(Otto de Colonna), pope from 1417 to 1431, was the son of Agapetus de Colonna, and a descendant of one of the most ancient and illustrious families of Italy. Martin studied canon law at Perugia, and on his return to his native city, Rome, was created by Urban VI prothonotary and referendary; by Boniface IX nuncio to the States of Italy; under Innocent VII he received the appointment of cardinal deacon of St. George ad Aulicum Autreum; and by John XXIII he was appointed apostolic legate for the patrimony of St. Peter, and vicar-general of the apostolic see in Umbria. When Gregory XII, because of a breach of his oath of office, became so unpopular as to be deserted by his cardinals, Martin alone adhered to him steadfastly until he was deposed by the Council of Pisa. He was likewise a faithful supporter of his immediate predecessor, pope John, and even followed him in his flight from Constance, thus clearly foretokening the uncompromising stand which he afterwards took against all opposition to what he conceived to be the papal prerogative.
The general discontent with the abusive reign of pope John XXIII, which Gerson, the noted chancellor of the University of Paris, had severely attacked, not even hesitating to say that the pontiff was "no longer servant of servants, but John, the lord of lords," as well as other auspicious events, had resulted in the general Council of Constance (q.v.), whose moving spirits seemed determined on reform. Their two great objects were the restoration of the Church's unity, and the reformation of the abuses which had crept in. One of their first steps, largely influenced by the emperor Sigismund, was to depose pope John. There still remained, however, two rival pontiffs, Benedict XIII and Gregory XII, each claiming the title of supreme head of the Church. The latter of these was induced to abdicate, and the former, being without any temporal support, was ignored by the council. The election of a pope was forthwith considered. The choice fell upon cardinal Otto de Colonna by an overwhelming majority of the electors from the five nations represented in the council, and the unanimous vote of the cardinals. Neander (Ch. Hist. v. 126) thus narrates the proceedings for the election: "The Germans set the example of sacrificing their own wishes and interests to the good of the Church, declaring themselves ready to give their votes for an Italian; they also prevailed on the English to yield. The French and Spaniards were refractory at first; but finally, after the invocation of the Holy Ghost, on St. Martin's day, in November, they were prevailed upon to give place for the Holy Spirit as a spirit of concord; and on the same day cardinal Otto of Colonna was chosen pope, after the election had lasted three days." The election having taken place on St. Martin's day, the new pope, in honor of that saint, assumed the title of Martin V. The whole assembly was in an ecstacy of joy at the result, especially because it exhibited the unanimity of hitherto conflicting parties. Martin was immediately invested with the papal robes and placed on the altar, where the emperor hastened to do him homage by kissing his feet.
But scarcely was Martin securely seated on the pontifical throne when the whole face of affairs at Constance changed, and it soon became evident that all intentions of reform, for which mainly the council had been called and John XXIII deposed. had been put away from the mind of Martin. Mild, but sagacious and resolute, "seeming to yield everything to the emperor and council, he conceded nothing." As early as April following his election (Nov. 11, 1417), he dissolved the council, which had struggled through three years and a half for reform, without being any nearer the accomplishment of their hopes than when they began, and the spirit of advance which had inspired the uprising of Bohemia and the organization of the Lollards (q.v.) was crushed for a time, to rise only two centuries thence in a force that defied all opposition, and resulted in a schism nearly destroying the mother Church. So far from aiding a reform, Martin V's first act was one of tyranny. "The papal chancery had been the object of the longest, loudest, and most just clamor. The day after the election the pope published a brief confirming all the regulations established by his predecessors, even by John XXIII ... The form was not less dictatorial than the substance of the decree. It was an act of the pope, not of the council. It was an absolute resumption of the whole power of reformation, so far at least as the papal court, into his own hands" (Milman, Latin Christianity, 7:517). The Council of Constance, instead of shaking the papal supremacy, had, by the choice of Otto de Colonna, raised it higher than ever before by producing a pope who, as Romanists will have it, "recovered the waning reverence of Christendom." Martin V was the product of no schism or party, but of the Church universal, and he was justified in seeking such supremacy; nor do we wonder that, in the last consistory of the cardinals at Constance, Martin V put forth a constitution by which, in direct contradiction to the principles so distinctly laid down at Constance, he directed that no one should be allowed to dispute any decision of the pope in matters of faith, and to appeal from him to a general council (Neander, v. 127). SEE INFALLIBILITY. From Constance the pope proceeded to Florence, where he was received with the greatest official respect, and where he remained for three years, during which interval all opposition, in the form of anti-popery, virtually died out. He then proceeded to Rome, where he was also received with demonstrations of great joy, and honored with the title of the Father of his Country. He set himself with great energy to the task of restoring the fallen glory of the Eternal City, and so well did he succeed that he received the additional title of Romulus the Second. By his address and superior sagacity, Martin V succeeded in bringing a protracted quarrel with Alphonso of Aragon to a termination, which at once secured his own ends and pacified a stubborn adversary. At the Council of Constance the next general council was appointed to meet, five years later, at Pavia. Accordingly such a council was actually opened there in the year 1423, but, on account of the spread of the pestilence called the Black Death, it was dissolved and transferred to Sienna. But at Sienna also only a few sessions were held; and, on the pretense that the small number of prelates assembled did not authorize the continuance of the council, in conformity with the determination of the Council of Constance, the next meeting was appointed to be held seven years later, in the year 1431, at Basle (comp. Fisher [G. P.], The Reformation [N.Y. 1873, 8vo], p. 43). SEE JULIAN, Cardinal. This council was intended to close the difficulty with the Hussites (q.v.), whose leaders Martin V had so summarily disposed of at Constance (q.v.), and to effect the reunion of the Greek Church. At this important crisis he died, in Rome, of an apopletic fit, in February, 1431. As a man, Martin V was of that class who form their determinations deliberately and adhere to them steadily, and, if necessary, doggedly. He was possessed of great administrative ability. He has been accused of avarice, though perhaps unjustly. He certainly favored learning, and the palaces of his cardinals were the schools of advancement for the youth of Italy. He has also been charged, and with greater justice, with nepotism, an instance of which is the appointment of his nephew at the age of fourteen as archdeacon of Canterbury. The main features of his reign are the pacification of Italy, the restoration of peace between France and England, the rebuilding of Rome, and the wars against Bohemia. He was succeeded by pope Eugenius IV. See Bower, Hist. Popes, 7:260 sq.; Neander, Ch. Hist. v. 126 sq.; Milman, Lat. Christianity, 7:513 sq.; Muratori, Script. iii, p. ii; Leo, Gesch. v. Itelien, 4:520 sq.; Trollope, Hist. Florence, vol. ii (see Index in vol. iv); Reichel, Roman See in Middle Ages, p. 492 sq.; Life of Cardinal Julian, p. 18, 57 sq., 96 sq., 103, 126 sq., 243 sq., 338; Gillett, Huss and Hussites, 2:335 sq.; Foulkes, Divisions of Christendom, vol. ii, ch. vi, p. 83, 134; Butler (C. M.), Eccles. Hist. 2:109-
113; Waddington, Ch. Hist. p. 105, 110, 137, 142, 196; Jahrb. deutsch. Theol. 1871, 3:564.