- Ferrara-Florence, Council of
- General council of the Latin Church summoned by Pope Eugenius IV in 1437. It convened at Ferrara on 8 January 1438. The sessions were soon moved to Florence, where the city's political leader, Cosimo de' Medici, offered financial support. The primary (and only avowed) goal of the pope was to complete negotiations with the Byzantine emperor John VIII Palaeologus and the leaders of the Orthodox Church for a reunion of the Latin and Greek branches of the church, which had been divided since the 11th century. The second goal, not openly acknowledged, was to undermine the authority of the independent-minded Council of Basel, which had refused to let the pope transfer its sessions to Ferrara or any other place in Italy and which was reasserting the doctrines of Conciliarism, which taught that the supreme authority within the Catholic Church is not the pope but a general council.The Byzantine emperor, the Patriarch of Constantinople, and a large delegation of other churchmen and scholars came from Constantinople to Florence. There were a number of theological and liturgical issues to be resolved. The most difficult of these was the Greeks' refusal to acknowledge the superiority of the pope as bishop of Rome over all other bishops. The Greek Orthodox church held that supreme authority was shared by all bishops and especially by the bishops of the oldest dioceses, of whom the Roman bishop was only one. Eventually, the Byzantine delegation, which was desperate for Western political and military aid against the Ottoman Turks, yielded on these issues. On 6 July 1439 the conciliar decree Laetentur coeli / The Heavens Rejoice was proclaimed, theoretically ending the centuries-long separation of the Greek and Latin churches. In the east, the reunification proved abortive, because the majority of the people and clergy rejected the terms of the union. But the apparent success in ending the schism between east and west did much to weaken support for the Council of Basel and to solidify Pope Eugenius' reassertion of the papacy's claim to absolute sovereignty over the whole church. The council moved to Rome in 1442, as negotiations continued with a number of smaller separated eastern churches.Far more lasting than the abortive reunion of churches were the cultural effects of the presence of the large Byzantine delegation. A revival of interest in ancient Greek language and literature had already taken hold in some parts of Italy (notably Florence and Venice) at the end of the 14th century, and the growing group of Western specialists in Greek found contact with the visiting Byzantines both inspiring and useful. Several of the visitors had been involved in efforts to deepen modern Greeks' awareness of their own classical heritage. The most influential of these was Georgios Gemistos Pletho. A considerable number of Greek clerics who were deeply committed to the union with the Latin church remained in Italy. The most famous of these was the archbishop of Nicaea, Johannes Bessarion.
Historical Dictionary of Renaissance. Charles G. Nauert. 2004.