I desire and wish to die as Sovereign Pontiff.”
He put on his pontifical cloak. He placed on his head the papal tiara, took up and held tightly in his hand the holy keys. He held, too, the pontifical cross, which he kissed and pressed to his heart. Then he mounted the papal throne, and there awaited his enemies.
The two Cardinals stood one on either side of him. They noted that he seemed suddenly strangely young. His more than eighty years had fallen from him. His face was shining, radiant with the grace of his holy office and his own consecration. He was about to die, but his Lord Whom he loved had shown him how to die, that men might have eternal life. He was to die, as had Peter, and Linus, and Cletus, and Clement, for the Church.
It was thus that Sciarra Colonna, the Italian, found him, when they had battered down his door. And the arm of the traitor, about to strike, was halted. For the majesty which, in the sacred eyes of Jesus had flung His captors to the ground at His feet, looked out of the eyes of His Vicar upon the sacrilegious Colonna. It was Nogaret who spoke.
“We are come to lead you captive to Lyons,” he said, his hateful voice thick with insolence, “to deprive you of the dignity of Pope, in a council to be convened in that city to judge you.” And he laid hands upon the Holy Father, and dragged him from his throne.
Pope Boniface replied to him. All alone, completely at the mercy of a ruffian army, at that moment the power of Peter and Leo and Gregory, of the long line of Peter’s successors who had suffered and labored and died for Christ Jesus, lived again in Boniface, glorious and indomitable defender of doctrine, as he stood unflinchingly before them.
“Here is my head,” he declared. “Here is my neck. I, a Catholic, legitimate Pontiff, Vicar of Jesus Christ, am willing cheerfully to be deposed and condemned by the Patarini. I long to die for the Faith of Jesus Christ, and for the Church.”
Nogaret’s face flushed. He stood shocked and shamed. In the midst of deadly danger, the Pope coolly and calmly had taken stock of him. He had recognized in him his grandfather, burned at the stake, a heretic; a hated Patarini.
Sciarra Colonna, recovered, replied for him. He heaped abuse upon the aged Pontiff; he struck him in the face with his glove.
The Cardinal who stood beside him through it all, cried out in grief to the world nine months later, in the Bull which brought on his own death. “. . . A Sovereign Pontiff has been outraged,” Blessed Pope Benedict XI wrote, “and with her spouse a captive, the Church herself has been a captive. Where henceforth find a safe place? What sanctuary will be respected, after the violation of that of the Roman Pontiff? O, inexpiable crime! O, unfortunate Anagni!! May the rain and dew fall on thee no more, but descending on other mountains pass to the side of thee. Because the hero has fallen; that which was invested with strength has been overcome under thy eyes, and thou couldst have prevented it. O most wretched malefactors! In your actions you would not imitate the example of holy David, who not only refused to lay a hand on the anointed of the Lord, although his enemy, persecutor, and rival, but even ordered to be struck down by the sword the one who had dared to do so. For it is written: ‘Touch not my anointed.’
“Inexpressible grief! lamentable action! pernicious example! inexpiable fault! Intone, O Church, the mournful chant of lamentations; let tears course down thy cheeks; and as aiders in thy vengeance let thy sons come from afar, and thy daughters rush to thy side….”
The glorious Pope Boniface VIII died thirty-five days after the fearful outrage upon him, a victim of the sacrilege of Anagni. Pope Boniface died, a martyr for the revealed doctrine of the Catholic Faith that every human creature must be subject to the Holy Roman Pontiff in order to be saved.
Pope Boniface VIII died, and lo! within a year the Pope was a prisoner of the French King. For seventy long years of what history was to call the “Babylonian Captivity,” the Popes, all of them French, were to reside, not in the blessed See of Peter, in Rome, but in Avignon, an unlovely corner of France.
The selfish, nationalistic aspects of the Babylonian Captivity – when it seemed to the once united family of nations, alas fast growing selfishly nationalistic themselves, that the papacy existed for the good of but one nation, France – brought on the incomparably tragic Great Western Schism. Confusion such as had never before been witnessed, split and divided the Church during the Great Schism. At one time during this terrible trial, three claimants for the papal throne bid for and secured the allegiance of Catholics, and even saints disagreed as to whom submission should be made.
