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Reflections upon the study of the General Councils in the Fifteenth Century

  • E. F. Jacob (a1)


The twentieth General Council of the Roman Church may provide a sufficient excuse for reflecting on some earlier assemblies of this kind, particularly those of the fifteenth century. One may well enquire what the twin-headed Church of 1409 has to do with the unified body of today. Historical parallels and analyses may be stretched too far, and the Church has indeed turned its back upon the events of the period 1378–1449; but there is always a connection between unity and reform, and we have been reminded recently that they go hand in hand. If the present Council has no longer the task of reconciling a divided body, it has in front of it, just as in those fifteenth-century councils, the problem of internal reorganization and of presenting the result to the outside world.



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Page 80 of note 1 Since this was written, Mgr. Jedin put into my hands (at Trento) his admirable discussion of Conciliarism (H. Jedin, Bischöfliches Konzil oder Kirchenparlament? Vorträge der Aeneas Silvius Stiftung an der Universität Basel, 11, 1963) with valuable bibliographical notes to which readers may be referred.

Page 81 of note 1 In the translation of Cameron, J.K., Advocates of Reform, ed. Spinka, M., S.C.M. Library of Christian Classics, XIV (1953), 143 .

Page 81 of note 2 See Ullmann, W., The Origins of the Great Schism, London 1948, 198 f; and his Principles of Government and Politics in the Middle Ages, London 1961, 293-4.

Page 82 of note 1 XLVI (1938), 81-331.

Page 82 of note 2 It is omitted from Conciliorum Oecumenicorum Decreta, compiled by the Centro di Documentazione, Istituto per le Scienze Religiose, Bologna 1962.

Page 82 of note 3 Cf. the series edited by G. Hofman, Concilium Florentinum: Documenta et Scriptores (Orientalia Christiana) which contains the Acta Graeca of the Council, ed. Fr. Joseph Gill, S.J. There is an excellent bibliography of sources in Gill, J., The Council of Florence, Cambridge 1959, 416-20.

Page 82 of note 4 Some of these problems are discussed by Crowder, C. M. D., ‘Le Concile de Constance et l’édition de Von der Hardt’, RHE, LVII (1962), 409-45.

Page 83 of note 1 Axta Concilii Constanciensis, Münster 1923, 11, 8.

Page 83 of note 2 In The Council of Constance: the Unification of the Church, ed. Mundy, J. H. and Woody, K. M., Records of Civilization, LXII, Columbia 1961, 200447 .

Page 84 of note 1 Council of Constance, 428, from Acta Concilii Constanciensis, 11, 159.

Page 84 of note 2 Finke, , Acta, 11, 14 .

Page 84 of note 3 Fulastre is reporting current views about John XXIII’s character, but as Partner, P.D., The Papal State under Martin V, London 1958, 20 f. points out, John, while legate in the Romagna, had proved himself an administrator of character and ability in contrast to Gregory XII who had become the creature of Ladislas of Naples.

Page 85 of note 1 Recent work on this important curialist is noticed in Jacob, E.F., Essays in the Conciliar Epoch, 3rd ed. Manchester 1963, appendix to ch. 2, ‘Dietrich of Niem’.

Page 85 of note 2 Southern, R.W., Western Views of Islam in the Middle Ages, Cambridge Mass. 1962 .

Page 86 of note 1 Uta Fromherz, Johannes von Segovia als Geschichtsschreiber des Konzils von Basel, Basle 1960, 29.

Page 86 of note 2 Fromherz, op. cit. 101 ff.

Page 86 of note 3 Aenea Silvio de’ Piccolomini, Berlin 1856, 1, 216.

Page 86 of note 4 Fromherz, op. cit. 31.

Page 87 of note 1 The quotation is in Fromherz, 131-2.

Page 87 of note 2 Fromherz, op. cit. 50.

Page 88 of note 1 Fromherz, op. cit. 149.

Page 88 of note 2 Fromherz, op. cit. 21.

Page 88 of note 3 Fromherz, op. cit. 42 ff.

Page 89 of note 1 De pace fidei, ed. Klibansky, R. and Bascour, H., Medieval and Renaissance Studies, Supplement 111, London 1956, 7 .

Page 89 of note 2 ‘Veritas veri cultus,’ ibid. 62.

Page 89 of note 3 Fromherz, op. cit. 50-1.

Page 90 of note 1 Ibid., 51

Page 90 of note 2 Ourliac, P., ‘Sociologie du Concile de Bâle,’ RHE, LVI (1961), 19 ff. The influence of a university ‘middle’ element can be seen, for instance, in the career at Basle and elsewhere of Dr Thomas Ebendorfer, a theological professor, one of the representatives of the university of Vienna at the Council. Ebendorfer’s diary was printed in ‘Monumenta Conciliorum Generalium,’ ed. E. Birk, 1 (1857), 701 ff. His life is studied by Alphons, Lhotsky, Thomas Ebendorfer, Ein österreichischer Geschichtsschreiber, Theologe und Diplomat des 15 Jahrhunderts, Schriften der Monumenta Germanica Historica, XV, Stuttgart 1957 . The strong support of the Council (and of the earlier fifteenth-century councils) given by the academics derived largely from their conviction of the need for reform. It was specially evident among the Germans at the time of Basle, and can be heard in the famous document known as the ‘Reformatio Sigismundi’ and the concomitant literature: cf. Lothar Graf zu Dohna, Reformatio Sigismundi, Beiträge zum Verstandnis einer Reformschrift des funfzehnten Jahrhunderts (Veröffentlichen des Max-Planck Instituts für Geschichte), Göttingen 1960. Vienna, as the letters of Peter of Pulka show, was urging this strongly at Constance. The function of academics as ambassadors in conciliar diplomacy (though varying in their support according to national instructions) is well illustrated in Trame, R. H., S.J., Rodrigo Sanchez de Arévalo, 1404-1470, Catholic Univ. of America, Washington 1958, 1662 , a study of the Salamanca theologian, and, of course, by the career of Ebendorfer himself, especially at the diets of Nuremberg and Frankfurt, 1444-5.

Page 92 of note 1 ‘The First English Delegation to the Council of Basel,’ JEH, XII (1961), 167-05

Page 92 of note 2 Schofield, art. cit. 180-1.

Page 93 of note 1 ‘No member of the English delegation was incorporated—a point that has not been sufficiently stressed’: Schofield, art. cit. 183.

Page 94 of note 1 Jacob, , Essays in the Conciliar Epoch, 3rd ed. 1963, 240-1. This is based upon Tierney, B., Foundations of the Conciliar Theory, Cambridge 1953, chs. 2 and 3.

Page 94 of note 2 Ludwig Buisson, Potestas und Caritas, Cologne 1958, chs. 4 and 5 (especially 269).

Page 95 of note 1 Tierney, op. cit. 57-8, and Appendix 1.

Page 96 of note 1 Buisson, op. cit. 209.

Reflections upon the study of the General Councils in the Fifteenth Century

  • E. F. Jacob (a1)


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