Pope Urban V

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Blessed Pope
Urban V
Papa Urbanus Quintus.jpg
Papacy began 28 September 1362
Papacy ended 19 December 1370
Predecessor Innocent VI
Successor Gregory XI
Ordination 1334
Consecration 6 November 1362
by Andouin Aubert
Personal details
Birth name William de Grimoard
Born 1310
Grizac, Languedoc, Kingdom of France
Died 19 December 1370(1370-12-19) (aged 60)
Avignon, Papal States
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  • Abbot of the Abbey of Saint Victor (1361-1362)
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Coat of arms {{{coat_of_arms_alt}}}
Feast day 19 December
Venerated in Roman Catholic Church
Title as Saint Blessed
Beatified 10 March 1870
by Pope Pius IX
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Pope Urban V (Latin: Urbanus V; 1310 – 19 December 1370), born William de Grimoard,[1] was Pope from 28 September 1362 to his death in 1370 and was also a member of the Order of Saint Benedict. He was the sixth Avignon Pope.

Even after his election as pontiff, he continued to follow the Benedictine Rule, and he lived simply and modestly which did not always gain him allies who were used to lives of luxury. Pope Pius IX beatified him in 1870 on account of his holiness, and he is the only pontiff of the Avignon Papacy to be beatified.

Urban V pressed for reform throughout his pontificate and also oversaw the restoration and construction of churches and monasteries. He came close to reuniting the Eastern and Western churches, but was not able to achieve this. This goal was one of he made upon his ascension to the pontificate.[2]


Early life

William de Grimoard was born in 1310 in the Castle of Grizac in the French region of Languedoc (today part of the commune of Le Pont-de-Montvert, department of Lozère), the son of William de Grimoard, Lord of Bellegarde, and of Amphélise de Montferrand. His two brothers were Etienne and Angel de Grimoard, future cardinal, and his sister was Delphine.

As a young man in 1327, Grimoard became a Benedictine monk in the small Priory of Chirac, near his home,[3] which was a dependency of the ancient Abbey of St. Victor near Marseille, and he was sent there for his novitiate. After his profession of monastic vows, he was ordained a priest in his own monastery in Chirac in 1334.

Showing great academic talent, he was then sent to the great universities of Europe, earning a doctorate in Canon Law in 1342. He became acclaimed as a foremost canonist of the age, himself teaching at Montpellier, Paris and Avignon. In August 1361, he was elected as the abbot of the Abbey of St. Victor.[4] Despite the appointment, he continued to teach as a professor across France.

Election and papacy

In September 1362, William was in Naples as a papal emissary when Pope Innocent VI died. After previously electing Pope Clement VI's brother, who declined,[3] in a surprise move, on the 28th of that month they elected Grimoard as the new Pope. He was not initially informed of the result, instead he was requested to return immediately to Avignon to "consult" with the conclave. The cardinals feared the reaction of the Romans to the election of another foreign pope, and so kept the results of the election secret until William's arrival 5 weeks later. The Romans had been clamoring for some time for a Roman, or at least Italian, pope, and it was feared they would interfere with William's travel had they known of his election. Upon his arrival, William learned of his election and took the pontifical name of "Urban", the fifth pope of that name to rule the Church.

When asked the reason for the selection of his new name, Grimoard was alleged to have said: "All the popes who have borne this name were saints".

Grimoard was a compromise candidate who was elected due to the fact that none of the cardinals voting in the conclave wished to serve. He was not even a bishop at the time of his election, and had to be consecrated as one before his coronation. This was done on 6 November by Cardinal Andouin Aubert,[5] the nephew of his predecessor. He served as the sixth pope in the Avignon Papacy.

A bolognino of Urban V.

Reformer and patron of education

As Pope he continued to follow the discipline of the Benedictine Rule and to wear his monastic habit.[3] Urban V worked against absteneeism, pleuralism and simony while seeking to improve clerical training and examination.[6]

Pope Urban V introduced considerable reforms in the administration of justice and liberally patronized learning. He founded a university in Hungary. In Toulouse, he saved the university of music. In Montpellier, he restored the school of medicine there and founded the College of Saint Benedict, whose church, decorated with numerous works of art, later became the cathedral of the city. He founded colleges in Quézac and Bédouès, and a church and library in Ispagnac.

