Concilium Basiliense Documenta Omnia [Tanner Translation]

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[On reservations]

The numerous reservations of churches and benefices hitherto made by supreme pontiffs have turned out to be burdensome to churches. Therefore this holy synod abolishes all of them both general and special or particular -- for all churches and benefices whatsoever that were customarily provided for by an election or a collation or some other disposition -- which were introduced either by the additional canons Ad regimen and Execrabilis or by rules of the chancery or by other apostolic constitutions, and it decrees that never again shall they exist, with the exception only of reservations expressly contained in the corpus of law and those which occur in the lands mediately or immediately subject to the Roman church by reason of direct or beneficial dominion.

[On Clementine "Letters"]3

Although apostolic and other letters may state that someone has renounced, or been deprived of, a dignity, benefice or right, or has done something for which a right of his has been taken away, nevertheless letters of this sort should not prejudice him, even though they are based on the status or the intention of the person making the statement, unless proof is forthcoming from witnesses or other legitimate documents.

SESSION 24 14 April 1436

[About business with the Greeks and about indulgences, etc.]

The holy general synod of Basel, legitimately assembled in the holy Spirit, representing the universal church, for an everlasting record. Our ambassadors to the most serene emperor of the Romans and the most reverend lord patriarch of Constantinople, who were sent to Constantinople on behalf and in the name of this holy synod, for various reasons promised to present the terms which were concluded and signed by the two sides on another occasion in this holy synod regarding the manner of holding a universal and ecumenical council of both churches, and to exhibit them with effect, under the customary leaden seal of this holy synod, with the present date and containing the following text word for word. This holy synod, unwilling to omit anything that might help the union of Christ's churches, accepts, approves, ratifies and confirms by this present decree the said promise of its ambassadors and includes in this document the said terms word for word as was promised by the said ambassadors, as follows.

The holy general synod of Basel, legitimately assembled in the holy Spirit, representing the universal church, for an everlasting record. Among the various works necessary for the whole christian people for which this holy council was assembled, the union of the western and eastern churches of Christ is the chief and greatest. Rightly, therefore, from the very start of its proceedings, this holy synod has made every effort to achieve this. For, as quickly as possible it sent its ambassadors with letters to the most serene emperor of the Greeks and the most reverend patriarch of Constantinople, to exhort them with all charity and insistence that they should send some persons with full authority to treat with us on the way to achieve the said holy union. As soon as they were asked, they appointed to this holy synod three outstanding men from those who seem to be of great authority among them -- the first of whom was indeed a blood-relative of the emperor -- with a sufficient commission from the emperor himself signed by his own hand and with a golden seal, and furnished with letters of the patriarch. Both in a general congregation and in the presence of our commissaries they expressed the most fervent desire of the emperor, the patriarch and the whole eastern church for this union. They urge and daily stimulate us in a wonderful way to pursue this holy work, strongly and persistently affirming two things: that union is only possible in a universal synod in which both the western church and the eastern church meet, and that it is to be hoped that this union will follow if matters proceed in that synod in the way that is agreed below. We were filled with joy and gladness when we heard this. Therefore we venerable cardinals of the holy Roman church, presidents of the apostolic see, casting all our thoughts on God, who alone does great wonders, deputed the patriarch of Antioch and a suitable number of archbishops, bishops, abbots, masters and doctors to treat of this question with the ambassadors of the Greeks and to look for a way to reach a solution. After these men had frequently met and discussed among themselves and with the ambassadors, they reached the conclusions given below. These conclusions, in accordance with the custom of this council, were seriously debated by the deputations and ratified by a general congregation. Their contents, together with the chrysobull of the lord emperor, are as follows: The ambassadors of the most serene lord emperor, etc., which is given at length in the council's decree which is included above. But because the period of time mentioned above, within which the aforesaid things should have been fulfilled, has elapsed, not through the fault of either party but because of various intervening negotiations, this holy synod therefore accepts the period of time agreed by the most serene emperor of the Greeks and the most reverend patriarch of Constantinople on the one side, and by the ambassadors of this sacred council on the other, namely the year beginning this coming month of May, so that for the whole of this May until the following year each of the two parties is prepared to carry out the aforesaid points, and each accepts and promises that it will fulfil for its part, within the said time, whatever is included in the above-mentioned terms.

