Basel, Council of

Basel, Council of,

1431–49, first part of the 17th ecumenical council in the Roman Catholic Church. It is generally considered to have been ecumenical until it fell into heresy in 1437; after that it is regarded as an anticouncil. Its chief importance lies in the contest between council and pope for supremacy.

The Council of Constance had seen the rise of the conciliar theory, the doctrine that the ultimate authority in the church rests upon the general council, to which the pope must be subject. It had been the plan to have frequent councils, but that of Basel was the first of importance to follow Constance, that of Pavia-Siena (1423–24) having accomplished little. Pope Martin V convoked the council but died soon afterward, and it was his successor, Eugene IVEugene IV,
1383–1447, pope (1431–47), a Venetian named Gabriele Condulmer; successor of Martin V. He was of exemplary character and ascetic habits. Gregory XII, his uncle, made him cardinal (1408).
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, who confirmed the convocation.

Various problems were brought before the council: the settlement of the difficulties with the HussitesHussites
, followers of John Huss. After the burning of Huss (1415) and Jerome of Prague (1416), the Hussites continued as a powerful group in Bohemia and Moravia. They drew up (1420) the Four Articles of Prague, demanding freedom of preaching, communion in both kinds (i.e.
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; reform in the church, particularly financial reform; and the matter of negotiations for the union of the Eastern church and the Western church. Even though he had convened it, Eugene was suspicious of the council, fearing that in the question of the Hussites it might reawaken doctrinal questions already regarded as settled. Therefore, he ordered the council dissolved almost immediately. This marked the outbreak of trouble between the council and the pope that was not to end until the council did.

Holy Roman Emperor SigismundSigismund
, 1368–1437, Holy Roman emperor (1433–37), German king (1410–37), king of Hungary (1387–1437) and of Bohemia (1419–37), elector of Brandenburg (1376–1415), son of Holy Roman Emperor Charles IV.
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, who desired the settlement of Hussite disputes from the council and desired coronation at the hands of the pope, acted as mediator. The council pronounced its supremacy over the pope and in 1433 reached the zenith of its power. Fearing schism, Eugene was driven to grant more and more concessions, but any compromise reached was temporary. The continual assertion of the conciliar supremacy led to the institution of a process against the pope for disobedience and ultimately to the papal denunciation of the council in the bull Doctoris gentium (1437).

The council, which thus became heretical, had accomplished a good deal. The Compactata had marked a compromise with the Hussites; the annates and various papal taxes had been declared illegal; church organization and finance had been reformed.

In order to meet with delegates from the East on the question of reunion, Eugene summoned the council to Ferrara (see Ferrara-Florence, Council ofFerrara-Florence, Council of,
1438–45, second part of the 17th ecumenical council of the Roman Catholic Church; the first part was the Council of Basel, canonically convened but after 1437 schismatic (see Basel, Council of).
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). The council at Basel continued to function as an anticouncil. Finally the process against Eugene was carried through, and the council elected Amadeus VIIIAmadeus VIII
, 1383–1451, count (1391–1416) and duke (from 1416) of Savoy, antipope (1439–49) with the name Felix V. In 1434 he appointed his son regent of Savoy and retired to the hermitage of Ripaille, on Lake Geneva, which he had founded.
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 of Savoy pope (called Pope Felix V; regarded by opponents as antipope). The allegiance of most temporal rulers was still given to Eugene; although the reforms of Basel were adopted by the French at Bourges and incorporated into the Pragmatic Sanction of Bourges, the council was not itself approved. The German king Frederick III (who was later crowned Holy Roman emperor) remained neutral, but in 1448 his pressure on the city forced the delegates to retire to Lausanne. Felix, with only scattered support, abdicated in 1449, submitting to Eugene's successor, Nicholas V. The council recognized the legitimate pope and dissolved itself, thus ending the threat of antipapal conciliarism.

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The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.

Basel, Council of


an ecumenical council of the Catholic Church that met from 1431 to 1449, at first in Basel and, beginning in 1448, in Lausanne. It was held under the circumstances of the severe decline of the papacy and the successes of the early movement for reformation. At the Council of Basel a struggle developed between the papacy and the supporters of the conciliar movement (those who advocated the idea that the ecumenical councils had more authority than the popes). At first the conciliar movement achieved certain successes. The Council of Basel confirmed the decision of the Council of Constance (1414–18) on the primacy of the ecumenical council over the pope, declared the abolition of a number of extortionate practices that served the interests of the papal curia, in particular the annates, and announced the regular convening of provincial councils and free ecclesiastical elections. The victories of the Hussites in Bohemia forced the Council of Basel to compromise with the moderate Hussites, the Calixtines, with whom the Compactata of Prague were signed in 1433. Pope Eugene IV (1431—47), refusing to recognize the decisions of the Council of Basel, tried to disperse it, and in 1438 he convened a council in Ferrara counterposed to the Council of Basel. In 1439 the Council of Ferrara was transferred to Florence. In 1439 the Council of Basel deposed Eugene IV and elected Amadeus VIII, Duke of Savoy, to be pope under the name of Felix V, who was later declared an antipope. After many European rulers who had earlier supported the Council of Basel went over to the side of Pope Eugene IV and with the decline in the council’s prestige, abandoned as it was by the majority of its members, the supporters of the conciliar movement suffered defeat. The council, which had been transferred in 1448 to Lausanne, recognized the new Pope Nicholas V (1447–55) and dissolved itself in 1449. The defeat of the Council of Basel undermined the authority of the Catholic Church more than ever and prepared the way for the Reformation of the 16th century.

The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.