The Late Medieval Pope Prophecies: The Genus Nequam Group

The Late Medieval Pope Prophecies: The Genus Nequam Group

The Late Medieval Pope Prophecies: The Genus Nequam Group

The Late Medieval Pope Prophecies: The Genus Nequam Group

Excerpt

The Genus nequam prophecies are the earliest group of late medieval Latin pope prophecies that describe the progress of the Church from Nicholas III (1277–1280) to the final pontiff. Besides Nicholas and the last angelic pope, in these fifteen prophecies we see depicted Martin IV (1281— 1285), Honorius IV (1285–1287), Nicholas IV (1288–1292), Celestine V (July—December 1294), Boniface VIII (1294–1303), and Benedict XI (1303–1304).

The prophecies, ascribed to Joachim of Fiore but linked historically with the fortunes of the Italian Spiritual Franciscans in the late thirteenth century, were an attempt to interpret the events of the times within a larger framework of meaning, one provided by the rhetoric of eschatology. Marjorie Reeves and others suggest that the prophecies were intended as a vehicle of both propaganda and reform, concluding that the authors not only wished to influence the outcome of contemporary events including

The early work on these prophecies was done by Herbert Grundmann, “Die Papstprophetien des Mittelalters,” Archiv für Kulturgeschichte 19 (1929): 77–138, reprinted in Ausgewählte Aufeätze, 2: Joachim von Fiore, MGH, Schriften 25, 2 (Hanover, 1977), 1–57; Maŋorie Reeves, The Influence of Prophecy in the Later Middle Ages (Oxford, 1969), 393–462; eadem, “Some Popular Prophecies from the Fourteenth to the Seventeenth Centuries,” in Popular Belief and Practice, G. J. Cuming and Derek Baker, eds., Studies in Church History 8 (1972), 107–134. More recent studies include Bernard McGinn, “Angel Pope and Papal Antichrist,” Church History 47 (1978); 115–173, and “‘Pastor Angelicus’: Apocalyptic Myth and Political Hope in the Fourteenth Century,” a paper presented in Assisi, October 1987, and reprinted in Santi e santità net secolo XIV, 221–251 (Perugia, 1989); and Robert E. Lerner, “Ursprung, Verbreitung und Ausstrahlung der Papstprophetien des Mittelalters” in Robert E. Lerner and Robert Moynihan, Weissagungen üher die Päpste: Vat. Ross. 374 (Stuttgart, 1985); also Lerner, “On the Origins of the Earliest Latin Pope Prophecies: A Reconsideration,” Fälschungen im Mittelalter, MGH, Schriften 33, 5 (Hanover, 1988), 611–635.

There is some disagreement on this point. Robert E. Lerner maintains, and Bernard McGinn agrees, that in the early form there was no reference to Benedict XI. I won’t rehearse the arguments here, but see McGinn, “‘Pastor Angelicus’,” 235, and Lerner, Weissagungen üher die Päpste, 33; see also below n. 36.

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