1310-1370. Sixth pope from 1362 of the Avignonese line. Born Guillaume de Grimoard, of a noble family at Grisac, he was placed in the Benedictine monastery of Chirac as a child. He studied at Montpellier, Toulouse, Avignon, and Paris and taught canon law before becoming abbot of St.-Germain at Auxerre in 1352, and then of St.-Victor at Marseilles in 1361. His election as pope in 1362 resolved an impasse in the Curia. The fact that-though he had served on papal missions to Italy-unlike his predecessors he had no previous high administrative experience contributed both to his strengths and his weaknesses. His choice of the name “Urban” signaled his identification with both the initiator of the crusades and the original seat of the Holy See.
As pope he was a moderate reformer, living an exemplary monastic life in the papal palace, an overly generous patron and builder, especially devoted to educational projects. A methodical canon lawyer, he continued the policy of centralizing the ecclesiastical administration, and improved the papal palace at Avignon, adding gardens in good Benedictine fashion. His hopes of ending the conflict in the West and renewing the Crusade seemed in sight of fulfillment following the Peace of Bretigny and his humiliating peace with the Visconti, and encouraged his premature return to Rome in 1367. There he accepted the submission of Emperor John V Palaeologus and received Charles IV. The renewal of the Hundred Years' War forced his return to Avignon, where he died. Praised even by Petrarch, that captious critic of the Avignonese papacy, Urban is the only one of the Avignonese popes to have been beatified (1870).