Bartolomeo Prignano (Urban VI) elected Pope

Pope Urban VI (c. 1318 – October 15, 1389), born Bartolomeo Prignano, was Pope from 1378 to 1389.

Born in Naples, he was a devout monk and learned casuist, trained at Avignon. On March 21, 1364, he was consecrated Archbishop of Acerenza in the Kingdom of Naples. He became Archbishop of Bari in 1377, and, on the death of Pope Gregory XI (1370–78), the Roman populace, who surrounded the conclave, clamorously demanded a Roman pope; the cardinals being under some haste and great pressure to avoid the return of the Papal seat to Avignon, Prignano was unanimously chosen (April 8, 1378) as acceptable as well to the disunited majority of French cardinals, taking the name Urban VI. Not being a Cardinal, he was not well known. Immediately following the conclave most of the cardinals fled Rome before the mob could learn that not a Roman (though not a Frenchman either), but a subject of Joan I of Naples, had been chosen.
Prignano had developed a reputation for simplicity and frugality, even austerity, a head for business when acting Vice-Chancellor and a penchant for learning, and, according to Cristoforo di Piacenza, he was without famiglia in an age of nepotism, although once in the Papal chair he elevated four cardinal-nephews and sought to place one of them in control of Naples. His great faults undid his virtues: Ludwig Pastor summed up his character: "He lacked Christian gentleness and charity. He was naturally arbitrary and extremely violent and imprudent, and when he came to deal with the burning ecclesiastical question of the day, that of reform, the consequences were disastrous."
Though the coronation was carried out in scrupulous detail, leaving no doubt as to the legitimacy of the new pontiff, the French were not particularly happy with this move and began immediately to conspire against this pope from the Regno. Urban VI did himself no favors; whereas the cardinals had expected him pliant, he was considered arrogant and angry by many of his contemporaries. Dietrich of Nieheim considered that the cardinals concluded that his elevation had turned his head, and Froissart, Leonardo Aretino, Tommaso de Acerno and St. Antoninus of Florence recorded similar conclusions.
Immediately following his election, Urban began preaching intemperately to the cardinals, insisting that the business of the curia should be carried on without gratuities and gifts, forbidding the cardinals to accept annuities from rulers and other lay persons, condemning the luxury of their lives and retinues, and the multiplication of benefices and bishoprics in their hands. Nor would he remove again to Avignon, thus alienating Charles V of France, and, according to Urban's assessment, opening the Western Schism.
The cardinals were mortally offended. Five months after his election, the French cardinals met at Anagni, inviting Urban, who realized that he would be seized and perhaps slain; in his absence they issued a manifesto of grievances (August 9), declaring the election invalid and claiming that they had been cowed by the mob into electing an Italian, followed by letters (August 20) to the missing Italian cardinals, declaring sede vacante. Then at Fondi, secretly supported by the king of France, they proceeded to elect Robert of Geneva (September 20). Robert, a militant cleric who had succeeded Albornoz as commander of the papal troops, took the title of Clement VII, beginning the Western Schism which divided Catholic Christendom until 1417.
Urban was excommunicated by the French pope and designated the Antichrist, while Catherine of Siena called the cardinals "devils in human form". Coluccio Salutati identified the political nature of the withdrawal: "Who does not see," the Chancellor openly addressed the French cardinals, "that you seek not the true pope, but opt solely for a Gallic pontiff." Opening rounds of argument were embodied in John of Legnano's defense of the election, De fletu ecclesiæ, written and incrementally revised between 1378 and 1380, which Urban caused to be distributed in multiple copies, and in the numerous rebuttals that soon appeared. Events overtook the rhetoric, however; twenty-six new cardinals were created in a single day, and by an arbitrary alienation of the estates and property of the church, funds were raised for open war. At the end of May 1379 Clement went to Avignon, where he was more than ever at the mercy of the king of France. Louis, duc d'Anjou, was granted a phantom kingdom of Adria to be carved out of papal Emilia and Romagna, if he could unseat the pope at Rome.
Meanwhile the War of the Eight Saints, carried on with spates of unprecedented cruelty to civilians, was draining the resources of Florence, though the city ignored the interdict placed upon it by Gregory, declared its churches open, and sold ecclesiastical property for 100,000 florins to finance the war. Bologna had submitted to the Church in August 1377, and Florence signed a treaty at Tivoli on 28 July 1378, at a cost of 200,000 florins indemnity extorted by Urban, the restitution of church properties, receiving in return the papal favor and the lifting of the disregarded interdict.
Urban's erstwhile patroness, Joan I of Naples, deserted him in the late summer of 1378, in part because her former archbishop had become her feudal suzerain, and Urban now lost sight of the larger issues and began to commit a series of errors. He turned upon his powerful neighbor, excommunicated her as an obstinate partisan of Clement, and permitted a crusade to be preached against her. Soon her enemy and cousin, the "crafty and ambitious" Charles of Durazzo, representing the Sicilian Angevin line, forgetting his French blood, was invested in the sovereignty of Naples (June 1, 1381), declared to be forfeited by Joan — whom he murdered in 1382 — and was crowned by Urban. "In return for these favours, Charles had to promise to hand over Capua, Caserta, Aversa, Nocera, Amalfi to the pope's nephew, a thoroughly worthless and immoral man."

