Council of Florence
(Basle-Ferrara-Florence)
1431-1445 A.D.

part three

For document sources noted, see Abbreviations


Session Fifteen continued

On the first day, when the diocesan and all those who are obliged to be present at the synod have assembled, during or after the celebration of mass, the diocesan or another in his name shall expound the word of God, exhorting all to strive after good behaviour and refrain from vice, and to strive after what pertains to ecclesiastical discipline and each one's duties, and especially that those who have the care of souls should instruct the people subject to them in doctrine and with salutary exhortations on Sundays and feast-days. Then there should be read out the provincial and synodal statutes and, among other things, a comprehensive treatise on how the sacraments should be administered and other useful points for the instruction of priests. Then the diocesan himself should diligently inquire into the life and morals of his subjects and check with suitable correction the evil of simony, usurious contracts, concubinage, fornication and all other faults and excesses. He should revoke alienations of ecclesiastical property forbidden by law, and he should correct and reform abuses of clerics and other subjects who have failed in respect of the divine office and the wearing of proper dress. Since many scandals often arise because Pope Boniface VIII's constitution Periculoso on the enclosure of nuns is not observed, the diocesan should insist that this enclosure be strictly observed in accordance with that constitution; also that all religious subject to the diocesan should inviolably observe the rules and constitutions of their orders, especially that all ownership is renounced by them. Also let nothing be demanded simoniacally at their reception into a religious order. A chief care of the bishop at the synod should be to make inquiry and to apply proper remedies lest any teaching that is heretical, erroneous, scandalous or offensive to pious ears, or fortune-telling, divinations incantations, superstitions or any diabolic inventions, infiltrate into his diocese. Let there be appointed synodal witnesses, who should be serious, prudent and honest men, filled with zeal for God's law, in a number proportionate to the area of the diocese, or others with their powers if none are appointed for this, who may be removed by the diocesan if they seem to him to be unsuitable and he may appoint others (as he thinks fit). They shall be obliged to take an oath in the hands of the diocesan himself or of his vicar, as is stated in the canon Episcopus in synodo; they shall travel round the diocese for a year and shall refer what they have seen to be in need of correction and reform to those whose duty it is to correct and reform. If these matters are not corrected and reformed, they shall refer them to a subsequent synod, when proper remedies should be applied. Besides what the diocesan hears from the synodal witnesses or others exercising their office, he should himself inquire assiduously about the faults of his subjects and so confront the guilty with the discipline of needed correction that it may serve as an example to others inclined to do evil.

