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Cyclopedia of Biblical, Theological and Ecclesiastical Literature
Jubilee, or Jubilee Year
an institution of the Roman Catholic Church, the name of which is borrowed from that of the Jewish jubilee (see above). The Catholic jubilee is of two kinds, ordinary and extraordinary. The ordinary jubilee is that which is celebrated at stated intervals, the length of which has varied at different times. Its origin is traced to pope Boniface VIII, who issued, for the year 1300, a bull granting a plenary indulgence to all pilgrim visitors of Rome during that year on condition of their penitently confessing their sins, and visiting the church of St. Peter and St. Paul fifteen times if strangers, and thirty times if residents of the city. The invitation was accepted with marvelous enthusiasm. Innumerable troops of pilgrims from every part of the Church flocked to Rome. Giovanni Villani a contemporary chronicler, states that the constant number of pilgrims in Rome, not reckoning those who were on the road going or returning, during the entire year, never fell below 200,000. Boniface, finding the jubilee a success, and having been informed, so the story goes, by a hoary patriarch, who, at the age of 107, attended it, that a hundred years ago a like jubilee had been held, now ordered that it should thereafter be held every hundredth year. The great gain which the occasion afforded to. the churches at Rome induced Clement VI to abridge the time to fifty years. His jubilee accordingly took place in 1350, and was even more numerously attended than that of Boniface, the average number of pilgrims, until the heats of summer suspended their frequency, being, according to Matthew Villani, no fewer than 1,000,000!
The term of interval was still further abridged by Urban VI; but in the stormy days of his pontificate the jubilee could not take place, and his successor, Boniface IX, improved this to his advantage, and ordered it to take place in 1390. Ten years later he repeated it, and. besides, instituted extra years of jubilee, and permitted their observance also in foreign cities provided the worshippers would pay into the Roman treasury the cost of a journey to the holy city (comp. Amort, De origine, progressu, valore ac fructu indulgent. 1, 87 sq.). Paul II finally ordered in 1470 that thenceforward every twenty-fifth year should be held as jubilee, an arrangement which has continued ever since to regulate the ordinary jubilee. As the indulgences could, by the payment of given sums and the contribution to ecclesiastical purposes, always be obtained at the home of the penitent, the pilgrimages to Rome gradually diminished in frequency; but the observance itself has been punctually maintained at each recurring period, with the single exception of the year 1800, in which, owing to the vacancy of the holy see and the troubles of the times, it was not held. For the excesses committed in the sale of indulgences, (See INDULGENCES).
The extraordinary jubilee is ordered by the pope out of the regular period, either on his accession, or on some occasion of public calamity, or in some critical condition of the fortunes of the Church; one of the conditions for obtaining the indulgence in such cases being the recitation of certain stated prayers for the particular necessity in which the jubilee originated. See Herzog, Real-Encyklop. 7, 117; Chambers, s.v.; Walcott, Sac. Archoeol. p. 334.
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McClintock, John. Strong, James. Entry for 'Jubilee, or Jubilee Year'. Cyclopedia of Biblical, Theological and Ecclesiastical Literature. https://www.studylight.org/encyclopedias/eng/tce/j/jubilee-or-jubilee-year.html. Harper & Brothers. New York. 1870.