Saint Celestine V and the First Jubilee of the Catholic Church

Pope Boniface VIII, Celestine’s successor, imprisoned the former pope lest opponents of the resignation attempt to install Celestine as antipope. Celestine V died a prisoner ten months later.

Peter of Morrone was canonized in 1313 and since 1327 he is buried in the Basilica of Santa Maria di Collemaggio in L’Aquila.

The Basilica of Santa Maria di Collemaggio in L’Aquila. Daniel Ibanez / CNA

According to Johannes Grohe, a professor of medieval history, heavenly forgiveness was the precursor to the holy years, or jubilees, which the Church typically celebrates every 25 years.

In 1300, Pope Boniface VIII issued a bull of indulgence proclaiming that Christians who confessed their sins, received the Eucharist, and made a pilgrimage to Rome could receive a plenary indulgence.

Boniface VIII “was inspired” by Celestine V’s own “Jubilee” at L’Aquila, which began in 1294 and continued after his papal abdication and death, Grohe told EWTN News in an interview the month last. “This indulgence of Pope Celestine V was the precursor, one might say, of the first great Jubilee.”

Both traditions continue to this day. In L’Aquila, the Celestinian Pardon, or Perdonanza Celestiniana as it is known in Italian, will celebrate its 728th year with a visit from Pope Francis on August 28 to open the Holy Door.

Now a week-long festival, the Pardon has become an unmissable cultural, but also spiritual event.

Jubilee years in the Church, also called holy years, have continued through the centuries. An essential aspect of a Holy Year is the indulgence attached to entering the Holy Door of one of Rome’s four major basilicas, including that of St. Peter.

Preparations are already underway in Rome and the Vatican for the next Ordinary Jubilee in 2025.

(Story continues below)

Martha J. Finley