Also, in every province within two years of the end of a general council, and thereafter at least once in every three years, a provincial council should be held in a safe place. It should be attended by both the archbishop and all his suffragans and others who are obliged to take part in such provincial councils, after a due summons has been issued to them. If a bishop is prevented by a canonical impediment, he should designate his procurator, not only to excuse and justify his absence, but also to participate in the council in his name and to report back what the council decides. Otherwise the bishop is automatically suspended from receiving half the fruits of his church for one year: these should be effectively diverted to the fabric of his church by someone deputed in the council itself. Others who fail to attend are to be punished at the decision of the council and other penalties of the law are to remain in force. Provincial councils are not to be held while a general council is sitting and for six months beforehand. At the beginning of a provincial council the metropolitan or someone in his name during the celebration of mass or afterwards, shall deliver an exhortation calling to mind the things that pertain to the ecclesiastical state and especially the episcopal office and warning all the participants that, as the prophet says, if any soul is lost by their fault his blood will be required by the Lord at their hands. In particular, there should be a strict warning that orders and benefices should be conferred, without any simony, on worthy and deserving persons whose lives are sufficiently well known. Above all, the greatest care and mature inquiry should be used when entrusting the care of souls. Ecclesiastical property on no account should be used for illegal purposes, but for the glory of God and the conservation of churches and, following the holy canons, with a primary concern for the poor and needy, mindful that at the tribunal of the eternal judge they will have to give an account of all of it to the very last farthing. In these councils there should be, according to the regulations of the law, a careful investigation into the correction of faults, the reform of the morals of subjects and especially the conduct of bishops in conferring benefices, confirming elections, administering orders, deputing confessors, preaching to the people, punishing the faults of their subjects and observing episcopal synods, and in any other points respecting the episcopal office and the jurisdiction and administration of bishops in spiritual and temporal matters, especially whether they keep their hands clean of the stain of simony, in order that all those who are found to have transgressed in the aforesaid matters may be corrected and punished by the council. A similar careful inquiry should be instituted about the metropolitan himself in all these respects, and the council should explain clearly to him his faults and defects, admonishing and imploring him that since he is called and ought to be the father of others, he should altogether desist from such failings. Even so, the council should send straightaway to the Roman pontiff, or to another of his superiors if he has one, a written account of the investigation made about him, so that he may receive punishment and fitting reform from the Roman pontiff or other superior. Besides, if there are discords, quarrels and feuds among some which could disturb the peace and tranquillity of the province, the holy council should strive to pacify them and seek watchfully, as would a dutiful father, for peace and agreement among its sons. If discords of this sort arise between kingdoms, provinces and principalities, the holy bishops of God should straightaway arrange the simultaneous convocation of provincial councils and, in combining their respective counsel and help, strive to banish whatever promotes discord; they should not cease from this out of love or hatred for anyone, but raising the eyes of their minds to God alone and the salvation of their people and putting aside all half-heartedness, they should be intent on the sacred work of peace.

Moreover, in a provincial synod that immediately precedes a forthcoming general council, thought should be given to all that is likely to be dealt with in that general council, to the glory of God and the good of the province and the salvation of the christian people. Let a suitable number of people be elected at it to go in the name of the whole province to the next general council; let them be provided for by a grant or in some other way, according to the law and the judgment of the provincial council; in such a way, however, that those wishing to go to the council or their clergy, in addition to those deputed as above, shall in no way be disadvantaged thereby. Also, let there be read out in each provincial council those things which the canonical regulations order to be read out in them, so that they may be observed inviolably and transgressors may be duly punished. If metropolitans and diocesans fail to celebrate provincial and episcopal synods at the aforesaid time, after the cessation of any legal impediment, they shall lose half of all fruits and revenues accruing to them by reason of their churches, and these shall be applied immediately to the fabric of their churches. If they persist in such neglect for three consecutive months, they shall automatically be suspended from their offices and benefices. After these intervals of time have elapsed, with the aforesaid penalties, the senior bishop in the province of the metropolitan, or the person in orders who is highest in dignity below a bishop, unless by custom or privilege it pertains to another, is obliged to supply for this failure to hold the said provincial and episcopal synods. Moreover, this holy synod bids all superiors of religious communities and orders of all kinds, who are responsible for holding chapters, to hold them at the appointed times, under the aforesaid penalties, and to see that they are held; and let them aim in them, in accordance with canonical sanctions and the constitutions of the orders, at a true reform of the individual communities and orders, so that thereafter regular observance may duly flourish in all monasteries in accordance with their rules and constitutions, and in particular that the three fundamental vows of profession may be strictly observed. By the aforesaid, however, the holy synod does not mean to derogate in any way from anyone's rights.

SESSION 16 5 February 1434

[This session declares the adherence of Pope Eugenius to the council, with the usual ceremonies; Eugenius's bull Dudum sacrum, and three other bulls abrogated by that bull, are incorporated into the acts. ]

SESSION 17 26 April 1434

[On the admission of the presidents into the council in the name of the lord pope Eugenius IV]

