Chapter 2: Chaucer's Pardoner, the Bishop of Pamplona, and the Great
In 1378, soon after the beginning of the Great Schism in the western church, Martin de Salva, the bishop of Pamplona, traveled to Rome and while there "had the courage to stand up to Urban VI . . . on two occasions, telling that pope to his face that he was no pope and should step down." Many years later, after the failure of the First Paris Council in 1395, which was called to find solutions to the social, political, and religious controversies created by the Schism, Charles VI ordered a meeting to be held in Paris between his envoys, a group of men headed by the Duke of Berry, and eight cardinals loyal to Benedict XIII. Benedict had succeeded to the papal throne in Avignon after Clement VII's death the year before. The purpose of the meeting was to discuss possible resolutions to the problems of the Schism. Benedict's cardinals had been instructed to propose "a via convencionis that would be a via iusticie" on the pope's behalf which was inevitably favorable to securing Benedict's position as the only true pope of the church. Charles VI favored the via cessionis which required that both popes resign in favor of a single person elected to take their respective places. The primary advocate and legal authority responsible for the via cessionis was Simon de Cramaud, who had taken his doctorate in laws at the University of Orlčans in 1375 (Kaminsky, 73). His role in the controversy and its ultimate resolution cannot be over-emphasized. At the time, all but one of Benedict's cardinals (Martin de Salva) capitulated to Valois pressure to endorse the via cessionis, which was meant ultimately to deprive both Benedict XIII and Boniface IX, who had succeeded Urban after his death in 1389, of their papal authority.
The bishop of Pamplona opposed any form of via cessionis, according to Howard Kaminsky, and at the meeting "first pointed out how irregular it was for cardinals to act as individuals with the dukes rather than as a college with the pope, then went on to state that since Benedict was the true pope it was the duty of Catholics to support him" (Kaminsky, 142). Salva also suggested that the "intruder" in Rome be expelled immediately and that any other action "would be shameful to Avignon believers dead and alive, including the royal house of France" (Kaminsky, 142). Kaminsky notes that Salva's independence, while a genuine "personal trait," was also "reinforced by the fact that most of his benefices, including the bishopric of Pamplona, lay in Navarre" and were therefore beyond the reach of any direct influence from the king of France (142). When the cardinals returned to Avignon, announcing their decision to support the Valois position of via cessionis, "they requested the pope do so as well, an action that put him under the formal obligation of fulfilling his conclave oath" to resign the papacy (Kaminsky, 142). Even though Benedict restated his fidelity to the oath on July 5, 1395, after agreeing to abide by the terms of the via cessionis, Kaminsky notes that "his advisers would show endless ingenuity in proving that the conclave oath did not necessarily bind the pope to resign" as a means of ending the Schism (143).
In assessing the significance of these events, Kaminsky argues that the origins, causes, and the prolongation of the papal Schism, which lasted from the election of Clement VII in 1378 to the ascension of Martin V in 1417, was largely the result of economic and political factors having more to do with the distribution of pastoral benefices and the revenues associated with them than it did with any deep or abiding concern over the religious and theological issues the Schism encompassed. Kaminsky by no means denies or minimizes the terrible dilemma faced by the church over the issue of the apostolic succession to the throne of St. Peter that was initiated by the Schism. That controversy in itself became insoluble by virtue of the fact that it was impossible for anyone to say which of the two popes was the genuine Vicar of Christ. If the wrong choice were made, then everyone in the church would be confronted with the fact that they had acted to depose or eliminate the true pope in favor of the false one, wherein the succession would be forever broken and lost. The specter of that calamity paralyzed reasoned judgment for many individuals because the wrong action would effectively destroy the single, hegemonic, authoritative voice of papal authority for all future generations. Kaminsky also notes that the issues of papal legitimacy, "which involved not only the sacredness of the church but also, in the minds of some, the validity of sacraments, the legitimacy of titles to benefices, and the chances of salvation," created the sense that a divided church could no longer assure any believer that his or her soul was on a proper path to salvation (4). To put this as plainly as possible: if the sacraments of the church were rendered invalid by the Schism, no Christian, pursuing pilgrimage or not, could be hopeful of salvation until unity was restored to the church.
