Bessarion of Nicaea

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 It might be outdated or ideologically biased.

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.


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.


The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.
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Among their topics are reconfiguring East and West in Byzantine and modern Orthodox theology, Bessarion of Nicaea versus Mark Eugenicus, the two Byzantine translations of Thomas Aquinas' De Rationibus Fidei, Hugo Eterianus and his two treatises in the Demetrius of Lampe affair, and nature as instrumentum dei.