From the beginning of his reign Celestine had been concerned about the conduct of conclaves. The history of his own election, which had taken two years and three months, showed that neglect of the rules laid down by Pope Gregory X at the Council of Lyons in 1294 led to disorder. In a letter to King Charles II of Sicily, dated October 22, 1294 (Raynaldus, s.a. 1294, xvii; p. 154 col. 1) Celestine admits that several cardinals were afraid to enter the territories of King Charles at that time because they feared being kept there and denied the free election of a future pope. Charles had had to swear an oath through his procurator at the Papal Curia that he would not impede the cardinals from coming and going freely in his domains. Charles' lack of sincerity is shown by the fact that he immediately began to put pressure on the Pope to absolve him of his promise. The Pope succumbed, of course, and Charles was released to work his mischief. To say the very least, Charles of Sicily might well be the Custodian of the next conclave upon Celestine's death. As events turned out, he was, to say the least, present.
On September 18, 1294, three weeks after his coronation, Celestine V created twelve new cardinals (a partial list of six, those marked with an asterisk (*) below, is provided by Ptolemy of Lucca, in Reynaldus, sub anno 1264, xvi; p. 153. See Eubel, Hierarchia Catholica I second edition, p. 11-12):
The creation of a thirteenth cardinal caused a scandal. One evening after dinner, Pope Celestine simply named the Archbishop of Benevento a cardinal without any of the customary ceremonies of consultation of the Cardinals in consistory. The creation arroused such an outcry from the cardinals that the Archbishop had to resign his irregular appointment and submit to an election according to the traditional forms (Reynaldus, p. 154; Tosti, p. 69).
On September 28, Celestine issued a Constitution entitled Quia in futurorum (issued from Aquila, IV Kal. Octobris; Raynaldus, p. 153 column 2), recalling the good arrangements for conclaves issued by Gregory X at Lyons, and then the suspension of these regulations by Adrian V and John XXI, which led the Church into grave dangers because of the vacancy in the papal throne. He annulled the suspension of the Conclave Regulations of Gregory X by his predecessors.
A few days before his abdication, on December 10, 1294, Celestine issued yet another Constitution, in which he repeated his annulments and restorations (datum Neapoli IV. Id. Decembris: Raynaldus, p. 154 col. 2):
Constitutionem felicis recordationis Gregorii Papae X. praedecessoris nostri factam in generali concilio Lugdunensi, quae post obitum summi Pontificis ad cogendos Cardinales S. R. E. pro electione pastoris certum modum et formal seriosae auctationis indixit, per felicis recordationis Adrianum V. Praedecessorem nostrum suspensam, et ejusdem recordationis Joannem XXI. praedecessorem nostrum similiter (ut audivimus) revocatam, integraliter et in omnibus suis partibus ejusque substantiam et effectum, sicut ab ipso constituente fuit edita, firmum perpetuumque decernimus habere vigorem: seu summus Pontifex rebus subtrahatur humanis sive renuntiet, vel quocumque modo sedes Apostolica vacet...
It became apparent immediately upon Celestine assuming the papal tiara that the job was wrong for the man, and the man was wrong for the job. Cardinals began to complain, and (in Ptolemy's words) stimulatur ab aliquibus Cardinalibus, quod papatu cedat. Celestine longed to return to his solitary life, and actually had a facsimile of his hut on Monte Murrone built in the papal apartments of the Castel Nuovo in Naples. He summoned advisors and legal experts, and asked for opinions as to whether he could resign the Papacy. They provided him with examples of earlier pontiffs who had resigned. The Anonymous of Paris 5375 reports (§ 34, p. 172):
Adveniente vero quadragesima sancti Martini, ille sanctus papa decrevit solus manere et orationi vacare. Fecit sibi fieri cellam ligneam intra cameram et coepit ibi solus manere, sicut antea facera consueverat. Et sic in illa coepit cogitare de onere quod portabat, si quo modo posset illud abiecere absque periculo. Et sic convocavit aliquos prudentes et jurisperitos, qui dederunt sibi consilium et auxilium et favorem, quod posset libere hoc facere et dederunt eidem exempla aliquorum pontificum qui renuntiaverunt. Hoc ille audito quod posset papatui renuntiare, ita in hoc consilio firmavit cor suum quod nullus potuit illum removere. Et hoc fratribus secum manentibus abscondebat ne forte illum impedirent.
