The incident named "Anagni
slap" occurred between 7th and 9th September 1303, and consisted in the arrest
and emprisonment of pope Boniface VIII, in his palace of Anagni,
a town about 65 km (40 Mi) south of Rome, now in the province
of Frosinone, by the emissaries of the king of France Philip
IV, called "Philip the fair" (1268-1314)
with the help of members of some Roman noble families, the Colonna above all.
The episode was a part of the harsh power struggle at the turn of the 14th century between the king of France and the leader of the Church of Rome, both of which had very strong personalities, and were ambitious and determined to safeguard by all means the institution they leaded. Bonifacio tried to defend the spiritual supremacy of the papacy against the pressing imperialism of France, but in spite of his high political and diplomatic skill, the contest soon became an open clash and the military dominance of the French prevailed, culminating precisely with the Anagni incident, causing the end of Boniface and the temporary transfer of the papacy to Avignon.
The pope was born between 1230 and 1235 with the name Benedetto Caetani at Anagni, the city of three other popes (Innocent III, Gregory IX, and Alexander IV), where he resided for a long time, also after the election to the papacy. His father Roffredo and his mother Emilia Giffridi (or, according to others, Patrasso) from Guarcino, had many children, of which Benedetto was the only one to follow the ecclesiastical career. He followed studies of canon law in Spoleto and Todi, where his uncle Pietro Caetani was bishop, and in Bologna. He later recalled with great affection both Todi and Bologna, in which he took part assiduously in the city political struggles, always siding with the Ghibellines.
Benedetto was a consistorial lawyer, and in 1264 he accompanied as secretary Cardinal Simon de Brion, the future pope Martin IV, in Paris, and in 1265-1267 Cardinal Ottobono Fieschi, the future pope Adrian V, in England. He was apostolic prothonotary from 1276 and intervened in the negotiations of Cardinal Matteo Orsini with Rudolf I of Hapsburg and Charles of Anjou in 1280 (Miranda).
On April 12th, 1281 pope Martin IV made him cardinal deacon with the title of San Nicola in Carcere Tulliano, so he became a diplomat highly appreciated by the Roman Curia. Benedetto was instead ordained priest only on September 22nd, 1291, when he was around sixty years old, and three years before his election as pope. On that day he was also ordained bishop and obtained the title presbytery of Saints Silvestro and Martino ai Monti (Miranda).
Caetani was highly regarded as a diplomat, so that pope Martin IV defined him "a man of profound judgment, reliable, with great foresight, diligence and prudence" (Paravicini Bagliani). He was entrusted with several diplomatic missions, to London, Denmark, France and various locations of Italy. The contemporary historian Ferretto Vicentino defined him "prudent and astute" (II, 63,24).
In November 1290 Benedetto Caetani harshly intervened in Paris in a dispute that he had been called to arbitrate as papal legate, standing up for the mendicant religious orders against eminent bishops and teachers in Paris University, which he severely accused of poor doctrine, presumption and lack of intelligence. He uttered a very suggestive phrase about his concept of the Church of Rome: "the world has been entrusted to our care, we must not worry about what can please you, not about you wise men and about your tantrums, but we care of what it's useful to the whole universe". During this mission Benedetto met Philip the Fair, with whom a relationship of mutual esteem and respect began. Caetani at the time was called "gallicus", meaning he was considered a friend of the Frenchmen, those of the motherland, but also the Anjou who ruled in Naples, so that he was reprimanded for this by his own brothers, as he himself used to tell.
During his career as a prelate, according to the custom of the time, he was able to collect considerable wealth, proceeding from the prebends to which he was entitled for his religious offices, and from the gifts he received for his engagement in procedures or mediations. This income allowed his family to amass power and possessions in the central and southern Latium, both through the huge amount of money he owned, and by the action of threatening conviction he was able to exercise.
Boniface payed a very special attention to his own image, which was unusual for the time: he commissioned portraits to great artists or solicited them their execution, among them the one contained in the fresco of the Roman basilica of San Giovanni in Laterano, attributed to Giotto, representing the convocation by Boniface of the Jubilee of 1300. Among the statues we count the works by Arnolfo di Cambio in the Museo dell'Opera del Duomo in Florence, the statue (1290) and the bust (1298, see the cast from Anagni pope's palace), the two statues of Orvieto (1297), one by Ramo di Paganello and the other, maybe of Rubeus, the one from Bologna by Manno di Bandino (1300) and that of an unknown author on the left side of Anagni Cathedral, that according Fedele (1921b) was probably erected by the inhabitants of Anagni after his death, in order to atone for their participation in the aggression.
Before him it was not usual to portray the popes in statues, with the exception of Nicholas III (1216-1280), to whom the city of Ancona had dedicated a statue in gratitude. Other possible portraits of Bonifacio are inserted into architectural elements, such as the one attribuited to Arnolfo di Cambio. This iconographic abundance after his death even earned him the accusation that he made himself idolise.
Boniface explained to her physician Arnaldus de Villa Nova the reasons for such an attention to his image, motivated by the desire to increase the glory of the Church of Rome and to perpetuate the memory of himself in the centuries "we have enlarged the glory of the Church of Rome, among so much gold and so much silver, and in front of these and those, and for this reason our memory will remain glorious for ever and ever" ("Nos auximus gloriam ecclesie Romane in tanto auro et in tanto argento et in hiis et in illi, et ideo nostra memoria erit in seculum seculi gloriosa") (Fedele, 1921b).
The election as
On December 24th, 1294, the second day and third scrutiny of the Naples Conclave, held in Castel Nuovo after the renunciation of the throne of Celestine V, who had been pope for 107 days, Benedetto Caetani was elected as pope (see his coat of arms). Although not reaching the unanimity, he had the support of a vast majority of cardinals, including two members of the Colonna family, Giacomo and Pietro (uncle and nephew), who later became his bitter enemies. His election was seen favorably by all the European ruler, including Philip the Fair, who sent him luxurious gifts. Boniface transferred the papal seat from Naples to Rome, though he often moved to his hometown, especially in summer, to escape the Roman heat, but especially to avoid malaria (Giammaria, 1983).
