Pope Urban VI (1378–89) was a Neapolitan named Bartolomeo Prignano whose election was the immediate cause of the Great Schism, successor of Gregory XI. He was made archbishop of Acerenza (1364) and of Bari (1377). On the death of Gregory, the conclave, with French cardinals in the majority, fell into factions and was threatened by a Roman mob demanding the election of an Italian to prevent the return of the papacy to Avignon. At the suggestion of Cardinal de Luna, Prignano was elected. Urban, before his election peaceable and modest, now became upbraiding and harsh and alienated all the cardinals. They went to Anagni, then to Fondi, and declared Urban’s election invalid on the ground that they had been intimidated by the mob. With the consequent election of a new “pope,” Robert of Geneva (antipope Clement VII), began the Great Schism. Urban was recognized from the first by most of Italy and Germany, by Flanders, and by England and English territories. Until 1380, St. Catherine of Siena lived at Rome, working for Urban’s recognition. Urban alienated his political allies by his behavior; he probably murdered five cardinals (he had created a new sacred college) who had plotted against him, and thus horrified all Europe. Many believe Urban was insane. His election is now generally considered canonical. He was succeeded by Boniface IX.
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