This is the essay for the 29th week of the 9th Grade Tom Woods Homeschool. In this blog post, I will be answering two questions.
The first one is: What was the significance of the conflict between Philip IV and Boniface VIII?
The second one is: What were the effects on Europe of the Black Death?
The conflict between Boniface VIII and Philip IV started when Philip started taxing the French clergy. Before continuing this blog post we should note that Boniface VIII was the pope from 1294 to 1303 and Philip IV was the French king from 1285 to 1314. The taxing of the clergy itself wasn’t the start of the conflict but the way it was done. It was because he taxed the clergy without pope Boniface’s permission. The reason why Philip started doing this was that France was at war with England at the time and he needed more money to continue fighting the war. The taxing of the clergy was already being done before but in a different shade of light. Instead, it was portrayed as the church giving resources to the state. Getting the pope’s permission for the request was just an honorary privilege. The popes were also quite lenient in accepting these requests as well. Instead, Philip taxed the clergy directly and without asking for the pope’s permission.
Boniface VIII isn’t very happy about this and responds by issuing a letter called Clericis Laicos. In the letter, he makes extreme demands that are against Philip. One of them is that all churchmen who give money to Philip are excommunicated from the Church. All Bishops that allow themselves to be taxed by Philip are also excommunicated. Boniface also states that any king who makes a tax that is similar to this one is excommunicated and their kingdoms are placed under interdict. An interdict means that nobody in that kingdom can get the sacraments.
At first, Philip agrees to the Clericis Laicos but after a few months, he goes back on his decision. Then he decides to fight back, by banning all Church revenue from leaving France and going to Rome. This is a huge blow to the Church as they were relying on this stream of revenue. This was too much for Boniface to handle and he backs down, but in a way that doesn’t seem like it. He instead makes it look like a compromise, by saying that if it’s an emergency, that the king can tax the clergy without the consent of the pope. He also allows the king to decide when it’s an emergency. The result of this is that it always will always be an emergency.
After the conflict, there is a reconciliation between Philip IV and Boniface VIII. However, a new conflict between the two is started in 1301, when Philip imprisons a Bishop without letting him go to a trial by the Church. Instead, Philip sends him to be judged in the king’s court. It is important to note here that Boniface doesn’t want to go to war with France and wants to be friends with Philip. He sends a letter to Philip politely urging him to end the conflict and telling Philip that the church is allowed to judge a king’s actions. The letter is faked and the fake letter is shown to the French public. In the fake letter, it is made to seem like Boniface believes that he has full control over France and can do whatever he wants. Boniface tries to explain that the letter was fake but to no avail. At this point, Boniface had had enough and he makes a now-famous church document called Unam Sanctam. The document reiterates the fact that popes may judge the actions of kings. Now Philip and Boniface think of each other as lunatics. Philip tries to prove that Boniface is a heretic and not a real pope, while he excommunicates Philip. In September of 1303, several French soldiers have a confrontation with Boniface. They demand that Boniface resign as Pope and remove Philips’ ex-communication. Boniface replies by saying that he’d rather die than give in to their requests. Ultimately the conflict ends when Boniface dies a month later in October of 1303 due to natural causes. In conclusion, the conflict between Philip IV and Boniface VIII was how much control the Church had over a king.
The Black Death was a bubonic and pneumonic plague. Bubonic meaning it can spread through flea bites and pneumonic meaning that it can spread through sneezing, coughing, etc. The plague came to Europe from Italian ships coming from Asia in 1347. These ships were carrying rats that were carrying fleas that were carrying the plague. People would get infected by these fleas biting them. East and Middle Asians had developed immunity to the plague but Europeans and West Asians had not. After the plague started in Italy it spread through France and Spain. In 1348 it had reached England and Portugal. Afterward, it traveled through Germany and all of Scandinavia. Finally, the plague reached Russia by 1351. Places that had little trade and were isolated had much less infected and stayed relatively untouched. This would include small villages in the Alps and parts of modern-day Poland, Ukraine Belarus, Slovakia, and the Czech Republic. This was the biggest and most deadly outbreak of the plague but it resurfaced many times later on.
The responses to the outbreak were very extreme. Some people started indulging in everything they could, believing that they would soon die. Other people believed that the plague was a punishment from God and they started punishing themselves in extreme ways. One way they did this was by beating themselves in public. The people who did this were called flagellants. Most of the deaths from the Black Death came from 1347-1350 and in total it wiped out a third of the entire population of Europe. After 1350 there was a spike in the marriage and birth rates, which could indicate that Europe was trying to rebuild its population.
There were also a lot of problems that were indirectly caused by the Black Death. Most of these problems happened in England. First, half of the clergy inside the church died and because the population was much lower, they started hiring less experienced people. People were angry at this and said that the new clergy were unqualified for their jobs. Another change was that because so many people died, people started being paid much more for work and even serfs started being paid. Landlords were not happy with this, so they begged the government to put a limit on how high wages could be. The government did this but they also controlled how high the prices of goods could be. Now the workers were angry and they just left their workplaces. In return, the government banned this as well. All of this and more resulted in the Peasants Revolt. The king of England at the time Richard II, counterattacked by arresting hundreds of revolters and killing 110.