Bessarion of Nicaea

Bessarion of Nicaea

 

Born around 1403, in Trebizond; died Nov. 18, 1472, in Ravenna. Byzantine church figure and humanist.

Bessarion became archbishop of Nicaea in 1437. He be-longed to the so-called Latinophile group of the Byzantine aristocracy, considering it essential for Byzantium to unite with the West (he proposed compromise with the Papacy) in the struggle against the Turks. At the Council of Florence he helped to bring about the union of the Catholic and Orthodox churches (1439), a union that was, however, rejected in Byzantium by almost all the clergy and the people. Forced to emigrate, Bessarion settled in Italy, converted to Catholicism, and became a cardinal in 1439. After the fall of Constantinople in 1453, he tried to organize a crusade against the Turks. He helped arrange the marriage of Zoe Paleologos, the niece of the Byzantine emperor Constantine III, to Ivan in the Great.

A man of great learning and a translator of classical Greek literature, Bessarion of Nicaea did much to propagate Greek culture in Italy. He collected a large library of Greek manuscripts, which he bequeathed to Venice.

REFERENCES

Udal’tsova, Z. V. “Bor’ba partii v Vizantii XV v. i deiatel’nost’ Vissariona Nikeiskogo.” In Vizantiiskii vremennik, vol. 2. Moscow, 1949.
Mohler, L. Kardinal Bessarion als Theologe, Humanist und Staatsmann, vol. 1-3. Paderborn, 1923-42.

A. P. KAZHDAN

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