Pope Boniface VIII: Clericis Laicos and Unam Sanctam

(1296 and 1302)

Examples of official letters, known as bulls, issued by a pope, Boniface VIII's Clericis laicos and Unam sanctam illustrate the conflicting claims of power between the pope and kings of emerging European nation-states, especially France and England, at the end of the thirteenth century. Pope Boniface VIII, King Philip IV (also known as Philip the Fair) of France, and King Edward I of England were among the figures involved.

Official papal letters such as Boniface VIII's Clericis laicos and Unam sanctam are called “bulls” because they are sealed with what is known in Latin as bulla—made of clay, wax, lead, or gold—which attest to the document's authenticity. The bull Clericis laicos was intended to prohibit kings from taxing the clergy in order to finance their wars. This prohibition so angered Philip IV that Boniface VIII subsequently issued another bull that allowed the French king to tax the clergy. However, Boniface was still displeased with the continued monarchal...