Kaminsky does, however, tend to emphasize the economic aspects of the controversy in his analysis. He argues that economic pursuits were primary among causes giving rise to the dual papacy. In reporting the words of Boniface Ferrer, the head of the Carthusian order in 1411, for instance, he notes that the cardinals in order "[t]o keep their benefices and keep drawing their revenues 'would commit all the evils imaginable in this world'; 'they would even adore idols,' for 'they have as much of Christ's faith as the amount of revenues from their benefices, and no more'." That Ferrer's evaluation of the situation is reasonably accurate can be inferred from a statement made by Jean de Lagrange, one of two leading Valois clients in Benedict's college of cardinals who accompanied Martin de Salva to Paris in 1395 (Kaminsky, 139). Lagrange and his closest associate, Pierre de Thury, had agreed prior to the meeting to support Charles VI's position if the dukes failed to accept Benedict's proposal of a via iusticie. Lagrange explained their position by saying:
This way we will gratify the king, the dukes, and the realm, recognizing the benefits we have received, and we will put our persons and estate securely beyond all perils. Critics of us and our estate will be silenced, the hatreds of clergy and people will stop, and we will no doubt be making a virtue of necessity, which is a very prudent thing to do. Whatever happens then, the king, the dukes, the whole realm, and the king's allies will certainly stand by us, so that during the period in which union of the church is being pursued we will have all the prerogatives and advantages that the king and dukes can give us.
Cardinal Lagrange's clearest concern here is that he and his closest associates in the college of Benedict remain steadfast, not in the good graces of their pope necessarily, but in the opinion of the king and his dukes. The import of the passage signals the inescapable political reality ("making virtue of necessity") that the king, and not the pope, wields the power to preserve and to depose the highest ranking members of the ecclesiastical estate in, or from, their benefices. That the aristocracy has come to possess such obvious power over the affairs of the ecclesiastical estate after just 17 years of Schism tends to support Kaminsky's argument that the disunity in the church has fostered a situation where, as he puts it, the "Christian virtue of charity" has come to be considered "more a traditional adornment than an essential principle" resting "uneasily amidst considerations of estate, administrative responsibilities, zealous prosecution of property rights, and worldly munificence" (97). This state of affairs, of course, had not developed overnight but had been building up in church culture for many years.
In a letter commissioned by the order of Charles VI in January, 1394, from the University of Paris, which is officially dated on June 6 of that same year, the University outlined its views of the best way, or ways, to end the Schism. The letter also contains observations on the state of the church at the time. During the interval between January and June, however, Pedro de Luna, who became Benedict XIII after Clement's death, and other members of the Avignon contingency showered expensive gifts on members of the royal court in an effort to sway the court away from seeking church unity, since the via cessionis being sought would ultimately deprive Clement of his property rights and ecclesiastical powers. The letter itself states that Clement's curialists were convinced they would "get great offices and fat benefices now that the church is in turmoil, which they rightly believe they could never get in a whole and united church." After some delay, and considerable difficulty, the letter was read before Charles VI on June 30, 1394. Nothing substantial resulted from the effort of the University to bring the Schism to an end. Knowledge of Pedro de Luna's actions in bribing the French court did surface in England after he became pope and hardened the opinion there that he was not the true Vicar of Christ.
In summarizing his assessment of the French position toward a solution to the Schism after the First Paris Council, Kaminsky notes that
Benedict was required to give his unconditional assent to a via cessionis whose only condition was that the other contenders had to resign also; it would be up to the king of France to obtain this condition by direct dealing with the powers of the other obedience, and it would be up to the secular powers of both sides to program and protect the actual process of the double renunciation, which the Paris formulation of the via cessionis laid out in some detail. It was a scenario that assigned the two popes the role of puppets whose every move was prescribed by the agents of secular government. (137)
Given the fact that nearly everyone at the end of the century believed the church incapable of solving the Schism itself, coupled with the fact that secular governments were also perceived as holding the only power capable of enforcing a solution if the two sides refused to accept the terms of a settlement, it would not be totally inappropriate to observe that the church, especially in the upper range of its hierarchy, had undergone a rather radical transformation in its status as a religious institution par excellence, which it had enjoyed in greater or lesser degree for many centuries prior to the Schism, and had instead become little more than a subordinate extension of secular powers and authorities that held sway over it. To argue at the same time that many of the most serious and widespread abuses in the church were directly attributable to the disunity generated by the Schism also seems to be a reasonably appropriate assessment.
