Pope Boniface VIII: Clericis Laicos and Unam Sanctam

(1296 and 1302)

Explanation and Analysis of the Document

Boniface VIII issued Clericis laicos on February 25, 1296, and Unam sanctam on November 18, 1302. The titles of the bulls come from their opening sentences; naming bulls thus was typical. “Clericis laicos” comes from the phrase “laymen are in a high degree hostile to the clergy” (“clericis laicos infestos oppido tradit antiquitas”), while “Unam sanctam” comes from “one holy catholic and apostolic church” (“unam sanctam ecclesiam catholicam”). Both bulls assert the supreme authority of the pope over secular rulers.

Clericis laicos

The bull's opening statement about lay people's hostility toward the clergy is taken from the Decretum Gratiani (Decretals of Gratian, “decretals” being decrees in the form of papal letters), a document compiled by a monk named Gratian in about 1140. Prior to that time, canon law—the laws followed by the church—had not been uniform across Europe. In the Decretals, Gratian had attempted to codify and organize...