Back from Babylon

Well, Avignon. Over Thanksgiving Break I traveled there, to the site of the medieval “Babylonian Captivity” – when the popes lived in Avignon rather than Rome.

Why were they in Avignon? Basically, in 1309 a French pope was elected and, rather than traveling to Rome, which was dangerous at the time (Roman aristocrats constantly feuded over who was pope, with various intrigue, etc), he elected to stay in Avignon. The Curia and supporting cast moved to Avignon to accommodate him, and the popes stayed there until 1377. This resulted in the French king having a lot of influence over the Church – obviously, if the pope is in France, the pope can’t do anything the French king dislikes without fearing repercussions.

Now, I’d say the Babylonian Captivity was not a particularly bright spot in Catholic history. The seat of the papacy is Rome – they’re not really allowed to move just because the king of France will protect them (provided they do what he tells them to).

But, that didn’t stop me enjoying the fruits of that Captivity – there is a very cool Gothic papal palace in Avignon, and a city wall built by the popes that is somehow still intact. I guess there’s nothing wrong with appreciating the fruits of what we do not approve of… or is there? If there is, there are some issues with ever studying art, literature, music, etc, since any work not by an orthodox Catholic would be suspect. I don’t think we want to say that.


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