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|Council of Basel–Ferrara–Florence|
|Council of Constance|
|Fifth Council of the Lateran|
|Convoked by||Pope Martin V|
|President||Cardinal Julian Cesarini, later Pope Eugene IV|
|Attendance||very light in first sessions, eventually 117 Latins and 31 Greeks|
|Topics||Hussites, East-West Schism, Western Schism|
Documents and statements
|Several Papal bulls, short-lived reunion with the Eastern Orthodox Church, reunion with delegation from the Armenians|
|Chronological list of ecumenical councils|
|Part of a series on|
| Ecumenical councils |
of the Catholic Church
|Antiquity (c. 50 – 451)|
|Early Middle Ages (553–870)|
|High and Late Middle Ages (1122–1517)|
The Council of Florence is the seventeenth ecumenical council recognized by the Catholic Church, held between 1431 and 1449. It was convoked as the Council of Basel by Pope Martin V shortly before his death in February 1431 and took place in the context of the Hussite wars in Bohemia and the rise of the Ottoman Empire. At stake was the greater conflict between the Conciliar movement and the principle of papal supremacy.
The Council entered a second phase after Emperor Sigismund's death in 1437. Pope Eugene IV convoked a rival Council of Ferrara on 8 January 1438 and succeeded in drawing some of the Byzantine ambassadors who were in attendance at Basel to Italy. The remaining members of the Council of Basel first suspended him, declared him a heretic, and then in November 1439 elected an antipope, Felix V. The rival Council of Florence (moved to avoid the plague in Ferrara) concluded in 1445 after negotiating unions with the various eastern churches. This bridging of the Great Schism proved fleeting, but was a political coup for the papacy. In 1447, Sigismund's successor Frederick III commanded the city of Basel to expel the Council of Basel; the rump council reconvened in Lausanne before dissolving itself in 1449.
The initial location in the Prince-Bishopric of Basel reflected the desire among parties seeking reform to meet outside territories directly controlled by the Pope, the Emperor [ disputed ] or the kings of Aragon and France, whose influences the council hoped to avoid.[ citation needed ] Ambrogio Traversari attended the Council of Basel as legate of Pope Eugene IV.
Under pressure for ecclesiastical reform, Pope Martin V sanctioned a decree of the Council of Constance (9 October 1417) obliging the papacy to summon general councils periodically. At the expiration of the first term fixed by this decree, Pope Martin V complied by calling a council at Pavia. Due to an epidemic the location transferred almost at once to Siena (see Council of Siena) and disbanded, in circumstances still imperfectly known, just as it had begun to discuss the subject of reform (1424). The next council fell due at the expiration of seven years in 1431; Martin V duly convoked it for this date to the town of Basel and selected to preside over it the cardinal Julian Cesarini, a well-respected prelate. Martin himself, however, died before the opening of the synod.
The Council was seated on 14 December 1431, at a period when the conciliar movement was strong and the authority of the papacy weak.[ citation needed ] The Council at Basel opened with only a few bishops and abbots attending, but it grew rapidly and to make its numbers greater gave the lower orders a majority over the bishops. It adopted an anti-papal attitude, proclaimed the superiority of the Council over the Pope and prescribed an oath to be taken by every Pope on his election. On 18 December Martin's successor, Pope Eugene IV, tried to dissolve it and open a new council on Italian soil at Bologna, but he was overruled.[ clarification needed ]
Sigismund, King of Hungary and titular King of Bohemia, had been defeated at the Battle of Domažlice in the fifth crusade against the Hussites in August 1431. Under his sponsorship, the Council negotiated a peace with Calixtine faction of the Hussites in January 1433. Pope Eugene acknowledged the council in May and crowned Sigismund Holy Roman Emperor on 31 May 1433. The divided Hussites were defeated in May 1434. In June 1434, the pope had to flee a revolt in Rome and began a ten-year exile in Florence.
When the Council was moved from Basel to Ferrara in 1438, some remained at Basel, claiming to be the Council. They elected Amadeus VIII, Duke of Savoy, as Antipope. Driven out of Basel in 1448, they moved to Lausanne, where Felix V, the pope they had elected and the only claimant to the papal throne who ever took the oath that they had prescribed, resigned. The next year, they decreed the closure of what for them was still the Council of Basel.
