December 19, 1370 —December 30, 1370

The Palace of the Popes, Avignon, Papal Bedchamber



From the beginning of his reign Pope Urban had designs for a crusade. His chosen leader, unfortunately, was King John II of France. John had had unfortunate experiences in warfare, and, with a vigorous enemy close at hand, he was not eager to chase after the Turk. In any case, John II returned to captivity in England after the dishonorable escape of his hostage and son, Louis, and died on April 8, 1364. In order to bring peace to Europe so that his crusading project could prosper, Urban also decided to make peace in Italy, by persuading Bernabo Visconti to withdraw from Bologna and other papal territory in exchange for a huge financial subsidy (February 1364). This was despite the fact that Cardinal Gil Albornoz was making headway in northern Italy against the Visconti. It was not a statesmanlike move on the part of the Papacy. But Pope Urban V had finally done what his predecessors for sixty-five years had promised to do: return to Rome. In May of 1366, the Emperor Charles IV had visited Avignon and provided the Pope with many arguments and promises in favor of the project. Over stiff opposition from the Cardinals and Curia, the Pope departed Avignon on April 30, 1367. Five of the cardinals followed him; the rest stayed behind in Avignon ("Prima Vita Urbani V," "Secunda VIta," Baluzius I, 376, 406).

New Cardinals

Tomb of Pope Urban V, d. 1370

The Papal Court stopped in Marseille on its way toward Italy. The Pope had restored and fortified the monastery over which he had been Abbot, St.-Victor de Marseille, and he wished to reconsecrate the buildings. While at Marseille, on May 20, 1367, he created one new cardinal, Guillaume d'Aigrefeuille, "the Younger", OSB, of Limoges, a 27 year-old canon lawyer and Notary, nephew of the Cardinal of Santa Maria trans Tiberim who had been instrumental in the Conclave that had made Urban pope ("Prima Vita," Baluzius I, 376). On May 20, 1367, the Pope and his retinue departed for Italy. Only four Cardinals remaind behind at Avignon: Raymond de Canilhac, Pierre de Monteruc, Pierre Itier, and Jean de Blandiac. He stopped in Genoa on May 23, where he left behind Cardinal Marco da Viterbo, OFM, with the mission of composing the differences between the Genoese and Bernabo Visconti. On June 1, he was at the port of Pisa. At Corneto he was finally reunited with Cardinal Albornoz. On Saturday, Ocotber 16, 1367, the Bishop of Rome finally returned to Rome. He stayed there until the next May 11.

On September 22, 1368, at Montefiascone, Urban V created eight new cardinals.

On June 7, 1370, while still at Montefiascone in Tuscany, the Pope created two new cardinals; Pierre d'Estaing, OSB, of a family of the upper nobility in Rodez; and Pietro Corsini, Bishop of Florence, the son of a papal Auditor, Thomas Corsini.

Death of Pope Urban V

On July 26, 1370, Urban wrote to the Romans, that, however pleased he had been by their generous treatment of him during his three-year stay in Italy, he nonetheless had pressing problems 'beyond the mountains' which he needed to address in person (Baronius-Theiner, sub anno 1370 §19, p. 180-181). The Pope concluded his Italian visit by departing from Montefiascone on August 26, 1370, and stayed at Corneto until September 15. He sailed for Marseille on the 16th and returned to Avignon on the 24th, to a joyful welcome.

Urban immediately turned his attention toward ending the Hundred Years' War between England and France, which had been raging for a third of a century. The situation had recently worsened again, when Edward III resumed his claim to the title of King of France, blaming the French kings (and the Pope) for not carrying out the Treaty of Bretigny. (December 30, 1369: Rymer 6, 643-645). In 1370 the English forces on the Continent were increased, and King Edward was negotiating with Flanders, Brabant and his vassals in Aquitaine for aid against the French, and with the King of Navarre to neutralize his forces (Rymer 645-677). It appears that Pope Urban appointed two of his cardinals, Simon Langham and Jean de Dormans, to the task of reconciling the two monarchs.

