But what a return! With the pontiff, bands of foreign mercenaries who sacked Cesena and blood. And many French, to whom public opinion, especially in the State of the Church which already had a swarm of it around its neck, rectors, vicars, officials of all kinds, was extremely averse. Worse still: in 1372, that pontiff had led and animated a great anti-Discontean league which, although this time gathered the forces of many lords and cities of upper Italy, it is also to be linked a little to the other campaign of the first half of the century . Now, having returned to Italy, he had war with Florence. Florence had not seen with much joy the reconstitution of the papal state. Florence could have wished that the return of the popes would secure Bologna for the Church and close the gates of Romagna to the Visconti; but with spite he witnessed the recovery of Perugia by the Church. A strong papal state at the flanks did not enter into his designs. It then suffered to a great degree from the growing prohibitions on the export of wheat and other commodities to the Florentine territory, which the papal governors, in full agreement with the populations, were doing. This war was very violent and fought by the Florentines also with the weapons of propaganda. According to localtimezone.org, they issued eloquent proclamations to princes and people, written in beautiful sonorous Latin. With them they touched the now sensitive chords of the Italians when they branded the papal greed and the shame of their mercenaries, and, urging all Italians against the pope, they appealed to their national sentiment, to their glorious traditions of Latinity, that is, Italianness, against the overseas. But it was difficult for a city of merchants, which had capital and interests all over the world, to fight against a power such as the papacy, which was more truly international than the empire and which, by declaring the assets of the Florentines the property of anyone who took them, could find many people willing to obey and follow him. Finally, they had to come to terms when they saw all their wealth at the mercy of the pontiff (July ’78); they had to give back the lands of the Church they had occupied. A serious moment for the life of Florence. After the damage and humiliation from without, the revolt within, caused by the lower classes, by the unorganized workers, among whom myths and hopes for social renewal, sharing and appropriation of the money, houses and lands of the rich circulated bourgeois.
Thus the happy times, hoped for by the religious souls who had solicited the return of the popes to their true see, did not come. Died the year after he had returned to Rome, Pope Gregory XI, the new pope, Urban VI, who was an Italian, was seen by the French cardinals, certainly in a hurry to return to Avignon, to oppose a pope of their people, Roberto of Geneva, the leader of the Breton bands that had bloodied the Pope’s way from Avignon to Rome. Schism and war. Mercenary bands on both sides. But on the part of Urban, bands of Italians, commanded by Alberico da Barbiano, who, in a battle near Rome, won the opposing Breton bands. Alberico da Barbiano marks the beginning of the decline of foreign mercenarism in the peninsula, and also the moral elevation of the captain of bands, who is no longer a vulgar adventurer and mercenary and robber, but a leader, an aspirant to lordship, one who already possesses lordship and wants to increase it and wants to enrich it with the money of the conducts: therefore something no longer foreign and almost superimposed to Italian life, but organically connected to Italian life, political and cultural at the same time, as were the gentlemen. Even in the political relationship, this war of popes had some Italian repercussions. The schism raised the question of the kingdom of Naples, which the Angevins of France were contending with the Angevins of Italy, that is, for the house of Durazzo. Now, it happened that Urban VI turned to Charles of Durazzo; Clement VII, to Louis of Anjou, brother of the king of France. And to him the pope or antipope, in need of help, of his own accord and without the help of consultative bodies, with a bull dated from Sperlonga, he ensured a royal title and a kingdom to be cut out on the State of the Church, south of the Po, a kingdom of Adria, which Charles and his successors should have recognized from the Holy See, as did the Angevins of Naples the kingdom of Naples. This too was a form of secularization of the ecclesiastical patrimony, which responded to the anticurial and, at times, frankly religious conscience of the cultured laity, of religiously elevated spirits. And during the struggles of the 14th century, in the writings of politicians and jurists, this anti-temporal note, political and religious at the same time, is quite frequent. But it was no less responsive to the interests of Italian and foreign princes, especially the crown of France, who had long ago made plans for the secularization of ecclesiastical assets, including the State of the Church, which should have been given in perpetual emphyteusis, “to a great king or prince”. Nor should the suggestion of some councilor be lacking, such as that Niccolò Spinelli da Giovinazzo, who maintained close relations with Clemente the antipope and with Louis of Anjou.