Basle, Council of
Basle, Council Of, called by Pope Martin V, and continued by Eugenius IV. It was opened on the 23d of July, 1431, by Cardinal Julian, and closed on the 16th of May, 1443, forty-five sessions in all having been held, of which the first twenty- five are acknowledged by the Gallican Church. The Ultramontanes reject it altogether, but on grounds utterly untenable. The council, in its thirtieth session, declared that "a general council is superior to a pope;" and in 1437 Eugenius transferred its sessions to Ferrara (q.v.). The council refused to obey, and continued its sessions at Basle. The principal objects for which the council was called were the reformation of the Church and the reunion of the Greek with the Roman Church. Many of its resolutions were admirable both in spirit and form; and, had the council been allowed to continue its sessions, and had the pope sanctioned its proceedings, there would have ensued a great and salutary change in the Roman Church. But the power of the papacy was at stake, and the reform was suppressed. Its most important acts were as follows. In the first session (Dec. 7, 1431), the decree of the council of Constance concerning the celebration of a general council after five and after seven years, was read, together with the bull of Martin V convoking the council, in which he named Julian president; also the letter of Eugene IV to the latter upon the subject; afterward the six objects proposed in assembling the council were enumerated:
1, The extirpation of heresy; 2, the reunion of all Christian persons with the Catholic Church; 3, to afford instruction in the true faith; 4, to appease the wars between Christian princes; 5, to reform the Church in its head and in its members; 6, to re-establish, as far as possible, the ancient discipline of the Church.
It soon appeared that Pope Eugene was determined to break up the council, which took vigorous measures of defense. In the second session (Feb. 15, 1432) it was declared that the synod, being assembled in the name of the Holy Spirit, and representing the Church militant, derives its power directly from our Lord Jesus Christ, and that all persons, of whatever rank or dignity, not excepting the Roman pontiff himself, are bound to obey it; and that any person, of whatsoever rank or condition, not excepting the pope, who shall refuse to obey the laws and decrees of this or of any other general council, shall be put to penance and punished." In the third session (April 29, 1432), Pope Eugene was summoned to appear before the council within three months. In August the pope sent legates to vindicate his authority over the council; and in the eighth session (Dec. 18) it was agreed that the pope should be proceeded against canonically, in order to declare him contumacious, and to visit him with the canonical penalty; two months' delay, however, being granted him within which to revoke his bull for the dissolution of the council. On the 16th of Jan. 1433, deputies arrived from the Bohemians demanding
(1) liberty to administer the Eucharist in both kinds;
(2) that all mortal sin, and especially open sin, should be repressed, corrected, and punished, according to God's law;
(3) that the Word of God should be preached faithfully by the bishops, and by such deacons as were fit for it;
(4) that the clergy should not possess authority in temporal matters.
It was afterward agreed that the clergy in Bohemia and Moravia should be allowed to give the cup to the laity; but no reconciliation was made. In April, 1433, Eugene signified his willingness to send legates to the council to preside in his name, but the council refused his conditions. In the 12th session (July 14, 1433), the pope, by a decree, was required to renounce within sixty days his design of transferring the council from Basle, upon pain of being pronounced contumacious. In return, Eugene, irritated by these proceedings, issued a bull, annulling all the decrees of the council against himself. Later in autumn, the pope, in fear of the council, supported as it was by the emperor and by France, agreed to an accommodation. He chose four cardinals to preside with Julian at the council; he revoked all the bulls which he had issued for its dissolution, and published one according to the form sent him by the council [session xiv]. It was to the effect that, although he had broken up the Council of Basle lawfully assembled, nevertheless, in order to appease the disorders which had arisen, he declared the council to have been lawfully continued from its commencement, and that it would be so to the end; that he approved of all that it had offered and decided, and that he declared the bull for its dissolution which he had issued to be null and void; thus, as Bossuet observes, setting the council above himself, since, in obedience to its order, he revoked his own decree, made with all the authority of his see. In spite of this forced yielding Eugene never ceased plotting for the dissolution of the council. In subsequent sessions earnest steps were taken toward reform; the annates and taxes (the pope's chief revenues) were abrogated; the papal authority over chapter elections was restricted; citations to Rome on minor grounds were forbidden, etc. These movements increased the hatred of the papal party, to which, at last, Cardinal Julian was won over. The proposed reunion of the Greek and Roman churches made it necessary to appoint a place of conference with the Greeks. The council proposed Basle or Avignon; the papal party demanded an Italian city. The latter, in the minority, left Basle, and Eugene called an opposition council to meet at Ferrara (q.v.) in 1437. After Julian's departure the Cardinal Archbishop of Arles presided. In the 31st session, Jan. 24, 1438, the council declared the Pope Eugene contumacious, suspended him from the exercise of all jurisdiction either temporal or spiritual, and pronounced all that he should do to be null and void. In the 34th session, June 25, 1439, sentence of deposition was pronounced against Eugene, making use of the strongest possible terms. France, England, and Germany disapproved of this sentence. On October 30, Amadeus (q.v.), duke of Savoy, was elected pope, and took the name of Felix V. Alphonso, king of Aragon, the Queen of Hungary, and the Dukes of Bavaria and Austria, recognised Felix, as also did the Universities of Germany, Paris, and Cracow; but France, England, and Scotland, while they acknowledged the authority of the Council of Basle, continued to recognize Eugene as the lawful pope. Pope Eugene dying four years after, Nicholas V was elected in his stead, and recognised by the whole Church, whereupon Felix V renounced the pontificate in 1449, and thus the schism ended. For the acts of the council, see Mansi, vols. 29 to 31. See also Wessenberg, Concilien des 15. und 16. Jahrhunderts, 2 vols.; Binterim, Deutsche National-, etc., Concilien, 3 vols. — Landon, Manual of Councils, p. 74; Palmer On the Church, pt. 4, ch. 11; Mosheim, Ch. Hist. cent. 15, pt. 2:11; Ranke, Hist. of Papacy, 1:36, 243.