3.1 The first Jubilee
It was Pope Boniface VIII who actually inaugurated a series of Jubilees in the Church. But it was not initiated by him nor by the Roman Curia but thoroughly a popular initiative. The people clamoured for a plenary indulgence for the beginning of the new century. On Christmas night of 1299 the citizens of Rome gathered in St Peter's Basilica as well as many other pilgrims who came to visit the tombs of the apostles Peter and Paul, and to see the face of Christ on the Veil of Veronica displayed in St Peter's every friday or feastday. They were convinced that the Church ought to grant something special at the beginning of the year 1300. They asked for a special indulgence for "the 100th year", and were convinced of obtaining it. It began in an almost instinctive manner from the milleniarism aroused by Joachim of Fiore. He died in 1202 after predicting a new era of the Holy Spirit, the last stage of Salvation History. Joachim's idea was to push and establish the "spirituals" in the 13th century. Besides the milleniaristic wait, the spiritual renewal introduced by the mendicant orders played an important role in diffusing the idea of the need for forgiveness and purification.
The rumour spreaded uncontrollably that a great indulgence was granted even for the beginning of the next century. Boniface ordered the chronicles of the Church be consulted to see if there ever was a Holy Year. Nothing could be traced. Nevertheless he decided to proclaim a Holy Year on Feb 22nd 1300, Feast of the Chair of St Peter, with the bull "Antiquorum habet fida relatio". The decree of the indulgence had a retroactive value beginning on Dec 24th 1299 and lasted till Dec 24th 1300. Besides other things the Bull declared
"Certain of the mercy of Almighty God and founded on the authority of the holy apostles Peter and Paul, upon the advice of our brothers and in fullness of apostolic authority.....we grant this year 1300 and all the future centuries, not only the full and broadest but the most complete forgiveness of sins".
To acquire the Jubilee indulgence, the romans had to visit the Basilicas of St
Peter and St Paul for 30 successive times. Pilgrims coming from outside Rome
were required only 15 times. Moreover Sacramental Confession was prescribed as
a sign of sincere repentence. But Eucharistic Communion was not yet prescribed
then. The pilgrims sang the strophe
Cardinal Iacopo Caetani Stefaneschi and Giovanni Villani supplied the chronicles for that year. About 2 million pilgrims gathered to Rome, among whom were Dante, Casella the musician, Cimabue and Giotto who painted on the loggia of the facade of the Lateran the promulgation of the Holy Year declared by Boniface. Little has remained of that fresco after modifications were made to the facade.
The Pope in granting the Jubilee, accepted as gifts not only the spiritual penance (conversion with sacramental confession) but also bodily penance consisting of the great discomforts that accompanied pilgrimages at that time. The disorderly and unsafe roads, the long and tiring walk, the uncertain and unpredictable hospitality, the frequent illnesses, the scarse meals, the cold, rain, snow, the scorching sun all rendered life difficult for the pilgrim.
Let us now describe with greater detail the established works required for acquiring the Jubilee indulgence:
3.1.1 The Pilgrimage
The pilgrimage was always seen as a sign of spiritual journeying towards God. It is a journey of conversion. In the history of Israel the first sign of liberation was was represented by the journey of the Exodus. And even before that there was the journey of Abraham and the patriarchs. It was always a sign of journeying towards God and with God.
The pious Israelites went as pilgrims to the Temple in Jerusalem, always with the enduring dispositions of joy, austere sobriety, active charity in helping others. It was in this spirit that the family of Nazareth journeyed (Lk 2:41-50). Toil and discomfort were the price of this spiritual itinerary; it was an endurance training for the tests and risks in life for the love of God. Even Jesus made a pilgrimage from heaven to us, from Nazareth to Jerusalem, from earth to heaven.
His life was a continuous journey, hence he called his disciples to follow him. He introduced himself as "the way" to the Father. Christian life is fundamentally a journey, walking behind him and with him. St Peter taught that we are "pilgrims" (paroikoi) and life is a "pilgrimage" (paroichia) (1Pet 1:17; 2:11) because we are strangers in this world and we have no permanent home here because our homeland is in heaven (Phil 3:20-21; Eph 2:12-20).
The pilgrimage to Rome consists of a prayerful visit to the principle basilicas indicated each time by the decrees proclaiming the Jubilee. Different basilicas are chosen but among these, the basilicas of St Peter and St Paul are always included.
