Council of Florence
1431-1445 A.D.

part ten

For document sources noted, see Abbreviations

SESSION 9 23 March 1440

[Monition of the council of Florence against the antipope Felix V]

Eugenius, bishop, servant of the servants of God, for an everlasting record. Many examples of holy fathers of the old and the new Testament warn us that we should not pass over in silence or leave completely unpunished specially grave crimes which lead to the scandal and public division of the people entrusted to us. For if we delay to pursue and avenge what is grievously offensive to God, we thereby provoke the divine patience to wrath. For, there are sins for which it is a sin to be slack about their retribution. It is indeed right and eminently reasonable, in the opinion of holy fathers, that those who despise divine commands and disobey paternal enactments should be corrected with really severe penalties, so that others may fear to commit the same faults and that all may rejoice in fraternal harmony and take note of the example of severity and probity. For if -- though may it never be -- we are negligent about ecclesiastical vigilance and activity, idleness ruins discipline and the souls of the faithful will suffer great harm. Therefore, rotting flesh should be cut away and mangy sheep driven out

He cannot have God as his father If he does not hold the unity of the church i he who does not agree with the body of the church and the whole brotherhood, cannot agree with anyone. Since Christ suffered for the church and since the church is the body of Christ, without doubt the person who divides the church is convicted of lacerating the body of Christ. Hence the avenging will of the Lord went forth against schismatics like Korah, Dathan and Abiram, who were swallowed up together by an opening in the ground for instigating schism against Moses, the man of God, and others were consumed by fire from heaven; idolatry indeed was punished by the sword; and the burning of the book was requited by the slaughter of war and imprisonment in exile.

Finally, how indivisible is the sacrament of unity! How bereft of hope, and how punished by God's indignation with the direst loss, are those who produce schism and, abandoning the true spouse of the church, set up a pseudo-bishop! Divine scripture declares this in the book of Kings, which says that when ten tribes had separated themselves from the tribe of Judah and Benjamin and abandoned their king, setting up for themselves another king: the Lord was indignant with all the descendants of Israel and gave them over to destruction till he cast them away from his face. It says that the Lord was indignant and gave over to destruction those who split off from unity and set up for themselves another king. Indeed, so great was the wrath of God against those who had brought about a schism that even when the man of God had been sent to Jeroboam to reprove his sins and to predict a future vengeance, the man of God was forbidden to eat bread with them or to drink water and when he did not obey this order of the Lord and dined, straightaway the divine retribution struck him and he was killed by a lion on his return journey. Hence, as blessed Jerome declares, nobody should doubt that the crime of schism is very wicked since it is avenged so severely.

In days gone by, in the holy general council of Constance, that chronic and disastrous schism, which had cruelly and daily afflicted God's church and the christian religion with great loss of souls, not only of individual persons but also in entire cities and provinces, was at last settled by the ineffable mercy of God and the unbounded labours and hardships of many kings and princes, both ecclesiastical and secular, many universities and others of Christ's faithful, and at great expense. With the election of lord Martin of happy memory and, after his death, the undisputed, genuine, unanimous and canonical elevation of your holiness to the summit of the apostolate, the universal church seemed to be enjoying a greatly desired peace. But behold! Again we are compelled with copious tears to say with Jeremiah the prophet: we looked for peace, but behold disturbance. And again with Isaiah: we looked for light, but behold darkness. Some sons of perdition and disciples of iniquity, who were few in numbers and of little authority, tried at Basel with all their strength, guile and cunning, even after the translation of the former council which had been made canonically and legitimately by your holiness for just, evident, urgent and necessary reasons, to prevent the most holy union with the Greeks and the whole eastern church, which was ardently desired by the whole christian people.

