John XXII.

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John XXII.

John XXII. (originally Jacques Arnaud Duèze or Jacques Duèse , called Jakob von Cahors in German sources ; * 1245 or 1249 in Cahors , France ; † December 4, 1334 in Avignon , France) was the first Pope who (from 1316 until his death) resided exclusively in Avignon .


Coat of arms of John XXII., Modern tracing

Jacques Arnaud Duèze was born the son of a shoemaker . He studied medicine in Montpellier and law in Paris . From 1308 he was Chancellor of the Neapolitan King Charles II of Anjou († 1309) and his successor Robert I. In 1300 he became Bishop of Fréjus and in 1310 Bishop of Avignon , in 1312 Cardinal Bishop of Porto e Santa Rufina .

Much had changed in the two-year vacancy of the papacy following the death of Clement V in 1314. Philip IV the Handsome , King of France, died that same year and was succeeded by his two insignificant sons - first by Louis X. and, after his death in 1316, by Philip V. In the Holy Roman Empire , two kings, Louis IV. the Bavarian and Frederick the Handsome of Austria, against each other. In a letter, Dante implored the seven Italian cardinals to elect an Italian to be Pope who was to bring the Curia back to Rome. But this request had no chance of success against the French 17, of which only eleven out of Gascogne came; and so with Jakob von Cahors another French was elected Pope.


The election of John XXII. on August 7, 1316 in Lyon was enforced by Robert of Anjou , King of Naples and Titular King of Sicily. It was the last conclave , which lasted more than half a year, and it did not lead to an election until after Robert had walled the cardinals present in the cathedral of Lyon , had covered the roof of the not yet fully vaulted nave and had the food rations reduced . The hygienic conditions became catastrophic and Duèze finally simulated a dying person, so that his choice appeared to the quarreling cardinals as the least evil and a way out of their misery. John, who was also called the “Fox of Cahors”, was then the second Pope to reside in Avignon (see Avignon Papacy ) and was also buried in the cathedral there after serving for almost two decades.

Foundation of the order of Christ

On March 14, 1319, John gave his approval in the bull Ad ea ex quibus cultus to found the Portuguese order of the Knights of Christ . In return, the Portuguese king handed over the royal castle of Castro Marim in the Algarve as the future seat of the new order. Thus, after lengthy negotiations, the Portuguese royal family succeeded in avoiding the destruction of the Templar order, because the Pope allowed the goods of the Templars in Portugal to be transferred to the successor order.

Conflicts with the emperor and poverty struggle

With great doggedness he led the fight against Emperor Ludwig of Bavaria and the spirituals of the Franciscan order . The conflict with the king revolved primarily around the papal claim that only a Roman king recognized by the Pope could exercise rights of rule (see Papal Approval ). The so-called poverty dispute with the spirituals, which demanded church recognition and strict observation of the original religious ideal of poverty, had already caused considerable discussions and condemnations among the Pope's predecessors and was actually decided by Clement V in favor of the spirituals. However, John revised this judgment in 1317, citing earlier decisions and allowed the radical spiritualists to be persecuted by all means; there were executions. Part of the Franciscan order under Angelus Clarenus split off as a result. From 1321 the dispute shifted to the theoretical question of the lack of property of Jesus and his disciples and the resulting demand for total poverty of the church. After the Pope had taken a position on this and rejected the doctrine of the Franciscans, the Order persisted, referring to the doctrinal statements of Pope Nicholas III, who was well-disposed towards the Franciscans . († 1280) in his position. Spirituals such as Ubertin von Casale joined the camp of Ludwig IV, who was also supported by the Superior General of the Friars Minor Michael von Cesena .

On September 28, 1322 Ludwig defeated his adversary Friedrich the Fair in the Battle of Mühldorf . Afterwards Ludwig reconciled himself with Friedrich and made him co-king. This did not prevent Pope John from conducting “trials” against the king, although he had repeatedly expressed his willingness to seek reconciliation. When Ludwig became active in Italy, Johannes threatened to ban him in 1323. In the same year he condemned the Franciscan teachings on the poverty of Jesus Christ as heresy. Thereupon Ludwig referred to the Pope himself as a heretic because of his attitude in the poverty dispute. Johannes in turn denied Ludwig the royal dignity and excommunicated him and his followers. In this context, numerous political and theological pamphlets were written, in which u. a. Michael of Cesena, Marsilius of Padua and Wilhelm von Ockham defended the king and the Franciscan doctrine of poverty.

In 1327 Johannes had the Franciscan general Michael von Cesena, whom he himself invited to talk, imprisoned in Avignon. He was initially unable to prevent his re-election, despite pressure being exerted on the order. Michael fled a year later with Wilhelm von Ockham to Ludwig the Bavarian. King Ludwig was crowned emperor on January 17, 1328 by Roman nobles (including Sciarra Colonna , main participant in the assassination attempt by Anagni against Boniface VIII ) - and not by the Pope - in St. Peter's Church in Rome "in the name of the people". This revolutionary act of coronation by laypeople made the act of coronation a secular measure without the character of a sacramental consecration. After the coronation, the emperor raised Nicholas V to antipope. But just two years later, Nicholas submitted to Pope John. In 1329 the Pope had Geraldus Odonis elected as the new Superior General of the order and forbade the writings of his opponents. Michael von Cesena and the Franciscans, who continued to adhere to the Franciscan teachings of poverty that the Pope fought, were considered a sect ( Fratizellen ) in the following decades and were persecuted as heretics by the Inquisition .

