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The Papacy had experienced perhaps its greatest ever crisis in the 14th century. This was the ‘Great Schism of 1378’ which left the Church divided for some forty years. The roots of the schism lay in the intervention of the French monarchs into the affairs of the Papacy, that eventually led to successive Popes living in Avignon, in Southern France.<ref> Duffy, Eamon. <i>Saints & Sinners: A History of the Popes.</i> Yale University Press, 1997), p. 211</ref> By 1378 the church was divided between Cardinals who were pro-French and who wanted to stay in Avignon and Italian Cardinals who wanted to return to Rome. By 1378 the Church had two Popes one based in Avignon and one based in Rome. The situation became even more confused when a third Pope was elected. This continued for almost forty years until the Council of Constance, when cardinals from all over Europe elected Pope Martin V (1417-1431) as the sole Pope in Rome.
Martin effectively ended the ‘Great Schism’, was the first of the Renaissance Popes and he reestablished the Papacy in Rome.<ref> Duffy, p. 314</ref> The successors of Martin were able to make the Eternal City once more the center of Christendom. The city at this time despite not being a commercial center saw a period of massive economic growth driven by the spending of pilgrims and contributions from churches throughout Europe. The city soon became wealthy and the Pope’s treasury overflowed. The power and the prestige of the Papacy grew during the reigns of the 14 Popes of the Renaissance era. However, this golden era for the Popes ended in 1527, when the mutinous army of the German Emperor Charles V besieged and sacked Rome, killing thousands and leaving much of the city in ruins. The ‘Sack of Rome’ in 1527 is seen as not only the end of the Renaissance Papacy but also the Renaissance.<ref> Tuchman, Barbara W., <i>The March of Folly: From Troy to Vietnam.</i> Random House Trade Paperbacks, 1985), p. 167</ref>.
==Popes and Renaissance Culture==