Bulgaria, the Bulgarians and Europe - Myth, History, Modernity

The Question of Union at the Council of Constance and Gregory Tsamblak’s Mission

Pavlin Atanasov

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The article is devoted to one of the most important international forums in the history of Medieval Europe – the Council of Constance (1414–1418), recognized as ecumenical by the Catholic Church. The council had three main tasks: to end the Western Schism, which had split the Catholic world since 1378, to condemn the teachings of John Wycliffe and Jan Hus, declared to be heretic, and to reform the Catholic Church. The first two tasks were completed with the election in November 1417 of Martin V as the only legitimate pope instead of the previous anti-popes, who were deposed, and with the official condemnation of the views of Wycliffe and Hus (the latter was called to Constance and burned at the stake). As far as the reform of the Church is concerned, it was avoided by the prelates. The council was a triumph of conciliarism – the clerical movement which held that supreme authority in the Church resided with the council rather than with the pope. The focus of the article is on the question of union between the Orthodox and the Catholic Church at the council. The activities of the Byzantine diplomats are revealed as well as the role of the great Bulgarian writer and cleric Gregory Tsamblak, at that time metropolitan of Kiev. He was included in the Polish-Lithuanian delegation and came to Constance in February 1418, shortly before the end of the sessions. Unlike the Byzantines who aimed at achieving a union between the whole Orthodox Church and the Papacy, Tsamblak sought at a partial union, concerning only the Bishopric of Kiev, which tried to gain independence from Constantinople. In fact, he acted independently from the Byzantine delegation. In both cases, the union pursued primarily political aim – a Christian alliance against the Ottoman Turks. Unfortunately, nothing came out of the negotiations in Constance and the question of union was put off for the next forum twenty years later – the Council of Florence (1438–1439) when it was too late for the Ottoman urge to be stopped.


The Council of Constance, Gregory Tsamblak, The Western Schism, Union, Conciliarism, Ottoman conquest.


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