Pisa, Council of
PISA, COUNCIL OF
A council convened in 1409 by the concerted action of cardinals of both Avignon and Roman obediences in the hope of ending the western schism, then of about 30 years' standing. It was first broached in June of 1408 at Livorno, when 13 Italian cardinals who had wearied of the procrastination of gregory xii joined forces with the estranged curia of Antipope benedict xiii. The two rival popes were pressed to attend, but they stoutly resisted all overtures, each determining instead to hold a council of his own, Benedict at Perpignan, Gregory at an unspecified place, which was in fact to be Cividale. Some of the established areas of obedience decided to cling to their old loyalties. King Rupert of Germany, Hungary, Venice, and Rimini chose to follow Gregory, while Aragon, Castile, Scotland, and some parts of France rallied to Benedict's side. The moment was so critical, and the propaganda of the Pisan cardinals so persuasive, that the greater part of Western Christendom placed its faith in the gesture of the united cardinals. Opening at Pisa on March 25, 1409, the council was supported by four patriarchs, 200 bishops (102 in person), 287 abbots (180 by proxy), the generals of the mendicants and of most other orders, some 700 theologians and canonists, delegates from most of the Western states, and 13 of the greater universities.
Disappointed at the refusal of the contending popes to cooperate with it, the council gradually turned into what was, in effect, a legal process for a crime of schism which, because of its long duration, had passed into heresy. Thus, after evidence had been heard that the parties had been legally summoned and had failed to appear, the two popes were declared contumacious at the second session (March 27). A month later this sentence was extended to those cardinals who had remained faithful to them. A dissident element entered the assembly when envoys of King Rupert of Germany presented a pro-Gregorian memorial at the fourth session (April 15). However, they departed the council on April 21, without waiting to hear the promised reply. The central phase of the council began three days later (fifth session) with an indictment under 37 heads of those measures taken by the papal rivals to hinder union. The council, however, attempted at this crucial stage to be as legal and as unexceptionable as possible in its procedure: before going further, it had the amalgamation of the two cardinalatial colleges and the withdrawal of obedience from either pope declared "canonical and legitimate," on May 10, at the eighth session. Only then were witnesses examined (May 17–22) on the 37 charges, to which further articles were added later. Finally, at the 15th session (June 5) the two popes were formally deposed as schismatics and heretics. Three weeks later Peter of Candia, the Gregorian Cardinal of Milan, was elected as Pope alexander v. He presided over the remaining sessions, published some reform decrees and, promising to call a council for 1412, dissolved the assembly on Aug. 7, 1409.
Since the Council of Pisa was not convoked by papal authority, it is not recognized by the Church as ecumenical. At the time, however, it was warmly defended by many distinguished proponents of conciliar theory (see conciliarism, history of), e.g., by Jean gerson, nicholas of clamanges, and peter of ailly. It had juridical support in the great exposition of the legal foundations of the conciliar doctrine written in 1408 by the Paduan canonist (later Cardinal) Francesco zabarella. Because Benedict XIII and Gregory XII both refused to admit the sentence of deposition, the net result of the council was that the Church now found itself enmeshed with three popes. In fairness, however, it could be argued that members of the Council of Pisa meant well; it must be acknowledged that by complicating an already disastrous situation, they made imperative the solution adopted at the Council of constance in 1415, when the three contending popes were persuaded to retire and Odo Colonna (one of the Pisan cardinals) was elected to the office in their stead as Pope martin v.
For the Council of Pisa II (1511–12) see lateran council v.
Bibliography: Sources. j. d. mansi, Sacrorum Conciliorum nova et amplissima collectio (Florence-Venice 1757–98; reprint Graz 1960—) 26:1131–1256. c. j. von hefele, Histoire des conciles d'après les documents originaux (Paris 1907–38) 7.1:1–69. "Acta Concilii Pisani," ed. j. vincke, Römische Quartalschrift für christliche Altertumskunde und für Kirchengeschichte 46 (1938) 81–331. j. vincke, Briefe zum Pisanerkonzil (Bonn 1940); Schriftstücke zum Pisaner Konzil (Bonn 1942). Literature. j. lenfant, Histoire du concile de Pise, 2 v. (Amsterdam 1724). f. bliemetzrieder, Das Generalkonzil im grossen abendländischen Schisma (Paderborn 1904). e. f. jacob, Essays in the Conciliar Epoch (2d ed. Manchester, Eng. 1953); "The Conciliar Movement in Recent Study," John Rylands Library Bulletin 41 (1958) 32–38. b. tierney, Foundations of the Conciliar Theory (Cambridge, Eng.1955). g. mollat, Dictionnaire de théologie catholique, ed. a. vacant et al. (Paris 1903–50) 12.2:2128–30. j. vincke, Lexikon für Theologie und Kirche, ed. j. hofer and k. rahner (Freiburg 1957–65) 8:520–521.
[l. e. boyle]