The Church was affected by great turmoil during this
In 1309 Pope
Clement V moved the papacy and his residence to Avignon. This brought him under
the influence of the French king which was resented by many in the church. In
1377 Pope Gregory IX returned the papacy to Rome urged, among others, by
St Catherine of Siena.
Gregory died, the French-dominated college of cardinals first chose an Italian
candidate as head of the church: Pope Urban VI. But when
he upset the cardinals, they declared him deposed, and elected a Frenchman:
Clement VII. Clement VII again set up his papal court in Avignon, while Urban
continued holding court in Rome. England, Scandinavia, Germany, and northern
Italy supported the Roman Pope. France, Scotland, Naples, Sicily, and the
kingdoms in Spain supported the French Pope. This schism remained unresolved
until a truce in 1409 and reunion in 1417.
the Plague began to ravage Europe. An estimated 20% -
40% of the population is thought to have perished within the first year
alone. The Black Death brought out the worst and the best in Christians. In
France and Germany many Jews were held responsible for the outbreak of the
epidemic. Many were tortured and killed. In Italy
Bernardo Tolomei, founder of the Benedictine Congregation of Santa Maria di
Monte Oliveto, died along with 82 of his monks after leaving the safety of his
monastery to tend to plague victims in Siena.
The work of carting off the dead bodies and burying them
was highly dangerous. In some towns, when no men could be found, women were
forced to undertake the job.