Pope Boniface IX was the 203rd pope and reigned from 1389 to 1404. He was pope during a period called the Western Schism where the Church was divided. This article looks at his rule and the life of Boniface IX before he became the pope.
Born in Naples somewhere between 1348 and 1350, the future pope was named Pietro at birth. He also used similar names, including Piero and Perino. His family moved from Genoa to Naples and settled there before his birth. A medieval historian from the modern era stated that Pietro was illiterate and had no formal training, though no records show this. Pope Urban IV made him a cardinal in 1381. He was consecrated in 1389.
Pietro became pope during the Western Schism. Clement VII claimed that he was the rightful pope after the election of Pope Urban VI. French cardinals would later elect Benedict XIII in direct opposition to the Church in Rome. At the Papal Enclave of 1389, Roman cardinals elected Pietro as their new pope. He chose the name Boniface IX.
Though Benedict XIII claimed that he was the true pope, the people of Rome sided with Pope Boniface IX. Due to issues in Rome, he spent most of his time outside of the city. He lived in both Perugia and Assisi. King Richard II of England and several leaders from other countries urged the pope to abdicate the throne and give it to Benedict XIII. He would instead oversee the jubilee celebrations in the city and rally some to lead a new crusade to little avail.
During his later years, the pope sided with Rupert as the new King of Germany. He also issued a decree regarding how the Church could sell property. In 1404, he came down with an illness that caused him to spend several days in bed. Despite resting and taking care of himself, he never recovered. Pope Boniface IX died on October 1 of 1404.
Quick Facts About Pope Boniface IX
- He was born circa 1348 to 1350 in Naples, which was part of the Kingdom of Naples at the time.
- His birth name was Pietro Cybo Tomacelli.
- The pope died on October 1, 1404.
- He was between the ages of 53 and 54 when he died of what was a short illness.
- His papacy began on November 2, 1389.
- The papacy of Pope Boniface IX ended at the time of his death.
- He was succeeded by Pope Innocent VII.
Interesting Facts About Pope Boniface IX
- Though Benedict XIII reigned for more than 28 years, he was never a true pope. The Church named him an antipope and still regards him as one today. He would outlive several popes as well as other antipopes.
- Despite several people asking him to step down, Pope Boniface IX was pope for 14 years and 334 days. Had he not passed away from an illness, he likely would have kept the position.
- Religious and other texts from the time claim that the pope accepted money and gifts from others. Most of the gifts he received went to his family.
- Benedict XIII sent an envoy of men to Rome to discuss possibly ending the schism. As he requested that Boniface IX step down from his position, he refused and sent the men away.
- Pope Boniface IX was pope for longer than the next four men who held the role as well as several antipopes.
- When a group of penitents headed towards Rome, Boniface IX had their leader abducted and then burned at the stake. The man’s followers then quickly left the city.