What Was the Avignon Papacy?


Quick Answer

The Avignon Papacy is a period of time from 1309 to 1378 in which the seat of the Pope of the Roman Catholic Church was relocated from Rome to Avignon. The period is also sometimes called the "Babylonian Captivity" by critics.

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Full Answer

The move to Avignon had its roots in a conflict between the church and the king of France. Pope Clement V was from France and refused to move to Rome when elected Pope in 1305, prompting the move to Avignon.

Seven popes would serve in Avignon during this period: Pope Clement V (1305 to 1314), Pope John XXII (1316 to 1334), Pope Benedict XII (1334 to 1342), Pope Clement VI (1342 to 1352), Pope Innocent VI (1352 to 1362), Pope Urban V (1362 to 1370) and Pope Gregory XI (1370 to 1378). Gregory returned to Rome in 1376, but the bishop of Avignon was recognized as the head of the church for a time during a period of conflict within the church about the legitimacy of its leaders.

Critics of the church, such as Martin Luther, used the term Babylonian Captivity as a rhetorical comparison to the similar duration of the Jewish exile to Babylon. Used in this way, the term suggests that the move was a compromise of integrity designed to serve the French monarchy.

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