For after the said authors of the scandals who remained in Basel had failed to fulfil their promise to the Greeks, when they learnt from the envoys of the Greeks and the eastern church that the most serene prince lord John Palaeologus, emperor of the Romans, and Joseph, patriarch of Constantinople of happy memory, with many other prelates and men of the eastern church were about to come to the place chosen for the ecumenical council, and that your holiness had despatched many prelates and envoys with galleys at great expense and outlay, they dared to decree, with a view to preventing the arrival of the said emperor and Greeks, a detestable monition against your holiness and my most reverend lords, the lord cardinals of the holy Roman church.

Afterwards, when they learnt that the said emperor and patriarch and other easterners were coming, they issued against your holiness a kind of sacrilegious decree of suspension from the administration of the papacy.

Despite these and other wicked attempts and sacrilegious acts, on account of the constant solicitude displayed by you and this sacred council and after great labours and many disputations, at last the divine mercy granted that the above-mentioned schism of the Greeks and the eastern church, which had lasted for almost five hundred years to the great harm of the whole christian people, should be removed from the midst of the church and that the most desired union of the western and the eastern church, which was hardly thought possible, should follow with the utmost harmony from your and this sacred council's holy work. This ought to be greatly admired and venerated with the highest praise and the joy of exultation, as all the rest of the christian religion had done, and thanks should be returned to the most High for so admirable a gift. But they became more hard-hearted and obstinate, preferring even at the cost of ruining the whole christian world to fan into flames the conflagration, which they had already begun, of their aforesaid most wicked monster. They adopted an attitude of opposition and, prodigal of their good name and enemies to their own honour, they strove to their utmost with pestilential daring to rend the unity of the holy Roman and universal church and the seamless robe of Christ', and with serpentlike bites to lacerate the womb of the pious and holy mother herself.

The leader and prince of these men and the architect of the whole nefarious deed was that first-born son of Satan, the most unfortunate Amadeus, once duke and prince of Savoy. He meditated this scheme for long. Several years ago, as is widely said, he was seduced by the trickery, soothsayings and phantoms of certain unfortunate men and women of low reputation (commonly called wizards or witches or Waldensians and said to be very numerous in his country), who had forsaken their Saviour to turn backwards to Satan and be deceived by demonic illusions, to have himself raised up to be a monstrous head in God's church. He adopted the cloak of a hermit, or rather of a most false hypocrite, so that in sheep's clothing, like a lamb he might assume the ferocity of a wolf. Eventually he joined the people at Basel. By force, fraud, bribery, promises and threats he prevailed on the majority of those at Basel, who were subject to his sway and tyranny, to proclaim him as an idol and Beelzebub, the prince of these new demons, in opposition to your holiness, the true vicar of Christ and the undoubted successor of Peter in God's church.

Thus that most ill-starred Amadeus, a man of insatiable and unheard of greed, whom avarice (which, according to the Apostle, is the service of idols) has always blinded, was set up as an idol and like a statue of Nebuchadnezzar in God's church by that most wicked synagogue, those offscourings of forsaken men, that shameful cesspool of all Christianity, from among whom certain heinous men, or rather demons hiding under the form of men, had been deputed as electors or rather as profaners. He himself, agitated by the furies of his own crimes and sinking into the depth of all evils, said after the manner of Lucifer: I will set my throne in the north and I shall be like the most High. He grasped with avid and detestable greed at the above-mentioned election, or rather profanation made of him, which he had earlier sought with intense fever of mind and anguish of heart. He did not shrink from adopting and wearing papal robes, ornaments and insignia, from behaving, holding himself and acting as Roman and supreme pontiff, and from having himself venerated as such by the people. Further, he was not afraid to write and despatch to many parts of the world letters which were sealed with a leaden seal after the manner of the Roman pontiffs. By these letters, in which he calls himself Felix even though he is the most unhappy of mortals, he tries to spread the poisons of his faction among the people of Christ.

What complaint or accusation am I to make first, most blessed father and most holy synod? With what force of speech, grief of mind or outpouring of words am I to deplore so great a crime? What rich discourse could suitably bewail or express this most foul deed? Assuredly no account can equal the grossness of the act, for the magnitude of so heinous a crime transcends the power of speech.