One question this all too brief analysis of the Schism raises, is why Chaucer chose to associate his Pardoner with the institution of St. Mary's of Rouncivale at Charing Cross, London, as opposed to any number of other similar institutions, or causes, available to him at the end of the fourteenth century. This is a question that has troubled some Chaucer critics for a number of years. When Chaucer says, in the General Prologue, that with his Summoner
ther rood a gentil PARDONER
Of Rouncivale, his freend and his compeer,
That streight was comen fro the court of Rome. (I.669-671),
we have little choice but to accept as true what the narrator tells us, no matter how conflicted that assertion may actually be. In the context of the Schism, in fact, that statement is not only absurd--it is also probably literally impossible. How and why that is the case becomes a relatively simple matter to explain, even if Chaucer's motivation for so severely conflicting his Pardoner's social, political, and ideological connections remain much more difficult to assess.
Morton W. Bloomfield points to the fact that in 1379 the property of St. Mary's of Rouncevale was seized by Richard II because "its possessions" were considered to be "the property of a schismatic alien, for Navarre had supported the anti-Pope Clement VII elected in 1378." Navarre's support of the Avignon papacy continued until a final solution was achieved in 1417. More significantly to the point, of course, is the fact that the bishop of Pamplona, Martin de Salva, in whose diocese the Order of St. Mary's of Rouncivale was located, and under whose authority it was held and administered, journeyed to Rome in the preceding year to denounce Urban VI to his face as no pope at all, and did so, not once, but twice in the same year. It seems disingenuous to suppose that Richard's action was a coincidence unconnected to Salva's denunciation of Urban. The seizure was probably undertaken by John of Gaunt, since, as regent for his eleven year-old nephew and king, Gaunt most likely would have executed the order. It is also true, as Bloomfield and others have pointed out, that indulgences for pardoners of Rouncivale were issued by the bishop of Pamplona, by Martin de Salva specifically from 1378 to 1398, since he controlled the benefice there for at least that long. In other words, the alms collected in England by Rouncivale's pardoners would have been sent directly to Martin de Salva, if they were exported at all, who remained loyal, and staunchly so, to the Avignon popes, Clement VII and Benedict XIII, his entire life and was still actively opposing Rome in favor of Avignon in 1395. By 1398, Salva still held steadfast in his support of Benedict XIII, so much so, in fact, that he "was refused permission to come to Paris" in order to attend the Third Paris Council in May of that year because Charles VI and his dukes did not want to permit his anticipated objections to the via cessionis to be heard by the members of the Council (Kaminsky, 217).
David K. Maxfield, in a more recent study, has shown that Rouncivale's pardoners were spread "out all over Europe carrying indulgences authorized by the pope and by the Bishop of Pamplona" (152). He also notes that after the initial seizure of property in 1379, the Court of Chancery ruled that the property should be returned to foreign control in 1384, however, "the traditional payments to the mother house [in Spain] did not resume" (154). Boniface IX, according to Maxfield, ruled in 1402 that "the customary payments to the mother house should be resumed and all arrearages paid" (155). No evidence, however, has surfaced to suggest that any money was ever sent from England to Navarre. Boniface's ruling in this matter seems contradictory, since Navarre was still firmly in Benedict's camp. One thing which had changed, however, according to Kaminsky, was that Navarre's secular authority had shifted its support to the via cessionis prior to the Third Paris Council in 1398, which suggests another reason for Salva's exclusion, since he no longer supported the king's position, and Boniface's order may reflect an acknowledgment of that change. Boniface had never been as strident in his refusal to resign the papacy, and accept via cessionis, as Benedict had always been. Boniface's order, at the same time, cannot be said to affect Chaucer's perception of Rouncivale's pardoners because the order was issued in 1402, two years after the accepted date of Chaucer's death.
