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Three Millennia of Greek Literature

Vasilief, A History of the Byzantine Empire

The fall of Byzantium

The Union of Florence


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About the same time in the West, after the Councils of Pisa and Constance, there was convoked the third great council of the fifteenth century, the Council of Basel, which announced as its program the reform of the Church in its head and members, and the settlement of the Hussite movement which, after the death of John Huss, had spread very widely. Pope Eugenius IV was not in sympathy with the council. The Council of Basel and the pope, at the same time and independently of each other, opened negotiations with Emperor John VIII. The Council of Basel and Constantinople exchanged embassies, and among the Greek envoys was the igumen (abbot) of a Constantinopolitan monastery, Isidore, the future metropolitan of Moscow. He delivered a speech in favor of church union which, he said, would create a great monument vying with the Colossus of Rhodes, whose top would reach the sky and whose brilliancy would be seen in East and West.

After fruitless disputes concerning the place of a future council, the Fathers of the Council of Basel decided they would settle the Hussite quarrel, and then consider the Greek problem. The Byzantine Greeks, representatives of true Orthodoxy, were deeply offended at being put on the same footing with the heretic Hussites. A real storm burst out at Constantinople. Meanwhile, the Emperor was nearing agreement with the pope, who was taking over the leadership in the union negotiations. Fearing the reformatory tendencies of the Council of Basel, Eugenius IV transferred the council to the north-Italian city of Ferrara, and when the plague broke out there, to Florence. Some of the members of the council, however, in disobedience to the papal orders, remained at Basel and even elected another pope.

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