His brothers in the Celestine Order did attempt to dissuade Celestine, but to no effect. On December 6, the Feast of St. Nicholas, there was a demonstration in front of the papal residence, arranged by King Charles of Sicily and led by the Archbishop of Naples (Philippus Capece Minutolo), in favor of the Pope retaining his throne. Ptolemy of Lucca was a participant in and witness of the event (Ptolemy of Lucca, in his Historia Ecclesiastica, quoted in Reynaldus, sub anno 1294, xviii; p. 155). There was even a colloquy between a bishop among the demonstrators, speaking on behalf of the King, and a bishop up on a balcony where the Pope was watching, speaking for Pope Celestine:
... quidam de collegio, jam incipiunt querulari, et ecclesiae fluctuationi attendere, ac etiam eidem Pontifici insinuare sub praetextu sua sanctitatis quantum sibi periculum imminebat. Interim autem Rex Carolus, ut tradunt, ordinavit cum Caelestino sive cum beneplacito collegii factum est, quod curia transferretur Neapolim. Vadens igitur illuc multum stimulatur ab aliquibus Cardinalibus, quod papatu cedat, quod etiam Roma sub ipso periclitatur, et sub eo confunditur. Quibus stimulis concitatur sanctus Pater. Quod cum perpendisset Rex et clerus, mandat fieri processionem a majori ecclesia usque ad castrum Regis: cui processioni ego interfui. Ubi convenerunt multi episcopi regionis, omnes religiosi, et totus clerus, cumque pervenisset processio ad dictum castrum ubi dictus Pontifex morabatur, eclamavimus more solito pro benedictione: ipse vero pro reverentia processionis ad fenestram accessit cum tribus episcopis. Data igitur benedictione, unus episcopus processionis praedictae a sancto Pontifice audientiam petit, loquens in persona Regis, et totius regni quantum ad clerum et populum, me praesente, supplicans humiliter eidem vice et nomine omnium supradictorum, voce altissima et tubali, quia processio tota audierat inferius in platea, Papa autem superius in fenestra; quod cum ipse esset gloria dicti regni, nulla per suasione ad resignandum consentiret. Ad quae verba ex pandato Papae unus ex episcopis, qui cum ipso erat, respondit, quod non intendebat, nisi aliud appareret, unde conscientia urgeretur. Tunc dictus episcopus prolocutor pro Rege et regno alte incipit Te Deum Latudamus, et tota processio prosequitur ipsum usque in finem: et ad propria redeunt: quod fuit quidem, ut mihi constat, circa festum beati Nicolai. Hoc autem non obstante, adhuc aliqui Cardinales mordaciter infestant, quod periculum animae suae papatum tenebat propter inconvenientia et mala quae sequebantur ex suo regimine: ad quae verba movetur sanctus.