3.1.2 Confession of Sins
The sacramental confession of sins is a sign of acknowledgement of one's wickedness and infidelity to God; of repentence and conversion of heart; of the sincere return to the house of God; of re-establishing communion with God; of recovering the divine life lost due to grave sin. In order to all these, it is necessary to recover the sense of sin and the sense of God in liffe. Today the sense of God is lost hene also the sense of sin. Secularised humanity is disposed, at worst, to recognise only some of his errors and mistakes, but not sins because they do not exist for him.
Ps 50 is still able to teach us something about true repentence of the heart and the desire of true communion with God. Suffice to bear in mind some of its forceful expressions of prayer to God:
"Against you, against you alone have I sinned and what is evil in your eyes I have done....in your love remove my sin....wash me from all my faults purify me from all my errors....purify me with hyssop and I shall be clean, wash me and I shall be whiter than snow....make me feel joy and happiness and my bones you have humbled will exult."
To have a sense of sin, one has to look closely at the Crucifix. Written there are our sins which have crushed that body and that innocent soul. He suffered the Cross "for us and for all in remission of sins". With his resurrection he conquered Death which is the consequence of sin; and he has given to us divine life which we have lost as a result of sin.
All we are sinners, no-one is excluded (1Jn 1:8,10). The fullness of God's mercy is at our disposal just as it was described by Jesus in his parables of the lost sheep, the lost Drachma and the Prodigal Son (Lk 15).
To re-create humanity Jesus gave us "the sacrament of Penance" when he gave the Church the power to forgive sins, all sins. It is the moment of grace and certain purification, if lived with sincerity and true repentence.
3.2 The series of Jubilees in the History of the Church
In all there were 27 Jubilees celebrated and the next Jubilee of 2000 is the 28th. Chronologically they are as follows:
2nd 1350: Proclaimed by Clement VI, ex-benedictine, in Avignon (1342-1352) with the Bull "Unigenitus". The Pope fixed the Jubilee every 50 years just like the jewish Jubilee, consenting to a petition by Franciscus Petrarchus. This was expressed in a poem addressing the Pope to the question of life's brevity and that everyone ought to given the possibility for purification. It was a Jubilee without the Pope because the Popes then remained in Avignon. Cardinal Annibale Gaetani, bishop of Frascatti, was the Papal Legate in charge.
3rd 1390: Proclaimed by Urban VI (1378) with the Bull "Salvator noster Unigenitus"; and who reduced the celebration of the Jubilee to 33 years. But he died on 15th Oct 1389 and the Jubilee was celebrated by his successor Boniface IX. In his Bull of Proclamation, Urban added to the basilicas of St Peter and St Paul that of St Mary Major. It was the first Jubilee with 2 Popes.
4th 1400: On the centenary of the first Jubilee, it was proclaimed orally by Boniface IX. He was in Assisi and the romans sent a delegation to request his return to Rome in order to proclaim the Jubilee of the Centenary. It was proclaimed without a Bull. There was a plague in Rome and the streets were infested with brigands as well. Hence there were very few pilgrims. For this reason the Pope extended the Jubilee outside of Rome and into many countries. It was a Jubilee of self-flagellants who invaded Rome. It was a black year: both because the penitents wore black and because of the Black Plague that followed them.
5th 1423: Proclaimed by Martin V (1417-1431) without a Bull. Peace had finally returned after the Great Western Schism when the anti-Popes John XXIII and Benedict XIII were deposed by the Council of Constance (1414-1418). It was a tranquil Holy Year. Participating in it were St Bernardine of Siena and St Frances of Rome. The Pope added to the 3 basilicas that of St John Lateran where for the firt time the "Holy Door" was opened.
6th 1450: Proclaimed by Nicholas V (1447-1455) who brought back the Jubilee to the 50 year cycle. There was a great flow of pilgrims but in summer a plague claimed many victims. When it abated, the number of pilgrims increased again. Among them were St Rita of Cascia, St John Capistran, St Catherine of Bologna, King Ferdinand of Naples, Queen Carlotta of Cyprus, Blessed Angelico who painted some papal rooms for that occassion. The Vatican Library was founded on the offerings of the pilgrims. St Bernardine of Siena was canonised. The visits to the basilicas were reduced to 3 days.