The new council was transferred to Florence in 1439 because of the danger of plague at Ferrara and because Florence had agreed, against future payment, to finance the Council.The Council had meanwhile successfully negotiated reunification with several Eastern Churches, reaching agreements on such matters as the Western insertion of the phrase "Filioque" to the Nicene-Constantinopolitan Creed, the definition and number of the sacraments, and the doctrine of Purgatory. Another key issue was papal primacy, which involved the universal and supreme jurisdiction of the Bishop of Rome over the whole Church, including the national Churches of the East (Serbian, Byzantine, Moldo-Wallachian, Bulgarian, Russian, Georgian, Armenian etc.) and nonreligious matters such as the promise of military assistance against the Ottomans. The final decree of union was a signed document called the Laetentur Caeli , "Let the Heavens Rejoice". Some bishops, perhaps feeling political pressure from the Byzantine Emperor, accepted the decrees of the Council and reluctantly signed. Others did so by sincere conviction, such as Isidore of Kiev, who subsequently suffered greatly for it. Only one Eastern Bishop, Mark of Ephesus, refused to accept the union and became the leader of opposition back in Byzantium, while the Serbian patriarch did not even attend the council. The Russians, upon learning of the union, angrily rejected it and ousted any prelate who was even remotely sympathetic to it, declaring the Russian Orthodox Church as autocephalus (i.e., automonous). Despite the religious union, Western military assistance to Byzantium was ultimately insufficient, and the fall of Constantinople occurred in May 1453. The Council declared the Basel group heretics and excommunicated them, and the superiority of the Pope over the Councils was affirmed in the bull Etsi non dubitemus of 20 April 1441.
The democratic character of the assembly at Basel was a result of both its composition and its organization. Doctors of theology, masters and representatives of chapters, monks and clerks of inferior orders constantly outnumbered the prelates in it, and the influence of the superior clergy had less weight because instead of being separated into "nations", as at Constance, the fathers divided themselves according to their tastes or aptitudes into four large committees or "deputations" (deputationes). One was concerned with questions of faith (fidei), another with negotiations for peace (pacis), the third with reform (reformatorii), and the fourth with what they called "common concerns" (pro communibus). Every decision made by three "deputations" (the lower clergy formed the majority in each) received ratification for the sake of form in general congregation and, if necessary led to decrees promulgated in session. Papal critics thus termed the council "an assembly of copyists" or even "a set of grooms and scullions". However, some prelates, although absent, were represented by their proxies.
Nicholas of Cusa was a member of the delegation sent to Constantinople with the pope's approval to bring back the Byzantine emperor and his representatives to the Council of Florence of 1439. At the time of the council's conclusion in 1439, Cusa was thirty-eight years old and thus, compared to the other clergy at the council, a fairly young man though one of the more accomplished in terms of the body of his complete works.
From Italy, France and Germany, the fathers came late to Basel. Cesarini devoted all his energies to the war against the Hussites until the disaster of Taus forced him to evacuate Bohemia in haste. Pope Eugene IV, Martin V's successor, lost hope that the council could be useful owing to the progress of heresy, the reported troubles in Germany, the war that had lately broken out between the dukes of Austria and Burgundy, and finally, the small number of fathers who had responded to the summons of Martin V. That opinion and his desire to preside over the council in person, induced him to recall the fathers from Germany, as his poor health made it difficult for him to go. He commanded the council to disperse, and appointed Bologna as their meeting place in eighteen months' time, with the intention of making the session of the council coincide with some conferences with representatives of the Orthodox Church of the Byzantine East, scheduled to be held there with a view to ecumenical union (18 December 1431).
That order led to an outcry among the fathers and incurred the deep disapproval of the legate Cesarini. They argued that the Hussites would think the Church afraid to face them and that the laity would accuse the clergy of shirking reform, both with disastrous effects. The pope explained his reasons and yielded certain points, but the fathers were intransigent. Considerable powers had been decreed to Church councils by the Council of Constance, which amid the troubles of the Western Schism had proclaimed the superiority, in certain cases, of the council over the pope, and the fathers at Basel insisted upon their right of remaining assembled. They held sessions, promulgated decrees, interfered in the government of the papal countship of Venaissin, treated with the Hussites, and, as representatives of the universal Church, presumed to impose laws upon the sovereign pontiff himself.
