The University of St Andrews is commencing the celebrations of its 600th anniversary, as the institution was founded in stages between 1410, when teaching started, and 1413, when a bull was issued recognising it as a university by Pedro de Luna, an antipope who styled himself Benedict XIII. Yesterday I attended a fascinating lecture by Dr. John Rao — From the Triple Papacy to the Council of Constance — as part of the 2010–2011 lecture series organised by the Roman Forum.
Boy was Benedict a baddie! Even the council he called passed resolutions condemning him and the cardinals he appointed turned against him. He ended his days maintaining his schismatic claim, holed in island fortress of Peñiscola. The day before he died, he appointed four cardinals, who elected de Luna’s friend Gil Sanchez Muñoz y Carbón as Clement VIII. Or rather, three of the cardinals did while the fourth — Jean Carrier, the archdeacon of Rodez — wasn’t present, so he went and single-handedly elected his sacristan Bernard Garnier as pope, who took the name Benedict XIV.
Garnier was permanently in hiding, and his location was only ever known to Carrier. B-14 did manage to choose four cardinals of his own, and on the antipope’s death they elected Carrier pope, who was inconveniently captured and imprisoned by his rival antipope, Clement VIII. Oddly, having just succeeded the supposed Benedict XIV, Carrier chose to use the name and style Benedict XIV also. A novel by Jean Raspail (L’Anneau du pêcheur) depicts a line of anti-papal successors to the two Benedict XIVs.
As a lecturer, Dr. Rao is both informative and entertaining, and I’d encourage anyone interested to attend the remaining lectures in this year’s series. There’s always wine on offers and little things to nibble on, with a box for generous donations to be made towards the cost of the program. The next lecture is Martin V and the Troubled Return to Rome — this week is the 593rd anniversary of that pope’s election, as it happens.
Also, Dr. David Allen White, retired Professor of World Literature at the United States Naval Academy, returns to New York in December for the Syllabus of Errors Weekend, on the subject of Charles Dickens and the Evils of Modernity. I went to last year’s Syllabus of Errors weekend, and Professor White is entrancingly engaging, a veritable font of knowledge.