Council of Florence

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The Council of Florence was held in Florence, Italy, during 1438-1439, as a second reunion council to heal the Great Schism between East and West, the first being the Council of Lyons in 1274. The Florentine Council was itself a continuation of the Council of Ferrara, which was itself a continuation of the Council of Basel convoked in 1431 by Pope Martin V.

The Emperors

  • Manuel II – First petitions Pope John XXIII, an antipope, then later his successor Martin V for a council to discuss union in the hopes of gaining his support in battle against Moslem forces whittling away at the Empire.
  • John Palaeologus VIII – The son of Manuel II and his successor is the prominent figure in the future discussions of the Council. He psychologically intimidates those whom he has brought with him to the council and to gain the support he needs he even goes so far as to solicit the vote of his Chamber Master, the man servant who turns down his sheets at night.

The Popes

  • Martin V – The Pope of the initial phase of planning. He sends delegates to the Emperor demanding that the Council be held in Italia. With threats and bribes he manages to secure the promise of the Emperor to come to Italy with his delegates. A clever and conniving man, Martin realizes that his own future job security requires that the East back him as Pope since His Bishops were already gathering in Basle to depose him.
  • Eugenius IV – Was in attendance at the Council of Florence. He holds all the power, the Greek Emperor forbids his theologians from offending the him. His aging counterpart, the Patriarch Joseph, was failing in health and impotent to defend his place of honor and rights. Eugenius helds the purse strings as well and the Greeks are even reliant on him for food, shelter, and transportation.

The Greek Delegates

  • Mark, Metropolitan of Ephesus – By all accounts the most outspoken defender of Orthodoxy, he handles the discussions on the hard topics of Purgatory, the addition of the Filioque and its doctrinal errors. He is silenced in later debates by his own Emperor after harsh debates with John the Dominican Provincial in which it is obvious that the Latin position was faltering. He is by all accounts the only delegate present for the signing of the end documents who refused to do so.
  • Bessarion of Nicea – Plays the reluctant second chair to Mark during the initial debates and helps throw the match later after Mark is silenced. For his loyalty to the union the Pope rewards him with the title of Cardinal and gives him lavish gifts.
  • George Scholarius, philosopher – Plays a supportive roll in the discussions, is faithful to Orthodoxy. Is later in life made Patrirach by the Moslems and takes the name Gennadius Scholarius.
  • Joseph, Patriarch of Constantinople – Initially strongly opposes the council's locale, which was to have it in Constantinople, but capitulates due to weakness and age. Dies mysterious in June before the documents are to be signed, but manages “supposedly” to make all the necessary concessions to the Pope, as to his authority and dignity in a letter left written two days before the request by the Pope was even made.

"To the other afflictions which the Orthodox delegation suffered in Florence was added the death of the Patriarch Joseph of Constantinople. The Patriarch was found dead in his room.

"On the table lay (supposedly) his testament, Extrema Sententia, consisting in all of some lines in which he declared that he accepted everything that the Church of Rome confesses. And then: "In like manner I acknowledge the Holy Father of Fathers, the Supreme Pontiff and Vicar of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Pope of Old Rome. Likewise, I acknowledge purgatory. In affirmation of this, I affix my signature."

"There is no doubt whatever that Patriarch Joseph did not write this document. The German scholar Frommann, who made a detailed investigation of the "Testament" of Patriarch Joseph," says: "This document is so Latinized and corresponds so little to the opinion expressed by the Patriarch several days before, that its spuriousness is evident. "The Testament" appears in the history of the Council of Florence quite late; contemporaries of the Council knew nothing of it." OrthodoxInfo

The Patriarch is buried in the cemetery of a Dominican Church dedicated the Theotokos.

  • Isidore, Metropolitan of all Russia – Arrives late to the council in August, but manages to arrive before the transferal of the council from Ferrara to Florence due to “plague” conditions in the city of Ferrera. Had made a grand tour of his territories before he went on to Italy. After Mark was silenced Isidore takes a minor roll as second fiddle to Besserion as the two trip over each other trying to sell Orthodoxy out. For his attempts to promote the Latin cause he is made a Cardinal by the Pope and given authority not only over the Russian lands but the Churches and Dioceses of the Former Russian lands. He is sent by the Pope to Constantinople to settle the uproar of Patriarchal elections and to officially declare the union there. Due to the uproar Metrophanes’ election by default results in his being forced to flee. He then goes to the territory of Russia to announce the Union and receives only slightly better treatment there.
  • Metrophanes of Cyzicus - The future Patriarch of Constantinople, you surely wouldn’t guess by the minor roll he played in the debates, a sell out to the Latins and not even a strong figure he is chosen after literally everyone else refuses. I think they may even have asked the Master of the Bed Chamber mentioned earlier.

Minor Greek figures present

  • Dorotheus of Trebizond
  • Anthony of Heraclea
  • Macarius of Nicomedia

The Latin Debaters

  • Nicholas Albergati – Took the lead with the Purgatory issue.
  • Jullian Caesarini – Led debate on Filioque at first.
  • John, Dominican Provincial – the strongest of the Latin speakers an O.P. he was highly educated and used scholastic methods and arguments to craft his defense of Latin practice. He later led the discussion without opposition on ezymes and papal authority.
  • Andrew of Rhodes – Minor roll in the early discussions.

Works on the Council

  • Edward Gibbon, William George Smith, William Smith, The History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire. Harper, 1857.
  • Charles Diehl, Naomi Walford, and Peter Charanis, Byzantium: Greatness and Decline. Rutgers University Press, 1957
  • Joseph Gill, The Council of Florence. Cambridge University Press, 1959. ISBN 0521050820, ISBN 9780521050821
  • Joseph Gill, Personalities of the Council of Florence, and Other Essays. Barnes & Noble, 1965
  • Ivan N. Ostroumov, The History of the Council of Florence. Holy Transfiguration Monastery, 1971.
  • Constantine N. Tsirpanlis, Mark Eugenicus and the Council of Florence: A Historical Re-evaluation of His Personality. 1979.