7th 1475: Proclaimed by Sixtus IV (1471-1484) who brought back the Jubilee to a 25 year cycle. In the Bull of Proclamation, the Jubilee was called for the first time "Holy Year". All other indulgences were suspended for this occassion. For the first time the Papal Bull was printed, a system which Guttenburg created in 1469 by inventing the movable type. The Pope had frescoes painted on the walls of the Sistine Chapel by Sandro Botticelli, Domenico Ghirlandaio, Cosimo Rosselli and Pietro Perugino. The Tibur overflowed its banks and the basilica of St Paul could be reached only by boat.
8th 1500: Proclaimed by Alexander VI (1492-1503) and was the first to open a "Holy Door" also in St Peter's, St Paul's and St Mary Major's (St John Lateran's Holy Door was already opened by Martin V in 1423). The Jubilee was proclaimed with great pomp and to the blowing of trumpets. In the Bull of Proclamation, the Pope indicated (as Boniface VIII had already done) that all romans had to make 30 visits to the 4 basilicas and foreigners 15 visits as necessary for obtaining the indulgence; but the penitentiaries of St Peter had the faculties to reduce the visits to 7 and 5 respectively. Participating in the Jubilee was Nicholas Copernicus. Alexander VI was the first Pope to extend the Jubilee throughout the whole world.
9th 1525: Celebrated by Clement VII (1523-1534). For the first time the Holy Door of St Peter's was opened with a golden hammer. The League against the Turks was proclaimed. It was also the first time that fierce challenges were launched by protestants regarding indulgences through the diffusion of many writings in Rome. There was also the invasion of the Lansquenet led by the constable of Bourbon into Rome. The Pope had to flee to Castel S.Angelo. There was the sad separation of the Church of England under Henry VIII. The Holy Year was not well participated. Among the few were St Angela Merici and the poet Pietro Bembo who became a cardinal.
10th 1550: Proclaimed by Paul III who died on Nov 10th 1549. The Jubilee was celebrated by Julius III (1550-1555). It was also a Jubilee of 2 Popes just like in 1390. It became on February 1550 after the election of Julius III (Feb 8th). Among the participants were Francis Borgia, the Armenian Patriarch Stephen, Michelangelo Bonarroti, Giorgio Vasari, St Ignatius of Loyola, St Phillip Neri who welcomed poor pilgrims to the Archconfraternity of the Most Holy Trinity where meals were offered to 800 pilgrims everyday.
11th 1575: Proclaimed by Gregory XIII (1572-1582) who undertook to reform the calender (1582) henceforth called the Gregorian calender. This Pope founded the Roman College, later called the Gregorian University (1572) and many other roman colleges. He instituted the feast of Our Lady of the Rosary for the Battle of Lepanto. Among the pilgrims were Cardinal St Charles Borromeo, St Felix of Cantalice, St Gaetano Thiene and the poet Torqueto Tasso who alluded to it in "Jerusalem Freed" (canto XI).
12th 1600: Proclaimed by Clement VIII (1592-1605). It opened on Dec 31st 1599 due to the illness of the Pope and closed on Jan 13th 1601. The Masons spoke of 3 million pilgrims. It was a most solemn year celebrated by many confraternities. The Pope paid 70 visits to the basilicas and fasted on bread and water every Wedneday and Saturday. He took upon himself to wash the feet of pilgrims in the hospices and served them at the table. For many hours he would listen to confessions in St Peter's. Meanwhile St Camillus of Lellis started the Hospital of St Mary Magdalene to care for sick pilgrims. Peoples from all Europe came to Rome during that year. St Robert Bellarmine was actively involved.
13th 1625: Proclaimed by Urban VIII (1628-1644) the Pope who founded Propaganda Fide and consecrated St Peter's Basilica after its reconstruction. The Pope conferred on the cardinals the title of Eminence and Prince of the Church. In Rome that year the plague struck and claimed many pilgrims. The Tibur again burst its banks so that the Pope had to substitute the Basilica of St Paul for St Mary in Trastevere where the Holy Door was opened. The first capuchin saint Felix of Cantalice was canonised.
14th 1650: Proclaimed by Innocent X (1644-1655). For the first time the Dome of St Peter's was illuminated. Participants included Princess Maria of Savoy, the Duke of Mirandola and the Prince of Nurmberg.