The holy general synod of Basel, legitimately assembled in the holy Spirit, representing the universal church, admits the beloved sons of the church Nicholas, priest of the title of holy Cross in Jerusalem, and Julian, deacon of St Angelo, cardinals of the holy Roman church, the venerable John, archbishop of Taranto, and Peter, bishop of Padua, and the beloved son of the church Louis, abbot of St Justina of Padua, as presidents in this sacred council in the name, stead and place of the most holy lord pope Eugenius IV, to have the fullest authority and effect throughout, but only on the following conditions: they are to be without any coercive jurisdiction, and the way of proceeding hitherto observed in this council is to remain unchanged, especially what is contained in the ordinances of this sacred council beginning, First, there shall be four deputations, as there are, among which all from the council shall be distributed equally as far as is possible, etc. It also ordains that apart from on a Friday, which is the ordinary day for a general congregation, another general congregation cannot be called unless at least three of the deputations agree to this beforehand. And then the presidents should be informed, or one of them, so that they may announce the programme. If they do not, one of the promoters of the council or someone from the deputations shall announce the programme. All from the council shall come to the congregation. On the other occasions, if the three deputations do not agree, nobody shall come to that congregation; and whatever is done there shall be null and void. The same with regard to a session. When what has been agreed upon by the deputations has been read out in the general congregation, the first of the presidents there present, even if another or others of them are absent, shall conclude the matter in accordance with the ordinances of the sacred council. If he or another of the presidents then presiding refuses to do this, the next prelate in the order of seating shall conclude the matter. If he is unwilling, let another in succession do it. If it happens that none of the presidents comes to a congregation or a session of the general council, then the first prelate, as indicated above, shall fulfil the office of president for that day. Also, all the acts of this sacred council shall be made and despatched under the name and seal of this council, as has been done until now.

SESSION 1 8 26 June 1434

[On the renewal of the decree of the council of Constance about the authority and power of general councils]

The holy general synod of Basel, legitimately assembled in the holy Spirit, representing the universal church, for an everlasting record. It is well known that it redounds to the great benefit of the catholic church that its authority, which was earlier declared in the sacred council of Constance and to which all are obliged to submit, should be manifested frequently and the attention of all should be drawn to it. Just as councils of the past were accustomed to renew the salutary institutions and declarations of previous synods, so this holy synod too renews that necessary declaration on the authority of general councils, which was promulgated in the said council of Constance in the words that follow: First it declares . . . and Next it declares ,

SESSION 19 7 September 1434

[On the agreement between the council and the Greeks about union]

The holy general synod of Basel, legitimately assembled in the holy Spirit representing the universal church, for an everlasting record. As a dutiful mother is ever anxious about the health of her children and is uneasy until any dissension among them has been quietened, so and to a much greater extent holy mother church, which regenerates its children to eternal life, is wont to strive with every effort that all who go by the name of Christian may put aside all quarrelling and may guard in fraternal charity the unity of the faith, without which there can be no salvation. It has therefore been a primary care of this holy synod from the beginning of its meeting to put an end to the recent discord of the Bohemians and the ancient discord of the Greeks, and to bind them to us in the same permanent bond of faith and charity. We invited in all charity to this sacred council, through our letters and envoys, first the Bohemians, since they are nearer, and then the Greeks, so that the holy union might be achieved. Although many from the beginning thought that the Bohemian affair was not only difficult but almost impossible and judged our labours to be a waste of time and useless, nevertheless our lord Jesus Christ, to whom nothing is impossible, has so safely directed the business until now that the invitation to the Bohemians has been of much greater benefit to holy church than the many powerful armies which frequently invaded their country.