Eugene IV resolved to resist the Council's claim of supremacy, but he did not dare openly to repudiate the conciliar doctrine considered by many to be the actual foundation of the authority of the popes before the schism. He soon realized the impossibility of treating the fathers of Basel as ordinary rebels, and tried a compromise; but as time went on, the fathers became more and more intractable, and between him and them gradually arose an impassable barrier.
Abandoned by a number of his cardinals, condemned by most of the powers, deprived of his dominions by condottieri who shamelessly invoked the authority of the council, the pope made concession after concession and ended on 15 December 1433 with a pitiable surrender of all the points at issue in a Papal bull, the terms of which were dictated by the fathers of Basel, that is, by declaring his bull of dissolution null and void and recognising that the synod as legitimately assembled throughout. However, Eugene IV did not ratify all the decrees coming from Basel, nor make a definite submission to the supremacy of the council. He declined to express any forced pronouncement on this subject, and his enforced silence concealed the secret design of safeguarding the principle of sovereignty.
The fathers, filled with suspicion, would allow only the legates of the pope to preside over them on condition of their recognizing the superiority of the council. The legates submitted the humiliating formality but in their own names, it was asserted only after the fact, thus reserving the final judgment of the Holy See. Furthermore, the difficulties of all kinds against which Eugene had to contend, such as the insurrection at Rome, which forced him to escape by means of the Tiber, lying in the bottom of a boat, left him at first little chance of resisting the enterprises of the council.
Emboldened by their success, the fathers approached the subject of reform, their principal object being to further curtail the power and resources of the papacy. They took decisions on the disciplinary measures that regulated the elections, on the celebration of divine service and on the periodical holding of diocesan synods and provincial councils, which were usual topics in Catholic councils. They also made decrees aimed at some of the assumed rights by which the popes had extended their power and improved their finances at the expense of the local churches. Thus the council abolished annates, greatly limited the abuse of "reservation" of the patronage of benefices by the Pope and completely abolished the right claimed by the pope of "next presentation" to benefices not yet vacant (known as gratiae expectativae). Other conciliar decrees severely limited the jurisdiction of the court of Rome and even made rules for the election of popes and the constitution of the Sacred College. The fathers continued to devote themselves to the subjugation of the Hussites, and they also intervened, in rivalry with the pope, in the negotiations between France and England, which led to the treaty of Arras, concluded by Charles VII of France with the duke of Burgundy. Also, circumcision was deemed to be a mortal sin.Finally, they investigated and judged numbers of private cases, lawsuits between prelates, members of religious orders and holders of benefices, thus themselves committing one of the serious abuses for which they had criticized the court of Rome.
The Council clarified the Latin dogma of papal supremacy:
"We likewise define that the holy Apostolic See, and the Roman Pontiff, hold the primacy throughout the entire world; and that the Roman Pontiff himself is the successor of blessed Peter, the chief of the Apostles, and the true vicar of Christ, and that he is the head of the entire Church, and the father and teacher of all Christians; and that full power was given to him in blessed Peter by our Lord Jesus Christ, to feed, rule, and govern the universal Church."
Eugene IV, however much he may have wished to keep on good terms with the fathers of Basel, found himself neither able nor willing to accept or observe all their decrees. The question of the union with the Byzantine church, especially, gave rise to a misunderstanding between them which soon led to a rupture. The Byzantine emperor John VIII Palaiologos, pressed hard by the Ottoman Turks, was keen to ally himself with the Catholics. He consented to come with the principal representatives of the Byzantine Church to some place in the West where the union could be concluded in the presence of the pope and of the Latin council. There arose a double negotiation between him and Eugene IV on the one hand and the fathers of Basel on the other. The council wished to fix the meeting-place at a place remote from the influence of the pope, and they persisted in suggesting Basel, Avignon or Savoy. On the other hand, the Byzantines wanted a coastal location in Italy for their ease of access by ship.