15th 1675: Proclaimed by Clement X (1669-1678), it was a Jubilee full of pomp and participated by 1,400,000 persons. The Holy Gate was opened with the firing of guns and fire-crackers to the sound of trumpets, drums and bells. There were performances and public ceremonies on a grand scale. The Pope beatified John of the Cross and Francis Solanus. Queen Christina of Sweden came to participate.
16th 1700: Proclaimed by Innocent XII (1678-1700) by closed by Clement XI (1700-1721) because the Pope died on Sep 27th 1700 and his successor was elected only on Nov 9th 1700. This Jubilee saw 2 Popes just like the 3rd (1390) and the 10th (1550). It was an austere Jubilee without revelry. Innocent was a very pious Pope who condemned nepotism explicitly. He created the Congregation for Religious and condemned Jansenism. He died a saintly man. Participating in the Jubilee were Queen Maria Casimir of Poland with two sons, visiting the basilicas barefooted. The Grand Duke of Tuscany Cosmos III came and was made a canon of St Peter's. Once again the Tibur overflowed and St Pul's basilica could be reached only by boat.
17th 1725: Proclaimed by Benedict XIII (1724-1730) an austere dominican who would kneel when writing to his Superior General. The Pope wanted an austere Jubilee without the usual illuminations and pageantry. During the Holy Year, a council of italian bishops was called at St John Lateran to legislate matters on discipline and catechetics. Clerics were prohibited from wearing wigs and playing the lottery. The Congregation of Mercedaraians managed to collect sufficient money to redeem 3,710 slaves who arrived in Rome from Tunisia. They were blessed by the Pope and each received a medal and a sum of money. For the first time a trained horse was given to the Pope by the King of Naples in the Piazza Santi Apostoli. 10 saints were canonised among whom were St Pellegrino Laziosi, St John of the Cross, St Louis Gonzaga, St Stanislaus Kostka, St John Nepomuceno.
18th 1750: Proclaimed by Benedict XIV (1740-1758) who issued many documents. The Holy Year Bull was entitled "Peregrinantes a Domino". The Holy Year was preached by St Leonard of Port Maurice in the piazzas of Rome. The Pope even insituted the Way of the Cross in the Coloseum. He was the first to prescribe Communion as well as Confession for obtaining the indulgence. Over a million people gathered in Rome including some 200,000 Armenians and 2 bishops.
19th 1775: Proclaimed by Clement XIV (1769-1774) who died on Sep 22nd 1774. He organised the Missions in the 4 piazzas of Rome and wanted to personally help in it. Before his death he was obliged to suppress the Company of Jesus much to his relutance (1773). The suppression was required to keep the unity of the Church during the reactionary events that overtook society. The Jubilee was celebrated in subdued tones by Pius VI who was elected on Feb 15th 1775 (11775-1799). The French Revolution began. Bonaparte would occupy Rome in 1798 and proclaim the republic. About 300,000 pilgrims were at the Jubilee. Holy Thursday saw a procession of 100 oriental bishops in their splendid vestments. Numbered among the pilgrims was Maximillian of Austria. Confessors were authorised to grant dispensation to pilgrims regarding the visits to the 4 basilicas in particular cases.
20th 1825: The Jubilee was celevrated after the turbulant years of the French Revolution ad the Napoleonic wars. Proclaimed by Leo XII (1823-1829) 50 years after the last Jubilee because the 1800 Jubilee could not be celebrated by Popes Pius VI (1775-1799) and Pius VII (1800-1823). It came to be called the Jubilee of the Restoration because many sovereigns were restored back to their thrones:the widow of Victor Emmanuel, Maria Theresa of Savoy; the Empress of Austria, Maria Christina Queen of Naples, the Infanta of Spain.
