Western Civilization I, Week 30 – John Wycliffe, Hundred Years’ War, and the Great Western Schism

(1) Who was John Wycliffe?

John Wycliffe was an English preacher who lived from c. 1324-1384, and he had a bone to pick with the Catholic church. Wycliffe was a Protestant Christian reformist before the term was even really invented, and he fueled the thought of reformists like Martin Luther and John Calvin. In essence, he distrusted the church, as there was a lot of corruption during his time. While his main claim to fame was writing a bible in the language of the layman, he also called for abolishment of the papacy, monasteries, and reinforcing morals within the clergy. He holds his bible as the supreme authority over Christianity, as corrupt clergy could taint the word of the untranslated bible.

(2) What were the causes and consequences of the Hundred Years’ War?

    Put simply, the Hundred Years’ War was caused by squabbles between the French and the English over French land. It started in 1337, when the French decided to take back the French land that had been claimed by the English centuries prior.

Way back before this happened, a man named William the Bastard became known as William the Conqueror when he invaded England about some claim to the throne, and became king of England. A hundred years later, a French man named Henry II became king of England, bringing more French land to the English throne. To make matters worse in the eyes of the French, Henry then married the wealthiest heiress in France, who brought even more French land to the throne of England. The nobility of England was now French to the max. They spoke French, loved France, ate French food, and owned roughly half of modern France. However, that half of France still technically belonged to the royals of France, meaning that the English nobility had to kneel and pay homage to French nobility. This did not work out, as the English rulers felt themselves too big to do what the French nobility told them to. They paid lip service to the French and got on with their lives.

    Using their rights, the French were able to reclaim most of the land that the English had been ruling over, so that by the time the king Edward III was born, only a little chunk of land called Gascony was left in English hands. The French ruler by then, Philip VI, intended to take back that little chunk of land. In 1337, he formally confiscated Gascony, which Edward III fought back against, and that is how the War started.

    The consequences of the Hundred Years’ War was utter destruction of France, countless deaths, and the end of England’s status as a power in the continent of Europe. In response to this, the English expanded their reach across the seas and began conquering in other continents. The War also practically destroyed feudal lords and nobility in France, instead bringing about a new social order.

(3) What was the Great Western Schism, and how was it resolved?

    Around the middle of Hundred Years’ War, while France and England were fighting it out over land, the Roman Catholic Church split into two popes and two followers. While the cardinals were electing a pope, the Roman citizens rioted in the streets, not wanting to have yet another French pope ruling over Rome. So, the cardinals elected an Italian, Pope Urban VI, who turned out to be a bit of an awful person. He fought against the cardinals and had a nasty temper, causing the cardinals to rescind their election of him and elect a Frenchman, Clement VII, as pope. However, Pope Urban was still pope, and for a religion that believed in papal infallibility, this was a problem. Christendom began to split, one group following the French pope and the other following the Italian. This divided papacy goes on so long that both popes eventually die, and their respective cardinals elected new popes. Eventually, a church council met in Pisa to discuss the matter of the divided papacy. They decided that both popes resign and a new pope be elected to reunite the Catholic church. To do this, they elected Alexander V. However, the other two popes did not resign, so there were now three popes. In 1414, Alexander V’s successor John XXIII and the Roman pope Gregory XII decided to resolve the issue by excommunicating the French pope Benedict XIII and resign. This way the council could finally elect one pope and reunite the Catholic church. The Great Western Schism ended with the election of Martin V in 1417.


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