Antipope Clement VII

Clement VII
Count of Geneva
Interview between the duke of Anjou and pope Clement VII (seated) at Avignon, from Froissart's Chronicles.[1]
Elected20 September 1378
Papacy began20 September 1378?
Papacy ended16 September 1394
Opposed toRoman claimants:
Other post(s)
Created cardinal30 May 1371
Personal details
Robert of Geneva

1342 (1342)
Died16 September 1394 (1394-09-17) (aged 52)
Avignon, Papal States
Coat of armsClement VII's coat of arms
Other popes and antipopes named Clement

Robert of Geneva (French: Robert de Genève; 1342 – 16 September 1394) was elected to the papacy as Clement VII (French: Clément VII) by the cardinals who opposed Pope Urban VI and was the first antipope residing in Avignon, France. His election led to the Western Schism.

The son of Amadeus III, Count of Geneva, Robert became Archbishop of Cambrai and was made a cardinal in 1371. As legate, during the War of the Eight Saints, he is said to have authorized the massacre of over 2,000 civilians at Cesena in 1377. He was elected pope the following year by the cardinals who opposed Urban VI and established himself at Avignon.


Robert was born in the Château d'Annecy in 1342, the son of Amadeus III, Count of Geneva, and Mahaut de Boulogne.[2][3] Guy de Boulogne was his maternal uncle. Robert studied at La Sorbonne in Paris. In 1359, he was appointed prothonotary Apostolic, became Bishop of Thérouanne in 1361, Archbishop of Cambrai in 1368, and a cardinal on 30 May 1371.[2] From 1373 he held the position of Archdeacon of Dorset,[4] and from 1374 also Prebend of All Saints Parish Church in Middle Woodford in Wiltshire,[5] leaving both positions in 1378. From 1375, he held a living as rector of Bishopwearmouth in County Durham, England, and instead used the income from that highly prized living for his papal election expenses.[6]

In 1377, while serving as papal legate in upper Italy (1376–1378), in order to put down a rebellion in the Papal States,[7] known as the War of the Eight Saints, he personally commanded troops lent to the papacy by the condottiere John Hawkwood to reduce the small city of Cesena in the territory of Forlì, which resisted being added to the Patrimony of Peter for the second time in a generation; there he authorized the massacre of 3,000–8,000 civilians, an atrocity even by the rules of war at the time, which earned him the nickname butcher of Cesena.[8]

In 1392, at the death of his brother, Pierre, he inherited the title of Count of Geneva,[3] his four brothers having each died without issue before him. The title then passed from him through his eldest sister Mary to her son, Humbert de Thoire.

Papal election and reign[edit]

Robert was elected pope at Fondi on 20 September 1378 by the cardinals who opposed the return of the Papacy from Avignon to Rome, and the election of Pope Urban VI in the latter town.[9] He chose the regnal name of Clement VII, and became the first of the line of 'popes' (now counted as antipopes) of the so-called Western Schism, the second of the two periods referred to as the Great Schism, which lasted until 1417.[10] Following a victory at Marino by Urban VI's troops,[11] Clement, feeling vulnerable, fled Anagni to Sperlonga, then Gaeta, finally landing at Naples.[12] Received with great respect by Queen Joanna I of Naples, Clement found himself assailed by the local populace which chanted, "Viva Papa Urbano" and "Muoia l'Anticristo".[12][13] He deemed Naples unsafe and fled by ship to Avignon, France, being greeted by five cardinals.[12]

Charles V of France, who seems to have been sounded beforehand on the choice of the Roman pontiff, soon became his warmest protector. Clement eventually succeeded in winning to his cause Castile, Aragon, Navarre, a great part of the Latin East, and Flanders. Scotland supported Clement because England supported Urban.[14] He had adherents, besides, scattered through Germany, while Portugal on two occasions acknowledged him, but afterwards forsook him.[15] Burgundy[16] and Savoy also acknowledged his authority.[17]

14th century miniature depicting Clement VII celebrating mass

On 29 November 1378, Clement was excommunicated by Pope Urban VI.[18] Coupled with the expectation of succeeding to Queen Joanna, Clement incited Louis I, Duke of Anjou, the eldest of the brothers of Charles V, to take arms in his favour. These tempting offers gave rise to a series of expeditions into Italy carried out almost exclusively at Clement's expense, in the first of which Louis went to war with some 40,000 troops.[19] The campaign was unsuccessful: Louis suddenly died at Bisceglie on 20 September 1384. Still, these enterprises on several occasions planted Angevin domination in the south of the Italian peninsula, and their most decisive result was the assuring of Provence to the dukes of Anjou and afterwards to the kings of France. After the death of Louis, Clement hoped to find equally brave and interested champions in Louis' son and namesake Louis II of Anjou, to which he donated the larger part of the Pontifical States. Clement then tried to ally with Louis I, Duke of Orléans, the brother of Charles VI; with Charles VI himself; and with John III, Count of Armagnac. The prospect of his brilliant progress to Rome was ever before Clement's eyes; and in his thoughts force of arms, of French arms, was to be the instrument of his glorious triumph over his competitor.[15]