On February 22nd, 1300 Bonifacio established the first Jubilee, which provided for the plenary indulgence for those who visited the basilicas of St. Peter and St. Paul. The Holy Year was perhaps convoked following the spontaneous flux of pilgrims, drawn to Rome by the rumours of a plenary indulgence on the occasion of the beginning of the century (Giammaria, 1983), but according to others, perhaps influenced by contemporary situations, Boniface conceived the Holy Year pushed by the craving of gains. In any case, the Jubilee saw the flow in Rome of an unexpected number of pilgrims: according to the chronicler Giovanni Villani (IX, 36), who was among the participants, they were 200,000, not counting those who just passed there. Because of the crowd of pilgrims on Sant'Angelo bridge two separate lanes for each direction were established for pedestrians, as also cited by Dante Alighieri in the Divine Comedy (Inferno, XVIII, 28-33).
On June 6th, 1303, by the bull "Supremae praeminentia Dignitatis" Boniface founded the "Studium Urbis", the first Roman University, which later became known as "la Sapienza". The pope also instituted other universities, that of Pamiers (December 18th, 1295) mainly used as a political instrument against Philip the Fair (Théry), and those of Fermo (January 16th, 1303) and Avignon (July 1st, 1303).
Celestine V in his brief pontificate
had bestowed appointments, privileges and rents on many postulants
and flatterers often unworthy, but at the moment to abdicate,
realizing the damage done, he had asked his successor Bonifacio
to revoke them. The new pope quickly annulled many appointments
and privileges granted by his predecessor, damaging especially
several members of Colonna family, which engendered further conflicts
and resentment between the two families.
Moreover, after his election to the papal throne, Boniface VIII granted the Caetani additional power, going too far with nepotism, which anyway was a very common practice at that time: actually Boniface appointed as cardinals three of his nephews, Benedetto and Francesco Caetani, sons of two of his brothers and Giacomo Caetani Tommasini (portrayed with him in the tabernacle lunette attribuited to Arnolfo di Cambio), his sister's son, who were all very young (Benedetto was probably eighteen). Nepotism is nowadays considered one of his major mistakes as pope, beyond the invective and calumnies spread by those who had grievances against him, as Philip the Fair, Dante Alighieri and Jacopone da Todi (1236-1306) who had called Boniface VIII "new Lucifer" (83: 51).
The chronicler Giovanni Villani so described him: "he was highly magnanimous and refined, and wanted much honor, and knew well how to maintain and advance the rights of the Church, and for his knowledge and might he was greatly respected and feared; he was much wealthy in order to make the Church and his relatives greater, not having any concern about gaining, since he used to say that for him everything that was in the Church was lawful " (IX: 6). Anyway on several occasions Benedetto Caetani still proved to have a difficult character, excessively impulsive, irritable, resentful and touchy; in his court it was known that he hated to be contradicted, and that when this happened, he used to react with great vehemence.
The irritability of Benedetto Caetani could also result from the physical problems from which he suffered, especially kidney stones. The pope was treated by the Catalan doctor and alchemist Arnaldus de Villa Nova (Arnau de Vilanova, 1240-1313) who was also the physician of King James II of Aragon and professor at the University of Montpellier and at the Schola Medica Salernitana (Frale). At the end of July 1301 Arnaldus would have shut himself in the church of San Nicola, above the village of Sgurgola, in front of Anagni, in order to develop a golden astrological seal, packed into a leather belt, to cure the pontiff. It seems that the therapy was successful, perhaps for a simple mechanical effects on the kidneys of the leather belt, allowing the alchemist to get a generous reward from the pope and arousing great envy and resentment against him in the papal court. Boniface also supplied himself with water from the spring that still bears his name in Fiuggi (then named Anticoli), about 20 km from Anagni. Perhaps the miniature on parchment depicting a pope who receives an elixir, while a fox tries to steal his tiara, portrays Boniface, although the work of Girolamo da Cremona was painted more than a century and a half after his death.
The rivalry with
As seen in the previous paragraphs, among the Colonna and Caetani families a deep rivalry arose, mainly due to the proximity of their respective fiefs south of Rome. The Caetani were rapidly climbing, thanks to the election to the papacy of Boniface VIII. However, the two Colonna members of the College of Cardinals, after having supported the election of Benedetto Caetani, also collaborated with him in good harmony in the first two years of his pontificate. This harmony was broken by the continuous expansion of the Caetani and by the reaction of the Colonna, materialized by the event that occurred on May 3rd, 1297 on the Appian Way, near Cecilia Metella tomb, transformed into a fortress with the name of Capo di Bove (due to the bucrania, i.e. ox skulls, that still adorn it). Pietro II Caetani, the pope's nephew, was carrying from Rome to Anagni a part of the treasure of his uncle, donated in the occasion of the election to the papacy by European kings and princes, amounting to 200,000 gold florins, contained in eighty sacks carried on mules' rump. The treasure was robbed by a group of armed men led by Stefano Colonna, brother of Cardinal Pietro and nephew of Giacomo, probably with the aim of preventing the Caetani from buying other properties, increasing even more their power. A wrathful Boniface VIII summoned the Colonna cardinals to answer for the outrage, but the two at first didn't come, then came and received the conditions for forgiveness, including the return of the treasure, which happened a few days later, probably by the intervention of the two Colonna cardinals on Stefano.
The war between the families, however, didn't stop, the pope appealed to the Romans denouncing the injustice suffered and omitting to mention that the treasure had been given back. The Colonna, summoned to declare whether they recognized the legitimacy of Boniface as pope, gathered instead with a group of people, including somebody not belonging to the family, as Jacopone da Todi, at Lunghezza castle, 20 kilometers from Rome, owned by the allied Conti family.
From the castle, on May 10th, 1297, they replied with a harshly argumentative declaration against the pope, the Lunghezza Manifesto, posted on the doors of the churches of Rome and on the high altar of St. Peter's basilica, in which Boniface was accused of ruling tyrannically, and especially of having forced Celestine V to resign as pope: in consequence of this Boniface was to be considered an usurper, and all his acts were to be considered null and void. Thus the Manifesto responded to the explicit request by Bonifacio to be recognized as pope, saying: "vos non credimus legitimum papam esse" (we do not believe you are a legitimate pope) (Fedele, 1921b).
Again the pope reacted by denouncing the outrage in front of the Roman people, but the Colonna publicized on May 16th a new document, in which he was accused of further abominations, including that of having ordered the murder of Celestine V. Also this accusation was functional to the attempt to delegitimize Boniface as pope, and it was very successful, as to be often considered a known fact. The accusations and claims of the Colonna were based on those of the movement of the Spiritual Franciscans, supported by Celestine V, and strongly critical towards Boniface VIII.
