Monday, February 11, 2013


"This agglomeration which was called and which still calls itself the Holy Roman Empire was neither holy, nor Roman, nor an empire." -- Voltaire (1756).*

Meanwhile, back in Avignon in the south of France, there were reigning popes. For a while, during the Great Schism (1378-1415), it must have seemed as if it were raining popes, too -- popes and anti-popes. In Avignon and, for a time, also in Rome, and in Pisa of the Leaning Tower. Today, given the rarety of Pope Benedict XVI's announcement of a papal retirement shy of death, people have been hearkening back to that time, and saying "Schism" in two ways -- skɪzz'em and sɪzz'em (as in sizzlin'). Before today, I'd only ever heard it the first way, maybe because it seems so close to schizophrenic. 

I didn't know I'd become a Catholic at the time, but in the not-too-distant past I found myself on a sort of circuitous pilgrimage by rail and by foot from Avignon to Pisa to Rome, with lots of people and places in between. In these hallowed spaces, punctuated by centuries-old architecture and ancient ruins, you can see history, feel it, really get it at a deeper-than-rational level. And that's memorable. As is today's startling announcement, no matter who becomes the next pope.

*"Ce corps qui s'appelait et qui s'appelle encore le saint empire romain n'était en aucune manière ni saint, ni romain, ni empire." From: Essai sur l'histoire générale et sur les mœurs et l'esprit des nations.

Today's Rune: Possessions.  


the walking man said...

I must have missed something seeing as I never considered the man as anything but a criminal who rose very high in the ranks to Capo di Capo and still did not right the wrongs he himself covered up. Personally I hope the next pope is an African.

It was odd as I read what you wrote about your journey through France and Italy...3000 years from now will people have the same religious epiphany about Scientology or Christian Science?

Charles Gramlich said...

Lana told me about it and I went, "Whaaaaaaatttttt?" Hard to believe.

Erik Donald France said...

Thanks, dudes ~! WM, indeed, the Mormons already do this in the US, heritage trails.

Everyone takes their own path, or doesn't.

As for the wrongs of the church, another Voltaire quip: " . . . history is nothing more than a tableau of crimes and misfortunes." But he didn't fully believe that, or he wouldn't have fought for a freer, more just, compassionate and thoughtful society, nor would reforms and progress occur. Being Catholic is like being an American citizen -- one can be both while still looking at things with critical distance and perspective, and pushing for improvements.

jodi said...

What did we expect with such an old Pope going in? I want to take a pilgrimage and retrace your trip. Sounds so cool. My nephew did the Mecca pilgrimage thing. Crazy!