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Vasilief, A History of the Byzantine Empire

The fall of Byzantium

The Union of Florence

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The meetings of the Council of Ferrara-Florence were held with unusual solemnity. Emperor John VIII with his brother; Joseph, the patriarch of Constantinople; Mark (Marcus), the metropolitan of Ephesus, a convinced opponent of the union; Bessarion, the gifted and highly educated supporter of the union; and a great number of other representatives of the clergy and laity arrived at Ferrara by way of Venice. The Grand Prince of Moscow, Vasili II the Dark (or Blind), sent to the council Isidore, metropolitan of Moscow, who was favorably inclined to the union; a numerous retinue of the Russian clergy and laity accompanied him. This was the time of the very flower of the Italian Renaissance. Ferrara under the House of Este and Florence under the House of Medici were brilliant centers of artistic and intellectual activity. The quarrels and debates at the Council, which were reduced to the two chief problems, the filioque and the primacy of the pope, dragged on for a long time. Not all the Greeks were willing to recognize these dogmas, and the weary Emperor was on the point of leaving Florence. Patriarch Joseph, who was opposed to the union, died at Florence before its official promulgation. But Isidore, the metropolitan of Moscow, worked very actively in favor of the union. Finally, the decree of union drawn up in two languages was solemnly promulgated in the presence of the Emperor on July 6, 1439, in the cathedral of Florence, Santa Maria del Fiore. Several Greeks, however, with Mark of Ephesus at their head, refused to sign the decree.

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