The pope excommunicated the two cardinals with the bull "In excelso throno" issued on May 10th, 1297, in which he condemned the Colonna and the outrages of their "damned race and their damned blood" who "raised at all times their head full of arrogance and contempt" (Bassetti) and, therefore, even deserved extermination. A few days later, after a resentful reply of the Colonna, Boniface promulgated on May 23rd, Ascension Day, the bull Lapis abscissus, with which he confirmed the excommunication of the two cardinals and extended it to other Colonna, Stefano and prince Giacomo (known as Sciarra for his quarrelsome character), both brothers of Pietro, Agapito and Oddone, as well as Jacopone da Todi; moreover, it ordered the confiscation of the family properties and ordered to all the faithful to catch them.
On June 15th, the Colonna reaffirmed the illegitimacy of the pope and appealed to the people to call a council aimed to elect a new pope. Boniface replied putting Dominicans and Franciscans, endowed with power of inquisition, to pursue the Colonna, justifying this arduous decision by the accusations of heresy thrown against them. Moreover, the pope recruited soldier by his allies in many municipalities in central Italy (including Siena and Florence), also with the help of bankers and cardinals, with funds deriving from religious and military orders, including the Templars.
On July 21st the pope got such forces to conquer the castle of Colonna, the town from which the family took its name, and to assault several other properties of the rivals, including Nepi, Tivoli, Palestrina, Zagarolo and various properties of the Colonna in Rome. After a failed attempt of mediation by a member of the Savelli family, the pope retired himself to Orvieto, where on September 4th, 1297 sanctioned a real crusade against the Colonna, granting indulgence to those who would die fighting against them. Boniface entrusted Theodoric of Orvieto (Theodorico de' Ranieri, 1235-1306), Archbishop of Pisa, to conduct the military operations. In 1298 the castle and the village of Colonna were finally destroyed and the pope on June 21st issued a bull which forbade its reconstruction. In autumn 1298 the two Colonna cardinals were in Rieti to beg mercy from the pope, who received them wearing the pontifical vestments and the tiara, as the pope himself told in the bull of October 3rd, 1299 (Fedele, 1921a). The pope assigned the two cardinals to a kind of confinement, from which the two prelates walked away, moving over through Italy, then, taking with them all the defamatory material collected against Boniface VIII, they took shelter in France, where they found themselves in 1303, the year of the slap. In September or October of 1298, following a truce not respected by the rivals, the pope ordered Theodoric of Orvieto, who in the meantime had also became chamberlain, to completely destroy Palestrina, which belonged to the Colonna, "so that nothing remains, not even the status or the name of a city". The men of Bonifacio, led by Landolfo Colonna, brother of Giacomo, along with a contingent of Florentine troops, destroyed the city, leaving only the cathedral standing up, then he ran the plough and salted the earth on the ruins of the city. Among the prisoners captured in Palestrina there was Jacopone da Todi, who was expelled from the Franciscan Order of Friars Minor, excommunicated and imprisoned in the basement of the Franciscan convent of San Fortunato in Todi. Dante, in his Divine Comedy (Inferno, XXVII, 91-111) ascribes to Bonifacio the guilt of having induced Guido da Montefeltro to advise him on how to conquer Palestrina fraudulently, leading him to eternal damnation. The pontiff got to rebuild on the ruins a new city, called Papal City ("Civitas Papalis") (Fedele, 1921b) and on June 13th, 1299 appointed Theodoric of Orvieto as bishop of the city. (Bassetti).
The clash with Philip
The clash between the pope and the king of France actualized itself in a surge of hostile acts and reciprocal retaliation: in January 1296 Philip, in order to finance the war against England, which had begun two years before, had imposed an extraordinary tax of 2% on properties, including the ecclesiastical ones, which until then were subject only to the taxation of the Roman Curia. Boniface could not accept this blitz and the following February 25th issued the bull Clericis laicos, prohibiting, on pain of excommunication, all the members of the clergy, not only French (also Edward I of England had taxed the ecclesiastics), from paying, without the consent of the pope, any tax to the kings, who in turn had to ask permission of the pope to impose taxes on the clergy. The countermove of Philip was the prohibition of transferring outside of France any luxury goods and money, and therefore also the taxes destined to Rome.
On September 20th, 1296, the pope replied very harshly, with the bull Ineffabilis amoris, in which a real ideological edict, prophetic in nature, appears: "You must know that We and our brothers, if God gives us the strength, we are ready not only to undergo persecution, destruction and exile, but also to sacrifice our lives for the ecclesiastical freedom and liberty" (Paravicini Bagliani).
The conflict then saw a temporary cooling, thanks to conciliatory steps taken by both sides, including the canonization, on August 11th, 1297 in Orvieto, by Boniface, of the late King of France Louis IX, a grandfather of Philip the Fair, with the name of San Luigi dei Francesi (St. Louis of the French). Hostilities resumed in 1301 with the case of Bernard Saisset, bishop of Pamiers, a town at the foot of the French Pyrenees, which for years had been in a powers conflict with the local lord, the Count of Foix. Saisset had turned to the pope at that time, Nicholas IV, who had put the properties of Saint-Antonin di Pamiers abbey under the protection of Benedetto Caetani, at the time Cardinal.
Philip the Fair intervened in a heavy way in September 1301 ordering to arrest and take to trial the bishop, a power reserved to the Church, thus violating the ecclesiastical immunity. The charge was highly serious: betrayal of the king and crime of treason, for having sought the support of the pope, not recognizing the sovereignty of the king, and even accusing him of heresy; the trial mimicked procedures and terms of the ecclesiastics ones.
Boniface fueled the retaliatory spiral with a series of bulls issued between 4th and 6th December, 1301: the Secundum divina, that exhorted the king to free Saisset "not to offend the majesty of God", since the laymen had no jurisdiction over the religious persons; the Salvator mundi, that suspended the privileges granted in the past to the king, the Ausculta filii, published on December 5th, 1301, that warned the king of France for disobeying the pope (Théry), and finally the Ante promotionem nostram, that summoned in Rome for November 1st, 1302 all ecclesiastical and theological authorities of France, for a real synod on the safeguarding of religious freedom, threatening to excommunicate the king if he had prevented the French bishops from taking part in it. Overall, the pope created the conditions for a deep disturbance in the internal affairs of the French monarchy (Dupré Theseider). Philip, after consulting with the French nobility and clergy, decided to go against the pope's attempt to impose its temporal and spiritual dominion of the Catholic kings, and circulated the text of a falsified papal bull, offensive against the king and France, to trigger the popular indignation against the pontiff.
