A History of Western Music

By Donald Jay Grout; Claude V. Palisca | Go to book overview

CHAPTER 4

FRENCH AND ITALIAN MUSIC
IN THE FOURTEENTH CENTURY

GENERAL BACKGROUND

After the comparative stability of the thirteenth century, the fourteenth saw change and disruption. The state of the papacy exemplified this difference. In the earlier century people looked up to the church, which was centered in the papacy in Rome, as the supreme authority not only in matters of faith and morals but also, to a large extent, in intellectual and political affairs. In the fourteenth century this authority, and especially the supremacy of the pope, was widely questioned. For most of the century—from 1305 to 1378—the popes had their seat in Avignon in southeastern France. King Philip IV (the Fair) of France had engineered the election of a French pope, Bertrand de Got as Clement V (1305-14), who never went to Rome because of the hostility there to foreigners. For the next thirty-nine years, until 1417, there were two and even three rival claimants to the papacy. This state of affairs, as well as the often scandalous and corrupt life of the higher clergy, drew increasingly sharp criticism, expressed both in writings and the rise of divisive and heretical movements that foreshadowed the Protestant Reformation.

Europeans in the thirteenth century could generally reconcile revelation and reason, the divine and the human, the claims of the kingdom of God and those of political states. In the fourteenth century, on the other hand, the separation between religion and science and between the church and the state emerged as doctrines that are held today. Philosophers drew a distinction between divine revelation and human reason, each prevailing only in its own sphere. The church cared for people's souls, while the state looked out for their earthly concerns.

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