The Avignon Papacy refers to the period from 1309 to 1378 when the seat of the papacy was in Avignon, France. Pope Clement V chose to move the papal court to southeastern France because of the turbulence in Rome caused by the conflict between his predecessor and King Philip of France. Because of Philip’s role in the election of Clement V, many have argued that he was pressured by Philip to move the papacy to Avignon. Six popes would reign in Avignon before the papacy would be returned to Rome.
This period was referred to by Martin Luther and other reformers as the "Babylonian Captivity," an allusion to the exile of the Jews in Babylon in the sixth century BCE. Because many considered the papal court to be under the rule of the King of France during this period, the Avignon Papacy undermined the authority of the papacy.
© 2004 Mark Gstohl, PhD.