Fourteenth Century Crises

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The 14th century is ranked as one of the most distressing epochs in the history of Western culture. With the transformation of the Holy Roman Empire into a greatly destabilized elective monarchy, the transfer in political power from Germany to France and the escalation of England's power comes the end of the High Middle Ages in which Europe sank into a time of despair. Many events were responsible for this decline and loss of hope. Among them, three deserve special attention: the Great Schism, the Hundred Years War, and the Black Plague.

The Great Schism originated in 1309, when Pope Clement V moved the papacy from Italy to Avignon, just outside of French territory. The move was the result of the constant power struggle in Rome between the Pope and the king. The purpose of the move was to insure the Pope freedom of action, but it appeared that the move allowed the King of France, Phillip the Fair, to wield a great deal of influence over the Pope. Many felt that the presence of the papacy in France compromised the Pope's independence and made it the vassal of the French King. In 1376, Pope Gregory XI made a significant move and returned the papacy to Rome. After his death, the College of Cardinals convened to choose the new Pope. "The people of Rome and the vicinity, turbulent and easily roused, had, under the sway of circumstances, loudly declared their preferences and antipathies, and endeavored to influence the decision of the cardinals" (Knight). The Roman mobs insisted on an Italian pope, and the cardinals elected Urban VI. The French did not approve of the new Pope or the method by which he was chosen, so they elected their own Pope, Clement VII, who would once again rule from Avignon. As a result, "Western Chris...

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...lted in the decline of businesses. "The labor shortage was very severe and consequently wages rose. Because of the mortality, there was an oversupply of goods and prices dropped. Between the two trends, the standard of living rose, for those still living. Farms or entire villages died out or were abandoned as the few survivors decided not to stay on" (Knox). "The once positive outlook people had on the life of the thirteenth century had perished along with the many lives the plague took along with it" (Rowling, 188).

The fourteenth century was the darkest period in recorded European history. This period saw religious corruption and a great decline in population along with terror and devastation due to war and disease. Although there were many minor calamities, the three major crises were The Great Schism, the Hundred Years' War, and the Black Plague.

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