Avignon Pope Benedict XIII

From Academic Kids

Benedict XIII, born Pedro Martínez de Luna, (b. Illueca, Aragon, 1328; d. Peņiscola, near Valencia, 1423) was an Aragonese, and is considered by many Roman Catholics an Antipope.

Pedro de Luna was born at Illueca in Aragon (part of modern Spain) in 1328. He belonged to the de Luna family, who were part of the Spanish noblility. He studied law at the University of Montpellier, where he obtained his doctorate and later taught canon law. His knowledge of canon law, noble lineage and austere way of life won him the approval of Pope Gregory XI, who appointed de Luna to the position of cardinal deacon of S. Maria in Cosmedin on 30 December 1375.

Later de Luna became a supporter of Robert of Geneva, the Avignon Pope Clement VII, and de Luna was unanimously elected by a conclave of twenty-four cardinals at Avignon on September 28 1394, following the death of Clement VII on September 16. The conclave consisted of eleven French cardinals, eight Italians, four Spaniards and one cardinal from Savoy. On the death of Urban VI in 1389 the Roman College of Cardinals had chosen Boniface IX; the election of Benedict therefore perpetuated the Western Schism. At the start of his term of office, de Luna was recognised as pope by the kingdoms of France, Scotland, Sicily, Castile, Aragon, Navarre, and Portugal. In 1396 Benedict sent Sanchez Muņoz, one of the most loyal members of the Avignon curia, as an envoy to the Bishop of Valencia to bolster support for the Avignon papacy in Spain.

However, in 1398 the French church withdrew their allegiance from the Avignon papacy. Benedict was abandoned by seventeen of his cardinals, with only five remaining faithful to him. An army led by Geoffrey Boucicaut, brother of the illustrious marshal, occupied Avignon and started a five year siege of the papal palace in 1398, which ended when Benedict managed to escape from Avignon on March 12, 1403 and seek shelter in territory belonging to Louis II of Anjou.

By this stage, Benedict's authority was no longer recognised in France, Portugal and Navarre, but he was acknowledged as pope in Scotland, Sicily, Aragon and Castile. After the Roman Pope Innocent VII died in 1406, the newly elected Roman pope, Gregory XII, started negotiations with Benedict, suggesting that they both resign so a new pope could be elected to reunite the Catholic Church. When these talks ended in stalemate in 1408, the French king, Charles VI, declared that France was neutral to both papal contenders. Charles helped to organise the Council of Pisa in 1409. This council was supposed to arrange for both Gregory and Benedict to resign, so that a new universally recognised pope could be elected. However, since both Benedict and Gregory refused to abdicate, the only thing that was achieved was that a third candidate to the Holy See was put forward: Peter Philarghi, who assumed the name Alexander V.

In 1415 the Council of Constance brought this state of affairs to an end. Gregory XII and Baldassare Cossa, who had succeeded Philarghi as the Pisan papal contender in 1410 and had assumed the name John XXIII, both agreed to resign. Benedict, on the other hand, refused to stand down, so he was declared a schismatic and excommunicated from the Catholic Church by the Council of Constance on July 27 1417. Benedict, who had lived in Perpignan from 1408 to 1417, now fled to the castle at Peņiscola near Valencia in Spain. He still considered himself the true pope, but his claim was now only recognised in the kingdom of Aragon, where he was given protection by King Alfonso V. Benedict remained at Peņiscola from 1417 until his death there on May 23, 1423.

The day before his death, Benedict appointed four cardinals of proven loyalty to ensure the succession of another pope who would remain faithful to the now beleaguered Avignon line. Three of these cardinals met on 10 June 1423 and elected Sanchez Muņoz as their new pope, with Muņoz assuming the papal name of Clement VIII. The fourth cardinal, Jean Carrier, the archdeacon of Rodez near Toulouse, was absent at this conclave and disputed its validity, whereupon, Carrier, acting as a sort of one man College of Cardinals, proceeded to elect Bernard Garnier, the sacristan of Rodez, as pope, with Garnier taking the name Benedict XIV.

Benedict should not be confused with the Roman Pope Benedict XIII, who reigned from 27 May 1724 to 21 February 1730.

The castle in Peņiscola where he lived from 1417 until his death in 1423 was restored, improved and new walls were added in 1960 when Anthony Mann's film El Cid was partially filmed there. The town and castle of Peņiscola were playing the role of Valencia. The castle is now a popular tourist Benet XIII de:Benedikt XIII. (Gegenpapst) fr:Antipape Benoît XIII it:Antipapa Benedetto XIII nl:Tegenpaus Benedictus XIII pt:Antipapa Benedito XIII sv:Benedictus XIII (motpåve) pl:Antypapież Benedykt XIII


  • Catholic Encyclopedia (
  • Philip Hughes, A History of the Church from Aquinas to Luther, (London, Sheed and Ward, third impression 1993).
  • Rev Joseph S. Brusher, Popes Through the Ages "The Great Schism" (
  • Audio guide to the Papal Palace at Avignon in France.

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