Pope Urban V, originally Guillaume de Grimoard, was born in 1310 in Grisac, Languedoc. His academic journey in canon law and theology led him to Avignon, culminating in his commitment as a Benedictine monk. His administrative and spiritual aptitude shone through when he was appointed abbot of his monastery in 1352. His diplomatic prowess was recognized in his role as a papal ambassador and his service as a bishop across Italy and Europe.
Urban V’s papal election in 1362 was remarkable, as it occurred while he was engaged in diplomatic work and notably, he was not a cardinal at the time. His tenure as pope was characterized by his deep spirituality and intellectual brilliance, coupled with a simple and modest lifestyle. This approach often put him at odds with the more comfort-seeking clergymen of his time. Despite resistance, Urban V remained committed to reform, overseeing the restoration of numerous churches and monasteries.
His papacy was marked by significant achievements such as mediating peace between French and Italian rulers, founding several universities, promoting the Crusades, and importantly, heeding Saint Catherine of Siena’s counsel to return the papacy to Rome, thus ending the Avignon Papacy’s exile.
Urban V’s efforts to maintain peace were evident when the outbreak of war between England and France called him back to Avignon. Sadly, he passed away upon his return in 1370, on December 19. In line with his wishes, his body was moved from Avignon to Marseille, where his tomb became a site renowned for miracles.
Urban V maintained his Benedictine spirit throughout his papacy, often wearing his monk’s habit. His integrity and virtue were particularly noteworthy in a Europe riddled with scandal and corruption. As he lay on his deathbed, he invited the people to witness his passing, emphasizing the importance of transparency and humility in leadership, even in death.
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