As Boniface took note that about half of the French bishops hadn't reached Rome, he issued an excommunication for anyone who had prevented any priest from reaching the council and on November 18th, 1302 issued the bull Unam sanctam, with which he aimed to impose the papal supremacy over all kings of the earth.
According to the chroniclers Giovanni Villani and Dino Compagni, Boniface tried to undermine the power of Philip the Fair favoring his enemies, the Flemings, who had defeated him on July 11th, 1302 in the Courtrai battle and the Germans, and combating his allies, such as the Angevins.
of the attack
Philip IV reacted to the papal bulls convening a council against Boniface, which he defined as "simonist and heretic", moreover accusing him of having evoked the demons and of inducing the people to worship him. Therefore he sent his counsellor, the jurist Guillaume of Nogaret (1255-1314) to Anagni in order to arrest him, According to others the whole endeavour of Anagni was actually an idea of Nogaret, that he suggested to Philip IV in February of that 1303. Other historians doubt that Philip had ordered the attack, although he probably knew it would have occurred. It seems that the pope had prepared the excommunication bull Super Petri solio, that had to be promulgated on Sunday, September 8th, 1303, the day after the assault, posting it on the gates of Anagni cathedral. This could be the real reason that led Nogaret and his group to assault the papal palace of Anagni, destroying the copies of the bull (however the text is still known by transcriptions made probably at the time).
On March 7th Nogaret received a coded message of the Royal Chancery in which he was ordered to "go to that certain place ... and do what will seem good to you", and on March 12th, during a solemn assembly held in the gardens of the Louvre royal palace, the counselor gave a speech in which he harshly attacked the pope, listing his faults, including that of having forced Celestine V to abdicate, and of being a heretic, and demanded the convocation of a general council to review his case, and then to take the pope to trial.
Nogaret, defined by Nangis a soldier and a jurist, put together a team of 300 men (Villani), or according to the manuscript of Vienne (Digard) 1,650, of which 1,050 were foot soldiers and 600 mounted soldiers. The force was composed of Frenchmen and Italians, belonging to the families hostile to the Caetani, and therefore mainly to the Colonna, thus exploiting of the rivalry between the two families, and being spurred by the bribes payed by the French (Giammaria, 2004). Nogaret's troops probably had their base at Staggia Senese castle, near Siena, today in the municipality of Poggibonsi, owned by the Florentine merchant Musciatto Franzesi, an advisor of Philip the Fair, who would have provided funds for the raid. The soldiers who took part in the expedition were from Anagni and neighboring towns, such as Alatri, Ferentino and Ceccano, damaged by the expansionism of the Caetani (Giammaria, 2004). The squad left from Rome, being led by Nogaret, with the insignia of the king of France, and by Sciarra Colonna. According to the tradition, before bursting at dawn into Anagni, the conspirators gathered in Sgurgola (see my webpage) a village about 10 km (6.2 Mi) from Anagni, where they were harangued by Giordano Conti, standing on a stone located at the entrance of the village, therefore called the "wicked stone" ("petra réa"). Conti was spurred by his hatred for the pope, who had dispossessed him of his properties in Sgurgola. Also his relatives Gualcano and Pietro took part in the expedition (Giammaria, 2004).
According to other sources, the site of the gathering could not be Sgurgola, since it was a fief of the Caetani. At Ceccano, in Faito forest, there is a place called "the stone of bad advice" ("la pietra del Mal Consiglio"), and at the foot of Anagni hill there would have been the "wicked stone" ("Pietra Rea"), which, according to legend, owes its name to having hosted the leader of the conspirators while haranguing his troops. According to Giammaria (2004) and Fedele (1921a), the most likely place would be Ferentino, which was traditionally hostile to Boniface, to the Caetani and to Anagni.
The assailants entered Anagni on September 7th, 1303 at dawn or just before (mane ante auroram) (manuscript of Vienne), and found the gates open, perhaps due to a betrayal by some Anagni citizens, including Adinolfo Di Matteo (also mentioned as Di Papa), a bitter enemy of the pope, who in May 1297, along with his brother Nicola, had to sell to the pope's nephew Pietro Caetani, known as the Marquis, the palace in Anagni where later Pietro himself was besieged. According to Giovanni Villani, the nobles and the citizens of Anagni were corrupted by Nogaret's money, and on the other hand many of the Italian conspirators were on the payroll of the French king. The chronicler Ferretto Vicentino identifies Goffredo Bussa (Sigonfredus de Bussa), commander of the pope's guards, as the self-confessed responsible for handing in the keys (Giammaria, 2004).
The conspirators burst into the city wielding the fleurs-de-lis banners of France and the papal insigna with the crossed keys (Compagni), praising the king of France and the Colonna, and inveighing against Boniface. The inhabitants were awakened by the clamour, took to the streets and knew that Sciarra Colonna wanted to capture the pope, so they rang their bells to call a meeting; probably the people of Anagni agreed in advance with the attack, having been harangued by the local faction of the enemies of the pope, led by Adinolfo, that during the meeting was elected captain of the city and to whom the elders of the people swore right away fidelity, promising to follow his orders.
After the meeting the attackers splitted (Fedele, 1921a): a part, led by Sciarra Colonna, attacked the pope's palace and that of his nephew, the Marquis Pietro Caetani, which was fiercely defended by the occupants, throwing stones and shooting crossbows (De horribili insultatione), while another group was commanded by Rinaldo da Supino, captain of Ferentino and member of the Conti family (however brother-in-law to Francesco Caetani), with the children of Goffredo da Ceccano, who had been imprisoned by the pope, with Adinolfo and Nicola Di Matteo and Massimo di Trevi. This group attacked the palaces of three cardinal considered friends of the pope, Pedro Rodríguez Quijada, bishop of Burgos (reported as Pietro Roderici or as "the Cardinal of Spain"), Francesco Caetani, nephew of the pope and Gentile Portino da Montefiore (1240-1312), Franciscan cardinal of S. Silvestro and S. Martino ai Monti, penitentiary of the pope. According to other sources also the palace of Theodoric of Orvieto was assaulted. The Cardinals saved themselves by fleeing from the back of their palaces, through the outhouse, but their dwellings were stripped of all goods.
