Pope Eugene IV (1431-47)
Who was Pope Eugene IV?
Pope Eugene IV was born Gabriello Condulmaro, or Condulmerio, b. at Venice, 1388; elected 4 March, 1431; d. at Rome, 23 Feb., 1447. He sprang from a wealthy Venetia family and was a nephew, on the mother's side, of Gregory XII. His personal presence was princely and imposing. He was tall, thin, with a remarkably winning countenance. Coming at an early age into the possession of great wealth, he distributed 20,000 ducats to the poor and, turning his back upon the world, entered the Augustinian monastery of St. George in his native city.
At the age of twenty-four he was appointed by his uncle Bishop of Siena; but since the people of that city objected to the rule of a foreigner, he resigned the bishopric and, in 1408, was created Cardinal-Priest of St. Clement. He rendered signal service to Pope Martin V by his labours as legate in Picenum (March of Ancona) and later by quelling a sedition of the Bolognesi. In recognition of his abilities, the conclave, assembled at Rome in the church of the Minerva after the death of Martin V, elected Cardinal Condulmaro to the papacy on the first scrutiny.
He assumed the name of Eugene IV, possibly anticipating a stormy pontificate similar to that of Eugene III. Stormy, in fact, his reign was destined to be; and it cannot be denied that many of his troubles were owing to his own want of tact, which alienated all parties from him. By the terms of the capitulation which he signed before election and afterwards confirmed by a Bull, Eugene secured to the cardinals one-half of all the revenues of the Church, and promised to consult with them on all questions of importance relating to the spiritual and temporal concerns of the Church and the Papal States. He was crowned at St. Peter's, 11 March, 1431.
Eugene continued on the throne his simple routine of monastic life and gave great edification by his regularity and unfeigned piety. But his hatred of nepotism, the solitary defect of his great predecessor, led him into a fierce and sanguinary conflict with the house of Colonna, which would have resulted disastrously for the pope, had not Florence, Venice, and Naples come to his aid. A peace was patched up by virtue of which the Colonnesi surrendered their castles and paid an indemnity of 75,000 ducats. Scarcely was this danger averted when Eugene became involved in a far more serious struggle, destined to trouble his entire pontificate. Martin V had convoked the Council of Basle which opened with scant attendance 23 July, 1431.
Distrusting the spirit which was reigning at the council, Eugene, by a Bull dated 18 Dec., 1431, dissolved it, to meet eighteen months later in Bologna. There is no doubt that this exercise of the papal prerogative would sooner or later have become imperative; but it seems unwise to have resorted to it before the council had taken any overt steps in the wrong direction. It alienated public opinion, and gave colour to the charge that the Curia was opposed to any measures of reform. The prelates at Basle refused to separate, and issued an encyclical to all the faithful in which they proclaimed their determination to continue their labours. In this course they had the assurance of support from all the secular powers, and on 15 Feb., 1432, they reasserted the Gallican doctrine of the superiority of the council to the pope (see COUNCIL OF CONSTANCE).
All efforts to induce Eugene to recall his Bull of dissolution having failed, the council, on 29 April, formally summoned the pope and his cardinals to appear at Basle within three months, or to be punished for contumacy. The schism which now seemed inevitable was for the time averted by the exertions of Sigismund, who had come to Rome to receive the imperial crown, 31 May, 1433. The pope recalled the Bull and acknowledged the council as æcumenical, 15 Dec., 1433. In the following May, 1434, a revolution, fomented by the pope's enemies, broke out in Rome. Eugene, in the garb of a monk, and pelted with stones, escaped down the Tiber to Ostia, whence the friendly Florentines conducted him to their city and received him with an ovation. He took up his residence in the Dominican convent of Santa Maria Novella, and sent Vitelleschi, the militant Bishop of Recanati, to restore order in the States of the Church.
