The history of the Great Western Schism (1378-1417), the period that witnessed a dual and later tricephalic papacy divided between an Avignonese, a Roman, and later a Pisan obedience, has usually found its niche in legal and theological writing. Few historians have dwelled on issues outside the questions of political legitimacy and conciliarism. In the present volume, Renate Blumenfeld-Kosinski broadens the historiography by canvassing the mental and emotive response to this exceptional event. Her candidates of study are the few educated individuals (mostly French and Italian) who do not fit into the purely clerical mold and offer enough originality to balance the ecclesiastical response to the events. She focuses on contemporary witnesses who discussed events with some mental inventiveness: saints, poets, and visionaries.
Great Schism or Schism of the West, division in the Roman Catholic Church from 1378 to 1417. There was no question of faith or practice involved; the schism was a matter of persons and politics. Shortly after Gregory XI had returned the papacy from Avignon to Rome, he died (Mar. 27, 1378). The Romans feared that the papal court might be returned to Avignon, and there was rioting, with the mob demanding a Roman, or at least an Italian, pope. On Apr. 8 the 16 cardinals present elected Urban VI . The new pope was soon acting very offensively to all in the church. The cardinals met at Agnani and on Aug. 2 declared Urban's election null. At Fondi on Sept. 20 they elected Robert of Geneva pope as Clement VII. Urban VI remained in Rome, refusing to step down, and Clement VII fled to Avignon, where he reigned surrounded by the former Roman court. There were thus two lines of popes.