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27 Jul

Religion in the Late Middle Ages

The Papacy lost much of its power to the national monarchs in the Late Middle Ages and never regained its former influence which reached its zenith under Pope Innocent III. The period of the Late Middle Ages was marked by serious conflicts between the popes and the national monarchs which reached their height with the Avignon Papacy, also known as “the Babylonian Captivity” from 1309 and 1377. The seat of Papacy was moved to Avignon, while the popes came under French influence.

When Pope Gregory XI decided to return to Rome in 1378 the French Cardinals elected Roger of Geneva as Pope Clement VII who chose his residence at Avignon. The double election resulted in the Western Schism also called the Great Schism although this term is usually applied to the East-West Schism of 1054. With aim to settle the Western Schism the Catholic Church convoked the Council at Pisa in 1409 which resulted in the election of a third pope, Alexander V. The Western Schism finally ended with the election of Pope Martin V at the Council of Constance in 1414.

The Council of Constance also dealt with heresy and condemned John Hus of Bohemia for heresy and burned him at the stake in 1415. The heretic movements continued despite Hus’ death, while all the councils convoked to eradicate heresy and to reconcile the Eastern and Western Churches failed. The Catholic Church also failed to restore its former power and prestige and was shortly before another major schism – the Protestant Reformation.

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