This fills us with greater hope to pursue the union with the Greeks with all confidence and perseverance. We approach this task the more willingly because we perceive the Greeks to be very inclined to this union. For as soon as the most serene emperor of the Greeks and the patriarch of Constantinople were approached by our envoys, straightaway they appointed to this holy synod three outstanding men from those who seem to be of great authority among them -- the first of whom was indeed a blood-relative of the emperor -- with a sufficient commission from the emperor himself signed by his own hand and with a golden seal, and furnished with letters of the patriarch. Both in a general congregation and in the presence of our commissaries they expressed the most fervent desire of the emperor, the patriarch and the whole eastern church for this union. They urge and daily stimulate us in a wonderful way to pursue this holy work, strongly and persistently affirming two things: that union is only possible in a universal synod in which both the western church and the eastern church meet, and that union will assuredly follow if matters proceed in that synod in the way that is agreed below. We were filled with joy and gladness when we heard this. For what happier and more glorious thing could ever happen to the catholic church than that so many eastern peoples, who seem to be about equal in number to those of our faith, should be joined with us in the unity of faith ? What could be more useful and fruitful to the christian people, since the beginning of the church, than for an inveterate and destructive schism to be completely eradicated ? Moreover, we trust that with God's help another benefit will accrue to the christian commonwealth; because from this union, once it is established, there is hope that very many from the abominable sect of Mahomet will be converted to the catholic faith. What, then, should not be attempted and done by Christ's faithful for so holy and salutary an objective? What Catholic is not in duty bound to risk not only the passing substance of this world but even his body and soul for such an advance of the christian name and the orthodox faith? Wherefore, we venerable cardinals of the holy Roman church, presidents of the apostolic see, casting all our thought on God, who alone does great wonders, deputed the patriarch of Antioch and a suitable number of archbishops, bishops, abbots, masters and doctors to treat of this question with the ambassadors of the Greeks and to look for a way to reach a solution. After these men had frequently met and discussed among themselves and with the envoys, they reached the conclusions given below. These conclusions, in accordance with the custom of this council, were seriously debated by the deputations and ratified by a general congregation. Their contents, together with the chrysobull of the lord emperor, are as follows.

[Agreement of the deputies of the sacred council with the ambassadors of the Greeks]

The ambassadors of the most serene lord emperor of the Greeks and of the lord patriarch of Constantinople, namely the lord Demetrius protonostiarius Palaeologus Metotides, the venerable Isidore abbot of the monastery of St Demetrius, and the lord John Dissipatus of the household of the same emperor, meeting together with the lord deputies of the sacred council, first declared that if the western church would agree that this synod should be held in Constantinople, the eastern church would meet there at its own expense and there would be no need for the western church to pay any expenses to eastern prelates. Indeed, the lord emperor himself would, within his limits, provide for Latin prelates on their way to Constantinople. But if it was preferred that the prelates of the eastern church should come to Latin territories for the said synod, then for legitimate reasons the western church would have to meet the expenses of the eastern church. Since the said lord deputies for many reasons believed that this union would be more conveniently arranged in the city of Basel, where in fact the council was sitting, they frequently and urgently pressed the lord envoys that this place should be chosen for the holy union and offered to pay the necessary expenses for this. The envoys replied that since the instructions given to them by the emperor and the patriarch contained limitations on certain places, they would not choose the city of Basel because it was not mentioned in the instructions. The deputies of the sacred council, aware of the holy and perfect intention of the council not to spare any labour and expenditure for the honour of God and the advance of the catholic faith, judged it inexpedient to miss so great a good merely on a question of place. So they agreed, subject to the council's consent, to one of the places named below with the condition, which is detailed later, that one or more persons should be sent to the lord emperor, the patriarch and others to persuade them by cogent reasons to agree to the city of Basel. The nominated places are these: Calabria, Ancona or another maritime territory; Bologna, Milan or another Italian city; and outside Italy, Buda in Hungary, Vienna in Austria or in the last place, Savoy.

The lord deputies agreed with the lord ambassadors in what follows, subject to the council's consent. First, the ambassadors promised that the emperor of the Greeks, the patriarch of Constantinople, the other three patriarchs and the archbishops, bishops and other ecclesiastics who can conveniently come, will come to the synod. Likewise, representatives will come from all the kingdoms and territories subject to the churches of the Greeks, with full power and authority which shall be confirmed by oath and suitable documents by both the secular authorities and the prelates. Also, the sacred council shall send one or more ambassadors with eight thousand ducats for the holding of a congregation of the prelates of the eastern church in Constantinople. The eight thousand ducats will be paid out by the ambassadors of the sacred council, as it shall seem good to the lord emperor or to the ambassadors themselves; but in such a way that, if the said prelates refuse to come to Constantinople or, having come to Constantinople, refuse to go to the synod, then the emperor shall be bound to restore to the said ambassadors whatever they may have expended on this matter.

