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COUNCIL OF BASEL (1431-1445)


Session 1 (1431)
Sessions 2-11 (1432)
Sessions 12-15 (1433)
Sessions 16-19 (1434)
Sessions 20-22 (1435)
Sessions 23-24 (1436)
Session 25 (1437)

Session 1—14 December 1431

The holy synod of Basel, representing the universal church, legitimately assembled in the holy Spirit under the presidency of the most reverend father in Christ lord Julian, cardinal deacon of St Angelo of the holy Roman church, legate of the apostolic see, for the glory of almighty God, the exaltation of the catholic faith and the progress of the Christian religion, laying its foundation on the cornerstone Christ Jesus, in whom the whole structure is joined together and grows into a holy temple in the Lord, calls to mind that the holy general synod of Constance, celebrated in the holy Spirit, esteeming it salutary and beneficial that general councils should be frequent in the holy church of God, established this by its decree as follows: The frequent holding of general councils . . . 2 Hence for the execution of that decree, the city of Pavia in Italy was chosen for the general council to be held at the end of the five years immediately following. At the decreed time that council was indeed inaugurated in the said city of Pavia and thence it was translated for certain reasons to the city of Siena. In that general council which was begun in Pavia and was held in the city of Siena, this city of Basel was chosen and duly assigned for the next future general council to be held after the seven-year period from the end of the council of Siena, as is stated in the public instrument then composed about this succession.

[Establishment of the holy council of Basel]

The most reverend lord legate in his desire to fulfil the apostolic commission since at the time when the beginning of the council was imminent he was immersed in the expedition against the pestilential heresy of the Hussites for the sake of the faith, had his vicegerents despatched to this city and thereafter with all possible speed came himself to this city, in order that, with the help of God's grace, he might fulfil in this general council the office of legate laid upon him, as our most holy lord Eugenius IV, pope by divine providence, had by a series of letters of his holiness enjoined on him. In this city, during more than three months, he held several congregations with prelates and others who had arrived in the city for the said general council, and he had discussions about the establishment and holding of the council. Finally it was decreed that the present solemn session should be held, in which, firstly, since from the above it is manifest that this city is the place deputed for the general council and the date for it to be held is already past, and the authority of the most holy apostolic see is not lacking, it decrees, defines and declares that in this city and place the general council is canonically fixed and founded, and that all, both prelates and others who by right or custom are obliged to attend general councils, are bound to come to its celebration.

[Purpose of the council of Basel]

Seeing that all things direct their actions more immediately and intensely the more knowledge they have of their destined purpose, so this holy synod, after intense meditation and thought on the needs of the Christian religion and after mature and ordered deliberation, decrees that, with the help of God from whom all good things comet, it will pursue with all its zeal and attention these three ends. First that, with the banishment of the darkness of all heresies from the bounds of the Christian people, the light of catholic truth, by the generosity of Christ the true light, may be resplendent. Secondly that, after due thought and with the help of the author of peace, the Christian people, freed from the madness of wars by which — with the sower of weeds doing his work — it is affected and divided in various parts of the world, may be brought back to a peaceful and tranquil state. Thirdly, as the vine of Christ has already almost run wild on account of the multitude of thistles and thorns of vices crowding in upon it, to cut them back through the endeavour of necessary cultivation, with the work from on high of the evangelical husbandman, so that it may flourish again and produce with happy abundance the fruits of virtue and esteem. Since such great benefits as these cannot be hoped for without a generous flow of heavenly grace, it earnestly exhorts in the Lord all Christ's faithful that for the happy achievement of the aforesaid they should urge the divine majesty with devout prayers, fasts and almsgiving that the good and merciful God, placated by such humble submission, may deign with his accustomed goodness to grant to this sacred council the desired completion of all these things, imposing this on them unto the remission of their sins.

Session 2—15 February 1432

The holy general synod of Basel, representing the church militant, for an everlasting record. To the praise of almighty God and the glory and honour of the blessed and undivided Trinity, for the extirpation of heresies and errors, for the reformation of morals in head and members of the church of God, and for the pacification of kings and kingdoms and other Christians in discord among themselves through the instigation of the author of discords, the synod, legitimately assembled in the holy Spirit, decrees, establishes, defines, declares and ordains as follows.

