By request: what was the world like, the last time a Pope resigned?

1415: the Battle of Agincourt, the burning of Jan Hus, and the only other resignation of a pope.

The Medieval Warm Period was over; Arctic ice was growing, making Greenland harder to reach and cutting back cod and herring fishing. The new plague had come and gone a number of times, cutting back population. Common people began enjoying meat and eggs in their diet; hopped beer was taking over the market. In so many words, Europe began to taste like Europe.

Peasants’ revolts had begun; they were no longer willing to do feudal labor. Large towns had mechanical clocks. By and large, England, northern France, Germany and Switzerland had no Jews; southern France and Spain still did, and the survivors of Germany’s first holocaust had gone to the Kingdom of Poland. The Hanseatic League’s mercantile monopoly of the North Sea had ended, with Venetian ships taking over international trade. The Crusades were long over; Arabs had taken back the Holy Land.

At the Battle of Agincourt, the English King Henry V soundly beat the French, as memorialized by Shakespeare. It was the last major English victory in the long territorial contest with France.

The plagues had touched off religious reform; John Wycliffe’s movement to translate the Bible into common speech was very popular in Bohemia, where Jan Hus was a popular preacher. In this year, he was invited to the church council on promise of safety and just being listened to, and was then burnt at the stake. How’d that decision work out for you, guys?

The church council, though, was a huge step forward in Europe’s chief genius of political theory. There had been two Popes for several generations, and since each kept the other under excommunication ban, common folks became unsure if their babies were going to hell or not. Church law couldn’t resolve the problem because each pope appointed more cardinals, and the colleges of cardinals could not negate each other. So a council of bishops, theologians, and nobles declared that power really came from the people. The council dictated that all popes must resign (due to a previous attempt, there were 3) and they appointed a new one. One of the popes, who convened the council, followed through. That’s the only known time a pope had not died in office, until now.

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