The failure of the defense pushed Boniface to call for a truce, which was granted by Sciarra until the ninth hour, that is until early afternoon. During the truce, the pope would have sent messengers to the Anagni people, promising them rewards if they had helped him, but the response of his fellow citizens was that they relied on Adinolfo's will, to whom they had entrusted the fate of the city.
The pope then asked Sciarra what were the wrongs he complained, offering a reparation, but the answer was that the compensation had to be the delivery of all the treasure of the Roman Church in the hands of two or three deans of the College of Cardinals, Pietro and Giacomo Colonna and all other Colonna in their spiritual and material powers, the renunciation of the papacy and the surrender of the pope himself to the Colonna. The comment of the pope to these terms was: "alas what a tough speech".
Further mediation did not bring any results, so Sciarra and his men set fire to the gates of Santa Maria cathedral, which was an obstacle to the attackers, moreover robbing religious and lay people, especially cutlery merchants, which were in the vicinity. Inside the cathedral the Hungarian archbishop of Esztergom, Gergely Bicskei was murdered, killed by Orlando di Luparia from Anagni, son of Pietro, perhaps for a personal retaliation.
The current topography of Anagni doesn't comply with the dynamics of the events described by witnesses of the time: nowadays a large square lies between the Cathedral and the palace identified as that of Boniface, which doesn't allow to think that the church was actually an obstacle for those who intended to besiege the pope's palace. According to Fedele (1921a) the misunderstanding comes from a misinterpretation of the Latin chronicle, and the burning of the cathedral and the assault on the pope's palace were two separate incidents.
At this point the marquis Pietro Caetani surrendered, and was imprisoned in his palace in exchange for the safeness for himself and for his children, Roffredo, said "il Conticello" (the little count) and Benedetto, who also had tried to escape, and were detained in the house of Adinolfo Di Matteo (Fedele, 1921a). Cardinal Francesco Caetani, another nephew of the pope, had run away disguised as a valet, in a place near Anagni, but still was caught on the same day (Fedele, 1921a). The assailants, once had broken doors and windows, burst into his palace, setting it on fire in several places.
Nogaret maintained, in a testimony given in Paris exactly a year after the attack, that he didn't take part in the initial phase of the attack, because he found himself far away from the papal palace, perhaps in the house of Adinolfo, in order to negotiate with the marquis Pietro the capitulation of the pope, and for personal necessities ("propter necessitatem suae personae") (Fedele, 1921a).
In the palace of Boniface VIII at Anagni the "slap hall" is shown, where it's told that the incident occurred, but not all the contemporary sources report a real blow given to the pope when he was arrested, and therefore the "slap of Anagni" should be taken figuratively, as a serious humiliation inflicted to the head of the Church of Rome. Cardinal Niccolò di Boccassio, the future pope Benedict XI, who told the facts as if he had been present, however, refers to a real slap (manus in eum injecerunt impias), other sources report an assault with insults and bitter threats, to which the pope would not have replied.
If a slap was actually given it should probably be attributed to Sciarra Colonna, who at least would have tried to give it, though he was stopped in time. In the Chroniques de Saint-Denis the attempt by Sciarra to kill the pope is mentioned, driven by the hatred of his family, and blocked by Nogaret, who boasted of having saved him twice from the death and even not to have touched him nor having allowed that anybody touched him ("persona eius nec tetigi nec tangi feci") (Fedele, 1921a) also because he was anxious above all to consign the pope alive to Philip IV.
In the same chronicles is told that the pope was wounded in the face by a Colonna knight, while Dino Compagni (1255-1324) talks of an injury to the pontiff, that however would have occurred in Rome and was followed by the death of the pope (he was led to Rome where he was wounded in his head, and after some angry day he died) (II, XXXV). Dante Alighieri in his Divine Comedy doesn't mention Nogaret, just like the chronicle of St. Alban, that just talks about Sciarra. It seems clear, however, a contrast between the Colonna, with their local allies and the French on what to do, that is whether killing the pope or consigning him alive to the king of France. Sciarra would have then returned to the fray, slapping the pope even with a chain mail glove, managing to hit him and perhaps breaking his nose. William Hundleby wrote that the pope didn't suffer any physical harm, but perhaps he referred to visible damage (Lefèvre).
The attack occurred at the hour of vespers (around six in the evening); according to a version of the facts Boniface tried to feign to be dead to escape the arrest, but the strong character of the Pope suggest a more credible version, reported by Giovanni Villani, referring that the pope had waited for the conspirators sitting on the papal throne, wearing all the symbols of the papal power, and holding a crucifix, which he kissed repeatedly. According to the chronicle of Orvieto instead the pope was lying in bed when the assailants found him.
Nogaret, as seen, intervened later, and ordered the Pope to follow him in Lyon, where a council summoned by the king would have to depose him. The assailants had repeatedly ordered the pope to renounce the throne, but the pope responded "Ec le col, ec le cape", that is: "here's my neck, here's my head", meaning that he would die rather than abdicate. Boniface also said: "Nosco primogenitum sathane", that is "I recognize the firstborn of Satan", probably referred to Nogaret (Giammaria, 2004).
The pope also apostrophized Nogaret defining him as "son of Cathars", actually the Cathar minister Raymond de Nogaret, condemned as an heretic at the time of the Albigensian crusade, though not burned at the stake, could have been Guillaume's grandfather (Dossat). Boniface knew Nogaret because this had been sent by Philip IV as ambassador by the Pope in 1300; Nogaret had left a lively and colorful report of this experience.