But soon a serious illness seized upon the Pope. In November as he was leaving Avignon, he was stricken with a sudden illness, and had himself carried from the Apostolic Palace to his brother's house, though his brother was residing in Bologna. ("Secunda Vita Urbani V", Baluzius I, 412-413). He realized his illness was growing worse and so he turned instead to preparing himself for death. He received the sacraments, in the presence of the Camerlengo, his Confessor and many other members of his court. He made his profession of faith. He died on Thursday, December 19, 1370, in the ninth year of his reign. He was buried in the Cathedral ("Prima Vita Urbani V", Baluzius I, 398), in the Chapel of Pope John XXII. In May, 1371, the remains were transferred to Marseille, to his old Abbey of St. Victor de Marseille, where he had prepared his own tomb during his lifetime ("Secunda Vita," Baluzius I, 413)..

The Electors

Pope Innocent VI (Roger) had named fourteen cardinals in four creations during his eight-year reign (1366: Baluze I, 374 and 990-993; 1367: Baluze I, 376 and 997; 1368: Baluzius I, 384 and 1016-1032; 1370: Baluzius I, 391and 1039-1040). One of them, Arnaldus Bernardi, died before receiving his titulus. Two others died during his reign. In the same period eleven cardinals from the Conclave of 1362, and Cardinal Albornoz, had died. There were therefore twenty surviving Cardinals at the time of Urban's death. (Eubel I, 20 n. 8).

Cardinals attending:
  1. Guy de Boulogne, Suburbicarian Bishop of Porto e Santa Rufina. (died November 25, 1373) [Eubel I, p. 19 n. 3; Baluzius I, column 837] Son of Robert VII, Comte Boulogne et d' Auvergne and of Marie of Flanders. "Boloniensis"
  2. Raymond de Canilhac, Canon Regular of Saint Augustine, Suburbicarian Bishop of Palestrina. (died June 20, 1373). Nephew of Clement VI.
  3. Aegidius (Gilles) Aycelin de Montaigu, born in the Auvergne, Suburbicarian Bishop of Tusculum (Frascati). (died December 5,1378) Doctor of Canon Law. Former Chancellor of the King of France. Nephew of Clement VI [Baluzius I, 956]
  4. Guillaume de la Sudré, OP, born in l' Augene in the diocese of Tulle, Suburbicarian Bishop of Ostia e Velletri. (died April 18, 1373) [Baluzius I, 374, 990]
  5. Philippe de Cabassole, of Avignon but born in Cavaillon, Suburbicarian Bishop of Sabina (died August 27, 1372). [Baluzius I, 1024; Cardella II, 217-219] "Hierosolymitanus"

  6. Pierre de Monteruc, of Donzenac in the Limousin, Cardinal Priest of S. Anastasia. (died May 20, 1385). Vice-Chancellor S.R.E.. Nephew of Innocent VI [Baluzius I, 934]
  7. Joannes de Blandiaco (Jean de Blauzac), born at Blauzac near Uzés, Cardinal Priest of S. Marco. (died 1379). Doctor in utroque iure "Nemausensis" [Cardella II, 204-206]
  8. Guillaume d'Aigrefeuille, "the Younger", OSB, of Limoges, Cardinal Priest of S. Stefano in Monte Celio (died January 13, 1401). Doctor of Canon Law (Toulouse, 1365). Camerlengo S.R.E. [Baluzius I, 997; Cardella II, 224-225; Eubel I, 20].
  9. Simon Langham, OSB, Cardinal Priest of S. Sisto (died July 22, 1376).   Dean of Lincoln (attested in 1372 and 1376) [Le Neve Fasti Ecclesiae Anglicanae II, p. 33].   Bishop of Ely (consecrated March 20, 1362 at St. Paul's by William of Winchester: Stubbs, Registrum Sacrum Anglicanum, p. 78). Chancellor of King Edward III (1363-1367) Archbishop of Canterbury (1366-1368: Le Neve, Fasti Anglicani I, 19) [Baluzius I, 1024; Eubel I, 21]
  10. Bernard du Bosquet, of Cahors, Cardinal Priest of Ss. XII Apostoli.(died April 19, 1371) [Baluzius I, 1026]
  11. Étienne de Poissy, Cardinal Priest of S. Eusebio. (died October 17, 1373) Doctor of Canon Law. Major Penitentiary. "Parisiensis" [Baluzius I, 1029; Cardella II, 222]
  12. Francesco Tebaldeschi, Romanus, Cardinal Priest of S. Sabina (died September 6/7, 1378). [Baluzius I, 1032; Cardella 222-223] Former Dean of the Canons of the Vatican Basilica, and thus called the "Cardinal of S. Pietro"
  13. Pietro Corsini, Florentine, Cardinal Priest of S. Lorenzo in Damaso (died August 16, 1405). [Baluzius I, 1040]

