Monthly Archives: May 2016

The Pope’s Party



Pope John XIII announced “a gathering” in December, 1413 for the Sixteenth General Council which would begin “at Constance” on November 1, 1414.  King Sigismund of Germany (and many other places) was the primary organizer, and sent invitations with Pope John’s seal to the other two Popes and all the Christian princes and prelates.  Prelates are low-ranking theologians in the belief.

Pope John appointed Count Friedrich of Tyrol as Captain-General of his Papal Army for a salary of 6,000 florins.

Carlo Malatesta, the Crab of Rimini, persuaded Gregory XII to send two envoys, but fuss-bucket Benedict XIII would agree only to meeting Sigismund.  And that would be only in the spring, at Villefrance.

Pope John opened the Council on November 5, 1414.  His pal King Sigismund was crowned King of Germany at Aachen on November 8, so naturally His Royal Highness did not show up until December 24, of the same year.

The Council would eventually be attended by 3 patriarchs, 29 cardinals, 33 archbishops, 150 bishops, more than a hundred abbots, about fifty provosts and deans; plus three hundred doctors; there were many envoys of kings and princes, dukes, counts and barons, and more than 1,500 knights.   One of which was my own Yorkshire Knight.

I struggle to think of his horseback ride from the North of Yorkshire, cross the sea to Normandy and across France for the Adriatic Sea.  In modern times, Villefrance is situate at the top of a large hill, with many paths leading down to the shore.  I cannot imagine how the thundering herds of these men and their animals was handled.  Perhaps the animals were taken to a separate and flat venue somewhere.

This was a town of 5,500 citizens.  The lowest contemporary estimate of those visiting the town of 5,500 was 40,000.   But they could handle many more because there were 36,000 beds for invitees, and they slept two to a bed.

Seven hundred women practiced prostitution in the streets and an unknown number practiced in private.

Prices on food and beds were fixed to prevent extortion.  Really!

A religionist by name of Jan Hus was given safe conduct by Sigismund. He seemed to have lucked out as Sigismund was attributed to beheading 171 Bosnian aristocrats, and cutting off the right hands of 180 prisoners.  Alas, poor Jan was put under arrest on November 28, and later burned at the stake by Sgismund.

Count Friedrich of Tyrol was hired (or perhaps bribed) to be “Captain-General” of the Papal Army for a salary of 6,000 florins, a hefty sum anywhere?   Perhaps.

These high roller Boys set about squawking a little it seems:   Carlo Malatesta (Charlie Bad Head?) Well, he managed to persuade Gregory XII to send two envoys; but Benedict XIII, an elderly invitee and cranky former Pope, would only agree to see Sigismund at Villefrance; and that would be in the springtime!

A spiritual encounter?  clean food, meditations, prayer and vernal equinox?

NO!!  Nothing like that was organized.

It started when Benedict threw a hissy and refused to meet Sigismund until springtime!   He did agree the site must be at “the most beautiful ancient city in the world” (quoting myself)  Villefrance, a small ancient city overlooking the Adriatic Sea, a city that I had stayed in for a week or more, would love to revisit, especially now.  As in today, this minute.

On November 5, 1414, Pope 23 opened up the council.  Sigismund would be late, as was scheduled to be crowned at Aachen on November 8, just three days later. It appears that Sigismund really was the king of everything. However, he did not show up until Christmas Eve.  The Holy Calendar was apparently not invented.

“The Council” expected three Patriarchs, 29 Cardinals, 33 Archbishops, 150 bishops, over 100 Abbots, 50 provost and deans, 300 “other” doctors, many envoys of kings and princes, dukes and counts and barons; and over fifteen hundred (1,500) knights!  Now, what I have researched does not appear to include their horses.  What did the do with their horses!

This is a lot of people in Villefrance…a tiny ancient town built on a slope overlooking the Adriatic Sea. I visited it for several days once, and hated to leave, swore to come back.

Back on subject:  so in the early 1400s, just where did they put all these men?

The lowest contemporary estimate of the guests of this charming city of 5,500 locals was 40,000 strangers!

But it may have been more:  there were 36,000 beds prepared for the strangers… and each slept two to a bed.

Seven hundred women practiced prostitution in the streets and an unknown number practiced “in private” celebrating the Papal Event.  It should be noted that they piously fixed the prices on food and beds to prevent “extortion” and not a word about the female workers.

Sigismund, as head organizer had personally sent invitations with Pope John’s seal to two other Popes and all of the Christian princes and prelates.

While he traveled to meet up with the Tyrolean Count, Pope John decided Count Friedrich should be captain-general of his army for a salary of 6,000 florins.

Meanwhile, Carlo Bad Head had convinced Gregory XII to send two additional envoys, but Benedict held fast to his idea of meeting Sigismund six months later at Villefrance.

Obviously some communication issues were at hand.

Pope John made arrangements on the way, appointing Count Friedrich of Tyrol as “Captain General of the Papal Army” for a flat payment of 6,000 Florins.  Imagine!

And Sigismund was crowned at Aachen, on 8 November;   however he did not show up at the party until 24 December.  Timing was given wide berth in those days.

Eventually the Council received three patriarchs, 29 cardinals, 33 archbishops, 150 bishops, over one hundred abbots, fifty provosts and/or deans, about three hundred doctors, endless envoys of kings, knights, princes, dukes, counts and barons; and more than 1,500 knights; and the party girls.

The lowest estimate using modern methods for visitors to a town of 5,500 citizens was 40,000 invitees!  It may have been considerably more:  there were over 36,000 beds ready for participants, accommodating two persons to a bed.

Nearly a thousand women practiced prostitution “in the streets” of the lovely Ville France.   Many more sought to “celebrate” unseen, perhaps in the bushes.

It is important to know that in order to prevent “criminal action”, prices on food and beds were very, very carefully fixed!  Therefore, women were not equal to a potato or a bowl of soup.

A Czech citizen by the name of Jan Hus was allowed by Sigmund to attend the soiree.   Alas, he didn’t last long:  the general council started 1 November 1414  and Hus was arrested on 28 November that same year.

One can only imagine what he was up to.

Two decades later the same pious Jan Hus, now a “Christian reformer” and philosopher was charged with heresy against the Catholic Church.

He was burned at the stake.

448 Words





10 Apr 2016 Melanie Wood

Many thanks to the work of online researcher and author

Sanderson Beck.  This blog is based on his work.

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