But, as I see it, most blessed father and most reverend and reverend fathers, now is the hour not for lament but for remedy.

For behold, holy mother church was basking in true unity and peace, in the person of your holiness her undoubted spouse, when the fountain of tears was opened. To you, her spouse, and to you most reverend and reverend fathers, who share in solicitude and have been summoned to this sacred and ecumenical council, she is forced to cry and shout with many sighs and sobs: Have pity on me, have pity on me, at least you my fiends'. For my bowels are full of bitterness. For the foxes destroy the vineyard of the God of hosts, and the impious rend the seamless robe of Christ. Let God therefore arise, let all his enemies be scattered. And you, most blessed father, since all these things are so manifest, public and notorious that they cannot be hidden by any evasion or defended by excuses, arise in the power of the most High, together with this sacred council, and judge the cause of your spouse and be mindful of your sons. Gird your sword upon your thigh, O mighty one. Set out, proceed prosperously and reign, and say with the psalmist: I will pursue my enemies and crush them, and I shall not return until I consume them. I shall consume and crush them and they will not rise; they will fall at my feet. For it is wrong that so wicked a deed and so detestable a precedent should be allowed to pass by disguised, lest perhaps unpunished daring and malice find an imitator, but rather let the example of punished trangressions deter others from offending.

Therefore your holiness and this sacred synod, following the example of Moses the man of God, must say to the whole christian people: Depart from the tents of these impious men. Follow also the example of blessed pope Leo, your predecessor, who moved the second council of Ephesus and Dioscorus with his supporters to Chalcedon, where he instituted a synod which condemned them, and of your other predecessors as supreme pontiff, who continuously rising up in God's church have eliminated heresies and schisms, with their instigators, followers and supporters, from the church of God and the communion of the faithful, which is the most sacred body of Christ, and have afflicted them with many other condign penalties at the demand of justice.

With the approval and help of this sacred ecumenical council, avenge with condign penalties this new frenzy which has become inflamed to your injury and that of the holy Roman church, your spouse, and to the notorious scandal of the whole christian people. By the authority of almighty God and of the blessed apostles Peter and Paul and by your own authority, remove and separate from God's holy church, by a perpetual anathema, the aforesaid wicked perpetrators of this prodigious crime and their unfortunate heresiarch and veritable antichrist in God's church together with all their supporters, adherents and followers and especially his execrable electors or rather profaners.

May he and all the aforesaid be cast out like an antichrist and an invader and a destroyer of the whole of Christianity. Let no appeal in this matter ever be allowed to him or to them. Let them and their posterity and successors be deprived without appeal of every ecclesiastical or secular rank and dignity whatsoever. Let all of them be condemned by a perpetual anathema and excommunication and may they be counted among the wicked who will not rise at the judgment. May they feel the anger of God against them. May they feel the rage of saints Peter and Paul, whose church they dare to throw into confusion, both in this life and in the next. May their dwelling be a desolation, let no one dwell in their tents. May their children be orphans and their wives be widows. May the world fight against them and all the elements be opposed to them, so that they may be cast out, destroyed and eliminated by all and so that, as they grovel in permanent penury, death may deservedly be their refuge and life their punishment. May the merits of all the saints cast them into confusion and display open vengeance on them in their lifetime. May they receive a deserved fate with Korah, Dathan and Abiram. Finally, unless they repent from their hearts, perform deeds worthy of repentance and make worthy satisfaction to your holiness and the universal church for the enormity of their sins, may they be thrust with the wicked into the everlasting darkness, doomed by the just judgment of God to eternal torments.

May the grace of almighty God protect all of us and all Christ's faithful who execrate with merited blasphemies the aforesaid heresiarchs and their abominable idol and antichrist, who acknowledge you as Christ's vicar and spouse of his most worthy church, and who venerate you with devout reverence and constant faith and obedience. By the authority of blessed Peter and Paul and your authority, may we and they be absolved from all bonds of sins, be filled with all blessings on our pilgrimage and finally be led by his ineffable mercy to eternal joys. Amen.