The bishop stated on the Pope's behalf that he would go where his conscience directed him. There was more pressure on him that he should resign. Ptolemy of Lucca says (Raynaldus, p. 156), Dominus Benedictus cum aliquibus cardinalibus Caelestino persuasit ut officio cedat quia propter simplicitatem suam, licet sanctus vir, et vitae magni foret exempli, saepius adversis confundabantur ecclesiae in gratiis faciendis et circa regimen orbis. Cardinal Caetani, in fact, made no secret of his low opinion of the way Celestine and his entourage did business. In a letter of April 8, 1295 (Baronius-Theiner, sub anno 1341, pp. 273-274), the new Pope stated that, while he was still in Naples, in answer to Celestine's own pleas and in consideration of the massive fraud involved, he was revoking all of Celestine's enactments which male fecerat; the document contains a bold statement of Celestine's incompetence:
Olim Caelestinus papa V antecessor noster, devictus instantia et ambitione nimia plurimorum, ignarus eorum quae et juris debitum et gravitas pastoralis cui praesidebat officii requirebant; seductus insuper atque deceptus per captiosam astutiam et deceptabilem aliquorum, fecit diversa et concessit varia minus digne inordinata et insolita, quorum aliqua subticemus ex causa, sub cujus Bulla nonnulla, ut fertur, praeter ipsius conscientiam transierunt, quae non indigne, quinimo necessario liman Apostolicae correctionis exposcunt. Quapropter antecessor ipse, suam insufficientiam ad portandum summi Pontificii onera diligenter attendens et defectum quinimo periculum ex hoc pati universalem Ecclesiam recognoscens, urgente conscientia, coram collegio fratrum suorum S. R. E. cardinalium, de quorum numero tunc eramus, papatui pure et absolute renuntiavit, ejusque oneri et honori in ipsis sibi nihil omnino retinens vel reservans, et humiliter postulavit et voluit, ut quae per ipsorum improvide facta fuerunt, futurus ejus successor provide revocaret: ac postquam fuimus ad apicem Summi Apostolatus assumpti, nobis cum adhuc essemus Neapoli preces fudit ut revocare quae ipse male fecerat, curaremus.
Finally, on December 13, 1294, the Feast of Saint Lucy, Celestine held a Consistory, prepared to renounce his office. Seating himself on his papal throne, he first ordered the cardinals not to interrupt him. He took up a paper and began to read the document of renunciation (Anonymous of Paris 5375 § 34, p. 173; Raynaldus, xix, p. 155-156):
Ego, Caelestinus Papa V. motus ex legitimis causis, id est causa humilitatis, et melioris vitae, et conscientiae illaesae, debilitate corporis, defectu scientiae, et malignitate plebis, et informitate personae, et ut praeteritae consolationis vitae possim reparare quietem, sponte ac libere cedo papatui, et expresse renuncio loco et dignitati, oneri et honori, dans plenam et liberam facultatem ex numc sacro coetui Cardinalium eligendi et providendi dumtaxat canonice universali Ecclesiae de Pastore.
Then, coming down from his throne, he removed his ring, crown, and mantle, and sat down on the ground. It is sometimes alleged that Cardinal Caetani, not Celestine, was the author of the document. But there is also the statement that he requested opinions from several persons in the Roman curia as to whether a pope could resign.
According to Ptolemy of Lucca, twenty-two cardinals participated in the papal election of December, 1294 (Tosti, 75, 77). Since the death of Pope Nicholas IV on April 4, 1292, three cardinals had died: Latino Malabranca Orsini, Jean Cholet, and Francesco Ronci (Eubel I second edition, p. 12 no. 12 and note 9). There were, therefore, eleven 'old' cardinals, who had elected Celestine, and twelve cardinals who had been created by Celestine (Eubel Hierarchia Catholica I second edition, p. 12 n 9; Tosti, p. 75). Eight of the electors were monks, eight were French, five were Romans.
There are five contemporary sources for the Conclave of December, 1294:
(1) Ptolemy of Lucca, author of the Historia Ecclesiastica, who was present in Naples in December of 1294 and participated in the demonstration before Pope Celestine in favor of his remaining as Pope by the Neapolitans on December 6.
(2) Jacopo Gaetani Stefaneschi (named a Cardinal on December 17, 1295), author of the "Opus Metricum", who was Auditor of the Rota, Canon of St. Peter's, and Subdeacon of the Holy Roman Church in the Curia of Celestine V. He was in Naples in December of 1294 and writes as an eyewitness to the events.
(3) The anonymous author of the Paris manuscript number 5375, who was not present, but who states that he received information in letters from Cardinal Thomas de Roca Morici, who was a participant in the Conclave of 1294 and the other events of 1294 and 1295.
(4) Boniface VIII (Cardinal Benedetto Caetani), who gives his own account of his election in his electoral manifesto, Gloriosus et mirabilis, issued from the Lateran on January 23, 1295, the day after his coronation.
