This is the assignment page for the topic "The Crisis of Religious Leadership" for J. B. Owens's sections of the lower-division undergraduate course, History 101, Foundation of Western Civilization. The sole purpose of this page and all of the pages linked to it is to provide an orientation for those students enrolled in History 101.

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The Crisis of Religious Leadership

ID: Pope Boniface VIII (r. 1294-1303), King Philip the Fair of France (r. 1285-1314), Babylonian Captivity of the Church (1305-1377), Avignon, Great Schism (1378-1415), William Langland (d. ca. 1400), Piers Plowman, John Wycliffe (ca. 1320-1384), John Huss (ca. 1369-1415), Conciliar Movement, Marsilius of Padua (ca. 1275-ca. 1348), Defensor pacis (ca. 1326), William of Ockham (ca. 1290-1349)

  1. Why was Pope Boniface VIII so concerned to emphasize the superiority of the spiritual sword over the temporal one?
  2. Why did Marsilius of Padua (died ca. 1348) stress the "human legislator" as the source of authority in the community?
  3. Why did the concept of the "human legislator" as developed by Marsilius of Padua have an important impact on European thought and institutions?
  4. What influence did the ideas and activities of the Latin-Rite Church have on "medieval" European political thought? Discuss particularly the ideas of Pope Gregory VII, John of Salisbury, Thomas Aquinas, Pope Boniface VIII, and Marsilius of Padua.
  5. Why did the so-called "Babylonian Captivity" of the 14th century do such serious damage to the spiritual reputation of the Church?
  6. Why did significant new heretical movements (associated with Wycliffe and Huss) emerge in the second half of the fourteenth century?
  7. Why did Langland mention Francis of Assisi in his poem "Piers Plowman"?
  8. Why was the Conciliar Movement ultimately a failure?


Owens, ch. 12; Kishlansky, pp. 207-213; Aristotle [384-322 B.C.E.], read again the selections from Aristotle's Physics and Politics, which you read in chapter 8. The relevant URLs are: [] and []; Pope Boniface VIII [r. 1294-1303], Unam sanctam, at the URL: []; Marsilius of Padua [ca. 1275-ca. 1348], Defensor pacis, selections at the URL [] and conclusions at the URL [].

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Revised: 29 May 2006