Blessed Urban V

Pope Urban V (1310 – December 19, 1370), born Guillaume Grimoard, was Pope from 1362 to 1370.

He was a native of Grizac in Languedoc (today part of the commune of Le Pont-de-Montvert, département of Lozère). He became a Benedictine and a doctor in Canon Law, teaching at Montpellier and Avignon. He held the office of abbot of Saint-Victor in Marseille; and at Avignon, on his way back from Naples, whither he had been sent as papal legate, he was elected Pope Urban V (September 28, 1362) in succession to Pope Innocent VI (1352–62).

As Pope he was a severe disciplinarian, discountenanced the pomp and luxury of the cardinals, introduced considerable reforms in the administration of justice, and liberally patronised learning. He founded the University of Hungary. 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 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.

His pontificate witnessed one of the last flickers of crusading zeal 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.

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. 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 Rome he was otherwise able to receive the homage of the king of Cyprus, Queen Joan I of Naples and the Byzantine emperor John V Palaeologus, and crowned Charles IV as Holy Roman Emperor.

Unable any longer to resist the urgency of the French cardinals, and with numerous cities of the Papal States in revolt, he took ship again 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. He was succeeded by Pope Gregory XI (1370–78).

His canonization 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's cultus was approved by Pope Pius IX (1846–78) in 1870.


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