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Babylonian Captivity

A pejorative term originating in the inferences of Italian patriots such as Dante and Petrarch that the popes at Avignon* were the captives of the French kings (cf. 2 Kings 24:14-16; 25:11). The popes in fact remained there because Italy was unsafe. The papacy only legally owned Avignon from 1348. Benedict XII (1334-42) and Clement VI (1342-52) built the papal palace to house their expanding administrations-to which development John XXII's pontificate (1316-34) had greatly contributed. Clement VI was responsible for the biggest and finest rooms. The Avignon period was not sterile; apart from administrative developments it removed the popes from incessantly distracting Italian strife. Geographically, moreover, Avignon was more central. The popes never relinquished the desire to return to Italy, devoting large budgets, diplomacy, and force to this end. Though individual popes returned temporarily, it was Cardinal Albornoz's pacification of the Papal States* which decided for Gregory XI that Rome was safe enough for permanent residence in 1377.

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  • Exile
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