How Did King Phillip Cause The Great Schism

King Philip IV of France, also known as Philip the Fair, played a significant role in causing the Great Schism within the Catholic Church. His actions and decisions had lasting consequences that led to a division in the Church and the eventual schism. In this article, we will explore the various ways in which King Philip caused the Great Schism and the repercussions of his actions.

1. Conflict with Pope Boniface VIII

One of the key events that set the stage for the Great Schism was King Philip’s conflict with Pope Boniface VIII. Boniface, a strong advocate for papal authority, clashed with Philip over the taxation of the clergy and the pope’s right to intervene in secular affairs. In response, Philip launched a campaign against the pope, accusing him of heresy and corruption.

This conflict escalated to the point where Philip sent troops to arrest Boniface at his residence in Anagni, Italy, in 1303. Although the attempt was unsuccessful, Boniface was mistreated and subsequently died, leading to a power vacuum in the papacy.

2. Control Over the Papacy

Following the death of Pope Boniface VIII, King Philip exerted his influence over the papal elections to ensure that a pope favorable to his interests was selected. Philip managed to secure the election of Clement V, a Frenchman who was sympathetic to the king’s agenda. Clement V was eventually crowned pope in 1305 and moved the papal court to Avignon, France, where it remained for the next 67 years.

This relocation of the papal court to Avignon, known as the Avignon Papacy, gave King Philip significant control over the Pope and the Church. Philip used this influence to further his political and financial goals, leading to increased corruption and nepotism within the Church.

3. Influence on Papal Policy

King Philip’s influence over the papacy also extended to shaping papal policy to align with his interests. Philip pressured Pope Clement V to take actions that favored the French crown, such as the suppression of the Templar Order in 1312. The pope complied with the king’s demands, further consolidating Philip’s power and control over the Church.

As a result of Philip’s interference, the papacy became increasingly subservient to the French monarchy, compromising its independence and authority. This manipulation of the papacy by secular rulers set a dangerous precedent that would contribute to the eventual schism within the Church.

4. Conflict with Pope Boniface IX

Despite King Philip’s efforts to maintain control over the papacy, his actions ultimately led to conflict with subsequent popes who resisted his influence. Pope Boniface IX, who succeeded Clement V, sought to assert the papacy’s independence and authority, challenging Philip’s dominance. This conflict intensified tensions between the French king and the papacy, setting the stage for the Great Schism.

Philip’s continued interference in papal affairs and attempts to manipulate the Church for his own gain contributed to the growing rift between the French monarchy and the papacy. The breakdown of trust and cooperation between the two powers laid the groundwork for the division that would later erupt into the Great Schism.

5. Legacy of King Philip’s Actions

The actions of King Philip IV of France had far-reaching consequences that reverberated throughout the Catholic Church and beyond. His manipulation of the papacy and interference in Church affairs weakened the institution’s moral authority and integrity, leading to a loss of credibility among the faithful. The Great Schism, which unfolded in the 14th and 15th centuries, was in part a result of the precedent set by Philip’s actions.

The division within the Church during the Great Schism further eroded its unity and contributed to political instability and social unrest across Europe. The repercussions of King Philip’s actions were felt for centuries, underscoring the critical role that secular interference can play in the affairs of the Church.


In conclusion, King Philip IV of France played a central role in causing the Great Schism within the Catholic Church through his manipulation of the papacy and interference in Church affairs. His actions weakened the moral authority of the Church, set a dangerous precedent for secular interference in religious matters, and ultimately led to a division that fractured the unity of the Church. The legacy of King Philip’s actions serves as a cautionary tale about the dangers of political influence on religious institutions and the consequences of power struggles between secular and spiritual authorities.

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