Read this article to learn about the Clash between Philip the Fair and Pope Boniface!
Dante was an outspoken thinker of anti-papalism but he failed to appreciate the importance of the nascent nation-state which was engulfing the political scene of Western Europe.
The rise of the nation-state and people’s increasing sympathy towards it ultimately made possible the enhancement in the power of the emperor and cornered the papacy. This was particularly discernible in France—towards the fag end of the 13th century. The most remarkable event of this period (end of 13th century and beginning of the 14th century) was the conflict between Pope Boniface VIII (1294-1303) and Philip the Fair, king of France. The conflict was both interesting and complicated and had far-reaching repercussions. Let us now see the nature of the conflict.
The main cause of the controversy was the power to impose taxation. As a result of the disintegration of feudalism, the administrative responsibility of both the English and French emperors increased considerably, and this needed a large amount of money.
Since the church was the owner of fabulous amount of property and was not paying any tax, the French king proceeded to impose new taxes upon the property of the church. This infuriated the Pope.
On the other hand, the ambitious church wanted to get more and more money by adopting various means. Pope Boniface declared that the mundane authority had no right to levy taxes upon the church and, if at all levied, he was not bound to pay it. He also directed the clergy not to pay any taxes.
On the opposite side stood the king of France—Philip the Fair. He said that the church had no power to collect any revenue or money in any form from the public without his permission.
His argument was that the French king was the undisputed authority over all temporal matters. He could not recognize a financial state within a state. He further said that political sovereignty was meaningless without tax sovereignty.
In 1302, Pope Boniface issued the Bull Unam Sanctum. In this, Pope Boniface admitted the existence of two swords—one would remain at the hands of the king and the other at the hands of the Pope. But both would be fully controlled by the Pope. That is, the temporal authority would not be allowed to use the sword according to its necessity.
He further declared that the temporal authority, because of its errors, would be judged by the spiritual authority. But in case of any mistake on the part of the spiritual authority, the temporal power had no right to judge. The declaration of Boniface raised the conflict to the apex point. The French king Philip the Fair accepted the challenge and proceeded to take action.
Philip the Fair brought twenty-nine charges against Boniface and he received overwhelming support from all sections of French society. This encouraged him and he launched a coup against Boniface. The Pope suffered the severest humiliation at the hands of the king and after a few weeks he died.
The victory of Philip the Fair over Boniface undoubtedly established the supremacy of the monarch over his own domain and the Pope had nothing to do. Again, the church’s unlimited lust for money was halted by the king and this was not temporary. The controversy made the moral position of the French monarch stronger.
The death of Boniface, however, failed to satisfy Philip the Fair and other anti-papalists. They moved to condemn his post mortem. This move embarrassed Pope Clement, who succeeded Boniface.
In order to appease the anti-papalist sentiment and to save the church from scandal, Pope Clement instituted a commission for investigation and simultaneously annulled all the announcements of Boniface.
Philip the Fair was highly praised by Pope Clement for his bold stand against Boniface. A very long chapter of controversy between the church and the state came to an end.