A point which should be made here, but one whose full context will be developed as we move along Chaucer's path, is that every solution to the papal Schism was referred to in the same Latin form, each one was perceived as a distinct kind of via. A partial list of proposals includes via cessionis, via compromissi, via concilii generalis, via convencionis, via facti, via iusticie, and via reduccionis. If one chooses to regard each of the various strategies to solve the Schism as a journey (via) from the intolerable condition of having two contending popes to a desired goal of returning to having only one, then the constant repetition of a concept like via in the communications of debate over which one is best suited to solve the problems becomes, in the mind of a poet like Chaucer, another way (via) of defining the nature of pilgrim (viator) and of expressing the function of pilgrimage (peregrinatio). To say that Chaucer has proposed his own solution to Schism and has named it via viator or via peregrinationis is almost the same as saying what is only obvious. Chaucer's journey begins at the Tabard Inn, a totally secular place on the road to Canterbury that mirrors the secular concerns of the ecclesiastical estate during the years of Schism. Its ultimate destination, its philosophical goal, is to reach the holy city of "Jerusalem celestial" (X.51), as the Parson contends, which is the same as expressing a hope that the church can and will return to the unity of having a single legitimate head, a single pope. His choice of pilgrimage as a frame structure for his final work, one whose dominant orientation was toward the social, political, and religious problems generated by the Great Schism, is the most natural, if not the most organically perfect, choice he could have made. The fact that the pilgrimage never reaches Canterbury is consistent with Chaucer's experience of Schism, since he died seventeen years before any semblance of unity was restored to the church.
Looking at the Canterbury Tales under the dark sky of the church's disunity brings many of Chaucer's issues and concerns into sharper focus. In the present context, for instance, it is apparent that when Chaucer says his Pardoner is connected to Rouncivale but has just returned from Rome with a wallet "Bretful of pardouns . . . al hoot" (VI.687), he has pulled his original audience, and us, as well, but with more reservations, into the complex and difficult world of a life lived out under the religious stress of a church broken in half by a social and political Schism in the papacy which has shown no sign of being healed in any way since its inception in 1378, fully nine years before Chaucer began work on the Canterbury Tales. That Chaucer intends to foreground the Schism itself in his portrait of the Pardoner seems clear enough from the incongruity generated by the assertion that the man carries pardons routinely issued by the bishop of Pamplona, by Martin de Salva, who is so strident in his opposition to Urban VI that he travels to Rome to confront him directly, and, in the same wallet, as it were, also carries pardons from the very pope, or his successor, that Salva condemns. Every member of Chaucer's fourteenth century audience would have relished the irony they recognized in the schismatic contradiction in terms that the first three lines of the Pardoner's portrait embodies, since it is highly unlikely that any honest pardoner would have carried authorization from both sides of the schismatic split. This is true because the contradiction involved in collecting alms donations owed to both sides of the schismatic division between benefices could not possibly be distributed properly to both Rome and Avignon. A pardoner with authorization from both popes would have been immediately suspect simply because there is no credible way he could have returned his collections to the proper authority. What we are left with, of course, is the inescapable impression that Chaucer's Pardoner is collecting from both sides of the street and converting everything to his own avaricious use. This is essentially the claim he makes for himself.
When the Pardoner says in his Prologue that all his preaching revolves around the subject "of avarice and of swich cursednesse" (VI.400), whose purpose is directed at making his audience "free/ To yeven hir pens, and namely unto me" (VI.401-402), we are not being told anything we should not already know. The Pardoner reinforces our awareness of his character by asserting that his "entente is nat but for to wynne,/ And nothyng for correccioun of synne" (VI.403-404). In these few statements, Chaucer brings before us a perfectly cast image of a child of the Great Schism. If every great prelate, from pope to bishop, is primarily concerned with protecting the revenues of his own benefices, and most held more than one, while all secular authority, from king to knight and squire, is found to be assisting in that enterprise by not acting decisively to end the Schism, what Chaucer gives us in the figure of the Pardoner is simply and completely the end result of the social, political, and religious turmoil caused by the papacy being divided into two contradictory voices which have either lost or abandoned what was at one time a hegemonic authority. The Pardoner is free to offer any sort of pardon at all, from any source, under any seal, simply because what he is doing is perfectly consistent with what every other "noble ecclesiaste" (I.708) was doing at the same time. If the cardinals are concerned only with how best to protect the revenues of their benefices, as Kaminsky makes clear, then Chaucer's Pardoner is not an exception to a norm; he is instead an expression of its rule.
Chaucer makes this point exceptionally clear when the Pardoner explains his "entente":
Therfore my theme is yet, and evere was,
Radix malorum est Cupiditas.
Thus kan I preche agayn that same vice
Which that I use, and that is avarice.
But though myself be gilty in that synne,
Yet kan I maken oother folk to twynne
From avarice and soore to repente.