As a result of negotiations with the East, Emperor John VIII Palaiologos accepted Pope Eugene IV's offer. By a bull dated 18 September 1437, Pope Eugene again pronounced the dissolution of the Council of Basel and summoned the fathers to Ferrara in the Po valley.
The first public session at Ferrara began on 10 January 1438. Its first act declared the Council of Basel transferred to Ferrara and nullified all further proceedings at Basel. In the second public session (15 February 1438), Pope Eugene IV excommunicated all who continued to assemble at Basel.
In early April 1438, the Byzantine contingent, over 700 strong, arrived at Ferrara. On 9 April 1438, the first solemn session at Ferrara began, with the Eastern Roman Emperor, the Patriarch of Constantinople and representatives of the Patriarchal Sees of Antioch, Alexandria and Jerusalem in attendance and Pope Eugene IV presiding. The early sessions lasted until 17 July 1438 with each theological issue of the Great Schism (1054) hotly debated, including the Processions of the Holy Spirit, the Filioque clause in the Nicene Creed, Purgatory and papal primacy. Resuming proceedings on 8 October 1438, the Council focused exclusively on the Filioque matter. Even as it became clear that the Byzantine Church would never consent to the Filioque clause, the Byzantine Emperor continued to press for a reconciliation.
With finances running thin and on the pretext that the plague was spreading in the area, both the Latins and the Byzantines agreed to transfer the council to Florence.Continuing at Florence in January 1439, the Council made steady progress on a compromise formula, "ex filio".
In the following months, agreement was reached on the Western doctrine of Purgatory and a return to the pre-schism prerogatives of the Papacy. On 6 July 1439 an agreement ( Laetentur Caeli ) was signed by all the Eastern bishops but one, Mark of Ephesus, delegate for the Patriarch of Alexandria, who, contrary to the views of all others, held that Rome continued in both heresy and schism.
To complicate matters, Patriarch Joseph II of Constantinople had died the previous month. The Byzantine Patriarchs were unable to assert that ratification by the Eastern Church could be achieved without a clear agreement of the whole Church.
Upon their return, the Eastern bishops found their attempts toward agreement with the West broadly rejected by the monks, the populace, and by civil authorities (with the notable exception of the Emperors of the East who remained committed to union until the fall of the Byzantine Empire to the Turkish Ottoman Empire two decades later). Facing the imminent threat, the Union was officially proclaimed by Isidore of Kiev in Hagia Sophia on 12 December 1452.
The Emperor, bishops, and people of Constantinople accepted this act as a temporary provision until the removal of the Ottoman threat. Yet, it was too late: on 29 May 1453 Constantinople fell. The union signed at Florence, down to the present, has not been implemented by most Orthodox Churches.
The Council soon became even more international. The signature of this agreement for the union of the Latins and the Byzantines encouraged Pope Eugenius to announce the good news to the Coptic Christians, and invite them to send a delegation to Florence. He wrote a letter on 7 July 1439, and to deliver it, sent Alberto da Sarteano as an apostolic delegate. On 26 August 1441, Sarteano returned with four Ethiopians from Emperor Zara Yaqob and Copts.According to a contemporary observer "They were black men and dry and very awkward in their bearing (...) really, to see them they appeared to be very weak". At that time, Rome had delegates from a multitude of nations, from Armenia to Russia, Greece and various parts of north and east Africa.
During this time the council of Basel, though nullified at Ferrara and abandoned by Cesarini and most of its members, persisted nonetheless, under the presidency of Cardinal Aleman. Affirming its ecumenical character on 24 January 1438, it suspended Eugene IV. The council went on (in spite of the intervention of most of the powers) to pronounce Eugene IV deposed (25 June 1439), giving rise to a new schism by electing (4 November 1439) duke Amadeus VIII of Savoy, as (anti)pope, who took the name of Felix V.
This schism lasted fully ten years, although the antipope found few adherents outside of his own hereditary states, those of Alfonso V of Aragon, of the Swiss confederation and of certain universities. Germany remained neutral; Charles VII of France confined himself to securing to his kingdom (by the Pragmatic Sanction of Bourges, which became law on 13 July 1438) the benefit of a great number of the reforms decreed at Basel; England and Italy remained faithful to Eugene IV. Finally, in 1447, Frederick III, Holy Roman Emperor, after negotiations with Eugene, commanded the burgomaster of Basel not to allow the presence of the council any longer in the imperial city.
