Friday, June 1, 2012

John Palaiologos the 8th and Florence 1439 Catholic Oecumenic Council

John Palaiologos the 8th , During his visit to Florence.
Painting drawn by Benozzo Gozolli(1439)

The Palaiologos dynasty ruled the Byzantine Empire from 1260 until 1453, and they were in the saddle during the decline and collapse period. John Palaiologos was the emperor before the last emperor Constantine the 11th who was believed to have been killed on 29th May 1453 while fighting against Fatih’s (Mehmet the Second, the Conqueror) army on the ramparts. 
John Palaiologos the VIII. recovered from Murat the Second's invasion of Constantinople in 1422 without surrendering the city. Yet, against the ever increasing threat of the Ottomans, he went to Florence in 1439 and attempted for a conciliation to find support from the Catholic Church and Europe. In order to eliminate the dogmatic differences between Catholicism and Orthodoxy and to combine these two churches, the main issue discussed in the Catholic oecumenic council in Ferrera Florence to which 700 members participated in as well as Pope Eugene the VI., the Byzantine Emperor John and the Constantinople Patrician was “filioque”, i.e., the form and content of the “trinity” relationship of the Supreme Spirit, Jesus and the God.
1439 Ferrera Catholic Oecumenic Council
John Palaiologos signed the decision text of the council with Pope Eugene, to protect the kingdom (I think it would be more proper to call the Byzantine Empire as a small kingdom rather than an empire as of 1439) at the cost of ignoring the basic differences of Orthodoxy, though the intention of the Council wasn’t to reconcile but to bring down the trapped Byzantine Empire and Orthodox Patriarch. (There is the picture of the signed original of the document in Cyril Mango’s book titled as The Oxford History of Byzantine Empire) The “contract” which somewhat connected Orthodoxy to Catholic Rome and was signed by him in order to get the help of the Catholic westerners to protect his people and city against the Ottomans, was never valued by the eastern Orthodox churches. And the western world never sent the Crusades or the military aids they had promised for. They left the Orthodox Byzantine people to their destiny against the Ottomans.

At this point, the great struggle John Palaiologos gave despite the objection of his own church and people cannot be underestimated. Near the end of this trip to Florence, his wife Maria, who was from Trabzon, got sick and died. But John wasn’t told about that. In February, when he went back to Constantinople in February, the emperor learnt the truth, which was kept secret during the return back home made in December through the sea.
He died five years before his city surrendered in 1448. But due to the Florence council declaration, which both parties deemed invalid after its signing, he spent the rest of his life as a man accused by his own people and church of being a traitor. 14 years after the Council, in 29th May, the city surrendered. Yet, the military aid that had been promised to John by the Pope never set out.

No comments:

Post a Comment