Louis of Bavaria and the teachings of Marsilius of Padua

Marsilius of Padua was a philosopher who lived in the 13th and 14th centuries AD. He wrote a book called Defensor Pacis, which dealt with political and religious themes. He believed that the state was not subject to ecclesiastical oversight and in the autonomous state. He said that governments should not be subject to any authority outside them, and that obviously includes the papacy.
Marsilius further said that the ecclesiastical should proceed from the community and the emperor. He rejected the authority of the pope, saying that the church has no visible head. He said that Peter (who is considered by Catholics to have been the first pope) had no more authority than the other apostles and that it is uncertain that he ever came to Rome.
Marsilius did, however, say that the pope had the authority to call an ecumenical council. But in his view the council was to be superior to the pope. Marsilius said that the pope’s decrees are not binding, and that he can only impose what the council has decided.
Marsilius said that the emperor has authority over the pope and the ecumenical council, and that the church should not legislate, adjudicate, possess goods, sell, or purchase without the authorization of the state. He also said that the community should elect and oversee the clergy in the performance of their duties. In his view, the state or the community is everything, with the church only playing a small part.
He opposed states and provinces, and said that in a state there should exist only one authority and only one jurisdiction. He said that the government of a nation should be based on the consent of the people. He said that the more people involved in law making, the less likely those laws will only favor a few people.
Marsilius wrote Defensor Pacis to support the Holy Roman Emperor Louis of Bavaria. Louis claimed the title of emperor, but was challenged by Frederick of Austria for the throne. Pope John XXII refused to crown either of them emperor, and said that both were kings, but neither was the emperor. Louis and Frederick did not accept the declaration of the pope, and fought a war against each other instead. In 1322, Louis defeated Frederick and took on imperial authority. John demanded that Louis surrender his authority and come to be judged at the papal court. Louis, of course, refused to do this. John excommunicated Louis in 1324 and placed all his lands under interdict.
Because the papal court was located in Avignon during this time, The German territories saw the papacy as an extension of the French throne. Thus most of the German territories ignored the pope’s orders. The Spiritual Franciscans also opposed the pope during this time, encouraging Louis to denounce the pope. Louis then called for an ecumenical council to try the pope for heresy. Marsilius supported Louis along with another philosopher, John of Jandun, who is sometimes named as the co-author of Defensor Pacis.
Louis headed to Rome to be crowned emperor by the people, and was joined by the two philosophers. The pope struck back in 1327 by excommunicating Marsilius and John and demanded that Louis leave Italy. Louis was welcomed in Rome due to the anger at the papal residence in Avignon. The pope responded again by putting Rome under interdict for not kicking Louis out of Rome. Louis called a popular assembly to depose John as pope, and to replace him with a new pope, Antipope Nicholas V. Marsilius demanded that the priests offer mass as before the interdict, which many refused to do. The torture of those who refused, Louis’ high taxes, and the robbery of several market goods angered the Roman populace. Louis left Rome in fear of the people, and returned back to the German lands. The Antipope Nicholas V was arrested and taken into papal custody.
Back home, Louis decided that he would rule just how Marsilius would have him rule. He used for himself money that papal legates were collecting for a crusade, and dissolved the marriage of Margaret of Carinthia so that his son could marry her. His disregard for the pope was in line with Marsilius’ teachings. His execution of Marsilius’ teachings were evident in his struggle with the pope, and the subjection of the church to the state was definitely one of his goals.

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