[Safe-conduct for the Greeks given by the sacred council of Basel to the lord emperor of the Greeks and the patriarch of Constantinople]

The holy general synod of Basel, legitimately assembled in the holy Spirit, representing the universal church. In our western region and the obedience of the Roman church, a universal and ecumenical synod is to be held, under God's inspiration, at which both the western church and the eastern church will meet in accordance with the agreement reached at this holy synod and later ratified in Constantinople. In order that the sincerity of our intention towards the eastern church may be manifest to all, and that all possible suspicion as regards the security and freedom of those coming to it may be removed, this holy synod of Basel by this present decree, in the name and on behalf of the entire western church and of all in that church of every status, including those of imperial, regal or pontifical rank or of any lower spiritual or secular dignity, authority or office, decrees, gives and concedes a full and free safe-conduct to the most serene emperor of the Greeks, the most reverend patriarchs of Constantinople, Alexandria, Antioch and Jerusalem, and others up to the number of seven hundred persons, whether of imperial, regal, archiepiscopal or any other rank, dignity or condition, who are coming or shall come to the aforesaid universal and ecumenical council in the west. This holy synod, by this decree, receives and has received into its safe-keeping each and all of the said people, as regards their persons, honours and everything else, in the kingdoms, provinces, lordships, territories, communities, cities, castles, towns, vills and places of our obedience of the western church in which they shall stay or through which they shall pass. It promises and concedes to each and all of them, by this present synodal edict, free and safe permission to approach and enter the city or place in which the said holy universal council will be held; to stay, remain, reside and dwell there with all the immunities, liberties and securities which those of the obedience of the western church dwelling there will have; of debating, arguing and alleging rights and authorities and of saying, doing and treating of, freely and without hindrance from anyone, anything else that may seem to them useful and apt for the union of the churches of Christ.

They may at will go out and return from the said town or place safely, freely and without restraint, once or often or as many times as any of them may wish, singly or together, with or without their goods and money, with every real or personal obstacle ceasing and being put aside, even if the said union does not come about, though may that not be so. In the latter case and in every other outcome, the most serene emperor, the lord patriarchs and other aforesaid persons will be taken back to Constantinople, at our expense and in our galleys, without any delay or obstacle, with the same honours, good will and friendship with which they were brought to the said universal council, whether or not union resulted from the council.

All this is notwithstanding any differences, disagreements or dissensions about the aforesaid matters, or any of them in particular, which exist at present or could arise in the future between the said western and eastern churches, that is, between the Roman church and those subject and attached to it, and the aforesaid most serene emperor and others attached to the church of Constantinople; notwithstanding any judgments, decrees, condemnations, laws or decretals of any kind that have been or shall be made or issued; notwithstanding any crimes, excesses, faults or sins that may be committed by any of the aforesaid persons; and notwithstanding anything else, even if it is something for which a special mention in this decree is necessary. If one or some of ours should harm one or more of them, though may it not happen, or should molest them in their persons, honour, property or anything else, the miscreant shall be sentenced by us or ours to make adequate and reasonable satisfaction to the injured party. And conversely, if any of them harms any of ours, he shall be sentenced by them to make adequate and reasonable satisfaction to the injured party, in accordance with the customs of both parties. As regards other crimes, excesses and faults, each party will institute proceedings and pass judgment on its own members.

