Unam Sanctam

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Unam Sanctam ( Latin : "A holy (church)"), issued on November 18, 1302 by Pope Boniface VIII , is considered the most famous papal bull of the Middle Ages . In it the Pope formulates the supremacy of the papacy over secular rulers.

Conflicts between Pope and King

This bull belongs to the exchange of heated announcements between Boniface VIII and King Philip IV the Beautiful of France. Both mutually denied the right to tax French clerics . The ban on the export of this taxpayer money to Rome had brought the local finances into extreme distress. The Pope expressly forbade the clergy to pay the required taxes to the king, declared the king deposed and summoned him to an excommunication trial in Rome for heresy , simony and a number of other crimes .

Universal rule

The bull is the most complete justification one from the Pope primacy derived papal world domination in spiritual as in secular affairs. It begins with the words:

"A holy Catholic apostolic church we must accept and hold fast in obedience to faith."

Boniface VIII does not claim actual secular power in the hands of the church, but the subordination of the monarchs. The secular sword is subordinate to the spiritual sword ; it is used and tolerated by the Pope, or to put it another way: the spiritual is wielded by the church and the worldly for the church. In addition, the spiritual should speak right about the worldly power, whereby it is only obliged to God.

The text culminates in the sentence:

"So we declare that all human creatures, when their souls are lost, must be subject to the Pope in Rome, and tell her and determine it."


The bull made little impression on the French king; for his part, he declared the Pope a heretic, sorcerer and sodomite . Papal power collapsed just a year after the bull was published: During the assassination attempt at Anagni , French mercenaries plundered the papal residence and left the almost seventy-year-old pope to starve and thirst for three days; a month later Boniface VIII died.

See also


Web links

Wikisource: Unam sanctam  - Sources and full texts (Latin)