The Hundred Years’ War, the ravage and despair of the Black Death – when plague carried off millions of people, wiped out monasteries and convents, and left whole countrysides unabsolved from their sins and without the Blessed Eucharist – horribly devastated Europe for the whole of the century in which was committed the sacrilege upon Pope Boniface VIII. Heresies, schisms, superstition, immorality, everywhere left their trail. In the midst of it all, the world for all time was given the spectacle of the surrender of the West to the intellectual seduction of the East, in the pagan revival known as the Renaissance.
The Great Western Schism and its attendant evils led straight to the Protestant revolt; the Protestant revolt led to the French Revolution. The spirit of the French Revolution, frankly that of Antichrist, has erupted in revolutions all over the world in the century and a half since 1789. And with the Catholic countries of the world reduced to isolated spots here and there on the maps, the enemies of Christianity are unafraid now to speak loudly of their plans for a new internationalism, not Christian but infidel, presided over not by the Vicar of Jesus Christ, but by the planned king of Jerusalem.
But, it will be said, is not all this that has happened since the death of Pope Boniface VIII a judgment not upon men but upon the Church? Have not there been in all this time but two Popes who have been canonized, and but two declared blessed? Our answer must be that time alone can reveal, among the Popes who have ruled since Pope Boniface VIII, how many are Pontiffs worthy of the Church’s canonization for lives spent in heroic sanctity, overwhelming love of God, spotless Faith, untiring vigilance of doctrine, and unbounded charity.
And even should time show many or few such Popes, our final answer is best given in the words of Saint John Eudes, the great seventeenth century Apostle of the Sacred Hearts of Jesus and Mary and zealous missionary, writing in his book, The Priest, His Dignity and Obligations.
“The most evident mark of God’s anger,” he says, “and the most terrible castigation He can inflict upon the world are manifested when He permits His people to fall into the hands of clergy who are priests more in name than in deed, priests who practice the cruelty of ravening wolves rather than the charity and affection of devoted shepherds…. Their affections go no farther than earthly things, they eagerly bask in the empty praises of men; using their sacred ministry to serve their ambitions, they abandon the things of God to devote themselves to the things of the world, and in their saintly calling of holiness, they spend their time in profane and worldly pursuits.
“When God permits such things, it is a very positive proof that He is thoroughly angry with His people, and is visiting His most dreadful anger upon them. That is why He cries unceasingly to Christians, ‘Return, O ye revolting children . . . and I will give you pastors according to My own heart’ (Jer. 3, 14-15).”
What was it in the death of Pope Boniface VIII which so displeased God that He was moved to chastise the world? What was it that went out of the hearts of men and never has returned, for if it had, His Divine Mercy would have prevailed over His Divine Justice?
That which went out of the world at the time of Pope Boniface VIII was the spirit of reverent obedience which the children of the Faith, old and young, had kept always in their hearts, through all the Christian centuries, for their Supreme Father, the Vicar of Jesus Christ. That which came into the world was the spirit of revolt, the ancient sin of Lucifer, through pride, for which he was flung forever out of Heaven and into Hell. It was the sin of Adam, through disobedience, for which he was banished from Paradise, a shamed and naked thing, condemned to labor and to toil, and by the sweat of his brow to bring forth from the now cursed earth his daily food. It was the sin of Eve, sentenced ever after, in the midst of multiple sorrows, to bear her children in pain and tribulation.
So heinous in the sight of God, of such terrible magnitude and brazen affront to the eternal Majesty and Justice, was man’s revolt – his act of disobedience in the Garden of Eden – that only a Person of equal majesty and glory to the Father could make atonement commensurate with it. It was necessary for the Second Person of the Blessed Trinity to assume man’s nature, and in it to suffer and to die, before man could be redeemed from that original sin.
Can we wonder, then, at the ages-long chastisement of God for the wholesale revolt and disobedience which came over the world at the time of Pope Boniface VIII, when the Christian nations threw off the paternal yoke of him whom Jesus had given to be in the world His visible head, His audible voice, His welcoming arms, His restraining hand? And until they return, the prodigal sons of that Father in Rome, they will remain without the blessing of their Eternal Father in Heaven, without their full heritage, destined to feed the swine of the reprobate.