(5) The manifestos published by the Colonna Cardinals, Jacopo and and Pietro (uncle and nephew), who subsequently protested the resignation of Celestine V as uncanonical and the election of Boniface VIII as illicit, on the grounds that the Pope (Celestine) was still alive. Both, however, had participated in the Conclave that elected Boniface, and had seen their own ambitions defeated, which substantially weakens their protests, which came only after their family came under attack from their enemies, who were supported by Boniface VIII.
There are numerous other contemporary sources (such as Bernard Guidone's lives of these popes, and Ferreto of Vicenza's scurrilous fantasies), but they lack the status of eyewitnesses. A host of documents survive that bear directly on the events of 1294 and 1295; these are collected in the Annales Ecclesiastici of Odoricus Raynaldus (Odorico Rinaldi), the continuator of Cardinal Baronius' Annales.
The Regulations of Pope Gregory X were in full operation, as they must have been in accordance with the bulls of Celestine V, and thus the Conclave opened on Thursday, December 23, 1294, with the singing of the solemn Mass of the Holy Spirit. The site for the Conclave was the Castel Nuovo in Naples. And, as Ptolemy of Lucca notes, King Charles was present: ad electionem alterius procedunt, praesente Rege Carolo Neapoli. Benedetto Caetani was elected by scrutiny and accessio on the next day, Friday, Christmas Eve. He was about 65 years old (see Montaubur). The poem of Cardinal Jacopo Stefaneschi, grand-nephew of Pope Nicholas III and Subdeacon of the Holy Roman Church in the reign of Nicholas IV (Celestine had made him a Canon of the Vatican Basilica and Auditor Rotae), describes the event. In the prose summary he says (Reynaldus, sub anno 1294, xxiii, p. 158; Muratori, RIS III p. 616-617):
Post hujusmodi Caelestini cessionem die undecima, vigilia scilicet natalis Domini, quae labentis tunc millesimi ducentesimi nonagesimi quarti anni ultimo decurrebat die, Bonifacius VIII, tunc Benedictus Gajetanus nomine, Anagnia ortus, profunde juris utriusque scientiae, longique in illis exercitii, docteque experientiae, in Romana ecclesia moribus veteranus, cardine etiam insignis, in summum Pontificem scrutinio accessioneque eligitur.
In the poem Stefaneschi indicates that, on the first scrutiny, Benedetto Caetani had the majority of the votes cast, but that there was another candidate. At the accessio, however, he was elected (Raynaldus, sub anno 1294, xxiii, p. 158;:Muratori, RIS, p. 642)
....Post haec procedere visum est.
Scrutantesque suum per claustra silentia votum,
Mox referant, patuitque viris haud spiritus idem
Sed quasi conformis: nam plurima nomina fratrum
In te conveniunt; alii licet altera fassi,
O carde Benedicte sacer, levitaque quondam
Eligeris: nam digna quidem concordia vocum
Accessit, pater alme patrum (ne promptior ausit
His aliud) culpam celansque fuisse, rubentum
Quisque tuo submissa pedi dedit oscula supplex.
Cardinal Caietani himself gives a narrative of his election in his inaugural letter as Pope Boniface VIII, Gloriosus et mirabilis, issued from the Lateran on January 23, 1295 (Raynaldus, sub anno 1295, viiii, p. 170; Tosti, 467-470):
... Cardinales ipsi, considerantes attentius quam sit onusta dispendiis, quam gravia malorum incommoda secum trahat prolixa ecclesiae memoratae vacatio; et propterea votis ardentibus cupientes per efficacia et accelerata remedia hujusmodi periculis obviare, die jovis X. Kalend. januarii post festum subsequentem praedictum, missarum solemniis ad honorem Sancti Spiritus celebratis, hymnoque solito cum devotione cantato, se in quodam conclavi apud Castrum novum civitati Neapolitanae contiguum, ubi tunc idem frater Petrus cum sua residebat familia, incluserunt, ut per mutui commoditatem coloquii ecclesiae praedictae provisio, superna cooperante virtute, celerius proveniret. Die vero veneris immediate sequente praefati Cardinales, mentis oculis erectis ad Dominum, pia desideria benignius prosequentem, in electionis negotio ferventibus studiis, ut praedicta vitarentur incommoda, procedentes; et tandem, cum divina clementia ecclesiae praelibatae compatiens, eam nollet ulterioris vacationis periculis subjacere, ad personam nostram, licet immeritam, intentum animum dirigentes, quamquam inter eos quamplures magis idonei, et digniores etiam haberentur, nos tunc tituli S. Martini presbyterum Cardinalem in summum Pontificem canonice elegerunt....