It seems that only three or four members of the court of the pope remained with him, including Cardinal Nicholas of Boccassio, who became his successor, and the Cardinal of Spain, who was so faithful to him, that wanted to be buried at his feet (ad pedes dominus sui), two cubicularii, attendants in the personal service of the pope, a knight hospitaller and a knight templar, Giacomo Pocapaglia and Giovanni Fernandi, while others were killed or fled or joined the assailants shouting "long live the king of France and the Colonna, death to the pope and to the marquis" referring to Pietro Caetani, the pope's nephew. The attackers also plundered the property of the pope and the Caetani, so that the papal coffers were completely emptied and clothes, furnishings, gold and silver and all that they found were stolen. The attackers would have outraged the relics and damaged many documents from the archive of the pope (Tabularium) (Giammaria, 2004). According to Nogaret the sacking of the apartments of the pope was also made by the relatives and servants of the pope. Also the houses and the people of the Castello district, where the papal and the Caetani palaces lie, underwent looting (Giammaria, 2004). Also Symon Gerardus, banker of the pope was robbed of everything and barely saved his life. According to Hundleby no sovereign in the world bestowed in one year the riches that were stolen from the palaces of the pope and his associates in a few hours. According to estimates, the pope during his pontificate had amassed a fortune: 2,265,000 florins of income. As Boniface was informed about the pillage, commented: "Dominus dedit, Dominus abstulit" (God gave it to me, God took it out). The pope was locked in his room and guarded by numerous armed, but without being tied or chained; according to another chronicle he was imprisoned in the palace of Rinaldo da Supino.
Fawtier notes that references to the facts of Anagni are lacking in other contemporary documents, and considers it an evidence of the little importance given at the time to this incident. Fedele (1921a) thought instead that the attack against the pope aroused great emotion in Italy, as testified by Dante and several other contemporary sources. Cardinal Jacopo Gaetano Stefaneschi (1270-1343), who was not present at the outrage, in his Opus metricum, describes the event as a "great accident, sorrowful and iimmoral" (gravis alluvies, funesta et morbida).
Monday, September 9th, after three days of captivity in the palace of Anagni, Boniface and the marquis Pietro were freed by the armed Anagni population, that this time shouted "long live the pope, death to foreigners!" and drove the invaders out, with clashes that caused several casualties. The change of side of the inhabitants of Anagni seems to have occurred in the course of an assembly, to which neither Adinolfo nor the Colonna took part, which was convoked after the news that the attackers wanted to kill the pope was known. In the course of the meeting, among the inhabitants the fear arose of exposing Anagni before all Christendom as the city that had allowed the pope's capture, although he had done many wrong things in life, and it seemed that the best thing to do was then attacking the papal palace, moreover swearing that if the pope's jailers appointed by the captain and by Sciarra had opposed any resistance they hadn't left anyone alive. The action was probably very quick: between the assembly, held at nine, and the liberation of the pope only three hours passed (Giammaria, 2004).
Some believe that even the brutality, and in particular the pillage of the assailants soldiers towards Anagni people had contributed to the change of side of the population (Tolomeo da Lucca). Hundleby talks of a force of 10,000 armed men, but it seems excessive, since Anagni had a few thousand inhabitants (they were 3,200 in 1420). The liberators found resistance, but in the end, around noon, they were able to enter and drive out the occupiers, who had many losses; many people, in order to escape, jumped out of the window. Sciarra and his family were expelled from Anagni, among insults and threats of the inhabitants, while it's told that Rinaldo and Roberto di Supino, Adinolfo di Matteo and many others were captured. According to others also Nogaret was wounded (Orvieto manuscript) and forced to flee in Ferentino, while the French flag with the fleurs-de-lis would have been dragged through the mud (Giammaria, 2004).
Also the palaces of the pope's nephews were liberated. When a group of Anagni people was admitted to the pope's presence, one of them spoke on behalf of them all, asking him to allow them to guard his person until he was in danger. The pope raised his eyes and hands to heaven thanking God and the citizenry for having freed him from the danger of dying. The pope was brought by the Anagni people, who shouted "Long live the Holy Father!", to the cathedral square, adjacent to the palace, where he weeping thanked God and all the saints and the people of Anagni for saving his life. Boniface later asked for food and beverage since he was still whitout food, promising in exchange for absolution and forgiveness. The building was then invaded by a parade of people that brought him wine and food. According to Nogaret, however, the pope had had access to food and drink, and maybe he had not eaten for fear of being poisoned or to protest against the imprisonment.
Boniface allowed everyone who entered the building to talk to him, and complained of having being left deprived of all good, poor as Job; he specifically forgave all those who had stolen the goods of his own fortune, and would have acquitted anybody except for the plunderers of the properties of the church of Rome, of the cardinals and the other members of the curia, unless they had returned the stolen goods within three days. Part of the stolen goods were actually given back, but much remained in the hands of the plunderers. Boniface freed Rinaldo da Supino (Giammaria, 2004) and promised to make peace with his enemies, particularly the Colonna, and to reintegrate them into their material and spiritual goods.
The outcome of the Anagni crisis had repercussions throughout the area, up to Naples, with clashes between the Caetani and their allies against the enemy families who had retrieved the territories conquered by the Caetani (Giammaria, 2004).
The pope remained in the custody of the city hall of Anagni, until September 12th (or 13th) when unexpectedly and suddenly he returned to Rome, that he deemed the only place where he could save himself, given the large number of enemies who antagonised him. He moved escorted by a large number of his armed supporters, perhaps 400 (Guigniaut, De Wailly). This following arrived at Anagni to the rescue of the pope and contributed to his freeing (manuscript of Padua). The pope spent the night in the Lateran papal palace where he stayed for two days and the third day he moved to St. Peter. But even in Rome the situation was critical, even if the powerful Orsini family, a traditional rival of the Colonna, was then completely sided with the pope.
The Orsini historically controlled the north of Rome and the adjacent Campagna areas, on the roads Flaminia, Salaria and Cassia, while the Colonna, before the expansion of the Caetani, maintained the control of the south of the city and of the areas around the roads Appia, Prenestina and Casilina.
Many Romans were, however, against the pope and supported the Colonna, the senators of Rome had resigned, no judge was administering the law and everyone had to fend for themselves. The pope, terrified and traumatized, had barricaded himself in St. Peter's palace without receiving anyone, while the Vatican Curia was blocked, and no one could escape the city because on all sides there were bandits who robbed the passers-by. The pope, already suffering from kidney stones, died about a month after the slap on the night between 11th and 12th October 1303. Giovanni Villani (IX, 63) told: "the pain petrified in the heart of pope Boniface for the insult he received, caused him, as he reached Rome, a different sickness, so that he gnawed himself as if she were rabid, and in this state he passed away from this life".