In June 1448 the rump of the council migrated to Lausanne. The antipope, at the insistence of France, ended by abdicating (7 April 1449). Eugene IV died on 23 February 1447, and the council at Lausanne, to save appearances, gave their support to his successor, Pope Nicholas V, who had already been governing the Church for two years. Trustworthy evidence, they said, proved to them that this pontiff accepted the dogma of the superiority of the council as defined at Constance and at Basel.
The struggle for East-West union at Ferrara and Florence, while promising, never bore fruit. While progress toward union in the East continued to be made in the following decades, all hopes for a proximate reconciliation were dashed with the fall of Constantinople in 1453. Following their conquest, the Ottomans encouraged hardline anti-unionist Orthodox clerics in order to divide European Christians.
Perhaps the council's most important historical legacy was the lectures on Greek classical literature given in Florence by many of the delegates from Constantinople, including the renowned Neoplatonist Gemistus Pletho. These greatly helped the progress of Renaissance humanism.
Ambrogio Traversari, also referred to as Ambrose of Camaldoli, was an Italian monk and theologian who was a prime supporter of the papal cause in the 15th century. He is honored as a saint by the Camaldolese Order.
The Fourth Council of Constantinople was held in 879–880. It confirmed the reinstatement of Photius I as patriarch of Constantinople.
Louis Aleman was a French Roman Catholic cardinal and a professed member of the now-suppressed Canons Regular of Saint John Baptist. He served as the Archbishop of Arles from 1423 until his resignation in 1440 when he had resigned from the cardinalate. But he was later reinstated as a cardinal on 19 December 1449 at which point he served as the Protopriest and also reclaimed his titular church.
Pope Martin V, born OttoColonna, was the head of the Catholic Church and ruler of the Papal States from 11 November 1417 to his death in 1431. His election effectively ended the Western Schism (1378–1417).
Pope Eugene IV, born Gabriele Condulmer, was head of the Catholic Church and ruler of the Papal States from 3 March 1431 to his death. Condulmer was a Venetian, and a nephew of Pope Gregory XII. In 1431, he was elected pope. His tenure was marked by conflict first with the Colonnas, relatives of his predecessor Martin V, and later with the Conciliar movement. In 1434, due to a complaint by Fernando Calvetos, bishop of the Canary Islands, Eugene IV issued the bull "Creator Omnium", rescinding any recognition of Portugal's right to conquer those islands, still pagan. He excommunicated anyone who enslaved newly converted Christians, the penalty to stand until the captives were restored to their liberty and possessions. In 1443 Eugene decided to take a neutral position on territorial disputes between Portugal and Castile regarding rights claimed along the coast of Africa.
John VIII Palaiologos or Palaeologus was the penultimate Byzantine emperor, ruling from 1425 to 1448.
The East–West Schism is the break of communion since the 11th century between the Catholic Church and Eastern Orthodox Church. The schism was the culmination of theological and political differences which had developed during the preceding centuries between Eastern and Western Christianity.
Conciliarism was a reform movement in the 14th-, 15th- and 16th-century Catholic Church which held that supreme authority in the Church resided with an Ecumenical council, apart from, or even against, the pope. The movement emerged in response to the Western Schism between rival popes in Rome and Avignon. The schism inspired the summoning of the Council of Pisa (1409), which failed to end the schism, and the Council of Constance (1414–1418), which succeeded and proclaimed its own superiority over the Pope. Conciliarism reached its apex with the Council of Basel (1431–1449), which ultimately fell apart. The eventual victor in the conflict was the institution of the Papacy, confirmed by the condemnation of conciliarism at the Fifth Lateran Council, 1512–17. The final gesture however, the doctrine of Papal Infallibility, was not promulgated until the First Vatican Council of 1870.
Isidore of Kiev, also known as Isidore of Thessalonica or Isidore, the Apostate, was a Byzantine Greek Metropolitan of Kiev, cardinal bishop, humanist, and theologian. He was one of the chief Eastern defenders of reunion at the time of the Council of Florence.
