Urban V

From New World Encyclopedia

Urban V
Urban V.gif
Birth name Guillaume Grimoard
Papacy began November 6, 1362
Papacy ended December 19, 1370
Predecessor Innocent VI
Successor Gregory XI
Born 1310
Grizac, Languedoc, France
Died December 19 1370
Avignon, France
Other popes named Urban

Pope Urban V (1310 – December 19, 1370), born Guillaume Grimoard, a native of France, was Pope from 1362 to 1370. Before his election, Urban V served as a professor of canon law, as abbot of several monasteries and on a number of diplomatic missions for previous popes. He was not a member of the college of cardinals when elected, and was well placed to reform the administration. To a large measure, he succeeded. He resisted rewarding his own favorites and family, opposed the sale and purchase of church offices and demanded that his cardinals and clergy live modest life-styles. This, however, did not win him any friends. Pope during the period of residency in Avignon, he briefly returned the papacy to Rome but was unable to remain there due to political instability and the risk of attack. He came close to achieving his main goal, the reunification of the Western and Eastern churches but, as with the return to Rome, this did not finally succeed. Despite the circumstances of the day, when it was difficult for the Pope to rise above being a player in the chess game of kings and emperors, rather than an independent agent, Pope Urban V, now the Blessed Urban, did as much as was humanly possible to restore the prestige, dignity and spiritual integrity, of the papacy.

Styles of
Pope Urban V
Emblem of the Papacy.svg
Reference style His Holiness
Spoken style Your Holiness
Religious style Holy Father
Posthumous style Blessed


Guillaume de Grimoard, was a native of Grizac in Languedoc (today part of the commune of Le Pont-de-Montvert, département of Lozère). His father was a knight. After attending schools in Montpellier and Toulouse, Guillaume became a Benedictine entering the monastery at Chirac, not far from his birthplace. Again attending the universities at Montpellier and Toulouse and also at Paris and Avignon, he was awarded his doctorate in Canon Law in 1342. He was then appointed professor of canon law at Montpellier and soon gained a reputation as a leading ecclesiastical jurist. He also taught at Paris, Avignon and Toulouse. After serving as Vicar-Genral of Clermont, followed by Uzès and as prior of Notre-Dame du Pré in the Cluny system of monasteries, in 1352 he was appointed Abbot of the prestigious monastery of Saint-Victor in Marseille, which was in the gift of the pope, then Clement VI. This coincided with his first papal mission. He was sent to Milan, followed by missions in several of the Papal States. In 1361, Innocent VI moved him to the Abbey of St. Victor at Marseilles. Diplomatic engagements soon followed, this time to Naples in 1362. On his way back from Naples he was surprised to hear that Innocent had died and that, although he was not a cardinal, the college had elected him pope. Unable to agree on a candidate from their own numbers, due to rivalry, they chose an outsider who was renowned for his learning and diplomatic skill. Elected on September 28, 1362, he took the name Urban V. He chose this name because all previous Urbans, in his opinion, had been saintly men. His consecration took place at Avignon on November 6.

As Pope

As Pope he was a severe disciplinarian, disliked the pomp and luxury of the cardinals, introduced considerable reforms in the administration of justice, and liberally patronized learning. He founded the University of Hungary. It is said that his own modest life-style did not earn him allies among the clergy, who "had become used to comfort and privilege."[1] In Toulouse, he saved the university of music. In Montpellier, he restored the school of medicine and founded the college of Saint Benoit whose church became a cathedral decorated with numerous works of art. He founded a college in Quézac and Bédouès, and a church and library in Ispagnac. He supported numerous educational institutions.

He supported more than 1,000 students of all classes with food and lodging. Even during war they were nourished well. He provided them with books and the best professors. He continued to live as if he were a monk, maintaining the Benedictine discipline and never losing his concern for inner piety. He was renowned for generosity towards the poor. He encouraged provincial synods. He opposed the sale of church offices. Although he did appoint his own brother as a cardinal, it was universally acknowledged that his brother deserved this honor.[2] Although he was impeccable in resisting the temptation to reward favorites and relatives, he did refuse to help Edward III of England raise the money owed him by the French king, John, suggesting that his loyalties to France sometimes got in the way of fairplay.

His pontificate witnessed one of the last flickers of crusading zeal, originally encouraged by another Pope Urban, Urban II in the expedition of Peter I of Cyprus, who took Alexandria on (October 11, 1365), but soon afterwards abandoned it. He enforced a crusade against the Turks to take back Alexandria. He also sent many missions to Bosnia, Lithuania, Bulgaria and China.