The next day the pope was buried in St. Peter's Caetani chapel, in a funerary monument (see photo1, photo2 and survey) made by the great Arnolfo di Cambio. It is said that the day of the funeral a furious storm raged. This would also have happened at Orvieto, on the day he celebrated his first mass, as reported by the manuscript of Orvieto, and, in verse, by Jacopone da Todi ("When your first mass was then celebrated, the darkness fell throughout the territory, neither a lamp in the church was left illuminated, such a storm raged, where you had celebrated") (83: 35-38). These meteorological phenomena, supposing they actually occurred, were evidently interpreted as negative omens. Actually in Italy the autumn storms, including violent ones, are not rare, let alone supernatural.
The end of Boniface VIII, the last of Anagni popes, also caused the decline of the city, almost making true the curse of Benedict XI, the successor of Boniface, against his native city, which didn't defend him: "may the dew and the rain no longer fall upon thee; may they descend on other mountains because you , as a spectator and having the might to impede it, you left that mighty man fall and that belt of strength was overwhelmed " (Giammaria, 2004).
Dante and Boniface
Dante Alighieri also speaks of the Anagni slap in the Divine Comedy (Purgatorio, XX, 85-90): "to make the past and future evil look lesser, I see the fleur-de-lis burst into Anagni, and / instead of his Vicar Christ being seized. / I see him once more being mocked; / I see again the vinegar and gall, / and him amid alive robbers being killed".
The first-person narrator is Hugh Capet (941-996), founder of the dynasty of the Capetians ("root of the wicked plant") (id., 43), ancestor of Philip the Fair. Dante deplored the insult made by the France ("fleur-de-lis") to the Pope, in so far as Vicar of Christ, considering it an offense made to the same Christ by the king ("the new Pilate"), almost a new crucifixion, perpetrated with the support of the king, in spite of the subsequent dissociations ("the new Pilate") (id., 91). The verses echo the speech delivered in Perugia by Benedict XI, the successor of Boniface, on the occasion of the emanation of the bull of excommunication against the aggressors of Anagni. According to Fedele (1921a), Dante was present at the event, and was inspired by it.
All this despite the poet was decidedly hostile to Boniface VIII, who indirectly favored his exile from Florence, supporting the Black Guelph faction, and to the papal Curia, accused of trafficking in divine things ("where every day Christ is bought and sold") (Paradiso, XVII, 51).
Moreover Dante placed Boniface in his Comedy's Inferno, in the third Bolgia (XIX, 76-87), between the simonists, those who traded sacred things, who expiate their guilt being thrust in the ground upside-down and with their feet on fire. Dante places Boniface's arrival to hell in a period subsequent to his visit, and the event is foretold by Pope Nicholas III, who is in his turn condemned, and who announces the next arrival, in addition of Boniface, also of Clement V, defined as "a shepherd with no law" (id., 83).
Pope Nicholas, talking to Dante, but thinking to speak to Bonifacio, asks him whether he isn't already sate of those riches for which he didn't fear to deceive and plunder the Church of Rome ("the beautiful woman") "Se tu sì tosto di quellaver sazio, per lo qual non temesti tòrre a nganno, la bella donna, e poi di farne strazio?" ("are you finally sate of those riches, for which you weren't afraid to deceive the beautiful woman, and then to torment her") (id., 52-57). Dante also gets Saint Peter's talk, defining Boniface as "The one who usurps my place on earth, my place, my place, my vacant place, in the presence of the son of God, made of my cemetery a sewer of blood and stench, where the perverse who tumbled down from here, appeases himself", with the last verse referring to the Devil, who delights in the corruption of the Church (Paradiso, XXVII, 22-27). Even the verse: "the bride of Christ was not raised / on my blood, on Linus', or Cletus' / to be used to purchase gold" (id, 40-42) is a polemic against Boniface VIII for his tendency to enrich himself benefitting from the office of pope, in opposition to the early popes, Peter, Linus and Cletus, who had given blood for the Church.
In another canto, Dante entrusts the troubadour and bishop Folquet de Marselha the task of cursing the lust for money that, arisen from Florence, had corrupted the pope and cardinals, so that they didn't take care of the religion any more: "do not go their thoughts in Nazareth, there where Gabriel opened the wings" (Paradiso, IX, 136-138). The pope, although not explicitly mentioned, is Boniface VIII, and the poet foresees his imminent end: "But the Vatican and the other distinguished parts of Rome, which have been the cemetery, for the rank that followed Peter, shall soon be free from the adulterer" (id, 139-142).
Another reference to Boniface is in Canto XXVII of Inferno, where Guido da Montefeltro blames the pope for having pushed him to fall again into sin ("the High Priest, evil to him!, that set me back on my former sins") (70-71), earning eternal damnation. Guido had redeemed himself from a sinful life as a mercenary captain, becoming a monk, but Boniface had forced or persuaded him (by promising absolution) to make his expertise available, giving advice ("fraudulent advice") (id., 116) on how to conquer the Colonna stronghold of Palestrina, among other promising clemency to the inhabitants in case of surrender, and then not honoring his pledge. A part of the historians doesn't believe that this betrayal actually occurred (Fedele, 1921b). Guido blames Bonifacio also for having made war to the "neighbors" Colonna, instead of fighting against the followers of other religions: "the Prince of the modern Pharisees makes war near the Lateran, and not against Saracens nor with the Jews" (id, 85-87).
After the slap
After the Anagni slap and the death of Boniface VIII, the contrast between the Church and Philip the Fair diminished, but the new Pope Benedict XI, the Dominican from Treviso Niccolò Boccassio, who as a cardinal had possibly witnessed the assault of Anagni, in a bull of November 6th, 1303, fifteen days after his election as pope, and after two months from the outrage, blamed the "many children of iniquity, the firstborn of Satan and disciples of iniquity" who had "brutally beaten up" his predecessor and robbed him the treasury of the Church. If these sacrilegious had not given the stolen goods back, they would have been excommunicated at the sound of the bells and with the candles blown out (Fedele, 1921a).
Benedict had instead left the conspirators out from the general absolution of May 12th, 1304 and had explicitly condemned them with the bull Flagitiosum scelus of June 7th, 1304, issued from Perugia, excommunicating the fifteen ringleaders of the conspiracy, holding them up to the revenge of Christianity, and condemning the city of Anagni, that had allowed the insult to the pope. With the bull, the pope summoned the excommunicated to his presence for June 29th, St. Peter and Paul's day, for having laid hands on the pope, attacking him also verbally with blasphemous and outrageous sentences. On the same day, in a square of Perugia, the pontiff had spoken to the crowd, blaming the attack made to the vicar of Christ, comparing his fate to that of Christ in the hands of Pilate and his soldiers.
