Little is known of the origins of Jacques Fournier. He is believed to have been born in Saverdun in the Comté de Foix around the 1280s to a family of modest means. He became as Cistercianmonk and left to study at the University of Paris. In 1311 he was made Abbot of Fontfroid and quickly became known for his intelligence and rigorous organization. In 1317 he was promoted to be Bishop of Pamiers. There he pursued a rigorous witch hunt for heretics, which won him plaudits from the Vatican but alienated him from the local population. His effect on the simple Cathars of Montaillou high in the Ariège was documented by the historian Emmanuel Le Roy Ladurie's pioneering work of microhistoryMontaillou, village occitan. In 1326, successful at rooting out the last, it was thought, of the heretics of the south, he was made Bishop of Mirepoix. A year later he was made a Cardinal.
He succeeded Pope John XXII as Pope in 1334, but did not carry out the policy of his predecessor. He practically made peace with the Emperor Louis, and as far as possible came to terms with the Franciscans, who were then at odds with the Roman see.
He was a reforming pope, and tried to curb the luxury of the monastic orders, but without much success. He also ordered the construction on the Palais des Papes in Avignon. He spent most of his time working on questions of theology, he rejected many of the ideas developed by John XXII and campaign against the Immaculate Conception. He engaged in long theological debates with other noted figures of the age such as Occam and Meister Eckhart.
Eager to solve the question, Benedict heard the opinions of those maintaining the theory of deferred vision, and, with a commission of theologians, gave four months to patristic research.
The French king hindered Benedict's projected crusade against the infidels, making the war with England an excuse to forego his promise to lead the armies, and even diverting the money subscribed for it to financing his own wars, despite the protests of the conscientious pope.
Benedict's crusading ardour found solace in Spain, where he encouraged the campaign against the Mohammedans who in 1339 invaded the peninsula.
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