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.
- Manuel II – He first petitioned 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 – He was the son of Manuel II, and his successor, was the prominent figure in the future discussions of the Council. He psychologically intimidated those whom he had brought with him to the council and to gain the support that he needed. He even went so far as to solicit the vote of his Chamber Master, the man servant who turned down his sheets at night.
- Martin V – He was the Pope of the initial phase of planning. He sent delegates to the Emperor demanding that the Council be held in Italy. With threats and bribes, he managed to secure the promise of the Emperor to come to Italy with his delegates. A clever and conniving man, Martin realized that his own future job security required that the East back him as Pope since his bishops were already gathering in Basle to depose him.
- Eugenius IV – He was in attendance at the Council of Florence. He held all the power. The Greek Emperor forbid his theologians from offending him. His aging counterpart, the Patriarch Joseph, was failing in health and was impotent to defend his place of honor and rights. Eugenius held the purse strings as well and the Greeks were even reliant on him for food, shelter, and transportation.
The Greek Delegates
- Mark, Metropolitan of Ephesus – He was by all accounts the most outspoken defender of Orthodoxy, he handled the discussions on the hard topics of Purgatory, the addition of the Filioque and their doctrinal errors. He was silenced in later debates by his own Emperor after harsh debates with John, the Dominican Provincial, in which it was obvious that the Latin position was faltering. He was by all accounts the only delegate present for the signing of the end documents who refused to do so.
- Bessarion of Nicea – He played the reluctant second chair to Mark during the initial debates and helped throw the match later after Mark was silenced. For his loyalty to the union the Pope rewarded him with the title of Cardinal and gave him lavish gifts.
- George Scholarius, philosopher – He played a supportive roll in the discussions, was faithful to Orthodoxy. later in life he was made Patrirach by the Moslems and took the name Gennadius Scholarius.
- Joseph, Patriarch of Constantinople – He initially strongly opposed the council's locale, which was to have been in Constantinople, but capitulated due to weakness and age. He died mysterious in June before the documents were to be signed, but managed “supposedly” to have made all the necessary concessions to the Pope, as within 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 were added the death of 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 confessed. 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," said: "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" appeared in the history of the Council of Florence quite late; contemporaries of the Council knew nothing of it." OrthodoxInfo
The Patriarch was buried in the cemetery of a Dominican Church dedicated the Theotokos.
- Isidore, Metropolitan of all Russia – He arrived late to the council in August, but managed to arrive before the transferal of the council from Ferrara to Florence due to “plague” conditions in the city of Ferrera. He made a grand tour of his territories before he came 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 was 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 was sent by the Pope to Constantinople to settle the uproar over the Patriarchal elections and to officially declare the union there. Due to the uproar, Metrophanes’ election by default resulted in his being forced to flee. He then went to the territory of Russia to announce the Union and received only slightly better treatment there.
- Metrophanes of Cyzicus - The future Patriarch of Constantinople sold out to the Latins and was not even a strong figure. He was chosen after literally everyone else refused.
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.
- The New Schaff-Herzog Encyclopedia of Religious Knowledge: Embracing Biblical, Historical, Doctrinal, and Practical Theology and Biblical, Theological, and Ecclesiastical Biography from the Earliest Times to the Present Day by Johann Jakob Herzog, Philip Schaff, Albert Hauck, Samuel Macauley Jackson, Charles Colebrook Sherman, George William Gilmore. Funk and Wagnalls Company, 1909.
- The History of the Council of Florence by Basil Popoff, Aleksandr Vasilýevich Gorski, John Mason Neale. Joseph Masters, 1861.
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