Pope Celestine had said earlier to Cardinal Tommaso d' Ocre and to Cardinal Benedetto Caetani that Benedetto ought to be pope (Anonymous of Paris 5375 § 35; p. 174). The Merton manuscript of Matthew of Westminster's Flores Historiarum (ed. Luard, p. 276) goes farther, stating that, after his resignation speech in which he urged the cardinals to elect an industrious and useful successor without dissention, Celestine was asked to name a worthy person. He is said to have named Benedetto Caetani. This passage, however, does not appear in other manuscripts of the Flores, and it should be treated with caution. The same manuscript has it that Celestine was elected at Aquileia (rather than Perugia) and that he consecrated Archbishop Winchelsey (Winchelsey was consecrated at L' Aquila on September 12, 1294 by Cardinal Gerardo Bianchi, Bishop of Sabina: Stubbs, p. 68). Any attempt to assess the responsibility of Benedetto Caetani in the career and end of Pietro de Murrone is poisoned by the propaganda issued by his enemies: the Colonna (see Denifle), Giovanni Villani, and Dante Alighieri.
The relics of Celestine V, reconstructed (in a contemporary fantasy) after the Earthquake of Aquila
Pietro Cantinelli (ed. Torraca, p. 77) records, "die veneris XXIV dicti mensis Decembris, electus fuit papa dominus Benedictus Gaitanus cardinalis, et vocatus est dominus papa Bonifacius octavus, qui fuit coronatus in urbe romana, die dominico XXIII mensis ianuarii anno domini millesimo ducentesimo nonagesimo quinto, indictione octava." He was crowned on Sunday, January 23, 1295.
Cardinal Stefaneschi gives an extensive description of the Pope's arrival in Rome and the ceremonies of his coronation and possessio of the Lateran Basilica (Muratori, RIS, pp. 643-655). The pallium was placed on his shoulders and the papal tiara on his head by Cardinal Matteo Rosso Orsini (p. 647 lines 69-80; p. 648 lines 141-146).
Giovanni Villani, Ioannis Villani Florentini Historia Universalis (ed. Giovanni Battista Recanati) (Milan 1728) [Rerum Italicarum Scriptores, Tomus Decimustertius].
Henry Richards Luard (editor), Flores Historiarum Vol. III. A.D. 1265 to A. D. 1326 (London: HM Stationery Office/Eyre & Spottswoodie 1890).
Odoricus Raynaldus [Rainaldi], Annales Ecclesiastici ab anno MCXCVIII. ubi desint Cardinalis Baronius, auctore Odorico Raynaldi. Accedunt in hac Editione notae chronologicae, criticae, historicae... auctore Joanne Dominico Mansi Lucensi Tomus Quartus [Volume XXIII] (Lucca: Leonardo Venturini 1749), sub anno 1294 (p. 26). Augustinus Theiner (Editor), Caesaris S. R. E. Cardinalis Baronii, Od. Raynaldi et Jac. Laderchii Annales Ecclesiastici Tomus Vigesimus Quintus 1334-1355 (Barri-Ducis: Ludovicus Guerin 1872) [Baronius-Theiner].