Urbano VI at Nocera's Castel, from Croniche of Giovanni Sercambi
Once ensconced at Naples, Charles found his new kingdom invaded by Louis of Anjou and Amadeus VI of Savoy; hard-pressed, he reneged on his promises. In Rome the Castel Sant'Angelo was besieged and taken, and Urban forced to flee; Urban in the fall of 1383 determined to go to Naples and press Charles in person. There he found himself virtually a prisoner. After a first reconciliation, with the death of Louis (September 20, 1384), Charles found himself freer to resist Urban's feudal pretensions, and relations took a turn for the worse; Urban was shut up in Nocera, from the walls of which he daily fulminated his anathemas against his besiegers, with bell, book and candle; a price was set on his head.
Rescued by two Neapolitan barons who had sided for Louis, Raimondello Orsini and Tommaso di Sanseverino, after six months of siege he succeeded in making his escape to Genoa with six galleys sent him by doge Antoniotto Adorno. Several among his cardinals who had been shut up in Nocera with him and had followed him in Genoa determined to make a stand: they determined that a pope, who by his incapacity or blind obstinacy might be put in the charge of one of the cardinals. Urban had them seized, tortured and put to death, "a crime unheard of through the centuries" the chronicler Egidio da Viterbo remarked.
His support had dwindled to the northern Italian states, Portugal, England, and Charles IV, Holy Roman Emperor, who brought with him the support of most of the princes and abbots of Germany.
On the death of Charles of Naples (February 24, 1386), Urban moved to Lucca in December of that year. The Kingdom of Naples was contended between a party favouring his son, Ladislas, and Louis II of Anjou and Urban devised to take advantage of the anarchy which had ensued (as well as of the presence of the feeble Mary as Queen of Sicily) to seize Naples for his nephew Francesco Moricotti Prignani. In the meantime he was able to have Viterbo and Perugia return under the Papal control.
In August 1388 Urban moved from Perugia with 4,000 troops. To raise funds he had proclaimed a Jubilee to be held in 1390, only thirty-three years had elapsed since that celebrated under Clement VI. During the march, he fell from his mule at Narni and had to recover in Rome in the early October, where he was able to oust the communal rule of the banderesi and restore the Papal authority. Soon afterwards he died, likely of injuries caused by the fall, not without rumors of poisoning. It is interesting to note that during the reconstruction of Saint Peter's Basilica Urbans remains were almost dumped out to be destroyed so his sarcophagus could be used to water horses. It was only saved when church historian Giacomo Grimaldi arrived and when realizing the import ordered it preserved.
His successor was Pope Boniface IX (1389–1404).

