Wednesday, Apr. 14, 2010

Boniface VIII

Pope Boniface VIII (1294-1303) didn't want to save your soul; he wanted to rule your life. Boniface VIII was one of the most ardent supporters of papal authority. What started as a minor squabble with King Philip IV of France over a government's ability to tax clergy members escalated until Boniface VIII excommunicated the king and released a decree stating that "every human creature [was] subject to the Roman pontiff." Boniface VIII sent mercenaries to destroy other people's castles, declared all the prominent Italian Colonna family's property forfeited and proceeded to parcel their land out among his family members. In September 1303, an army led by the Colonna family kidnapped the Pope and demanded that he abdicate. Held in captivity for multiple days, the Pope refused. He survived the attack and returned to Rome only to die a month later.

Although Boniface VIII was still alive when Dante — who had been personally exiled by the Pope for supporting papal limitations — wrote his famous Divine Comedy, the Italian writer placed him in his version of Hell anyway.