Bernard Guidone, "Vita Coelestini Papae V," in Ludovicus Antonius Muratori, Rerum Italicarum Scriptores Tomus Tertius (Milan 1723), 669-670. Bernard Guidone, "Vita Bonifacii VIII," in Ludovicus Antonius Muratori, Rerum Italicarum Scriptores Tomus Tertius (Milan 1723), 670-672. Bernard Guidonis [Gui], OP, of Royères in the Limousin, Bishop of Lodève (ca. 1261—1331): U. Chevalier, Repertoire I, 1919-1920. Cardinal Giacomo Caetani Stefaneschi, "Vita Coelestini Papae V Opus Metricum," in Muratori, 613-641. Ig. Hösl, Kardinal Jacobus Gaietani Stefaneschi. Ein Beitrag zur Literatur- und Kirchengeschichte des beginnenden vierzehnten Jahrhunderts (Berlin: Emil Ebering 1908).
Bartolomeo Platina, Historia B. Platinae de vitis pontificum Romanorum ...cui etiam nunc accessit supplementum... per Onuphrium [Panvinium]... et deinde per Antonium Cicarellam (Cologne: Cholini 1626). Bartolomeo Platina, Storia delle vite de' pontefice edizione novissima Tomo Terzo (Venezia: Ferrarin 1763). Lorenzo Cardella, Memorie storiche de' cardinali della Santa Romana Chiesa Tomo primo Parte secondo (Roma: Pagliarini 1792). Giuseppe Piatti, Storia critico-cronologica de' Romani Pontefici E de' Generali e Provinciali Concilj Tomo settimo (Poli: Giovanni Gravier 1767). 352-362 Ludovico Antonio Muratori, Annali d' Italia Volume 19 (Firenze 1827).
Acta Sanctorum Maii Vol. IV, coll. 422-426. Celidonio, J., Vita di S. Pietro del Morrone Celestino V, scritta su documenti coevi (Sulmona 1896). "St. Pierre Celestin et ses premiers biographes," Analecta Bollandiana XVI (Bruxelles 1897) 365-487.
Anonymous of Paris 5375 (Auctor Coaevus): published in Analecta Bollandiana IX (1890) 147-200. [The Anonymous states that Cardinal Thomas de Roca Morici was his source (p. 186):"nos vero illa narramus miracula, quae nobis per Domnum Thomam de Roca Morici et per Fratrum Nicolaum de Marsi hoc modo reperta sunt. Quando idem pater sanctus de mundo migravit, venerabilis pater Domnus Thomas cardinalis suas nobis litteras dignatus est mittere...." ]
Ioannes Rubeus, Bonifacius VIII e familia Caietanorum Principium Romanus Pontifex (Romae: Corbelletti 1651). Martin Souchon, Die Papstwahlen von Bonifaz VIII bis Urban VI (Braunschweig: Benno Goeritz 1888), pp. 15-23. . Félix Rocquain, La papauté au Moyen Age (Paris 1881), 211-291. Louis [Luigi] Tosti, [OSB,] History of Pope Boniface VIII and his times (tr. E. J. Donnelly) (New York 1911; original edition in Italian 1846). F. Gregorovius, History of Rome in the Middle Ages, Volume V.2 second edition, revised (London: George Bell, 1906), Book X, chapter 5, pp. 515-525. H. Denifle, "Die Denkschriften der Colonna gegen Bonifaz VIII. und der Cardinale gegen die Colonna," Archiv fur Literatur- und Kirchen- geschichte V (Freiburg im Breisgau 1889), 493-529. Paul Maria Baumgarten, "Die Cardinalsernennungen Cälastins V. im September und Oktober 1294," (Stephan Ehses, editor) Festschrift zum elfhundertjährigen Jubiläum des deutschen Campo Santo in Rom (Freiburg im Breisgau: Herder 1897)161-169. Francesco Savini, "Il Cardinal Tommaso «de Ocra o de Aprutio» e il suo testamento del 1300," Archivio storico italiano 22 (Firenze 1898), 87-101. P. Montaubur, "Entre gloire curiale et vie commune," Mélanges de l' École française de Rome CIX (1997) 303-442.
William Stubbs, Registrum Sacrum Anglicanum second edition (Oxford 1897).
Johann Peter Kirsch, Die FInanzverwaltung des Kardinalkollegiums im XIII. und XIV. Jahrhundert (Münster 1895).
© 2010 John Paul Adams, CSUN