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Jacques Le Goff

In a discussion of the Second Council of Lyons in 1274, Le Goff reaches the following startling conclusion regarding the subsequent "exile" of the Papacy to Avignon: it was "a move that occured, in my view, not so much for adventitious reasons as because of a profound need for a new center of gravity in the Christian world" (1988, p. 65). He admits that the new center of gravity did not "take," because Rome "remained the symbolic center of the Christian world" (1988, p. 65).

But the removal of the Papacy to Avignon and its subsequent return to Rome did not take place in an abstract, symbolic world. It was bound up in an intensely political issue: would the Papacy, having previously resisted the attempted domination by the German emperors, fall under that of the French monarchy, or would it retain its independence? To relegate the facts of the Avignon papacy to the status of "adventitious reasons" is very nearly to remove history itself from the study of history. The world has been largely shaped by such "adventitious" events.

To take a rather different issue, in Intellectuals and the Middle Ages (1988), Le Goff lays great stress upon the distinctly urban character of the universities. "Of all those [urban] centers," he writes, "Paris, favored by the growing prestige of the Ceptian monarchy, was the most outstanding" (1993, p. 20). It is probably futile to argue whether or not the University of Paris was the most important of medieval universities; the case may well be granted. However, Paris was distinctly exceptional among medieval university cities in being one of the largest of European cities, and moreover a political center. An English-speaker may make immediate contrast to Oxford and Cambridge, provincial towns that were put on the map, so to speak, largely by the universities that were established there. Likewise, in Italy we find universities at Bologna and Padua, not at Florence or Venice. The high-medieval ...

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Jacques Le Goff. (1969, December 31). In Retrieved 04:04, August 20, 2017, from
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