The pope anyway eased the conflict with Philip the Fair, treating him as legitimate sovereign, since in any case the excommunication had not been published. A month before was maybe the same Boccassio who induced Boniface VIII to forgive his attackers, in his speech to the people of Anagni after his liberation.
The reaction of Anagni people to the anathema of the new pope was a trial, filed against the participants to the aggression against Boniface, who were banished forever from Anagni, under penalty of decapitation if they returned, and all their goods were confiscated. These sanctions were not subject to revocation, but whoever had proposed to the council or to the parliament the recall in the city of the convicted, would have been sentenced to a fine of a thousand florins, or to decapitation. This sentence was probably markedly influenced by Pope Benedict's bull (Fedele, 1921a).
The bull Flagitiosum scelus caused big reactions in Europe, on June 23rd the King of Naples Charles II of Anjou inveighed against the detestable naughtiness (detestabilis malignitas) defined as execrable hazard ("exsecrabilis ausus") committed against Pope Boniface, prohibiting with threats his subjects to support the conspirators and ordering to denounce those of them who had taken refuge in the kingdom and to seize any property stolen to the treasury of the Church (Fedele, 1921a).
The situation turned in favor of France when on July 7th, 1304, a month after the bull, the brief pontificate of Benedict XI ended in Perugia: the pope died of indigestion from figs. Villani (IX, 80) refers of rumors of poisoning by a man, disguised as a woman in order to appease his mistrust, who had offered the pope figs. The new conclave after eleven months (June 5th, 1305) elected as pope, with the name of Clement V, the archbishop of Bordeaux, Bernard de Got (1264-1314), who transferred the papacy to Avignon, where it lasted until 1377. On December 17th, 1305, the pope reinstated Giacomo Colonna on his cardinal's jurisdiction and so did on 2nd February, 1306 with Pietro Colonna, and on March 25th, 1307 overturned or even ignored the condemnations against the King of France, with the bull Tunc navis Petri.
On April 27th, 1311 Guillaume of Nogaret obtained from Clement V, with the bull Rex gloriae, (or "Ad certitudinem praesentium") the absolution "ad cautelam" for the participants of the Anagni incident, which had been denied by his predecessor, distinguishing the imprisonment (the «captio») from the physical aggression («aggressio vel insultus tactus in Bonifacium»). Clement agreed the destruction of the papal documents against the king, abrading the dangerous parts or cutting whole pages (Frale). With the bull the King of France was ordered to pay the costs of the trial, set in 100,000 gold florins. Nogaret had been gratified by the king for the endeavour, with the allocation of a large amount of money and land.
In exchange for the absolution, the Pope asked the participation at the next crusade and a certain number of pilgrimages in Spain and France. However Guillaume didn't do anything of that.
In order to avoid the danger of a possible publication of the bull of excommunication, Philip the Fair, brought a case against the late Boniface VIII to prove he was a heretic and therefore to make his body burn, so as to nullify the effects of the bull. At the trial, which began in Avignon in September 1309, attended many witnesses caming from Italy, who anyway harboured bitterness towards Boniface VIII and who reported episodes of witchcraft fitting even too much to the stereotype of the topic and telling of blasphemous and heretical phrases said by Benedetto Caetani before and after his election to the papacy, releasing testimonies so much similar among them that they seemed arranged.
Both Rinaldo da Supino and Guillaume de Nogaret tried to dissociate themselves from Sciarra Colonna, and then from the violence against the pope. Rinaldo avoided to mention Sciarra, while Nogaret denied that he was aware of the contrasts between the pope and the Colonna (Fedele, 1921a, 1921b).
Clement V opposed the posthumous condemnation of his predecessor Boniface, that would have cancelled all his deeds and his decisions, including those with civil effects, with serious damage to many citizens. The charges were of blasphemy, atheism, sorcery, sodomy, lust, abusing children and having impregnated two nieces, whose children he had later appointed cardinal. No credible evidence had been brought to these allegations. In the summer of 1310 Clement opposed to allegations of a sexual nature which, by the way, weren't in tune with the advanced age of the pope, and urged to focus only on the charges of heresy.
The facts of Anagni are described in different narrations, some of which appear as written by witnesses of the events:
- Flagitiosus scelus. bull of pope Benedict XI, in the world Niccolò di Boccassio, successor of Boniface VIII, who was then Cardinal and tells the facts as they occurred before his very eyes (in nostris etiam oculi).
- De horribili insultatione et depredatione Bonefacii pape. British Museum Manuscript Reg. XIV, c., I, published in Paris in 1872 by baron Joseph Kervyn de Lettenhove on the Revue des question historiques. The manuscript was made in St Albans Abbey, near London, by the Benedictine monk William Rishanger, known as "Chronigraphus", who had copied it at the end of his annals of the reign of Edward I. The unknown author describes the events as if he had been there and refers he was born in Cesana. In Italy there are three places named Cesana, one in Piedmont, in the Susa Valley, one in Lombardy, province of Lecco, and one in Veneto, province of Belluno. However it is possible that the reference is wrong, and the author was born in Cesena, in Romagna.
- Vienne Manuscript. Drawn up by a person who defines himself a member of the papal court and eyewitness of the events of Anagni, probably between 1306 and 1311. It would therefore be a narration of events he lived a few years before, but based on a letter written in the immediacy of the facts, since it doesn't mention the death of Boniface VIII, occurred just over a month after the Anagni assault. It was purchased in Vienne (Dauphiné, France) in 1696 and became part of the collection of Jean Caulet bishop of Grenoble, and then of the Library of the same city of Isère department.
- Memorandum quod anno domini M°CCC° tercio. A report written on September 27th, 1303 in Rome by William Hundleby, solicitor at the Roman Curia of the bishop of Lincoln John Dalderby and kept at the British Museum (Manuscript Royal CI, fol. 12) and at All Souls College, Oxford (manuscript 39 , fol 117b-120b). The source doesn't mention Guillaume de Nogaret.
- Nuova Cronica. by Giovanni Villani (12761348), Florentine, compiled since 1300, according to the author, that does not declare to be an eyewitness of the slap.
- Ferreti, poetae vicentini, suorum et paulo ante actorum temporum historia, by Ferretto Vicentino (Ferreto dei Ferreti, 1297-1337). Obviously he doesn't write as an eyewitness, for a question of age, and oftentime reports inaccurate news.
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