This holy synod exhorts all Christ's faithful and furthermore commands, by the authority of the universal church and in virtue of the holy Spirit and of holy obedience, all prelates, kings, dukes, princes, officials, communities and other individuals, of whatever status, condition or dignity, who are members of our western church, to observe inviolably each and all of the above things and, far as they can, to have them observed; and to honour and treat with favour and reverence, and to have so honoured and treated, both individually and together, the most serene emperor, the patriarch and each and all of the other aforesaid persons on their way to and from the said council. If any doubt arises about the safe-conduct and its contents, it shall be decided by a declaration of the universal synod which is to be held. This holy synod, for its part, wishes the safe-conduct to remain in force until the most serene emperor, the patriarch and other aforesaid persons with their nobles and suites to the number of seven hundred persons, as was stated, and with their goods and chattels, have returned to Constantinople. If anyone attempts to act in any way contrary to the aforesaid or any part of it, let him know that he will incur the indignation of almighty God and of the said holy synod.

SESSION 25 7 May 1437

[On the places for the future ecumenical council for the Greeks]

The holy general synod of Basel, legitimately assembled in the holy Spirit, representing the universal church, for an everlasting record. Recently this holy synod among the various tasks for which the inscrutable providence of the divine majesty has deigned, by the invocation of the holy Spirit the paraclete, to bring it together and to employ it in the cultivation of the Lord's field, turning its mind like a watchful farmer and clearly perceiving how deplorable and abiding has been the division in God's church over the profession of the same faith by the eastern and western churches, conceived high hope and confidence in the most merciful goodness of him with whom nothing is impossible, and who generously and without restraint gives to all who duly ask him, to bring about the unity of the catholic faith between these churches. It decided, therefore, to apply the resources of its diligence more fully, grudging no labour or expense, because it was convinced that thence would follow the greater praise and glory of almighty God, a more fruitful salvation of souls and a greater increase of the faith. Desirous of undertaking this most salutary project of union, with the help of the grace of the holy Spirit it invited and exhorted to come to the project, through various envoys and letters, the most serene emperor of the Romans, the venerable patriarch of Constantinople, the other prelates and the rest of the Greek people.

The emperor, the patriarch and others of the Greeks received these exhortations with eagerness, their hearts inclined and influenced by the grace of the most High. Sincerely zealous to embark on this project of union, they decided to send to this holy synod their solemn envoys and spokesmen, who were furnished with an adequate mandate with the golden seal and signature of the emperor and the leaden seal of the patriarch, devoutly expressing their most fervent desire for this unity of faith. This holy synod concluded with them, in various preliminary meetings and deliberations about the execution of this salutary task of union, certain mutually agreed decrees and terms highly useful and necessary for this purpose, which were recorded above and were promulgated in a session of this holy synod in the cathedral of Basel. Thereafter this holy synod wished to implement these decrees and terms by all necessary and suitable means, and therefore to proceed to choosing a place for the coming ecumenical council, to which the aforesaid emperor, the patriarch and others of the Greeks could and should come. After many propositions about these and other topics relevant to this holy matter had been considered by the various deputations of this holy synod, and after the votes of their members on these points had been counted, finally in a general congregation summoned for this purpose in the said cathedral, as is customary, in which the votes of the individuals were again counted, it was found that more than two-thirds of them had voted for Basel, Avignon or Savoy. After they had invoked the grace of the holy Spirit and celebrated a mass, they agreed that due and earnest pressure should be exerted on the emperor, the patriarch and other aforesaid Greeks, with the many good reasons being put before them, so that they might agree to Basel as the place for the ecumenical council, and that if they rejected Basel, it should be held at Avignon. If Avignon proved impossible, it should be held in Savoy.

