A story begun in 1300

Boniface VIII established the first holy year to reaffirm the universality of Christianity. A retrospective ahead of the Year of Mercy

Jubilee comes from “jobel”, the ram’s horn that according to what Moses prescribed, announced to Jews the beginning of a holy year dedicated to the Lord every fifty years, when alienated funds were returned to their owners, slaves were set free, debts were pardoned. The fist Christian authors adumbrated therein the prefiguration of the “Year of Grace” proclaimed by Jesus in the synagogue in Nazareth, although Isidore of Seville, in the VIII century, extended the pardoning of sins to the Jubilee thereby anticipating the question of indulgences, previously unrelated to the Holy Year. In fact, the first plenary indulgence was granted in 1095 by Urban II to the crusaders prior to their departure for the Holy Land. “Iubilaeum” and “indulgentia were to occur simultaneously only at a later stage. Follows a historical retrospective ahead of the Jubilee of Mercy, proclaimed by Pope Francis, starting next December 8. The autumn of the Middle Ages. The first Holy Year in history was proclaimed by Boniface VIII in 1300 to reaffirm the prestige of the pontificate and the universality of Christianity before the crisis of the two cornerstone-institutions of the Middle Ages, papacy and empire, and the birth of European States. The first jubilees were great events of Christianity but they also reflected times and circumstances capable of influencing cultures and societies. Five years later the “Avignon captivity” began (1305-1377), and the Jubilee of 1350 was held, despite the black plague epidemics, in the absence of Clement V. Also the Jubilee of 1390, celebrated by Boniface IX upon the return of the pontiffs to Rome also thanks to the exhortations of Saint Catherine of Siena, was marked by a muted tone. The holy year of 1400 occurred in the midst of the Western Schism (1378-1417), followed by that in 1423, proclaimed by Martin V 33 years after the jubilee of 1390. Humanism, Renaissance, and Reformation. The relationship between humanism and Christian faith was the novelty that the Popes were confronted with in the 15th century: an epoch that saw the birth of papal patronage. The “Golden Jubilee” was proclaimed in 1450 by Nicholas V who decided to transfer the papal residence from the Lateran to the Vatican and instructed Leon Battista Alberti to demolish the ancient Petrine basilica to build a more appropriate one in its place. Thanks to the humanist Pope, illuminated manuscripts and precious texts of the classical world, the first nucleus of the Vatican Library, were returned to Rome. The 1470 the bull of Paul II stipulated four jubilees to be held every century, in the years 00-25-50 and 75. Sixtus IV, known for the construction of the Sistine Chapel, promulgated the holy year of 1475, but owing to low participation of pilgrims it became a practice to gain indulgences on the condition of an offering of money. Such practice was to become one of the factors that sparked off the “revolt” of Martin Luther. In 1500 Alexander VI established the inauguration of the jubilee with the opening of a holy door in every basilica. The Jubilee of 1525 (Clement VII) took place in the midst of the Protestant Reformation, held in a minor key. Counterreformation and the modern epoch. Ignatius of Loyola and Filippo Neri were among the pilgrims of the Holy Year of 1550, proclaimed by Pope Julius II during the Council of Trent (1545-1563), but the true testing ground of the Church, that emerged stronger from the Tridentine conference, was that of 1575 (Gregorius XIII) that reaffirmed the Pope’s primacy and the devotion to the Holy Virgin and the Saints. At the jubilee of 1600, proclaimed by Clement VII, took part Roberto Bellarmino; the interior of St. Peter’s basilica was inaugurated in the jubilee of 1625. Francesco Borromini was asked to restore the St. John in Lateran Basilica for the jubilee of 1650, while Bernini built the columnade for the jubilee of 1675 (Clement X). But religious zeal started to wane and the holy year of 1700 (Innocent XII) witnessed the dawn of the Enlightenment. The holy year of 1750 (Benedict XIV) marked the beginning of the popular missions of Leonardo di Porto Maurizio, while that of 1775, proclaimed by Pius VI, took place two years after the suppression of the Society of Jesus. Pius VI died during his exile in France and in 1800 the jubilee was not celebrated, while the following one of 1825, proclaimed by Leo XII, appeared to signal the end of an era. The jubilee that ensued took place in a very low key in 1875, five years after the closing of the First Vatican Council. The major event of the year 2000. The holy year of 1900 (Leo XIII) marked the electrically-powered lighting of St. Peter’s Basilica. A few years after the atrocities of World War II Pius XII promulgated the jubilee of 1950, during which was proclaimed the dogma of the Assumption into heaven of Mary, and Via della Conciliazione was inaugurated in Rome. In 1975, ten years since the conclusion of the Second Vatican Council, the opening of the Holy Door by Paul VI was the first worldwide satellite TV telecast. In 1983 John Paul II proclaimed the Extraordinary Jubilee of Redemption. Recent history recorded the Great Jubilee of the year 2000.

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