But that is nat my principal entente;
I preche nothyng but for coveitise. (VI.425-433)
The phrase, "Thus kan I preche," carries with it the sense that the Pardoner has learned, through extensive practice apparently, the craft of preaching in such a way as to be able to "maken oother folk to twynne/ From avarice." That, of course, is not his intent, since he also claims a second time that he only preaches to "wynne gold and silver" (VI.440) for his own use, but the question this statement raises is how the Pardoner has found both the audience and the place and time to develop his skills of false-preaching if ecclesiastical authority has any overt interest in condemning and preventing the practice of the abuses he enacts. Both Hamilton (1941; 49) and Maxfield report that Boniface IX, in a "general letter . . . in 1390 bitterly denounced the activities of false pardoners everywhere in Christendom, especially those in holy orders." Alfred L. Kellogg and Louis A. Haselmayer note, however, that, in spite of many such attempts to condemn the practices of false pardoners, "the professional collector everywhere continued with little change his indestructible existence."
Chaucer, who could not have been unaware of attempts to quell the practices of such dishonest churchmen, gives us one very compelling illustration of why the official voice of the schismatically conflicted church failed to end the most obvious abuses of the pardoners. When Harry Bailly refuses to venerate the Pardoner's false relics and accept his offer of a pardon in the Epilogue to the Tale, and verbally attacks the man's cupidity and avarice, the Knight intervenes in the dispute by insisting that Harry and the Pardoner settle their differences but without resolving any issue that stands between them. The Knight simply tells Harry "I prey yow that ye kisse the Pardoner" (VI.965), but does not seem to be aware of the man's false preaching and completely ignores the threat his duplicity poses to the stability and health of the church. There was little doubt in anyone's mind at the time, of course, that the Schism posed a grave threat to the church and to the salvation of all its believers. Symbolically, at least, Chaucer's Knight behaves precisely the way that most of Europe's and England's aristocracy acted during the years of the Great Schism.
The Knight's intervention between Harry and the Pardoner, which is not by any means an arbitrary or unmotivated act on Chaucer's part, precisely raises the issue of the relationship between the papal disputants and the response of the forces of secular government to them. In general terms, nearly everyone agreed that the church could not resolve the Schism on its own. This attitude prevailed for two reasons. In the first place the same college of cardinals was responsible for the election of both schismatic popes, for both Urban VI and Clement VII. In short, the cardinals created the Schism and could not be expected, or trusted, for that matter, to resolve it. At the same time, since the principals involved in the dispute were popes, and hence held the highest human authority in and over the church, there was no one available in the hierarchy who could act as judge and arbitrator over the claims of legitimacy made by the two sides. The only alternative to this impasse was to turn the problem over to secular governments, to the kings and dukes of the various states affected by the Schism.
With respect to England's position toward the Schism specifically, two aspects of its policy are certain. England never wavered in its support of Urban VI, or his successors, against Clement and Benedict during the course of Chaucer's lifetime. Kaminsky does note, however, that some changes occurred in England's position with respect to how a solution to the Schism could best be achieved but as late as 1394 "virtually no one in the Urbanist obedience was advocating even voluntary abdication" (205). The changes which occurred after 1394 were tied to the second constant in England's policy toward the harm being caused by the church's disunity. The English peerage and Richard II always insisted that peace between England and France must be achieved before any discussion of solutions to the Schism could, or would, be entertained or negotiated. In 1396, after a meeting with his father-in-law, Charles VI, in Calais, Richard agreed to join France in an effort to bring about a via cessionis, wherein both popes would resign, but some evidence exists that Richard, after returning to England, either changed his mind, breaking his promise (oath?) to Charles, or that Charles had second thoughts about conditions of the peace negotiations scheduled in Picardy later that same year and failed to send the envoys he had promised. J. J. N. Palmer argues that Charles's failure to conduct negotiations in good faith with England prompted Richard's refusal to support whole-heartedly the French version of the via cessionis.
