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The Church had held sway over medieval society for centuries but it began to lose its grip in the fourteenth century It was not only that it could not explain nor prevent the calamities that swept through the century it was enduring its own calamities The Church was at its strongest in the thirteenth century but within a few years of entering the fourteenth it entered a series of crises that would all but destroy it and certainly destroyed its hold over the minds and hearts of many Europeans 1 The Babylonian Captivity This is something that forms part of the plot of The Nameless Day One of the great medieval popes Boniface VIII died in 1303 For many years he had been engaged in a power struggle with the French King Philip IV When Boniface died Philip seized the opportunity to influence the subsequent papal election so that his own man Clement V took the papal throne there was a brief interval when someone else was elected but he lived less than a year Clement promptly removed the entire papacy from Rome to the French-controlled town of Avignon where the papacy remained for over 70 years All Europe believed that during this time the papacy was controlled by the French monarchy - indeed the majority of papal officials including the cardinals from among whom a new pope was always elected were Frenchmen The era when the popes lived in Avignon is known as the Babylonian Captivity and the papacy lost a great deal of respect during this time as most people believed the pope t he mouthpiece of the French monarchy rather than of God 2 The Great Schism Worse was to follow when Gregory XI returned to Rome in 1377 No-one knows whether Gregory meant to this to be a permanent move back home but he fortuitously died while in Rome and a papal election was held in the Hall of
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