For our part, as soon as we were aware from the reports of trustworthy people that so great an impiety had been committed, we were afflicted with grief and sadness, as was to be expected, both for the great scandal to the church and for the ruin of the souls of its perpetrators, especially Amadeus that antichrist whom we used to embrace in the depths of charity and whose prayers and wishes we always strove to meet in so far as we could in God. Already for some time we had it in mind to provide salutary remedies, in accordance with our pastoral office, against an abomination of this sort. Now, however, challenged publicly before the church to confront these evils, we propose to rise to the defence of the church and tackle this great crime more quickly and more urgently. Therefore, in order that so enormous and execrable a deed may, with the help of God whose cause is at stake, be destroyed from its very roots, we are applying, in conjunction with this holy council and with the least possible delay, a remedy in accordance with the holy canons.

We are aware that the above petition of the promoter and the procurator is just and in conformity with both divine and human law, and although the aforesaid crimes and excesses are so very public and notorious that nothing can conceal them and no further information is required; Nevertheless, for greater precaution and certainly about the above, we commissioned, with the approval of this sacred council, some noteworthy persons from every rank in the council to seek information about the above and to refer their findings to us and the sacred council. Those so commissioned fulfilled their task of investigation with the care demanded by a schismatical depravity of this kind and faithfully reported to us and the sacred council in a synodal congregation what they had found out by the interrogation of trustworthy persons. In such public, manifest and notorious matters, action could have been taken against the said infamous and scandalous men without waiting further, by means of severe penalties in accordance with canonical sanctions. Nevertheless we and this holy synod, imitating the mercy of God who desires not the death of the sinner but rather that he be converted and live, have decided to show all possible mercy and to act, in so far as we can, in such a way that the proposed mildness may recall them to heart and lead them to recoil from the above-mentioned excesses, and so that when at last they return to the bosom of the church like the prodigal son, we may receive them with kindness and embrace them with fatherly love.

Therefore, through the tender mercy of our God and by the shedding of the precious blood of our lord Jesus Christ, in whom and by whom the redemption of the human race and the foundation of holy mother church were effected, from the depths of our hearts we exhort, beg and beseech the antichrist Amadeus and the aforesaid electors, or rather profaners, and whoever else believes in, adheres to, receives or in any way supports him, straightaway to stop violating the church's unity for which the Saviour prayed so earnestly to the Father, and to cease from rending and lacerating the fraternal charity and peace which the same Redeemer, as he was about to leave this world, repeatedly and so insistently commended to his disciples and without which neither prayers nor fasts nor alms are acceptable to God, and utterly to desist as quickly as possible from the aforesaid destructive and scandalous excesses, and so to find with us and this sacred council, if they really obey as they are bound to do, the affection of a father in respect of everything.

However, so that fear of penalties and harshness of discipline may force them if perchance love of justice and virtue does not withdraw them from sin, with the approval of this sacred council we demand and warn the antichrist Amadeus and the aforesaid electors, or rather profaners, and believers, adherents, receivers and supporters, and we strictly enjoin and order him and them in virtue of holy obedience and under the penalties of anathema, heresy, schism and treason which have been inflicted in any ways against such persons, whether by men or by the law:

That within fifty days immediately following the publication of this letter, the antichrist Amadeus should cease from acting any more and designating himself as the Roman pontiff and should not, in so far as he can, allow himself to be held and called such by others, and should not dare hereafter in any way to use papal insignia and other things belonging in any way to the Roman pontiff; And that the aforesaid electors, or rather profaners, and adherents, receivers and supporters should no longer, either in person or through others, directly or indirectly or under any pretext, aid, believe in, adhere to or support the said Amadeus in this crime of schism.

