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Pope Eugenius IV

Eugenius IV (Gabriel Condulmer), pope from the March 3, 1431 to the February 23, 1447, was born at Venice of a merchant family in 1383. He entered the Celestine order and came into prominence during the pontificate of his uncle, Pope Gregory XII, by whom he was appointed bishop of Siena, papal treasurer, protonotary, cardinal-priest of St Marco e St Clemente, and later cardinal-priest of Santa Maria in Trastevere.

His violent measures as pope against the relations of his predecessor, Pope Martin V, at once involved him in a serious contest with the powerful house of Colonna. But by far the most important feature of Eugenius's pontificate was the great struggle between pope and council. On the 23rd of July 1431 his legate opened the council of Basel which had been convoked by Martin, but, distrustful of its purposes and moved by the small attendance, the pope issued a bull on the 18th of December 1431, dissolving the council and calling a new one to meet in eighteen months at Bologna. The council refused to dissolve, renewed the revolutionary resolutions by which the council of Constance had been declared superior to the pope, and cited Eugenius to appear at Basel. A compromise was arranged by Sigismund, Holy Roman Emperor, who had been crowned emperor at Rome on the 31st of May 1433, by which the pope recalled the bull of dissolution, and, reserving the rights of the Holy See, acknowledged the council as ecumenical (15th of December 1433). The establishment of an insurrectionary republic at Rome drove him into exile in May 1434, and, although the city was restored to obedience in the following October, he remained at Florence and Bologna.

Meanwhile the struggle with the council broke out anew. Eugenius at length convened a rival council at Ferrara on the 8th of January 1438 and excommunicated the prelates assembled at Basel. The result was that the latter formally deposed him as a heretic on the 25th of June 1439, and in the following November elected the ambitious Amadeus VIII, duke of Savoy, antipope under the title of Felix V. The conduct of France and Germany seemed to warrant this action, for Charles VII of France had introduced the decrees of the council of Basel, with slight changes, into the former country through the Pragmatic Sanction of Bourges (7th of July 1438), and the diet of Mainz had deprived the pope of most of his rights in the latter country (26th of March 1439).

At Florence, where the council of Ferrara had been transferred on account of an outbreak of the plague, was effected in July 1439 a union with the Greeks, which, as the result of political necessities, proved but temporary.

This union was followed by others of even less stability. Eugenius signed an agreement with the Armenians on the 22nd of November 1439, and with a part of the Jacobites in 1443, and in 1445 he received the Nestorians and Maronites. He did his best to stem the Turkish advance, pledging one-fifth of the papal income to the crusade which set out in 1443, but which met with overwhelming defeat. His rival, Felix V, meanwhile obtained small recognition, and the latter's ablest adviser, Aeneas Sylvius Piccolomini, made peace with Eugenius in 1442. The pope's recognition of the claims to Naples of King Alfonso V of Aragon withdrew the last important support from the council of Basel, and enabled him to make a victorious entry into Rome on the 28th of September 1443, after an exile of nearly ten years.

His protests against the Pragmatic Sanction of Bourges were ineffectual, but by means of the Concordat of the Princes, negotiated by Piccolomini with the electors in February 1447, the whole of Germany declared against the antipope.

Although his pontificate had been so stormy and unhappy that he is said to have regretted on his death-bed that he ever left his monastery, nevertheless Eugenius' victory over the council of Basel and his efforts in behalf of church unity contributed greatly to break down the conciliar movement and restore the papacy to the position it had held before the Great Schism. Eugenius was dignified in demeanour, but inexperienced and vacillating in action and excitable in temper. Bitter in his hatred of heresy, he yet displayed great kindness to the poor. He laboured to reform the monastic orders, especially the Franciscan, and was never guilty of nepotism.

Although a type of the austere monk in his private life, he was a sincere friend of art and learning, and in 1431 re-established finally the university at Rome. He died on the February 23, 1447.

From a 1911 encyclopedia

Preceded by:
Pope Martin V
List of popesSucceeded by:
Pope Nicholas V