There came a time, however, when Clement and more particularly his following had to acknowledge the vanity of these elusive dreams; and at the end of his life he realized the impossibility of overcoming by brute force an opposition which was founded on the convictions of the greater part of Catholic Europe.[15] Moreover, his ambitions and the financial needs of his court had resorted to simony, the loss of land and extortion which discerned among his adherents the germs of disaffection.[15] To solicit political support, he created nineteen of the thirty-three total cardinals,[20] but he seems never to have sincerely desired the termination of the schism.[21]

He died at Avignon on 16 September 1394.[21]

Eventually it was determined that he would be recorded as an antipope rather than as a pope. Uncertainty over who the legitimate pope might be during the time of the Western Schism gave rise to the legal theory called Conciliarism, which claimed that a general council of the church was superior to the pope and could therefore judge between rival claimants.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ BNF ms français 2664, fol. 10v (15th century)
  2. ^ a b Guenée 1991, p. 113.
  3. ^ a b Véronique Mariani-Pasche. "Clément VII". Historical Dictionary of Switzerland (in French).
  4. ^ Joyce M. Horn. "Fasti Ecclesiae Anglicanae 1300–1541" (1962) 3, pp. 7–9
  5. ^ A list displayed in the church confirms. See: Photo – list of Prebends and Photo – detail confirming Clement's inclusion
  6. ^ Rectors of Sunderland Minster – 1375 Robert Gebenens
  7. ^ Weber 1912.
  8. ^ Murphy 2007, pp. 46–47.
  9. ^ Fleck 2009, p. 241.
  10. ^ McBrien 1997, p. 248.
  11. ^ Keen 2010, p. 311.
  12. ^ a b c Creighton 2012, p. 68.
  13. ^ Trexler 1974, p. 141.
  14. ^ Walsh 2011, p. 157.
  15. ^ a b c d Valois 1911, p. 485.
  16. ^ Pham 2004, p. 74.
  17. ^ Williams 1998, p. 45.
  18. ^ Ullman 1948, p. 63.
  19. ^ "Papa Urbano VI e il Regno di Napoli". Cronologia (in Italian). Archived from the original on 30 September 2011. Retrieved 24 April 2016.
  20. ^ Pattenden 2017, p. 61.
  21. ^ a b Creighton 2012, p. 127.


  • Creighton, Mandell (2012). A History of the Papacy During the Period of the Reformation. Vol. 1: The Great Schism – The Council of Constance. 1378–1418. Cambridge University Press.
  • Fleck, Cathleen A. (2009). "Seeking Legitimacy: Art and Manuscripts for the Popes in Avignon from 1378 to 1417". In Rollo-Koster, Joëlle; Izbicki, Thomas M. (eds.). A Companion to the Great Western Schism (1378–1417). Brill.
  • Guenée, Bernard (1991). Between Church and State: The Lives of Four French Prelates in the Late Middle Ages. University of Chicago Press.
  • Keen, Maurice, ed. (2010). Medieval Warfare: A History. Oxford University Press.
  • McBrien, Richard P. (1997). Lives of the Popes. HarperCollins.
  • Murphy, David (2007). Condottiere 1300–1500: Infamous Medieval Mercenaries. Osprey Publishing.
  • Pattenden, Miles (2017). Electing the Pope in Early Modern Italy, 1450–1700. Oxford University Press.
  • Pham, John-Peter (2004). Heirs of the Fisherman: Behind the Scenes of Papal Death and Succession. Oxford University Press.
  • Trexler, R.C. (1974). The Spiritual Power: Republican Florence under Interdict. Brill.
  • Ullman, Walter (1948). The Origins of the Great Schism: A study in fourteenth-century ecclesiastical history. Burns Oates and Washbourne Ltd.
  • Walsh, Michael J. (2011). The Cardinals: Thirteen Centuries of the Men Behind the Papal Throne. Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing. ISBN 978-0-8028-2941-2.
  • Williams, George L. (1998). Papal Genealogy: The Families and Descendants of the Popes. McFarland & Company Inc.
  •  This article incorporates text from a publication now in the public domainValois, Joseph Marie Noel (1911). "Clement s.v. Clement VII.". In Chisholm, Hugh (ed.). Encyclopædia Britannica. Vol. 6 (11th ed.). Cambridge University Press. p. 485.
  •  This article incorporates text from a publication now in the public domainWeber, Nicholas Aloysius (1912). "Robert of Geneva". In Herbermann, Charles (ed.). Catholic Encyclopedia. Vol. 13. New York: Robert Appleton Company.
Catholic Church titles
Preceded by Archbishop of Cambrai
Succeeded by
Preceded by Bishop of Thérouanne
Regnal titles
Preceded by Count of Geneva
Succeeded by