While there is some confusion over England's position toward the Schism during this period, it is clear in the earliest years of the papal dispute that the crown supported a via facti (way of force) against Clement and Avignon. In 1383, for instance, as we have already seen, a considerable army was raised by Hugh Despenser, the bishop of Norwich, for action in the field against the northern provinces of France and against Flanders. Both areas were loyal to Clement's obedience and Urban VI granted the campaign the status of crusade, which allowed the English to collect and use alms donations as a means of financing the adventure against the Clementists. The crusade itself resulted in a total, abject, humiliating defeat for the forces of the English crown under the bishop of Norwich, who was impeached on his return by the Parliament of 1383. Most of his captains were imprisoned briefly as well for charges that involved the widespread sale of horses to the French. With the moon's "exaltacioun" in Libra, of course, the Parliament's action in judging the bishop and his captains after the crusade becomes an intrinsic element of Chaucer's poetry because the "scales" of justice did weigh heavily against the Norwich principles in 1383. Chaucer's knowledge of these events can be inferred from his reference to the Norwich crusade in his portrait of the Squire (I.85-88) in the General Prologue.
Since England never again attempted an invasion of France on behalf of Urbanist objectives, one can assume that the crown abandoned hope of pursuing the via facti against Clement and his Valois supporters. It also seems appropriate to suggest that, after the military debacle of the crusade in 1383, peace between England and France took precedence over any solution to the Schism in the formulation of English foreign policy, a position that appears consistently in the documentation after 1384. Chaucer may actually stress this point when he has the Knight intervene in the dispute between Harry Bailly and the Pardoner in Fragment VI of the Ellesmere order, since the Knight's objective can be seen as an attempt to restore "peace" before settling any of the religious issues that evolved out of the state of Schism in the church. The fact that nothing of substance follows the quelling of argument between the two combatants, with respect to the religious issues raised in the confrontation, seems perfectly consistent with virtually everything Chaucer could have witnessed in the arena of political relations between England and France between 1384 and 1396, when peace was finally achieved and cemented in the exchange of marriage vows between Richard and Isabella, Charles VI's daughter (Palmer, 1968, 520). After their meeting in Calais, on November 5, 1396, the two kings issued a statement pledging mutual support in ending the Schism.
A final element of the crown's policy may also be the most significant influence on the development of Chaucer's perception of the various religious and political issues involved in the debate over how best to end the Schism. John of Gaunt is credited with several serious attempts to organize and execute councils directed toward solutions to the Schism. During the early 1390's, for instance, at about the same time Charles VI raised a considerable army to invade Italy and depose Urban by force of arms, which Richard II effectively prevented, John of Gaunt, apparently in conversation with a French author, Honoré Bouvet, at the Amiens conference in the spring of 1392 (Palmer, 1972, 194), said that
When there is peace between the kings of England and France, then we will quickly have a single pope, but not before. The one in Rome is not the pope but neither was Clement rightly elected; both should resign and another one be set up. At the same time the King of England will never agree that Clement remain pope if the one in Rome is condemned; for he would not let himself be marked by such a stain. (Kaminsky 36-37)
A minor problem with the historical validity of the statement is that Bouvet recorded it two years after his interview with Gaunt and there may be some question about the credibility of Bouvet's memory of events. J. J. N. Palmer, however, who also quotes the same passage, notes that several other people also attributed such sentiments to Gaunt, most notably the official court historiographer to Charles VI, the Monk of St. Denys. The monk, according to Palmer, "recounts that in 1393 the duke of Lancaster told a Clementist legate, in no uncertain terms, that as soon as England and France had concluded a peace, the contending parties would be forced to put an end to the Schism, or be exterminated" (Palmer, 1968, 519). Gaunt's threat, striking in itself for the frankness of its implied menace, takes on an added element of significance, even notoriety, because it was made to Pedro de Luna, a cardinal at the time loyal to Clement, who became Benedict XIII a year later after Clement died (Palmer, 1972, 195).
A remarkable coincidence, if one believes in the possibility of such things, appears in the fact that the source of the comment about exterminating the "contending parties" if they refuse to end the Schism comes down to us from the Chronique du Religieux de St. Denys. The "coincidence" surfaces in Chaucer's setting for the Shipman's Tale, which begins: "A marchant whilom dwelled at Seint-Denys" (VII.1). If one accepts the notion that the Knight's intervention between Harry Bailly and the Pardoner expresses the idea that the kings of England and France meant to achieve peace between them before they attempted to resolve the issues of the Schism, which accounts for the Knight's willful ignorance of the abuses the Pardoner's behavior embodies, then the setting at Seint-Denys for the Shipman's Tale creates a direct connection between one thing and the other as a reference to the chronicle where John of Gaunt's statement about the Schism was recorded. The Monk of St. Denys, furthermore, according to J. J. N. Palmer, was always present with court officials when the affairs of the church were expected to be discussed (195). This connection will be discussed in more detail later.
