13 Dec: The Resigning Pope

Celestine V rocked the Catholic world on 13th December, 1294, when he stood up, gave a short speech, stripped himself of his Papal insignia and resigned the Pontificate. He was 79 years old, and had been Pope for just 15 weeks. 

Previously a well-regarded hermit who’d lived a humble life in the mountains, he got the gig after writing a letter to the conclave, urging them to choose a new Pope soon, lest they incur God’s wrath. He had never considered that the Cardinals would respond by offering the job to him.

In this episode, Arion, Rebecca and Olly explain why medieval Papal elections sometimes took years to conclude; reveal how Charles II of Naples was pulling the strings behind the scenes; and recall how Dante responded to Celestine’s controversial ‘Great Refusal’…  

Further Reading:

• ‘The Pope Who Quit: A True Medieval Tale of Mystery, Death, and Salvation,

By Jon M. Sweeney’ (Crown Publishing Group, 2012):


• ‘In the Entire History of the Catholic Church, Only a Handful of Popes Have Resigned’ (Smithsonian Magazine, 2013): https://www.smithsonianmag.com/smart-news/in-the-entire-history-of-the-catholic-church-only-a-handful-of-popes-have-resigned-14734771/

• ‘Pope Celestine V, the last pope to resign before Benedict XVI’ (EWTN, 2022):

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