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  • All’indomani del grande Scisma d’Occidente. Jean Le Fèvre canonista al servizio dei Valois e il trattato De planctu bonorum in risposta a Giovanni da Legnano by Alessandro Fabbri
  • Thomas M. Izbicki
All’indomani del grande Scisma d’Occidente. Jean Le Fèvre canonista al servizio dei Valois e il trattato De planctu bonorum in risposta a Giovanni da Legnano. By Alessandro Fabbri. (Florence: Edifir Firenze Edizioni. 2013. Pp. 317. €22,00 paperback. ISBN 978-88-7970-625-4.)

The Great Western Schism (1378–1417) began with disputed papal elections but soon erupted into pamphlet warfare. Urban VI (1378-1389), the Roman claimant, secured support from the jurists Baldus de Ubaldis and Giovanni da Legnano. An early reply on behalf of Clement VII (1378–94), the Avignon claimant, was written by Jean Le Fèvre, a Benedictine with training in canon law at the University of Paris. Le Fèvre became abbot of St. Vaast and entered the service of the French crown during the reign of Charles V (1364–80). His De planctu bonorum, completed in 1379, was specifically directed against the De fletu ecclesiae of the Bolognese professor Giovanni da Legnano. In this book, Alessandro Fabbri provides an overview of the origins of the Schism, the French response to the disputed papal election of 1378, and Le Fèvre’s own career and his polemical work. An important part of this book is Fabbri’s edition of his subject’s tract.

Fabbri sketches the controversial conclave of 1378, the role of the French crown in ecclesiastical politics, and Le Fèvre’s earlier life before settling into his study of the polemics about the papal election. An important part of this study is [End Page 599] an outline of the differing casus, or summaries, on which the polemics were based. Giovanni da Legnano used summaries open to an Urbanist interpretation, whereas Le Fèvre used one favorable to Clement. It included an accusation that Bartolomeo Prignano, who became Urban VI, was involved in whipping up the Roman mob to demand choice of a pope from Rome or at least from Italy. Le Fèvre used a dialogue format, with Bononiensis presenting Giovanni’s argument and Parisiensis replying point by point. Among the issues addressed were whether fear of the mob cancelled Prignano’s election as coerced, whether the temporary acceptance of Urban by the cardinals validated the election, and whether the cardinals’ actions should be interpreted from the viewpoint of moral courage or its lack. Giovanni downplayed the element of fear and underlined the temporary acceptance of Urban. Le Fèvre argued the opposite case, describing Prignano as a mover of mob violence and its beneficiary. He did have to find excuses for the cardinals, who had not risked martyrdom on behalf of the Church, preferring their own safety.

Le Fèvre’s tract was not widely circulated. Fabbri’s edition, thoroughly documented, is based on a single manuscript (Paris, Bibliothèque Nationale Latin 1472). One apologist for Clement VII, Pierre de Barrière, made use of the work of the venerabilis abbas, although differing with him on some matters. Fabbri was rewarded for his service to the crown, including his work as an apologist, with promotion to the bishopric of Chartres in 1380. Charles V died in the same year; and Le Fèvre passed into the service of Charles’s brother, Louis of Anjou. The bishop undertook diplomatic missions for Louis and then for Yolande of Aragon, his widow. He remained faithful to the Angevins, who had a claim to the crown of Sicily as well as a role in French politics, to his own death of January 11, 1390. As a loyal servant of Anjou, he even occasionally opposed the interests of Jean, duke of Berri and another brother of Charles V, and even of Clement VII, the man he had argued was the true pope. Fabbri’s book gives us insight into the Clementist case in the Schism.

Thomas M. Izbicki
Rutgers University


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pp. 599-600
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