The fact that Fragment VI follows directly after the Squire-Franklin exchange in Fragment V, where close links between the Franklin and Physician are evident, draws us back to the portrait of the Squire in the General Prologue. That connection is significant because of what Chaucer tells us there about the Squire's military experience; namely, that
he hadde been somtyme in chyvachie,
In Flaundres, Artoys, and Picardie,
And born hym weel, as of so litel space (I.85-87)
Chaucer's words here seem to contain an element of praise for the way the Squire conducted himself during the campaign in Flanders and Picardy but, in fact, the opposite is probably closer to the truth in terms of the way Chaucer's audience would have received that information. Being connected to, and bearing oneself well in, the most disastrous and humiliating defeat in fourteenth century English military history cannot be read as any kind of praise for the Squire in Chaucer's recounting of events. It is also true in this context that Chaucer's reference to the moon's "exaltacioun" in Libra in the Prologue to the Parson's Tale fixes a possible date for the pilgrimage that coincides with the public revelation of the offenses committed by the participants in the Norwich crusade, since those offenses were tried and judged in the scales of justice by the Parliament of 1383.
What may be most difficult for modern readers of the Canterbury Tales to accomplish concerns issues exactly like the ones that have been discussed here. From our vantage point in the twentieth century, it is possible to recapture the bare and basic facts of events that occurred in, and shaped, the fourteenth century, events which we see now in a kind of restricted, closed off, and abstract laboratory of academic research, as footnotes in old, if classic, history books, but what we do not see, and probably cannot actually comprehend, is precisely how those same events worked on the minds and emotional responses of people who witnessed them in their own lifetimes. Chaucer did not need to explain the significance of his reference to the fact that his Pardoner carried indulgences from both rival obediences of the Great Schism anymore than he needed to explain his reference to "Flaundres, Artoys, and Picardie" in the Squire's portrait. Everyone in his audience knew what he meant.
Since Chaucer lived the final twenty-two years of his life under the immediate influence of conditions generated by the schismatic division of Europe, and spent much of his effort in the Canterbury Tales depicting the abuses of the ecclesiastical establishment, many of which can be directly attributed to the effects of Schism, it seems reasonable to suppose that he took some pains to expose what he knew and observed about the origins and effects of the church's disunity. Chaucer gives us the epitome of schismatic abuse, a Pardoner of Rouncivale who carries in his wallet indulgences authorized by both obediences; one from the home office in Navarre, signed by the bishop of Pamplona, Martin de Salva, and another "al hoot" from Rome, signed by Urban if he received it before 1389, or by Boniface if it came into his hands after Urban's death. The apparent ambiguity in Chaucer's real-time chronotope in the frame, where his astronomical figure in the Prologue to the Parson's Tale fixes the date of pilgrimage in both 1383 and 1391, points to events we can associate with the Squire (Norwich crusade) and the Pardoner (the first encyclical of Boniface IX). Since Martin de Salva's denunciation of Urban VI was notorious for its extreme stridency, and persistent for the first twenty years of the Schism, it seems reasonable to suppose Chaucer was aware of it. The irony of Rouncivale was certainly not lost on Chaucer's contemporary audience, even if that same irony hardly creates a ripple of meaning in anyone reading it today.
This analysis of the Great Schism
reveals several facts indispensable in dealing with the social
and political milieu that helped shape Chaucer's conception of
pilgrimage. The popes who occupied the rival obediences in Rome
and Avignon during Chaucer's life were essentially intractable in
their determination to maintain papal authority and all the
rights and privileges such power embodied. Lesser men in the
church hierarchy were not able, individually or collectively, to
depose either of the schismatic heretics who held the throne of
St. Peter's office. The church, in general, was unable or
unwilling to end the Schism and essentially abdicated its
prerogatives of power to determine its own destiny by granting
that authority to secular institutions. The kings of England and
France were expected to solve the problems of disunity but, for
various political reasons, were unable to reach accord over how
best to end the conflict. Finally, it is apparent that many of
the individuals in the highest offices of the church were more
concerned with maintaining the revenues from their benefices than
they were with the deteriorating authority of the divided church
and the spiritual fate of its ordinary members. This central core
of sociopolitical reality forms the essential ground of Chaucer's