New Catholic Dictionary – Pope Boniface VIII

statue of Pope Boniface VIII by Arnolfo di Cambio, c.1296, Vatican MuseumArticle

Reigned from 24 December 1294 to 11 October 1303. Born c.1235 in Anagni, Italy as Benedetto Gaetani; died on 11 October 1303 in Rome, Italy. Prior to his election, he was cardinalpriest, and papal legate to Sicily, France, and England. Having succeeded Celestine V when the latter abdicated he at once began his efforts to free the papacy from Neapolitan influence. He attempted to end wars between Venice and Genoa, Charles II of Naples and James II of Aragon, and the Guelphs and Ghibellines. He secured the release of Jens Grand, Archbishop of Lund, imprisoned by Eric VIII of Denmark; recognized the election of Albert, Duke of Austria, as King of Germany; and conquered and excommunicated the warlike leaders of the Colonna faction in Rome for their tyranny and treason. To combat Philip the Fair of France who was taxing his dependents unjustly, he promulgated his famous Bull Unam Sanctam, which defined the relations of the powers of Church and State. Philip, unwilling to correct his misuse of power, resolved to summon a general council against the pope. By means of generous subsidies he levied an army of mercenaries headed by Nogaret and Sciarra Colonna, to force the pope to attend the council. The troops broke into the papal stronghold at Anagni, and the two leaders seized Boniface and imprisoned him in the palace for three days without food or drink. He was then taken to Rome and kept under the close surveillance of the Orsini. Worn out from the indignities he had sustained, the pope died one month later. He was noted as a canonist of great ability and a man of learning. During his pontificate he founded the university of Rome, encouraged the painter Giotto, and enlarged the Vatican Library. His memory has suffered from the unjust condemnations of Jacopone da Todi and Dante, whom he censored for their ultra-spiritual Catholicism.

MLA Citation

  • “Pope Boniface VIII”. New Catholic Dictionary. CatholicSaints.Info. 16 August 2012. Web. 21 October 2020. <>