  14. Guillaume de la Jugié, Cardinal Deacon of S. Maria in Cosmedin. (died April 28, 1374). His mother was sister of Clement VI [Baluzius I, 854]
  15. Pierre Roger de Beaufort, of Limoges, Cardinal Deacon of S. Maria Nuova. (died March 27, 1378). [Baluzius I, 259, 275] Nephew of Clement VI.
  16. Rinaldo Orsini, Cardinal Deacon of S. Adriano. (died June 6, 1374) [Baluzius I, 907]
  17. Hugues de Saint-Martial, born in the diocese of Toul in Aquitaine, Cardinal Deacon of S. Maria in Portico. (died 1403). Archpriest of the Vatican Basilica. Doctor in utroque iure {Cardella II, 207-208]
Cardinals not attending:
  1. Anglicus Grimoaldi (Angelic de Grimoard), Canon Regular of Saint Augustine, Suburbicarian Bishop of Albano. Archpriest of the Lateran Basilica. (died April 13/16, 1388) Brother of Pope Urban V. In 1368 he was named Papal Vicar the Marches, Umbria, Tuscany and the province of Marittima e Campagna; he resided in Bologna. [Baluzius I, 380-381, 412, and 993; Cardella II, 208-211].
  2. Jean de Dormans, of the diocese of Soissons, Cardinal Priest (of SS. Quattuor Coronati). "Bellovacensis"   Chancellor of King Charles of France [Baluzius I, 1027]; he was succeeded by his brother Guillaume.  At the time of the Conclave he was at the French Court (Baluzius, 1028).  He died on November 7, 1373 [Gallia christiana 10. Instrumenta, no. xlvi, p. 273-276; xlvii, pp. 276-279]
  3. Pierre d'Estaing, OSB, of Rodez, Cardinal Priest of S. Maria in Trastevere (died November 25, 1377). [Baluzius I, 1039] Papal VIcar in the Patrimony and adjacent provinces (Italy) from 1370 [Cardella II, 224-225].

The Camerarius S. R. E. was Msgr. Arnaud Aubert, Archbishop of Auch (1357-1371), nephew of Innocent VI and brother of Cardinal Audouin Aubert, the late Bishop of Ostia.  He died on June 11, 1371.



The Conclave opened in the Apostolic Palace in Avignon on December 29, 1370, according to a letter written some six years later by Gregory XI himself (Baronius-Raynaldi, sub anno 1370, xxvi, p. 195). The Conclave was very brief. On the morning of December 30, without a scrutiny, Cardinal Pierre Roger de Beaufort was elected "by inspiration". He took the name Gregory XI. He was the son of Guillaume, comte de Beaufort en Vallée, the brother of Pope Clement VI. The "First Life" (Baluzius I, 426) notices that he was humble, modest, circumspect, and generous that both secular leaders and prelates were delighted with him whenever they had business to do with him; the author of the Life remarks, "habuit etiam magnam gratiam in collegio Cardinalium, adeo quod demum, suis suffragantibus meritis per debitam concordiam fuit, ut praemittitur, ab ipsis electus in Papam..."

