End of the Western Schism, 1414-1418

The election of three separate Popes shook the foundation of Europe in 1414. Debate over which of the three is the most legitimate has divided not just those of the Catholic faith, but the governments of all major countries of Western Europe. The conflict dates back to 1378, after Pope Gregory XI dies while trying to move the papal court from Avignon back to Rome. The Italians riot, demanding the election of a Roman pope and the end of the corrupt and flamboyant Avignon papacy, and Urban VI is elected. Unfortunately, Urban is brash, violent, radical and strongly disliked. The French, eager to return the papacy back and under their control, encourage their cardinals to elect a rival pope, Clement VII, who reestablishes the court at Avignon. Eventually, a third pope, the Pisan John XXIII, is elected and the Catholic Church is split in allegiance among the three rival courts. In 1414, Pisan John XXIII realizes that Europe is falling apart and convenes the Council of Constance to combine the three papacies into one as well as deal with ravages of war, conflicts between Poland and the Teutonic Knights, and the punishment of heretics and pagans. This council—consisting of cardinals, bishops, archbishops and select representatives of major governments—must succeed.