21st 1875: After an interval of 50 years Pius IX (1846-1878) proclaimed a Jubilee despite the occupation of Rome by the State of Italy (1870). The 1850 Jubilee was not celebrated due to the War of Independence which forced the Pope to flee to gaeta. The new Italian Government in 1871 issued guarantees assuring the inviolability of the person of the Pope but these were limited within the Vatican hence the Pope could no longer journey out. In 1854 the dogma of the Immaculate Conception was defined, in 1864 the Syllabus against rationalist errors of that time was published, in 1867 the 19th centenary of the martyrdom of St Peter was solemnly celebrated, in 1860 the !st Vatican Council was opened with 767 bishops from all over the world, in 1870 the dogma of the Infallibility of the Pope was defined. The Jubilee was celebrated in a reduced form without the opening and closing of the Holy Doors. It was a Jubilee without the Holy Door. It was extended to the catholic dioceses in the world. On April 12th a grand display by the Youths of Catholic Action guided by Giovanni Acquaderni took place in Rome.
22nd 1901: Proclaimed by Leo XIII (1878-1903) and it was carried out in a solemn and impressive manner with 400,000 pilgrims. The Pope consecrated the world to the Sacred Heart. St John Baptist de LaSalle and St Rita of Cascia were canonised.
23rd 1925: Proclaimed by Pius XI (1922-1939) whereby 3 cardinals were authorised to open the Holy Doors of the other 3 basilicas. very many pilgrims came from all over the world. The Pope instituted the Feast of Christ the King and beatified 5 souls and canonising 6 others. Among them were the Cure of Ars And St Therese of the Infant Jesus. The Pope left the Vatican for the first time to go to St John Lateran.
24th 1933: Proclaimed as an extraordinary year by Pius XI on the 19th centenary of Redemption. Although it was to be a totally spiritual Holy Year, it was manifested by much solemnity with many pilgrims and ecclesial meetings. The Pope spoke for the first time on the radio. St Bernadette Soubirou and St John Bosco were canonised.
25th 1950: Proclaimed by Pius XII (1939-1958), some 3,500,000 pilgrims came to Rome. Msgr Montini explained the significance of the Holy Year as follows: "Men returned to God, believe in his goodness and in his mercy, examine yourselves before him and repent and you will find yourselves needung to be cleansed by his pardon". The dogma of the bodily Assumption of Mary to heaven was defined (Nov 1st). Dominic Savio and Maria Goretti were proclaimed saints.
26th 1975: Proclaimed by Paul VI (1963-1978) and was an unexpected event as word was going around that the Holy Year has lost its meaning. The theme was "Renewal and Reconciliation". 9 million pilgrims came to Rome although from Pentecost of 1973 the Jubilee was extended to all the world. Paul VI granted 2 public audiences every Wedneday. One was held in the Nervi Hall and the other in the Plaza of St Peter's. Crowds numbered from 40,000 to 120,000 each time. The Pope proclaimed 13 blesseds including Giuseppe Moscati and 6 saints including Elisabeth Seton the first north-american saint. There was also the famous meeting of Paul VI with Metropolitan Meliton, representative of the Patriarch of Constantinople.
27th 1983: Proclaimed by John Paul II as an extraordinary year commemorating 1950 years of redemption with the Bull "Aperite portas Redemptori". It began with the opening of the Holy Door in St Peter's on March 24th. Every diocese was united to it with concomittant celebrations. The Holy Year was extended to all the world for the benefit of the sick, elderly and the cloistered. It was enough to visit the churches indicated by the bishop and participate in a diocesan or parochial celebration; accompanied by a prayer according to the intention of the Pope. This participation ought to be accompanied preferably by a work of mercy. For those who cannot go to the cathedral, it was sufficient to visit parish churches.For the sick and physically challenged, it was sufficient to celebrate it with the family. In Rome it was necessary to visit the 4 basilicas or the catacombs of the Basilica of the Holy Cross and to recite the creed, an Our Father and a prayer according to the intentions of the Pope.
Extraordinary Jubilees held locally and occassionally also exist.
1. The Jubilee of St James of Compostella when July 25th falls on a Sunday (Leo XIII 1884).
2. The Jubilee of the Primatial Church of Lyon when the Feast of St George falls on Good Friday or when Corpus Christi coincides with the feast of John the Baptist.
3. The Jubilee of Our Lady of Le Puy when the Annunciation (March 25th) coincides with Good Friday
Extraordinary Roman Jubilees are granted usually by the popes on occassion of their election or for some particular reason. And there are quite a number of them (see Catholic Encyclopedia col.684-686). John Paul II proclaimed a Marian Year for 1987-1988 exactly on the night before the fall of the Berlin Wall. This was also a form of extraordinary Holy Year.
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