This article seeks to reappraise the relationship between the Avignon papacy and the Visconti lords of Milan during the fourteenth century. Avignon popes generally viewed the Visconti as the major obstacle to papal temporal power in Italy and thus fashioned propaganda that demonised them. This mythic portrayal, that was re-framed by Florence to justify its own imperialistic ambitions in Tuscany, has been accepted uncritically by modern historiography. Documents from the Vatican archive reveal a more complicated diplomacy. Papal policy toward the Visconti was far from consistent, as the curia welcomed Visconti money and Avignonese popes regularly granted the Visconti papal vicariates. This article demonstrates that the papal-Visconti struggle was a key factor in the creation of the strategic alliance between Florence and the Visconti that made the War of Eight Saints possible and ended the Guelph alliance. This study further suggests that the political ambitions of Giangaleazzo Visconti were stoked in great measure by the Great Schism when partisans of both popes looked to him as the saviour of the Church and of Italy. Finally this article suggests that a re-evaluation of fourteenth-century diplomacy might accord closer scrutiny to the role played by the Church in destabilising Italy.
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