In her book Poets, Saints, and Visionaries of the Great Schism, 1378-1417 (Pennsylvania State University Press, 2006) Renate Blumenfeld-Kosinski shows that the Great Schism in the Western Church prompted open anger from late medieval French writers but not from their English counterparts. An exception is the generally anti-Curial John Wyclif, but he only proves Blumenfeld-Kosinski’s rule that orthodox English commentators rarely remarked on the Schism as such. Their silence, however, was not total. Tacitly and indirectly, Geoffrey Chaucer, William Langland, Thomas Walsingham, Margery Kempe, and other authors portrayed a Rome afflicted by a kind of ‘borderline disorder’. Although this malaise did not prevent the Papacy from conferring spiritual legitimacy, it did add new urgency to English literary efforts (dating back to the Venerable Bede) to challenge a traditional Rome-centred worldview that relegated Britannia to merely peripheral importance.
The papacy represents a wide influence in medieval society. Therefore, universities would generally yield to papacy intervention. Innocent IV’s interference in the conflict between secular and regular masters at the University of Paris shows its borders permeability to power. This paper intends to analyze this problem reading three letters from the Pope (‘Chartularium Universitatis Parisiensis’,[DENIFLE, 1964]) addressed to masters. We will also consider these documents as expressions of the 1240s-1250s French movement, when mendicant masters gradually extended their power to the political levels inside institution, provoking secular teachers, who reacted in a confrontational way.
Augustine of Ancona’s Summa de potestate ecclesiastica famously declared that the power of the Pope stood above secular power not only because it was directly sanctioned by God, but also because the latter (formerly represented by the emperor) was becoming increasingly fragmented by national borders, while the papacy remained a truly universal agent. Reading Augustine in this post-imperial context makes it easier to understand why several modern interpretations suggest that ‘the state and secular spirit conquered their spheres of power in a fierce battle against the Holy Empire’ and not primarily against the Church, their perhaps unintended ally in this battle.