Rather, both Amadeus himself and the aforesaid electors, believers, adherents and supporters should hold, recognize and reverence us as the true Roman pontiff and vicar of Christ and legitimate successor of Peter, and should reverently obey and maintain us as father and pastor of their souls, and should take care legitimately to notify us and this sacred council about these matters within the appointed interval of time, so that no scruple of doubt may remain about their genuine obedience.

If Amadeus and the said electors, believers, adherents, receivers and supporters shall act otherwise -- though may it not be so -- and do not effectively fulfil each and all of the aforesaid points within the appointed time, we wish and decree that from then as from now they automatically incur the stated penalties.

Moreover, on the fifteenth day after the aforesaid interval of time, if it is not a feast, otherwise on the following non-feast day, the aforesaid supporters all together or singly shall appear in person before us and the aforesaid council where we shall then be, to be seen and heard individually and even by name. Thus we now cite them for that day, to be declared schismatics, blasphemers and as heretics, to be punished as traitors, and to have incurred the aforesaid censures and penalties, and others to be inflicted, according as it shall seem good and justice shall persuade:

Notifying the same people and any of them individually, whether or not they come, that if they shall not have shown that they have obeyed, we shall proceed with justice to declaring the aforesaid penalties, notwithstanding their contumacy or absence, with the intention of proceeding further to aggravation and re-aggravation, as the rigour of justice shall demand and their merits require. In order that this monition and citation of ours may be brought to the attention of the authors of their monition and citation and of other interested persons, we shall have sheets of paper or membranes of parchment containing it affixed to the doors or gates of the church of St Mary Novella in Florence, of our palace situated near that church and of the cathedral church of Florence. These will make known this monition as if by a sonorous town-crying and a public notice, in order that after such notification these people may not be able to pretend that it did not reach them or that they were ignorant of it, since it is unlikely that what is made known so obviously to all should remain unknown or hidden to them.

We wish and we decree by our apostolic authority that this our monition promulgated on the said doors and gates shall have as much value and be as immutable and as binding on the said warned people, notwithstanding any contrary constitution, as if it had been intimated and disclosed to each and all of the warned people in person and in their presence.

Finally, lest the aforesaid warned and cited persons allege as a cloak of excuse that the council and the Roman curia, the common fatherland of all, is an unsafe place for them and that, because of the above-mentioned things or other enmities or other reasons, danger threatens them in their coming, staying and returning, we reassure them by this present letter and we require and exhort by the same letter all patriarchs, archbishops, bishops and other prelates of churches and monasteries, clerics and ecclesiastical persons as well as dukes, marquises, princes, rulers, captains and any other officials and their lieutenants, as also the communities and corporations of cities, castles, towns, vills and other places, and we strictly command the patriarchs, archbishops, bishops and other prelates and our other subjects that they are not to inflict any injury or harm on the aforesaid warned persons and their goods and property nor, to the best of their power, to allow such to be inflicted by others. Let nobody therefore . . . If anyone however . . .

SESSION 10 27 May 1440

[Eugenius IV exhorts the members of the synod at Basel to desist from their opposition]

Eugenius, bishop, servant of the servants of God, for an everlasting record. In the opinion of holy fathers, public sinners ought to be publicly censured so that others may stand in fear. Accordingly, we and this sacred council of Florence recently censured and denounced in public before the church, in synodal form, the authors and abettors of the pestilential sin of schism against the holy apostolic see and the holy Roman church, the mother and mistress of all Christians, which was perpetrated by Amadeus, once duke of Savoy, and his accomplices. It would have been in conformity with the sacred canons to have passed a sentence of due severity straightaway on those notoriously sacrilegious persons. However, desiring their conversion and salvation rather than their punishment, we begged, warned and required of them, with all the charity and mildness we could, to reflect and to recoil from such great iniquity, promising them pardon and favour and a father's affection. But if they refused to heed these dutiful admonitions, we decreed that they should be punished with penalties proportionate to so great an outrage, as is contained in the monition promulgated against them, which is as follows.

See Part Eleven of the Council of Florence

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