Therefore, in order that each and all of the aforesaid points might be brought to fruition, with all the solemnity normally employed in this sacred council of Basel in expediting matters of importance, while the fathers are seated in the cathedral of Basel after the mass, this holy synod decrees, wishes, ordains and declares that the future ecumenical council ought to be held at the due and agreed time in the city of Basel or, if that is rejected, in the city of Avignon or otherwise in Savoy, in accordance with the above-mentioned agreement; and that the emperor, the patriarch and other aforesaid Greeks, as detailed in the said terms and decrees, and all other persons of whatever rank, status, dignity or pre-eminence who ought by right or custom to take part in general councils, including those of episcopal rank, are bound and obliged to come to and take part in that ecumenical council, especially so that this salutary work might be completed. This holy synod wishes, declares and decrees this nomination and choice to be firm, fixed and unchangeable. Any modification, ordinance, disposition, nomination or choice to the contrary that may be made by this holy council or by one or more other persons, whatever their authority, even if it be papal, is utterly invalid; and this holy synod from its certain knowledge as from now quashes, revokes and annuls any such measures, and denounces them as quashed, null and of no effect, and it wishes them to be of no effect and holds them so now, in so far as they impede or oppose in whole or in part the said choice. Also this holy synod from its certain knowledge supplies for any defect that may exist in the aforesaid things or in any of them in particular. Furthermore, since this very difficult undertaking, which will bear great fruit in God's church, as well as the transport and maintenance of the aforesaid Greeks, cannot be accomplished without heavy expenses, it is right and fitting that all of Christ's faithful, especially ecclesiastics, should contribute generously from the substance of the patrimony of our lord Jesus Christ entrusted to them, for the conclusion of so happy a venture. This holy synod therefore imposes on each and every ecclesiastical person, both exempt and non-exempt under whatever form or words, even the order of St John of Jerusalem, of whatever status, dignity, rank, order or condition, even if they are cardinals or bishops, a tenth of all their ecclesiastical fruits and revenues -- only daily distributions being excepted -- from their churches, monasteries, dignities, offices and other ecclesiastical benefices. This tenth has already been imposed and agreed upon in a general congregation of this holy synod, and this holy synod now decrees and declares that it is to be imposed, and by this decree it imposes it. Furthermore, the said holy synod decrees, wishes, ordains and declares that the venerable bishops John of Luebeck, Luis of Viseu, Delfino of Parma and Louis of Lausanne, envoys of this holy synod, have full power for bringing the Greeks to the place of the ecumenical council, and for the majority of them then present to choose and nominate the Latin port which is most suitable and nearest to the places chosen and nominated above, and to which the said Greeks ought to direct themselves. The synod concedes this power to them by this present decree in accordance with the form of the other letters granted to them in this affair. Finally the same holy synod wishes, ordains and decrees, for the due and desired execution of the aforesaid points and what follows from them, and for the fuller security of the said envoys and of the council, that, at the request of these envoys or of their agents, any other suitable, useful and necessary letters shall be granted, drawn up and despatched in due and correct form by the synod's chancery under the synod's seal.

The holy general synod of Basel, legitimately assembled in the holy Spirit, representing the universal church, for an everlasting record. This holy synod from its outset, in order that those things might be accomplished which general councils are instituted to achieve with the assistance of the holy Spirit, devoted very great care to promoting union between the western and eastern peoples so that, as the church of God has suffered innumerable disasters from the long-standing dissension, the greatest profit might ensue from fraternal union. Therefore it sent envoys to Constantinople for the promotion of this holy work. They returned with the ambassadors of the most serene emperor of the Romans and of the venerable patriarch of Constantinople. After many meetings and mature deliberation on this subject, certain terms were agreed between this sacred council and those ambassadors and were confirmed by a decree in a public session. By these terms this holy synod bound itself to send envoys with certain sums of money, two large and two smaller galleys and three hundred crossbowmen within a fixed time, and to nominate through these envoys one of the places mentioned in the decree for the ecumenical council, where the emperor and the patriarch with seven hundred persons would meet with us to bring about this holy union.