Also, that the western church shall pay the expenses of four large galleys, of which two shall be from Constantinople and two from elsewhere, to convey to our port at the appropriate time the emperor, the patriarchs and the prelates of the eastern church with their suites, to the number of seven hundred persons, and to return them to Constantinople. The western church shall pay the expenses for this in the following way. For the expenses of the emperor and of seven hundred persons from Constantinople to our last port, it will give the emperor fifteen thousand ducats. From the said last port to the place of the said council, and thereafter as long as they remain at the synod and until their return to Constantinople, it will give to the emperor with the said seven hundred persons fair expenses. Also that within the ten months after next November, the sacred council shall be obliged to send two large galleys and two lighter ones to Constantinople with three hundred crossbowmen. On these galleys shall travel the ambassadors of the sacred council and the lord Demetrius protonostiarius Palaeologus, chief of the lord emperor's ambassadors. These ambassadors of the sacred council will have with them fifteen thousand ducats to be given to the lord emperor for the expenses that he and the patriarchs, prelates and others who are coming, to the number of seven hundred persons, shall incur between Constantinople and the last port at which they shall put in, as mentioned above. Also, the said ambassadors of the sacred council who are to travel on the galleys will arrange that ten thousand ducats are at hand to be expended, if necessary, on the defence of the city of Constantinople against any danger that the Turks might cause the city during the lord emperor's absence; this money will be expended by someone deputed by the said ambassadors of the sacred council in proportion to the necessity. Also, the said ambassadors of the sacred council will pay the cost of two light galleys and three hundred crossbowmen for the defence of the city of Constantinople in the lord emperor's absence, and shall ensure that the crews of the said galleys and the crossbowmen take an oath in the hands of the emperor that they will serve him faithfully. Their captains shall be appointed by the emperor. Also, that the said ambassadors shall have for the expenses of the two large galleys what is usually expended in arming such galleys.

Also, the ambassadors of the sacred council who are to go with the said galleys to Constantinople, shall name to the lord emperor the port at which they should finally land and the place, from among those listed above, where the said universal synod shall be held. They will, however, strive with all their might that the city of Basel be chosen, as is to be hoped. Also, this sacred council of Basel will remain meanwhile at Basel, and shall not be dissolved as long as there is no legitimate impediment; but if a legitimate impediment arises, which may God avert, it may transfer itself for its continuation to another city, in accordance with the decree The frequent . If the lord emperor is not satisfied with this place, then within one month after he has landed at the said last port, the sacred council will transfer itself to one of the said places nominated by the same council, as was said above.

Also that, in any event, all the above shall be fulfilled by both parties; and all the above shall be effected in a really stable way and with the greatest force and security that is possible for the sacred council, namely by a decree and under a seal. Also, when all the aforesaid matters have been concluded and agreed and, as was said, fully confirmed, the supreme pontiff should give his express consent by his patent bulls. Everything above is to be understood in good faith, without fraud or deceit and without legitimate or manifest impediment. If all the clauses are fulfilled, the said ambassadors of the Greeks shall state and promise that assuredly the above persons will come even if there should be war and threats to their city, and in confirmation of all this they will deliver to the sacred council a chrysobull of the said emperor, and on behalf of the said emperor they and the others shall take an oath, in writing and signed, in pledge of their firm and true belief that the universal holy synod ought to take place with God's help, unless there intervenes the death of the emperor or some obvious and real obstacle that cannot be escaped or avoided.


See Part Four of the Council of Florence

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