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Clement Vii, Antipope

CLEMENT VII, ANTIPOPE (Robert of Geneva), (d. 1394), antipope, brother of Peter, count of Genevois, was connected by blood or marriage with most of the sovereigns of Europe. After occupying the episcopal sees of Thérouanne and Cambrai, he attained to the cardinalate at an early age. In 1377, as legate of Pope Gregory XI. in the Romagna, he directed, or rather assisted in, the savage suppression of the revolt of the inhabitants of Cesena against the papal authority. In the following year he took part in the election of Pope Urban VI. at Rome, and was perhaps the first to express doubts as to the validity of that tumultuous election. After withdrawing to Fondi to reconsider the election, the cardinals finally resolved to regard Urban as an intruder and the Holy See as still vacant, and an almost unanimous vote was given in favour of Robert of Geneva (20th of September 1378), who took the name of Clement VII. Thus originated the Great Schism of the West.

To his high connexions and his adroitness, as well as to the gross mistakes of his rival, Clement owed the immediate support of Queen Joanna of Naples and of several of the Italian barons; and the king of France, Charles V., who seems to have been sounded beforehand on the choice of the Roman pontiff, soon became his warmest protector. Clement eventually succeeded in winning to his cause Scotland, Castile, Aragon, Navarre, a great part of the Latin East, and Flanders. He had adherents, besides, scattered through Germany, while Portugal on two occasions acknowledged him, but afterwards forsook him. From Avignon, however, where he had immediately fixed his residence, his eyes were always turned towards Italy, his purpose being to wrest Rome from his rival. To attain this end he lavished his gold - or rather the gold provided by the clergy in his obedience - without stint, and conceived a succession of the most adventurous projects, of which one at least was to leave a lasting mark on history.

By the bait of a kingdom to be carved expressly out of the States of the Church and to be called the kingdom of Adria, coupled with the expectation of succeeding to Queen Joanna, Clement incited Louis, duke of Anjou, the eldest of the brothers of Charles V., to take arms in his favour. These tempting offers gave rise to a series of expeditions into Italy carried out almost exclusively at Clement's expense, in the first of which Louis lost his life. These enterprises on several occasions planted Angevin domination in the south of the Italian peninsula, and their most decisive result was the assuring of Provence to the dukes of Anjou and afterwards to the kings of France. After the death of Louis, Clement hoped to find equally brave and interested champions in Louis' son and namesake; in Louis of Orleans, the brother of Charles VI.; in Charles VI. himself; and in John III., count of Armagnac. The prospect of his briliant progress to Rome was ever before his eyes; and in his thoughts force of arms, of French arms, was to be the instrument of his glorious triumph over his competitor.

There came a time, however, when Clement and more particularly his following had to acknowledge the vanity of these illusive dreams; and before his death, which took place on the 16th of September 1394, he realized the impossibility of overcoming by brute force an opposition which was founded on the convictions of the greater part of Catholic Europe, and discerned among his adherents the germs of disaffection. By his vast expenditure, ascribable not only to his wars in Italy, his incessant embassies, and the necessity of defending himself in the Comtat Venaissin against the incursions of the adventurous Raymond of Turenne, but also to his luxurious tastes and princely habits, as well as by his persistent refusal to refer the question of the schism to a council, he incurred general reproach. Unity was the crying need; and men began to fasten upon him the responsibility of the hateful schism, not on the score of insincerity - which would have been very unjust, - but by reason of his obstinate persistence in the course he had chosen.

See N. Valois, La France el le grand schisme d'occident (Paris, 1896).

(N. V.)

Note - this article incorporates content from Encyclopaedia Britannica, Eleventh Edition, (1910-1911)

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