Urban V issued a preliminary consent for the establishment of the University of Kraków, which by September 1364 had gained full papal consent.[7] He provided books and the best professors to more than 1,000 students of all classes. Around Rome, he also planted vineyards.

Military campaigns

His pontificate witnessed one of the last flickers of crusading zeal in the Alexandrian and the Savoyard crusades, whereby Christian armies retook Alexandria and Gallipoli, respectively. He also sent many missions to Bosnia, Lithuania, Bulgaria and even China.

The great feature of Urban V's reign was the effort to return the papacy to Rome and to suppress its powerful rivals for the temporal sovereignty there. In 1363 he excommunicated Bernabò Visconti,[8] the last great figure of Ghibellinism in northern Italy, who occupied the Papal city of Bologna and valiantly resisted the troops of Cardinal Gil de Albornoz, the Vicar of the Papal States at the time. Urban ordered a crusade to be preached throughout Italy against Visconti and his kindred, accused as robbers of the church's estate.

As Urban V's greatest desire was that of a crusade against the Turks, however, he found it necessary to purchase peace in March of the following year. Thus, through the mediation of Holy Roman Emperor Charles IV, he lifted his excommunication against Bernabò, obtaining Bologna only after he signed a hasty peace that was highly favorable to Bernabò.

To Rome and back

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 16 October 1367. 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 King Peter I of Cyprus, Queen Joan I of Naples and the confession of faith by the Byzantine Emperor John V Palaeologus,[9] crowned Charles IV's queen as Empress[10] and established the Bridgettine order.[11]

Unable any longer to resist the urgency of the French cardinals, and with numerous cities of the Papal States in revolt, Urban V boarded a ship at Corneto heading for France on 5 September 1370, arriving back at Avignon on the 24th of the same month. A few days later he fell severely ill. Feeling his death approaching, he asked that he might be moved from the Papal Palace to the nearby residence of his brother, Angel, whom he had made a cardinal, that he might be close to those he loved. He died there on 19 December 1370.[12]


Pope Gregory XI opened the cause of beatification for his predecessor which documented miracles and the virtues of the late pope. But the cause stopped in 1379. It stopped once more in 1390 under the orders of Antipope Clement VII.

The Western Schism caused the process to stop but was revived later on which led to the beatification of Urban V in 1870 by Pope Pius IX.[3] His feast day is celebrated on December 19.[13]


  1. Richard P. McBrien, Lives of the Popes, (HarperCollins, 2000), 243.
  2. "Blessed Pope Urban V". Saint of the Day. Retrieved 27 January 2015.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  3. 3.0 3.1 3.2 3.3 Richard P. McBrien, Lives of the Popes, 243.
  4. "''Catholic Encyclopedia'': Bl. Urban V". Newadvent.org. 1912-10-01. Retrieved 2013-06-23.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  5. Richard P. McBrien, Lives of the Popes, 243.
  6. Joëlle Rollo-Koster,Thomas M. Izbicki, A Companion to the Great Western Schism, (BRILL, Boston, 2009), 329.
  7. Krakow, Julian Dybiec, Charters of Foundation and Early Documents of the Universities of the Coimbra Group, ed. Jos. M. M. Hermans, Marc Nelissen, (Leuven University Press, 2005), 60.
  8. George L. Williams, Papal Genealogy: The Families and Descendants of the Popes, 34.
  9. Aleksandr Aleksandrovich Vasiliev, History of the Byzantine Empire, 324-1453, Vol. 2, (University of Wisconsin Press, 1980), 671.
  10. Richard P. McBrien, Lives of the Popes, 244.
  11. Franklin Daniel Scott, Sweden, the Nation's History, (Southern Illinois University Press, 1988), 79.
  12. "American Catholic.org "Blessed Pope Urban V''". Americancatholic.org. Retrieved 2013-06-23.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  13. http://www.britannica.com/EBchecked/topic/619397/Blessed-Urban-V

External sources

  • Rendina, Claudio (1994). I papi. Storia e segreti. Rome: Newton Compton.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  • From the 9th edition (1883) of an unnamed encyclopedia

External links

Catholic Church titles
Preceded by
Innocent VI
28 September 1362 – 19 December 1370
Succeeded by
Gregory XI