Episode 18 AD 1276-1347

The Avignon Papacy and the origin of the Renaissance

After Acre fell in 1291, it was to be more than a hundred years before European princes would undertake another major Crusade. Why was this so?
In this episode we see the emergence of Ottoman power in north-west Anatolia, sealing the permanent civilizational loss of Graeco-Roman Asia Minor to Christendom.
Europe, in contrast, appeared to be powerful and united under papal leadership, as the Republic of Christendom. But within European society, deep political changes were afoot that would lead to centuries of internal civil war and paralysis vis-à-vis the wider Mediterranean world.

Contents of the video (1 hour & 10 mins.)

  • The fall of Acre ended the Crusades: for the next four centuries the call to Crusade was to defend against the advance of the Turks bearing the banner of Islam.
  • There remained the Latin presence in the eastern Mediterranean, in Greece, Cyprus, Rhodes and especially the chain of fortress ports of the two great mercantile empires of Venice and Genoa.
  • The Mongols shattered the Seljuk Turks in eastern Anatolia, unleashing a new power dynamic among the Turkic tribes of western Anatolia, from whom the Osmanlis (Ottomans) emerged victorious.
  • The Ottoman Turks conquer Roman Bithynia and make Bursa their capital.
  • Constantinople was now a Balkan city, losing its hold over Serbia and Bulgaria. The still proud Roman Empire was reduced to barely more than the city and its suburbs. Christian Asia Minor slowly died during the 1300s, and accepted its fate as a Turco-Islamic society.
  • Repeatedly, from 1274 until 1453, the Emperors at Constantinople offered Church unity (submission to Rome in some form) in return for military salvation by the West. They were always opposed by their Orthodox clergy and the populace.
  • The mechanism of European power politics rose to a higher level of intensity during the 1300s, disrupting papal authority and threatening its very security. As the church tightened its hold on the administration of its legal and fiscal claims, so too did the princes, who learned from it. The trained men produced by the universities provided the personnel. Old liberties and exemptions were questioned everywhere.
  • The key to military power for the princes became access to new revenues, to pay for the now formidable armies of mercenaries. Church revenues were the most tempting source for such princes, of whom King Philippe le Bel of France was the clearest example.
  • A dispute over church revenues in France led to a clash between Philippe le Bel and pope Boniface VIII. This weakened the papacy and saw the rise of the papal Curia. A newly-elected pope, fearing the state of near-anarchy in the city of Rome, settled his court at Avignon.
  • Outrage at Rome and among Italian intellectuals prompted research into, and re-assertion of, Rome and Italy’s ancient cultural prestige. This movement ignited the cult of Antiquity and a new exaltation of ancient Rome’s pagan authors. This is the real source of the Renaissance, in the mid-1300s.
  • Kings Eduard of England and Philippe of France systematised the vertical integration of their sovereignties by imposing jurisdictional exclusivity, causing conflicts between them in Aquitaine.
  • This conflict developed into the Hundred Years War, a civil war among people of French language and culture.

Now with the audio-only version included

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