Bartolommeo Prignani was born in Naples, Italy in 1318. As a monk, he traveled to Avignon, France where he made some influential friends. In 1364, he became the Archbishop of Acerenza in the Kingdom of Naples and17 years later, the Archbishop of Bari. On March 27, 1378, Pope Gregory XI (the last of the French Avignon popes) died and the people of Rome demanded an Italian pope to follow him. On April 8, the French and Italian cardinals, fearing a riot by the Romans, obliged by electing Prignani, who took the name Urban VI. Considered a saintly and educated man, Urban soon changed once he was elected. He started an open confrontation with the Sacred College with his plans to reform the Church. Within five months, many of the cardinals renounced their earlier selection and elected Robert of Geneva (Clement VII) as the new pope. This was the start of the Great Schism that divided the Church for almost forty years. Urban lashed out against the revolt violently to the point that some thought him to be insane. He excommunicated Clement VII and besieged Castel Sant'Angelo (A papal castle near St. Peter's) forcing Clement to flee from Rome. Fortunes, as well as Charles of Durazzo, King of Naples, turned against Urban in 1383 and he was shut away in Nocera. He had some of the cardinals who opposed him arrested and later executed when he escaped to Genoa. In 1387, after the death of King Charles, he planned a crusade against Clement VII and was going to lead an army against Naples. In 1389, while preparing to raise money to pay for an army, he fell from his mule and was injured. He died shortly after; many believing the Romans had poised him. Pope Boniface IX succeeded him.
Bio by: Frank McGady