Bartolomeo Prignano, the first Roman pope during the Western Schism, born at Naples, about 1318; died at Rome, 15 October, 1389; according to many he was poisoned by the Romans. At an early age he went to Avignon, where he gained many powerful friends. On 21 March, 1364, he was consecrated Archbishop of Acerenza in the Kingdom of Naples, and on 14 April, 1377, Gregory XI transferred him to the archiepiscopal See of Bari, on the coast of the Adriatic. Meanwhile the Cardinal Vice-Chancellor, Peter of Pampelon, remaining at Avignon, Prignano was given the management of the papal chancery. After the death of Gregory XI the Conclave proposed him as a candidate for the tiara. Not only his business ability, integrity, and knowledge of law, but also his being a subject of Queen Joanna of Naples favoured his eligibility. The Conclave of 1378, which opened on 7 April (nine days after Gregory's death), was influenced by the public opinion of Rome; it consisted of four Italian cardinals, five French, and seven belonging to the Limoges faction. The Italian and French cardinals, though anxious to push forward their own candidates, unanimously determined to oppose one of the Limoges party. The latter were not strong enough to advance a candidate, but they hoped to make an alliance with the less important parties and so attain their end. Their plan, however, was frustrated, the French and Italians having previously resolved to choose a prelate outside the Sacred College. Robert of Geneva (one of the French cardinals) even resigned his claim in favour of Prignano, and Pedro de Luna (Robert's successor in the See of Avignon) did the same. In this way Prignano's chances increased considerably. An Italian, though not a Roman, he was supported by the rivalry of the parties. Perhaps the French and Italian cardinals expected that, not being a cardinal, he would be an obedient pope, and for this reason some of the Limoges party, uneasy about the coalition between the French and the Italian cardinals, were drawn to this candidature.
This conclave was one of the shortest in history. When the cardinals entered the Vatican some of the populace stole into the palace and tried to extort the promise that an Italian pope would be chosen. Cardinal d'Aigrefeuille declared that the cardinals could not make any such concessions, but the disappointed people remained in the Vatican the whole night, drinking the wine and crying: "Romano lo volemo, o al manco Italiano." The next morning, while the cardinals were at Mass, the tocsin was rung, and suddenly the bells of St. Peter mingled their tones with it. Fear and disorder overtook the cardinals; the guardian of the conclave besought them to hasten, saying that the people wanted a Roman or an Italian, and that the resistance would be dangerous. Then Pedro de Luna (Benedict XIII) proposed the election of the Archbishop of Bari, adding that he was, as they all knew, a saintly, learned man, of mature age. This proposal obtained the desired effect. After some hesitation, the cardinals, excepting Orsini (who declared himself not sufficiently free), agreed to accept Prignano, but preferred to keep their choice secret until certain that the latter would accept. Prignano was requested to repair to the Vatican accompanied by several other prelates, so as to conceal from the people the person chosen. The uproar did not abate, and the cardinals began to fear that their choice would not satisfy the multitude. During a comparative calm they went to breakfast and renewed the election of Prignano. The lawfulness and renewed choice thus having been established, Orsini announced the election of a pope to the people, omitting to mention the name. Various suppositions soon ran through the crowds, some saying that the chosen one was Tebaldeschi (an aged Italian cardinal) and others that Jean de Bar (one of the most detested servants of Gregory) was elected. The confusion increased. Suddenly the cardinals took a desperate resolution. They presented Tebaldeschi, in the papal insignia, to the people and commenced the "Te Deum", paying no attention to his refusal and protests. Meanwhile, Prignano had reached the Vatican and declared that he accepted the papal dignity and the homage of all the cardinals. One fact seems evident: the moment the cardinals regarded the choice of Prignano as valid, they removed all doubt by a re-election and honoured him as the rightful successor of St. Peter.

It is to be regretted that after his election Prignano did not show the good qualities which had distinguished him before. Soon he quarrelled with the Sacred College. Desirous of reforming the Church in head and members, he began aright by a reform of the Curia, though perhaps not with the necessary prudence. It was unwise to abuse the cardinals and high dignitaries of the Church and to insult Otto of Brunswick (husband of Joanna of Naples). Nevertheless, public opinion was in the beginning favourable to him, and not only the cardinals in Rome, but also the six who remained at Avignon submitted to him. However the tempest, which broke out at Fondi in September of the same year, was already brewing at Rome a few weeks after his election. Urban's ambassadors, doubtless inspired by the French and Limousin cardinals, left Rome too late, when the calumnies concerning the illegitimacy of the pope's election were widespread. The ground having thus been prepared, the opposition was strengthened at Rome; Castel Sant'Angelo never hoisted Urban's colours, and the discontented found there a refuge and the protection of armed soldiers. The heat of early May afforded the dissatisfied cardinals a pretext for leaving Rome for Anagni, but no public sign of rebellion showed itself, Urban's opponents preferring, perhaps, to conceal their project for the present. The pope's suspicions were eventually aroused, and in June he requested the three Italian cardinals who had not followed the others to join their colleagues and to try and restore kinder feelings. The French cardinals renewed their protestation of fidelity to the pope, but assembled the same day to establish the unlawfulness of the April election. Moreover they eventually won over the Italian members of the Sacred College.