Election of Cardinal de Beaufort

In his own Electoral Manifesto, Rerum omnium providus, dated December 30, 1370, the day of his election, and addressed to the King of France, Gregory XI (Pierre Roger de Beaufort) speaks of the election as having been carried out by "inspiration"—per viam Sancti Spiritus (Baronius-Raynaldi, sub anno 1370, xxvii, p. 195-196):

Sane felicis recordationis Urbano Papa V. predecessore nostro de praesentis valle miseriae ad supernam patriam evocato, venerabiles fratres nostre episcopi, presbyteri et diaconi sacrosanctae Romanae ecclesiae Cardinales, pro futuri substitutione pastoris convenientes in unam, sub deliberationis magnae consilio, quam tanti negotii qualitas exigebat, licet potuissent in alios consentire majorum meritorum claritate conspicuos, et plurium virtutum titulis insignitos ad tantae administrationis praecellentiam digniores; tamen ad personam nostram dirigentes unanimiter vota suam nos tunc sanctae Mariae novae diaconum Cardinalem ad celesitudinis apostolicae speculam, sicut Domino placuit, hodie per viam Sancti Spiritus evocarunt.

The New Pope, Gregory XI

The new Pope, who had been appointed a cardinal when he was about seventeen years old, was now forty. He had never attended University, but was home-schooled:

Hic, quamquam esset satis juvenis quando fuit factus Cardinalis, cum nondum attingeret octavum decimum annum suae aetatis, tamen erat totus ingeniosus et aptus ac studio litterarum valde intentus. volensque in eis proficere amplius post promotionem suam ad statum hujusmodi, accersitis sibi notabilibus clericis, quos secum continue habuit, audiendo et legendo circa legalem scientiam diutius insudavit, et adeo in ipsa profecit quod unus de profundioribus et sufficientioribus totius orbis in ea fuit effectus. Demum se convertit ad canones, ad theologiam, ac philosophiam moralem, in quibus se adeo notabiliter profundavit quod in collationibus et consiliis ac aliis actibus suo statui congruentibus, in quibus de pertinentibus ad hujusmodi facultates actum fuit, sufficientissime peroravit. Cum hoc etiam circa decisionem causarum diligenter institit, habuitque in ipsa tam juris quam facti experientiam tantam quantam quicunque alius status sui.

His tutor was Pierre Masuyer, Doctor of Laws, the future Bishop of Arras (Baluzius I, 1060).


Coronation of Gregory XI

Since he had never been ordained, he was made a priest on Saturday, January 4, by Cardinal Guy de Boulogne ("Vita Secunda", Baluzius I, 452): "quarta die dicti mensis per Dominum Cardinalem de Bolonia factus fuit presbyter". On the next day, the Vigil of the Epiphany he was consecrated a bishop and crowned Pope ("Prima Vita Gregorii XI," Baluzius I, 425). The "Vita Secunda" (Baluzius I, 452) says that he was crowned in the Apostolic Palace at Avignon: "fuit electus in Papam penultima die mensis Decembris in Avinione et ibidem coronatus in palatio apostolico quinta die januarii, quae fuit die dominica, in vigilia epiphaniae." This, however, is probably a case of a slightly misplaced phrase.

On January 12, 1371 the new Pope had already reappointed as Nuncios Cardinals Simon Langham and Jean de Dormans, with the task of reconciling King Edward and King Charles (Calendar 4, p. 92). It was many months, however, before either cardinal even set foot in England or had an interview with King Edward.

It is said  ("Quarta Vita Gregorii XI", Baluzius I, 481) that, during the Sede Vacante, before he was elected pope, Cardinal Roger vowed that, if he were elected Pope, he would return to his own see  [Rome].




