Clement V became the head of the Catholic Church in 1305. Unlike the previous popes, Clement V never set foot in Rome during his reign. Instead, he stayed in the town of Avignon in southern France. He was also known as a puppet of the French king Philip IV the Fair. It was during Clement’s reign as pope that the Order of the Knights Templar was dissolved. Many Knights Templar were also killed because of charges of heresy trumped up by Philip so he could seize their wealth. These events are recorded on the Biblical Timeline Poster with World History during that time.
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Bertrand de Got, the man who became Pope Clement V, was born between 1260 and 1264. He was the son of the Lord of Villandraut Beraud de Got by his wife, Ida de Blanquefort. He came from a prominent noble family with strong connections within the church and in politics. He had ten other siblings, and some of his brothers also became priests. He studied at the Grandmontine priory in the town of Agen in France when he was young. He later went to Orleans and Bologna to study canon and Roman law.
He returned to France after studying in a university in Bologna. The de Got family, at that time, was close to Edward I of England and Bertrand even represented the English king in the Capetian court in France. Edward himself persuaded Pope Celestine to send Bertrand to England to negotiate the peace with France in 1294.
Bertrand’s older brother Bernaud also served as the archbishop of Lyon. Bernaud recommended his younger brother as the vicar-general of Lyon and later promoted him as papal chaplain. Bertrand became the bishop of St. Bernard-de-Comminges in 1295. Finally, in 1299, he was promoted by Pope Boniface VIII as archbishop of Bordeaux.
Clement V as Pope
Pope Boniface VIII died in 1303 after a long and bitter conflict with Philip IV of France. He was succeeded by Pope Benedict XI, but the new pope died in 1304 after ruling for several months. After several months of deliberation, the cardinals finally elected Archbishop Bertrand de Got on the 5th of June 1305 as the new pope. Philip IV himself nominated Bertrand, and the archbishop was also close to Pope Boniface VIII when the latter was alive. The cardinals saw him as the perfect candidate who would finally bridge the gap between Rome and France after Pope Boniface VIII excommunicated and deposed Philip IV. The new pope was crowned at Lyon, and he adopted the name Clement V soon after.
Clement V did not succeed in bridging the gulf between Rome and France. Instead, he became Philip’s puppet for much of his reign as head of the Church. Clement also chose to stay in Avignon in Provence rather than return the papacy to Rome. He also feared for his life as Rome (and Italy in general) was beset with violence between the rival parties of the Guelph and the Ghibelline. Clement reigned for only nine years, but France became the home of the popes for the next seventy years.
Clement’s Role as a Puppet for Philip IV
Pope Boniface excommunicated and deposed Philip IV in 1303 after the king imposed high taxes on the church. Philip used the money he collected to pay off his war debts, but Clement promptly nullified the excommunication when he came to power in 1305. Because of this, Philip continued to collect money from the church income without fear of the pope. He also cleared Philip from all wrongdoings in Pope Boniface’s death and accused the dead pope of heresy.
Clement and the End of the Knights Templar
Philip drove out the Jews from France and seized all their properties in 1306. His greed took a grim turn in 1307 when he set his sights on the wealthy Knights Templar who, at that time, served as bankers for Europe’s wealthiest. Whether Clement willingly went along with the king’s plan or he was pressured to follow him remains a question, but the result was the same cruel end for the Knights Templar. The Knights were under the protection of the pope before this, but Philip immediately ordered their arrest when Clement removed his protection in 1307.
The Knights were then accused of heresy and demon worship. Hundreds of Knights were arrested and imprisoned in the years that followed while Philip seized their wealth. Philip also ordered the imprisonment of the elderly Grand Master of the Knights, Jacques de Molay. The king ordered his men to torture de Molay so that he would confess to the alleged heresies the Knights committed.
The Grand Master later withdrew his confession, but it was too late. Many Knights Templar were burned to death as punishment for heresy in 1310. Clement ordered for the Knights Templar to be abolished completely two years later. On the 18th of March 1314, the king also ordered for Jacques de Molay to be burned to death.
Clement V’s death followed swiftly on the 20th of April, 1314, at Roquemaure, north of Avignon. His remains were buried in Uzeste near his hometown of Villandraut. According to the medieval Italian chronicler Agnolo di Tura, Clement’s remains were charred after lightning struck and burned the church where his body lay in state. Philip IV died seven months later when he fell from his horse while hunting.
Menache, Sophia. Clement V. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2002.
Nicholson, Helen J. On The Margins of Crusading: the military orders, the Papacy and the Christian world. Farnham, Surrey, UK: Ashgate, 2011.
Ralls, Karen. Knights Templar Encyclopedia: The Essential Guide to the People, Places, Events, and Symbols of the Order of the Temple. Franklin Lakes, NJ: New Page Books, 2007.
Toon, Peter. The New International Dictionary of the Christian Church. Edited by J. D. Douglas. Grand Rapids: Zondervan Pub. Co., 1978.
Zutshi, P.N.R. The New Cambridge Medieval History: Volume 6, C.1300-c.1415. Edited by Michael Jones. Cambridge: Cambridge Univ. Press, 2000.
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