Meanwhile, in the name of the pope, the aforesaid cardinals proposed two expedients to settle the differences, a general council or a compromise. Both these means were made use of at the time of the Western Schism. But the opponents of Urban resolved on violent measures and declared their intentions in a letter of the utmost impertinence. On 2 August this letter was followed by the famous "Declaration", a document more passionate than exact, which assumed at once the parts of historian, jurist, and accuser. Seven days later they published an encyclical letter, repeating false and injurious accusations against Urban, and on 27 August left Anagni for Fondi, where they enjoyed the protection of its lord (Urban's arch-enemy), and were near Joanna of Naples; the latter at first had shown great interest in Urban, but was soon disappointed by his capricious ways. On 15 September the three Italian cardinals joined their colleagues, influenced, perhaps, by the hope of becoming pope themselves, or perhaps frightened by the news that Urban was about to create twenty-nine cardinals in order to supply the vacancies left by the thirteen French ones. Charles V of France, more and more doubtful of the lawfulness of Urban's election, encouraged the Fondi faction to choose a rightful pope and one more agreeable to France. A letter from him arrived on 18 September, and hastened a violent solution. On 20 September Robert of Geneva was chosen pope, and on this day the Western Schism began.

The Italians abstained from the election but were convinced of its canonical character. Robert assumed the name of Clement VII. The obediences of the two popes assumed definite limits between September, 1378, and June, 1379. All Western Europe (except England, Ireland, and the English dominions in France) submitted to Clement VII; the greater part of Germany, Flanders, and Italy (with exception of Naples) recognized Urban. The obedience of Urban was more numerous, that of Clement more imposing. Meanwhile, Urban created twenty-eight cardinals, four of whom refused to accept the purple. It is very difficult to decide exactly how far the schism is to be attributed to Urban's behaviour. Indisputably the long exile at Avignon was its principal cause, as it diminished the credit of the popes and inversely increased the ambition of the cardinals, who were always striving to obtain more influence in the government of the Church. Whatever may have been the causes of this event, it is certain that the election of Urban was lawful, that of Clement uncanonical.
If the first days of Urban's pontificate were unhappy, his whole reign was a series of misadventures. It is true that he was successful in reducing Castel Sant' Angelo and subduing a revolt of the Romans, but these are the only successes of his reign. Naples was soon in turmoil. Queen Joanna went over to the Clementines and was deposed by Urban. Charles of Durazzo took her place. He arrested the queen and took possession of the kingdom, but soon lost favour with the pope for not fulfilling his engagements towards Francesco Prignano (Urban's unworthy and immoral nephew), in whose regard Urban is not free from nepotism. The pope now went to the south of Italy, against the advice of his cardinals, was received at Aversa by the king himself, but imprisoned on the night of his arrival (30 Oct., 1383). Through his cardinals a compromise was reached, and Urban left Aversa for Nocera. Here he had to endure the most unworthy treatment from Margaret, the wife of Charles. The misunderstanding between Urban and Charles increased after the death of the latter's enemy, Louis of Anjou; the pope, obstinate and intractable, continued in a half-hostile, half-dependent, attitude towards Charles, and created fourteen cardinals, only the Neapolitans accepting the dignity. He became daily more estranged from the older members of the Sacred College. No one conversant with the ideas current at this time in the Sacred College will wonder that the example of 1378 found imitation. Highly irritated by Urban's inconsiderate behaviour, the Urbanist cardinals mediated a more practical way of proceeding; they proposed to depose or, at least, arrest him. But their plot was revealed to him, and six of them were imprisoned and their possessions confiscated. Those who did not confess were tortured, and the King and Queen of Naples, being suspected as accomplices, were excommunicated. In consequence Nocera was besieged by the king. Urban courageously defended the place, two or three times a day anathematizing his foes from the ramparts. After nearly five months, Nocera was relieved by the Urbanists, Urban escaping to Barletta, whence a Genoese fleet transported him and the imprisoned cardinals to Genoa. During the voyage the Bishop of Aquila, one of the conspirators, was executed, and the cardinals, excepting Adam Aston, were put to death at Genoa, in spite of the intervention of the doge. It may be taken for certain that the cardinals had conspired against Urban, with a view of deposing him; that they intended to burn him as an heretic may be a fantastic rumour. At all events he acted very unwisely by treating them so cruelly, for he then alienated faithful adherents, as is proved by the manifesto of the five cardinals, who remained at Nocera and renounced his obedience.