Stephanus Baluzius [Étienne Baluze], Vitae Paparum Avinionensium 2 volumes (Paris: apud Franciscum Muguet 1693): "Prima Vita Innocentii VI", 321-344; "Secunda Vita Innocentii VI, auctore quodam Canonico Ecclesiae Bunnensis in dioecesi Coloniensi," 345-356; "Prima Vita Urbani V," 363-398; "Secunda Vita Urbani V, auctore quodam Canonico Ecclesiae Bunnensis in dioecesi Coloniensi," 399-414. "Prima Vita Gregorii XI", 425-452; "Secunda Vita Gregorii XI," 451-478;

Jean de Froissart: Chroniques de J. Froissart (publiées par Siméon Luce) Tome sixième (Paris: Jules Renouard 1876).

Abbé Magnan, Histoire d' Urbain V et de son siècle (Paris: Amrboise Bray 1862). J. Albanès and U. Chevalier, Actes anciens et documents concernant le B. Urbain V. pape (Paris 1897). Johann Peter Kirsch, Die Ruckkehr der Papste Urban V. und Gregor XI. von Avignon nach Rom (Paderborn 1898) [Quellen und Forschungen, 6].

Raynaldi: Caesaris S. R. E. Cardinalis Baronii, Od. Raynaldi et Jac. Laderchii Annales Ecclesiastici   Tomus septimus (Lucca: Typis Leonardi Venturini 1752) [Baronius-Raynaldi]. Caesaris S. R. E. Cardinalis Baronii, Od. Raynaldi et Jac. Laderchii Annales Ecclesiastici denuo excusi et ad nostra usque tempora perducti ab Augusto Theiner Tomus Vigesimus sextus 1356-1396 (Barri-Ducis: Ludovicus Guerin 1872) [Baronius-Theiner]

Matteo Villani, Cronica di Matteo Villani (edited by Francesco Gherardi Dragomanni) Tomo I (Firenze: Sansone 1846).

Ludovicus Antonius Muratori, Rerum Italicarum Scriptores Tomus Tertius (Milan 1723). 

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).   Aubery, Histoire generale des cardinaux (Paris 1642).   Lorenzo Cardella, Memorie storiche de' cardinali della Santa Romana Chiesa Tomo secondo (Roma: Pagliarini 1792). Giuseppe Piatti, Storia critico-cronologica de' Romani Pontefici E de' Generali e Provinciali Concilj Tomo ottavo (Poli: Giovanni Gravier 1767).  Ludovico Antonio Muratori, Annali d' Italia Volume 19 (Firenze 1827).

J.-B. Christophe, L' histoire de la papauté pendant le XIV. siècle Tome deuxième (Paris: L. Maison 1853) 388-403. [very Gallican in outlook, hostile to Italian sources].   J.-F. André, Histoire de la papauté à Avignon deuxième edition (Avignon: Seguin Frères 1887).   Martin Souchon, Die Papstwahlen von Bonifaz VIII bis Urban VI (Braunschweig: Benno Goeritz 1888). F. Gregorovius, History of Rome in the Middle Ages, Volume V.2 second edition, revised (London: George Bell, 1906).

Bernard Guillemain, La cour pontificale d' Avignon (1309-1376) (Paris: E. de Boccard, 2nd edition 1966). P. R. Thibault, Pope Gregory XI: the Failure of Tradition (University Press of America 1986).

Thomas Rymer, Foedera, Conventiones, Literae et cujuscunque generis Acta Publica inter Reges Angliae et alios quosvis... Tomus VI (Londini: A. & J. Churchill, 1708). W. H. Bliss and C. Johnson (editors), Calendar of Entries in the Papal Registers relating to Great Britain and Ireland. Papal Letters. Volume IV A.D. 1362-1404 (London: Eyre and Spottswoodie, 1902). [Calendar]


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