Juan de Torquemada, O.P., , Spanish ecclesiastic, was born at Valladolid, and was educated in that city.
Julian Cesarini the Elder was one of the group of brilliant cardinals created by Pope Martin V on the conclusion of the Western Schism. His intellect and diplomacy made him a powerful agent first of the Council of Basel and then, after he broke with the Conciliar movement at Basel, of Papal superiority against the Conciliar movement. The French bishop Bossuet described Cesarini as the strongest bulwark that the Catholics could oppose to the Greeks in the Council of Florence.
Juan Carvajal (Carvagial) was a Spanish Cardinal. Though he began his career as a lawyer and judge in the papal administration, he spent most of his active life travelling as a diplomat in Germany and eastern Europe, attempting to arrange a crusade against the Ottoman Turks. He was particularly active in Bohemia and Hungary, where he also employed his powers to fight the Hussites. He was a mainstay in trying to preserve the institution of the Papacy from the Conciliarism of the Council of Basel.
Niccolò Albergati was an Italian Roman Catholic prelate and professed member from the Carthusians. He became a cardinal and had served as a papal diplomat to France and England (1422–23) in addition to serving as the Bishop of Bologna from 1417 until his death.
Catholic ecumenical councils include 21 councils over a period of some 1900 years, which met for the purpose of defining doctrine, reaffirming truths of the Faith, and extirpating heresy. While definitions changed throughout history, in today's Catholic understanding ecumenical councils are assemblies of patriarchs, cardinals, residing bishops, abbots, male heads of religious orders and other juridical persons, nominated by the pope. Participation is limited to these persons, who cannot delegate their voting rights. Council decisions, to be valid, are approved by the popes.
The Fourth Council of Constantinople was the eighth ecumenical council of the Catholic Church held in Constantinople from October 5, 869, to February 28, 870. It was poorly attended, the first session by only 12 bishops and even the final one by only 103. In contrast the pro-Photian council of 879-80 was attended by 383 bishops. The Council met in ten sessions from October 869 to February 870 and issued 27 canons.
The 15th century is part of the High Middle Ages, the period from the coronation of Charlemagne in 800 to the close of the 15th century, which saw the fall of Constantinople (1453), the end of the Hundred Years War (1453), the discovery of the New World (1492), and thereafter the Protestant Reformation (1515). It also marked the later years of scholasticism
The Council of Constantinople of 867 was a major Church Council, convened by Emperor Michael III of Byzantium and Patriarch Photios I of Constantinople in order to address several ecclesiastical issues, including the question of Papal supremacy in the Church, and the use of Filioque clause in the Creed.
Laetentur Caeli: Bulla Unionis Graecorum was a papal bull issued on 6 July 1439 by Pope Eugene IV at the Council of Ferrara-Florence. It officially reunited the Roman Catholic Church with the Eastern Orthodox Churches, temporarily ending the East–West Schism; however, it was repudiated by most eastern bishops shortly thereafter. The incipit of the bull is derived from Psalms 95:11 in the Vulgate Bible.
A schism between the Ecumenical Patriarchate and part ofitsMetropolis of Kiev and all Rus' occurred between approximately 1467 and 1560. This schism de facto ended supposedly around 1560.
The Conspiracy of Sifis Vlastos was a fifteenth-century planned rebellion against the Republic of Venice in the overseas colony of Crete, named after its chief instigator. Vlastos and his collaborators were betrayed to the Venetian authorities, who swiftly arrested and executed them in 1454. A smaller, follow-on plan for an intended uprising against Venice was dismantled in 1462.
[The Holy Roman Church] firmly... asserts that after the promulgation of the gospel they cannot be observed without loss of eternal salvation. Therefore it denounces all who after that time observe circumcision, the [Jewish] sabbath and other legal prescriptions as strangers to the faith of Christ and unable to share in eternal salvation, unless they recoil at some time from these errors. Therefore it strictly orders all who glory in the name of Christian, not to practise circumcision either before or after baptism, since whether or not they place their hope in it, it cannot possibly be observed without loss of eternal salvation.
Argyropoulos divided his time between Italy and Constantinople; he was in Italy (1439) for the Council of Florence and spent some time teaching and studying in Padua, earning a degree in 1443.
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