After King Charles was murdered in Hungary (February, 1386) Urban again undertook to establish his authority in that kingdom; he left for Lucca, refused to treat with the dowager-queen Margaret, and declined the proposal of a general council, which some German princes proposed at the insistence of Clement VII, though he himself had formerly proposed the same expedient. He insulted the ambassadors and pressed the German king, Wenceslaus, to come to Rome. In August, 1387, he proclaimed a crusade against Clement, and in September he set out for Perugia, where he remained till August, 1388, recruiting soldiers for a campaign against Naples, which had again fallen into the hands of the Clementines, and the possession of which was very important for his own safety. The soldiers, not receiving their pay, deserted, and Urban returned to Rome, where his refractory temper brought him into difficulties that could only be removed by an interdict. It was at Rome, also, that he fixed the interval between the jubilees at thirty-three years, the first of which was to be celebrated the next year, 1390. But he did not live to open it. Urban might have been a good pope in more peaceful circumstances; but he certainly was unable to heal the wounds which the Church had received during the exile of Avignon. If the genius of a Gregory VII or an Innocent III was scarcely able to triumph over the ambition of the cardinals, the bad conduct of the higher and lower clergy, and the unruliness of the laity, these impediments could not but shipwreck the inconstant and quarrelsome Urban.

Urban VI, given name Bartolommeo Prignano, Roman Catholic Pope from the 8th of April 1378 to the 15th of October 1389, was born at Naples in 1318. He was made bishop of Acerenza in 1364, and in 1377 was translated to the archiepiscopal see of Bari and placed in charge of the papal chancery. On the death of Pope Gregory XI, who had finally returned to Rome from Avignon, he was elected pope in a conclave held under circumstances of great excitement, owing to popular apprehension of an intention of the French cardinals to elect a French pope and again abandon Rome. The populace broke into the hall after the election had been made and dispersed the cardinals, but the latter returned and confirmed their action on the following day. Urban VI turned his attention at once to the reformation of the higher clergy, and, in spite of the warnings of Catherine of Siena, so angered the cardinals by his harsh and ill-tempered measures that they assembled at Anagni in July 1378, and revoked his election, in which they declared they had acted under fear of violence. On the 20th of September they elected at Fondi the Cardinal Robert of Geneva, who called himself Clement VII and took up his residence at Avignon. Urban, on the other hand, remained at Rome, where he appointed twenty-six new cardinals and excommunicated Clement and his adherents. Thus began the Great Schism which divided the Western Church for about fifty years. Urban deposed Joanna of Naples (21st of April 1380) for adhering to France and Savoy in support of the antipope, and gave her kingdom to Charles of Durazzo. Charles was crowned at Rome on the 1st of June 1381, but three years later quarrelled with the pope and shut him up in Nocera. Urban succeeded in escaping to Genoa, where he put several of his cardinals to death for suspected disloyalty. On the death of Charles he set out with an army apparently to seize Naples for his nephew if not for himself. To raise funds he proclaimed, by bull of the 11th of April 1389, a jubilee for every thirty-three years, but before the celebration could be held he died of injuries caused by a fall from his mule. Urban was frugal and never practised simony, but harshness, lack of tact, and fondness for unworthy nephews disgraced his pontificate. He was succeeded by Boniface IX.