The prolonged sojourn of the Roman Court in Florence, then the centre of the literary activity of its age, gave a strong impetus to the Humanistic movement. During his stay in the Tuscan capital, Eugene consecrated the beautiful cathedral, just then finished by Brunelleschi. Meanwhile, the rupture between the Holy See and the revolutionists at Basle, now completely controlled by the radical party under the leadership of Cardinal d'Allemand, of Arles, became complete. This time our sympathies are entirely on the side of the pontiff, for the proceedings of the little coterie which assumed the name of authority of a general council were utterly subversive of the Divine constitution of the Church. By abolishing all sources of papal revenue and restricting in every way the papal prerogative, they sought to reduce the head of the Church to a mere shadow.
Eugene answered with a dignified appeal to the European powers. The struggle came to a crisis in the matter of the negotiations for union with the Greeks. The majority at Basle were in favour of holding a council in France or Savoy. But geography was against them. Italy was much more convenient for the Greeks; and they declared for the pope. This so provoked the radical party at Basle that on 3 July, 1437, they issued a monitum against Eugene, heaping all sorts of accusations upon him. In reply the pope published (18 Sept.) a Bull in which he transferred the council to Ferrara. Though the council declared the Bull invalid, and threatened the pope with deposition, yet the Bull dealt a deadly blow to the adversaries of papal supremacy. The better disposed leaders, notably Cardinals Cesarini and Cusa, left them and repaired to Ferrara, where the council convened by Eugene opened, 8 Jan., 1438, under the presidency of Cardinal Albergati.
The deliberations with the Greeks lasted for over a year, and were concluded at Florence, 5 July, 1439, by the Decree of Union. Though the union was not permanent, it vastly enhanced the prestige of the papacy. The union with the Greeks was followed by that of the Armenians, 22 Nov., 1439, the Jacobites, 1443, and the Nestorians, 1445. Eugene exerted himself to the utmost in rousing the nations of Europe to resist the advances of the Turks. A powerful array was formed in Hungary, and a fleet was despatched to the Hellespont. The first successes of the Christians were followed, in 1444, by the crushing defeat at Varna. In the mean time, the dwindling conventicle at Basle proceeded on the path of schism.
On 24 Jan., 1438, Eugene was pronounced suspended, and this step was followed by his deposition on 25 June, 1439, on the charge of heretical conduct towards a general council. To crown their infamy, the sectaries, now reduced to one cardinal and eleven bishops, elected an antipope, Duke Amadeus of Savoy, as Felix V. But Christendom, having recently experienced the horrors of a schism, repudiated the revolutionary step, and, before his death, Eugene had the happiness of seeing the entire Christian world, at least in theory, obedient to the Holy See. The decrees of Florence have since been the solid basis of the spiritual authority of the papacy.
Eugene secured his position in Italy by a treaty, 6 July, 1443, with Alfonso of Aragon, whom he confirmed as monarch of Naples, and after an exile of nearly ten years he made a triumphant entry into Rome, on 28 Sept., 1443. He devoted his remaining years to the amelioration of the sad condition of Rome, and to the consolidation of his spiritual authority among the nations of Europe. He was unsuccessful in his efforts to induce the French court to cancel the anti-papal Pragmatic Sanction of Bourges (7 July, 1438), but, by prudent compromises and the skill of Æneas Silvius, he gained a marked success in Germany.
On the eve of his death he signed (5, 7 Feb., 1447) with the German nation the so-called Frankfort, or Princes', Concordat, a series of four Bulls, in which, after long hesitancy and against the advice of many cardinals, he recognized, not without diplomatic reserve, the persistent German contentions for a new council in a German city, the mandatory decree of Constance (Frequens) on the frequency of such councils, also its authority (and that of other general councils), but after the manner of his predecessors, from whom he declared that he did not intend to differ. On the same day he issued another document, the so-called "Bulla Salvatoria", in which he asserted that notwithstanding these concessions, made in his last illness when unable to examine them with more care, he did not intend to do aught contrary to the teachings of the Fathers, or the rights and authority of the Apostolic See (Hergenröther-Kirsch, II, 941-2). See PIUS II; GREGORY OF HEIMBURG.
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