Philip of France, whose outrages upon Pope Boniface VIII after his death were more terrible even than when he was alive, lived to know the agony of days haunted by fear of the dead and hatred of the living, when his ears could not drown out the curses and malediction of the people of France; nor his pride hide from him the public disgrace of his three sons, adulterously betrayed by their wives; nor his body, in perfect health, without physical affliction of any kind, prevent the death which, without apparent cause, slowly claimed him. He was inexorably consumed, within his soul, “by certain mysterious chastisements rarely dealt out by Heaven!”
The anathema pronounced on the traitorous town of Anagni by Pope Boniface’s holy champion, Blessed Pope Benedict XI, Don Tosti assures us:
“. . . struck with terrible force that unfortunate town, guilty of so great a treason. Leander of Bologna passing there in 1616 found it all in ruins, and in such squalor as to strike the heart with pity. Amid this great scene of desolation, the remains of the palace where Boniface had dwelt, and in which he had been imprisoned by the treason of the inhabitants of Anagni, still were standing as accusing witnesses of the crimes they had seen, and as guardians, so to speak, of these ruins. The traveler interrogated some of the oldest inhabitants of Anagni as to the cause of this devastation, and they told him that, from the time of the captivity of Boniface, they had had nothing but misfortunes to deplore. Plagues, famine, the exile of her citizens had diminished the number of inhabitants; the walls had fallen by fire and sword during civil wars. The country had been plunged into this abyss of evils by her own children. And continuing they said that, dismayed by the lasting calamities, and almost giving up hope, the few remaining citizens had met in counsel to discover the cause of this continual misfortune; and they all agreed that it was the wickedness of their forefathers towards Pope Boniface VIII….”
And of Boniface? Three hundred years after the martyred Pope’s death, they opened the simple tomb which was his in the nave of the old Vatican Basilica, in the chapel of the Gaetani family. Many prelates and all the canons of the Basilica were present, as well as three Gaetani brothers, one an archbishop, one a bishop, and the other Duke of Sermoneta. It was the twenty-sixth of October, 1605, the three hundred and second anniversary of the death of the great hearted Pope.
When the tomb was opened, all were struck with wonder. For there was revealed the body of the holy Pontiff, lifelike and incorrupt, the flesh firm upon his noble face and so perfect that the smallest veins could clearly be seen. His hands were long “and so beautiful as to fill with admiration all who saw them.” It was difficult not to believe them full of life.
The Holy Father’s robes were as if he had just vested. Scenes from Holy Scripture gleamed in richly and marvelously embroidered silk and gold threads on the border of his alb.
His face was calm and majestic, and wrapped in the peace in which he had died.
And out in the great Basilica, before the altar of Saint Peter, the walls gave back his words locked in them since the solemn morning on which he was consecrated Bishop of Rome and crowned Boniface, Vicar of Jesus Christ. On that morning, standing before the altar of Peter and above his body and the sacred bones of the Apostles, he had made to Peter his profession of the Catholic Faith; he had made to Peter the glorious promise which it cost him his life to keep:
“In the name of the Holy and undivided Trinity, in the year of the Incarnation of Our Lord, 1294, the eighth Indiction, I, Benedict Gaetani, Cardinal-Priest, and chosen by the grace of God to be the humble minister of this Holy Apostolic See, promise to thee, Blessed Peter, Prince of the Apostles, to whom Jesus Christ Creator and Redeemer of the world, entrusted the keys of the heavenly kingdom to bind and loose in Heaven and on earth, saying: Whatsoever thou shalt bind on earth, it shall be bound in Heaven, and whatsoever thou shalt loose on earth, it shall be loosed in Heaven; and I promise to thy Holy Church, which with thy assistance I this day undertake to rule, that during this miserable life I shall not abandon it, I shall not deny it, I shall never disown it; nor for any reason or occasion of danger or of fear, shall I abandon it or separate myself from it; but even unto death and at the price of my blood I shall strain every nerve to preserve the integrity of the true Faith, which I have found in thy Holy Church, Christ its author transmitting it through thee, and the blessed Apostle Paul, and by thy successors handed it down to me who am nothing.”