As Peacemaker

Urban's instincts, however, were for peace-making. He tried hard to free both France and Italy from the bands known as "free companies" that at that time terrorized both countries. He tried excommunicating them, and directing their energies to help the king of Hungary in his battles against the Turks. His preference for peace in Western Europe did not preclude support for military action elsewhere. This scheme did not succeed, but not for lack of effort on the part of Urban who devised several versions to try to convince the Companies to re-direct their energies. This included persuading the Holy Roman Empire to finance their crusading efforts for three years.

The Failed Return to Rome

The great feature of Urban V's reign was the effort to restore the Papacy to Italy, and to suppress its powerful rivals for the temporal sovereignty there. He also wanted to negotiate the re-union of the Eastern and Western churches, and thought this would be easier if the Pope was resident in Rome. In 1363 he excommunicated Bernabò Visconti, the last great figure of Ghibellinism in northern Italy, which occupied the Papal city of Bologna and valiantly resisted the troops of Gil de Albornoz, the Papal vicar in Italy at the time. Urban ordered a crusade to be preached throughout Italy against him and his kindred, accused to be robbers of the church's estate; but in the march of following year he found it necessary to purchase peace: through the mediation of Emperor Charles IV, he removed his ban against Visconti, obtaining Bologna only after a grevious payment. Around Rome, he also planted vine-yards.

Continued troubles in Italy, as well as pleas from figures such as Petrarch and St. Bridget of Sweden, caused Urban V to set out for Rome, which he reached on October 16, 1367. However, although greeted by the clergy and people with joy, and despite the satisfaction of being attended by the Emperor in St. Peter's, and of placing the crown upon the head of the Empress, it soon became clear that by changing the seat of his government he had not increased its power. In 1369, In Rome he also received the homage of the king of Cyprus, Queen Joan I of Naples and of the Byzantine emperor John V Palaeologus. He embraced the Catholic faith. John had pleaded with the Pope to assist him in his battle against the Turks. He was also impoverished, and needed Western aid. No senior Orthodox clergy accompanied him to Rome. On his way back to Constantinople, he was arrested by the Venetians to whom he owed money. No one else in the Byzantine Empire supported his move towards reconciliation with Rome, and the two jurisdictions remained apart. Emperor John was rescued from Venice by his son. When the Turks restored John as Emperor he had no choice but to recognize Turkish suzerainty. When he was deposed by his son in 1376, the Turks helped him to regain power. Urban also coronated Charles IV as Holy Roman Emperor while in Rome and started a re-building program in Rome, where many churches were in a state of disrepair.

Back to Avignon

The French cardinals were urging him to return to the safety of Avignon, although their real motive was their own comfort and, with numerous cities of the Papal States in revolt, personal courage aside, Rome was not a safe place to be. Chamberlain comments, "under constant pressure from his cardinals, who pined for the comforts of Avignon, and under constant military attack from the Italians for whom the papacy was now a French power," Urban decided to return to Avignon.[3] He took ship at Corneto on September 5, 1370, arriving at Avignon on the 24th of the same month. A few days later he fell ill, and died on December 19. Before he died, he was at his own request moved from the papal palace to his brother's house, since he wanted to due in more humble circumstances. He was succeeded by Pope Gregory XI (1370–78).


Urban V is remembered as a man "whose motives cannot be called in question: his policy aimed at Eurpoean peace" even though his French patriotism may be considered a "a defect in the universal father of Christendom."[4] Peace at home, and the reunification of the church, was his goal. He succeeded in neither, yet he can not be faulted for trying to achieve these aims. The movement for his canonization began within a few years of his death. It was demanded by Valdemar IV of Denmark and promised by Pope Gregory XI as early as in 1375, but did not take place owing to the disorders of the time. Urban V was beatified was by Pope Pius IX (1846–78) in 1870, making him the Blessed Urban V. His feast day is December 19.


  1. "Blessed Pope Urab V," American Catholic Blessed Pope Urban V Retrieved February 10, 2008.
  2. Raymund Webster, "Pope. Bi. Urban V," The Catholic Encyclopedia, Volume XV. Published 1912 Pope. Bl. Urban V Retrieved February 10, 2008.
  3. Chamberlain, 133
  4. Webster

ISBN links support NWE through referral fees

  • Bower, Archibald. The History of the Popes. Boston: Adamant Media, 2001. ISBN 978-1402171796
  • Chamberlain, E. R. The Bad Popes. NY: Barnes & Noble, 1993. ISBN 0880291168
  • Duffy, Eamon. Saints and Sinners: A History of the Popes. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 2006. ISBN 978-0300115970
  • Maxwell-Stuart, P. G. Chronicle of the Popes: The Reign-by-Reign Record of the Papacy over 2000 years. London: Thames & Hudson, 1997.
  • McBrien, Richard P. Lives of the Popes. NY: Harper, 2000. ISBN 978-0060653040

External links

All links retrieved May 3, 2023.


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