Anagni assassination

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The so-called assassination attempt of Anagni on September 7, 1303 was the end of a long dispute between Pope Boniface VIII and the French King Philip IV .

Sala dello schiaffo. The room in which Sciarra Colonna is said to have defeated Pope Boniface.
Pope Boniface VIII is captured. (Depiction from the Nuova Cronica by Giovanni Villani , 14th century)


The conflict between Pope and King had become apparent years before. The background was the politics of Philip, who wanted to tax the clergy in 1296 in order to finance the war against England, which resulted in considerable resistance from the Curia. In response, Philip banned the export of valuables from France in 1296, which cut off the papal court from the taxes of the French benefices. In 1301 the Pope supported Bernard Saisset , the bishop of Pamiers , whom Philip had arrested for criticizing his rule. Apparently, however, the Pope also overestimated his power: In 1302, in the Bull Unam Sanctam , he formulated the papal claim to power in an unprecedented form, to which the Paris court replied with several counter-writings (see e.g. Johannes Quidort of Paris ).


The end of August had the rumor spread that Boniface intend on September 8 at the portal of the cathedral of Anagni , where the popes of that time were staying during the summer months by an appropriate Bull Philip because of his overbearing behavior with the spell to prove his To release subjects from their oath of allegiance and to annul the covenants made by them.

Philip's Chancellor Guillaume de Nogaret managed to forge an alliance with the influential Sciarra Colonna , a Roman nobleman whose family was at odds with the Caetani, the Pope's family, over disputes over land in Lazio . On the morning of September 7, 1303, a group of armed men led by Nogaret and Colonna entered the Pope's palace in Anagni . According to the sources, Boniface is said to have been almost alone at this time and only defended himself with the staff cross in his hand. They threatened Boniface and asked him to resign from his office. When he refused this with the words "Here my neck, here my head", they beat him, mocked him by throwing a donkey's skin on him as a coat and kept him imprisoned in his own palace. On September 9th, the citizens of Anagnis freed the Pope and drove out the attackers. Nevertheless, the already 68-year-old Pope was so carried away by the events that he died four weeks later, having since returned to Rome .

The papacy, which was deeply humiliated by this act, subsequently became increasingly dependent on the French king, so that in 1309 the papal seat was even relocated to the city of Avignon , which at that time was officially part of the Holy Roman Was empire , but was under the influence of the Kingdom of France (see Avignon Papacy ).

Due to a translation error, the event also went down in history as an ear slap from Anagni . Manus inicere simply means “to take someone”. There is no evidence that Nogaret literally slapped the Pope out of his office.


  • Joachim Ehlers : The Capetians (= Urban pocket books. Vol. 471). Kohlhammer, Stuttgart et al. 2000, ISBN 3-17-014233-X , pp. 203ff.
  • Johannes Haller : The papacy. Idea and reality. Vol. 5: The collapse. Stuttgart 1965, pp. 154-159.
  • Martin Kaufhold : The turning points of the Middle Ages. From the imperial coronation of Charlemagne to the discovery of America. Thorbecke, Ostfildern 2004, ISBN 3-7995-0144-4 , pp. 144–151.
  • Heike Johanna Mierau: The Anagni assassination attempt in 1303 - a scandal? In: History in Science and Education 69, 2018, pp. 18–34.
  • André Vauchez: Conceptions of the Church. In: History of Christianity . Vol. 6 ed. By Michel Mollat ​​du Jourdin and André Vauchez, edited by Bernhard Schimmelpfennig. Herder, Freiburg i. Br. 1991; Special edition 2007, pp. 264–314, especially pp. 268f.


  1. in Volgare : "ec le col, ec le cape", quoted from Girolamo Arnaldi : Italy and his invaders. Berlin 2005, p. 110.