However, since the time-limit for accomplishing the above is imminent, this holy synod, desirous of fulfilling its promises completely and of bringing to its desired goal this holy endeavour which is the most salutary of all works in these times, came to the following conclusion in its discussions and then in a general congregation: namely, that Florence or Udine in Friuli should be put into the council's hands, or else that there should be chosen for the ecumenical council some other safe place which is mentioned in the decree and is convenient for the pope and the Greeks, that is to say whichever of the aforesaid places shall be quickest to collect and send the galleys, the sums of money and other requisites with the necessary securities. The port would be Venice, Ravenna or Rimini; whichever of them the emperor and the patriarch of Constantinople prefer. Also, so that the clergy are not burdened uselessly, the tenth shall not be decreed or exacted until the Greeks have arrived at one of the above-mentioned ports. Also, that the sacred council should remain in this city during the whole time covered by the decree. Also, that the legates and presidents of the apostolic see, after they have summoned such fathers as shall seem good to them, shall choose the envoys for accompanying the Greeks and for carrying out the aforesaid things; these envoys ought to urge forcibly the choice of this city of Basel. Therefore, in order that each and all of the above may attain due effect, with the assistance of divine grace, in this public and solemn session this holy synod wishes, decrees and declares that the aforesaid decision is definite and valid, to be adhered to and to be implemented. It quashes, voids and annuls, and declares to be quashed, void and null, whatever has been or shall be done, or may be attempted, by any person or persons contrary to the above or its consequences or whatever could in any way impede their execution. And it wishes that the aforesaid apostolic legates and presidents shall compose in due form and under the seal of the council suitable letters for the execution of the above, and shall expedite whatever else may be necessary and appropriate for this holy enterprise.

SESSION 1 8 January 1438

[Declaration of cardinal Nicholas Albergati, president of the council]

We, Nicholas, legate of the apostolic see, announce that we preside on behalf of our most holy lord pope Eugenius IV in this sacred synod which was translated from Basel to the city of Ferrara and is already legitimately assembled, and that the continuation of this translated synod has been effected today 8 January, and that the synod is and ought to be continued from today onwards for all the purposes for which the synod of Basel was convened, including being the ecumenical council at which the union of the western and the eastern church is treated and with God's help achieved.

SESSION 2 10 January 1438 [On the legitimate continuation of the council of Ferrara, against the assembly at Basel]

For the praise of almighty God, the exaltation of the catholic faith and the peace, tranquillity and unity of the whole christian people. This holy universal synod, through the grace of God authorized by the most blessed lord pope Eugenius IV, legitimately assembled in the holy Spirit in this city of Ferrara, represents the universal church. Its president, on behalf and in the name of the said most holy lord Eugenius, is the most reverend father and lord in Christ lord Nicholas, cardinal-priest of the holy Roman church of the title of holy Cross in Jerusalem, legate of the apostolic see. It adheres to the firm foundation of him who said to the prince of the apostles: You are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church. It is eager to preserve the unity of the spirit in the bond of peace, so that we might be one body and one spirit, just as we were called in the one hope of our calling. It records that much was done in days past both at the former council of Basel and after its translation by some staying on there without any authority, and also by the said most blessed pope lord Eugenius, especially in respect of the business of the most holy union of the western and the eastern church, namely the following: the decree of the nineteenth session of the former council of Basel beginning As a dutiful mother, to which the most holy lord Eugenius gave his assent by his letter; also an agreed proposal on the choice of a place to which the council of Basel should be translated which was agreed upon and confirmed by all the fathers in common and which led to the decree of the twenty-fifth session of the former council, which begins This holy synod from its outset etc. and which the pope himself, urged on by the envoys of the Greeks, accepted and confirmed by his letter given in a general consistory at Bologna and published in the presence of these envoys, also the letter of the same most blessed Eugenius dated 18 September last, issued in a general consistory at Bologna and solemnly read out at the beginning of the continuation of this synod, by which the pope with the counsel and consent of the most reverend cardinals of the holy Roman church and with the approval of the prelates then in the curia, transferred the council to this city of Ferrara; also the letter of the declaration of the same, dated 30 December, immediately following the said translation; all of which this holy synod has ordered to be registered verbatim in its acts as a permanent record, as is contained in these same acts.

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