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The inquisitor's announcement of the penalties imposed provides an exciting public spectacle, with the condemned on parade to hear their fate.
The inquisitor may prescribe penalties such as fasting, pilgrimage, the wearing of a yellow cross, the confiscation to property (forcing them to stay poor), flogging, or imprisonment for any period, including even life. But he cannot impose a death sentence, on the grounds that the church does not shed blood.
Instead, those condemned to death are handed over to the temporal (king's) authorities - who know their Christian duty and are happy to comply. Death by burning at the stake, long the traditional punishment for heresy has the added attraction of maintaining - in a very literal sense - the fiction that no blood is being shed.
The medieval Inquisition is mainly used against the Cathars in France, though the burning of both John Huss and Joan of Arc follow investigations by inquisitors. The inquisitorial procedure becomes firmly established in the two centuries from Gregory IX's creation of the Inquisition in the 13th century to the deaths of Huss and Joan of Arc in the 15th.
From 1048 to 1257, the papacy experienced increasing conflict with the leaders and churches of the Holy Roman Empire and the Byzantine Empire. The latter culminated in the East–West Schism, dividing the Western Church and Eastern Church. From 1257–1377, the pope, though the bishop of Rome, resided in Viterbo, Orvieto, and Perugia, and then Avignon. The return of the popes to Rome after the Avignon Papacy was followed by the Western Schism: the division of the western church between two and, for a time, three competing papal claimants. During this period, seven popes, all French, resided in Avignon starting in 1309: Pope Clement V (1305–14), Pope John XXII (1316–34), Pope Benedict XII (1334–42), Pope Clement VI (1342–52), Pope Innocent VI (1352–62), Pope Urban V (1362–70), Pope Gregory XI (1370–78). In 1378, Gregory XI moved the papal residence back to Rome and died there.
After seventy years in France the papal curia was naturally French in its ways and, to a large extent, in its staff. Back in Rome some degree of tension between French and Italian factions was inevitable. This tension was brought to a head by the death of the French pope Gregory XI within a year of his return to Rome. The Roman crowd, said to be in threatening mood, demanded a Roman pope or at least an Italian one. In 1378 the conclave elected an Italian from Naples, Pope Urban VI. His intransigence in office soon alienated the French cardinals. And the behaviour of the Roman crowd enabled them to declare, in retrospect, that his election was invalid, voted under duress.
The French cardinals withdrew to a conclave of their own, where they elected one of their numbers, Robert of Geneva. He took the name Clement VII. By 1379, he was back in the palace of popes in Avignon, while Urban VI remained in Rome.
This was the beginning of the period of difficulty, from 1378 to 1417, which Catholic scholars refer to as the "Western Schism" or, "the great controversy of the antipopes" (also called "the second great schism" by some secular and Protestant historians). When parties within the Catholic Church were divided in their allegiances among the various claimants to the office of pope the Council of Constance, in 1417, finally resolved the controversy in a very unusual way.
For nearly forty years, the Church had two papal curias and two sets of cardinals, each electing a new pope for Rome or Avignon when death created a vacancy. Each pope lobbied for support among kings and princes who played them off against each other, changing allegiance according to political advantage.
In 1409, a council was convened at Pisa to resolve the issue. The council declared both existing popes to be schismatic (Gregory XII from Rome, Benedict XIII from Avignon) and appointed a new one, Alexander V. But the existing popes had not been persuaded to resign so the church had three popes.
Another council was convened in 1414 at Constance. In March 1415 the Pisan pope, John XXIII, fled from Constance in disguise; he was brought back a prisoner and deposed in May. The Roman pope, Gregory XII, resigned voluntarily in July.
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