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19.1-4; 55-7; 106-11), a perversion of the holy matrimony conventionally posited between Christ (groom) and the church (bride).
Simon Magus, the man for whom simony is named (Inf.
In return for this support, Clement moved the Papal See from Rome to Avignon (in southern France) in 1309, an action so abhorrent to many (Dante for sure) that it came to be known as the "Babylonian Captivity." This situation lasted until 1377, after which there were sometimes two popes (or pope and anti-pope, according to one's perspective), one each in Rome and France.
The "Great Schism" ended in 1417 with the definitive return of the papacy to Rome.
Dante, by contrast, firmly held that the pope and emperor should be co-equals with a balance of power between the pope's spiritual authority and the emperor's secular authority.
Images of degraded sexuality are even more prominent in the next canto (19).
Here Dante presents simony--the abuse of power within the church--as a form of spiritual prostitution, fornication, and rape (Inf.
An apocryphal book, Acts of Peter, tells of a magic contest between the apostle and Simon, now the magician of the emperor Nero in Rome.
When Simon--with the aid of a demon--proceeds to fly, Peter crosses himself and Simon crashes to the ground.
Nicholas expanded papal political control by adding parts of Romagna, as far north as Bologna and Ferrara, and he forged a compromise in the Franciscan movement between the moderates and the radical spiritualists.