Little Bits of History

Atrocity of War

Posted in History by patriciahysell on February 3, 2012

Artist's depiction of the War of the Eight Saints.

February 3, 1377: The Cesena Bloodbath takes place during the War of the Eight Saints. The Papal States were a part of the what is today central Italy. The states existed as a unified force for ≈ 1,300 years, although the area encompassed changed with time. Rome was the capital as well as where the Pope, leader of the Catholic Church, resided. A preponderance of Popes have been Roman/Italian. However, from 1309 to 1377, there was a run of French Popes. They ruled from Avignon rather than Rome and are called the Avignon Popes.

The Avignon Popes negotiated for the return of the Papacy to Rome. Neighboring lands were to cede territory so the French Pope would deign to return to the Holy See of Peter. Gregory XI wanted the Lunigiana region for the Papal States. Florence did not grant the request since they had recently taken the region in conquest. Pope Gregory XI and the city-states led by Florence clashed in the War of Eight Saints beginning in July 1375 with a peace negotiated at Tivoli in July 1378. The Church was now led by Pope Urban VI in Rome and the antipope, Clement VII, held sway in Avignon.

In 1376 Pope Gregory excommunicated all Florentine government officials. They were thus deprived of membership in the Church and went about setting up sects that at one time were held as heretical. The excommunicated officials were also subject to arrest and enslavement and had their properties confiscated. Fines, the value of the confiscated properties, and the cost of war itself would eventually set Florence back ≈ 2.5 million florins. Merchants in Florence were forced to flee. Part of negotiations between the two combatants was to limit areas of besieged territory. Some areas were strictly off limits. Romanga was not one of these privileged places and eventually Cesena, a city in Romanga, was sacked.

The city of Cesena had been under siege and finally fell to Breton troops under John Harkwood. The English-born leader took his orders from Robert, Cardinal of Geneva. Robert would eventually become antipope Clement VII. At the time of the battle, he was still aligned with and taking orders from Pope Gregory. The Pope sanctioned the murder of 2,500 to 5,000 civilians, an atrocity of war even then. The slaughter was named the Cesena Bloodbath and Cardinal Robert became know as the “butcher of Cesena.”

It often happens that I wake up at night and begin to think about a serious problem and decide I must tell the Pope about it. Then I wake up completely and remember that I am the Pope. – Pope John XXIII

The Pope is an idol whose hands are tied and whose feet are kissed. – Voltaire

From Paul to Stalin, the popes who have chosen Caesar have prepared the way for Caesars who quickly learn to despise popes. – Albert Camus

It rarely adds anything to say, ”In my opinion” – not even modesty. Naturally a sentence is only your opinion; and you are not the Pope. – Paul Goodman

Also on this day:

Constitutionally Taxing – In 1913, the Sixteenth Amendment passes, creating the US income tax.
Show Me the Money – In 1690, the Massachusetts Colony issued a new currency, America’s first paper money.
Say “Cheese” – In 1815, the first industrial cheese plant opened in Switzerland.