Promotion of Mission in Asia

The pontiff actively supported the missionary work in the Near and Far East. As early as 1318 he founded a new ecclesiastical province with the Archdiocese of Sultaniya in Persia in an area that was previously completely undeveloped by the church. This is today's Soltaniyeh , in the Iranian province of Zanjan ; at that time the capital of the Ilkhan dynasty, which was open to Christianity . The khans Arghun († 1291) and his son Öldscheitü († 1316) sought long-term contact with Christian Europe - also for political reasons, the latter was even baptized Christian.

In 1329 Pope John established the first Latin diocese of the subcontinent in Quilon, South India, on the personal report of the India missionary Jordanus Catalanus de Severac . He made the Dominican chief shepherd and sent special messages of greeting to the rulers there.

Character and conduct of office

John XXII. human inadequacies, in particular stubbornness, irascibility and mockery are said to be. Like his predecessor, the Pope was bound to provincialism and nepotism . He made five close relatives cardinals. Through its appointments of French cardinals, the papacy remained an institution in the south of France. The Pope is also accused of simony (purchasability in appointments to offices). In any case, he received up to 230,000 guilders a year through a sophisticated tax system consisting of dispensations, benefices and ordinations. The papal treasury collected the money with great severity, sometimes in an extortionate manner. The Pope strictly rejected the demand of the spirituals for the Church to be completely poor and their conception of the historical poverty of Christ and his disciples. The fortune he accumulated made him the richest ruler in Europe. Personally, however, he lived a simple and frugal life. His tick was well-known that, as Pope, he believed that he should only eat white foods, such as milk, rice, and white bread. He also took a considerable part of the papal income as donations to the poor; especially for this purpose he created the alms office in Avignon. Its accounts show that meals were cooked for the poor every day and that up to 67,500 loaves of bread were distributed over the course of a typical week. In addition, the needy was provided with clothing and medicine.

His financial behavior, but also nepotism, the strong French influence in the Curia and his policy towards Louis IV created a strong anti-papal mood in Germany and Italy. Dante, who died on September 14, 1321, saw Pope John XXII. a spoiler of the Church.


In 1324/25 the Pope forbade Ars nova in the Docta Sanctorum bull ( The well-founded doctrine of the Holy Church Fathers ) .

"The masses are sung incessantly by the clergy and the people on a tried and tested tenor that is graduated in degrees, so that this difference evokes pleasure and the well-tried kind of joy."

It was thus the first statement by a Pope on church music .

With his bull Quia nonnunquam of March 26, 1322, the Pope condemned the doctrine propagated by the Franciscan Order, according to which Jesus Christ and his disciples had no personal or community property . The supporters of this view then referred to church teaching tradition and specifically referred to that of Pope Nicholas III. in his bull Exiit qui seminat “for all times”. After the General Chapter of the Franciscans had rejected the papal statement as illegal because the Pope could not revoke a doctrine once approved by the Magisterium, and Franciscan theologians had confirmed the orthodoxy of the position criticized by the Pope and supported it with exegetical reports, John reacted on December 8th of the same year in his bull Ad conditorem canonum , declared himself expressly authorized to withdraw “obstructive laws” of his predecessors and repealed the property regulation of the Franciscan order, which supported the poverty ideal of the order. With the bull Cum inter nonnullos of November 12, 1323, the Pope finally officially declared the above-mentioned view to be heretical . In doing so, he relied on theological discussions of the Dominican Thomas Aquinas , whom he had canonized in June 1323.

John XXII. from 1328 also led the inquisition trial against Meister Eckhart , which Archbishop Heinrich II of Virneburg had begun in 1325. Eckhart is considered one of the most important mystics of the Middle Ages. Since he submitted to the judgment of the faith judges and also died before the end of the trial, he was not convicted as a heretic himself, but John issued the bull In agro dominico on March 27, 1329 , which condemned 28 von Eckhart's sentences.

John XXII. represented in his last years, the teaching, the souls of the saints would after her death until the Last Day, not for the vision of God ( beatific vision come), but only to view Christ as a human being. He also represented this doctrine, which deviated from the traditional doctrine, in sermons in 1331 and 1332. John XXII. is said to have revoked this opinion shortly before his death; his successor definitely rejected them with the bull Benedictus Deus in 1336. The corresponding statements of John XXII. are considered private theological opinion and are not covered by the dogma of papal infallibility . This dogma, proclaimed in 1871, relates only to solemnly ( ex cathedra ) proclaimed beliefs which are clearly based on the intention to make an infallible decision of belief. Other papal utterances are therefore not regarded as infallible according to Catholic teaching.

In 1334 Pope John introduced the Feast of Trinity .

Literary afterlife

Umberto Eco's novel The Name of the Rose is set in 1327, i.e. during the pontificate of Pope John XXII., And in the framework of the plot it addresses the then current poverty dispute between the Franciscans and the Curia.


  • Carl August Lückerath: Johannes XXII. In: Theologische Realenzyklopädie 17, pp. 109–112.
  • Helmut Feld: Francis of Assisi and his movement. 2nd revised edition, Darmstadt 2007 (therein: Chapter XI: The Poverty Controversy under Pope Johannes XXII. , Pp. 496–501).

Web links

Commons : Ioannes XXII  - Collection of images, videos and audio files

Individual evidence

  1. To the Archdiocese of Sultaniya
  2. ^ Founding of the Sultaniya Church Province
  3. ^ F. Donald Logan: History of the Church in the Middle Ages. Scientific Book Society, Darmstadt 2005, → On the alms system under Johannes XXII.
predecessor Office successor
Clemens V. Pope
Benedict XII.

Jacques de Via
Guillaume de Maudagot
Bishop of Avignon

Jean de Cojordan
Jacques de Via
Bertrand V. Comarque Bishop of Fréjus
Bertrand VI. d'Aimini