[Decree that the council of Basel is legitimately begun]

First, that the same sacred synod of Basel, by the decrees and ordinances of the sacred general councils of Constance and of Siena, and by the action of apostolic authority, was and is duly and legitimately begun and assembled in this place of Basel. And lest anyone should doubt about the power of the same sacred synod of Basel, this same synod in this present session ordains and decrees that two declarations from the decrees of the synod of Constance are to be inserted among its other decrees already issued or to be issued. The text of the first of these declarations is as follows, First it declares . . . 1; that of the other is this, Next it declares . . . I Therefore, presupposing also some other decrees of the council of Constance, especially the one beginning The frequent, which were read out in a former session of this sacred synod of Basel, the said synod of Basel decrees and declares that, legitimately assembled in the holy Spirit, for the extirpation of heresies and a general reformation of morals in the church in head and members, and also for procuring peace among Christians, as is stated above, no one of whatever authority, even if he is distinguished by the dignity of the papacy, could or should have in the past, or can or ought to now or in the future, dissolve or transfer the said synod of Basel to another locality or prorogue it to another date without the deliberation and consent of the same synod of Basel.


Session 3—29 April 1432

[Impossibility of the dissolution of the council is decreed]

This holy council, considering that the aforesaid dissolution of the council was enacted contrary to the decrees of the council of Constance, and that it leads to a serious danger of subversion of the faith as well as disturbance and harm for the state of the church and scandal for the whole Christian people, decreed that the dissolution could not be made. Since, therefore, the dissolution is no obstacle at all, the prosecution of what has been praiseworthily set in motion for the stability of the faith and the salvation of the Christian people should, with the grace of the holy Spirit, be proceeded with. But since the aforesaid bishop of Lausanne and the dean of Utrecht, on their return, did not bring back from the most holy lord pope the desired reply, although the said most holy lord pope had been entreated, appealed to, required, requested and with every insistence very often implored not only by the aforesaid messengers in the name of the council but also by the most serene lord Sigismund, king of the Romans and loyal supporter of the church, so this holy synod, relying on the decrees of the sacred council of Constance, whose words are these, That the holy synod . . . ' decreed in this solemn session to make its demands to the most holy lord pope and also to the most reverend lord cardinals in the way and style as follows.

This holy synod, therefore, legitimately assembled in the holy Spirit, beseeches the aforesaid most blessed lord pope Eugenius with all reverence and insistence and through the tender mercy of Jesus Christ entreats, requires implores and warns him to revoke in fact the alleged dissolution as in fact it was issued, and in the same way as he made the dissolution to send and publish over the different parts of the world the revocation, and completely to desist from every obstacle against the said council: indeed more, to favour and assist the council, as is his duty, and to offer it every support and opportune help, and to come in person within three months — an interval which it assigns and determines as a peremptory limit — if his physical state so allows. But if it does not, in his place and stead he should nominate some person or persons and send them with plenary power for each and every question in this council up to its very end through each and all of its acts gradually and successively. Otherwise, if his holiness should fail to do this, which is a thing that in no way is to be expected of the vicar of Christ, the holy synod will see to it that provision is made for the necessities of the church as shall seem just and as the holy Spirit shall dictate, and will proceed in accordance with what befits both divine and human law.

In the same way it beseeches, requires, implores and warns the aforesaid most reverend lord cardinals, who as the chief hinges of the church of God should apply their minds with great fervour to these things, that they should bring earnest pressure to bear on the lord pope about the aforesaid things, and should favour, aid and help this sacred council in every opportune way. And since their presence, in view of their authority, great prudence and practical experience, is highly expedient for this sacred council, it requires and warns and cites the lord cardinals and each of them in particular that, canonical impediment ceasing, they shall come to the said council within three months from the notification by this present decree, which interval it precisely and peremptorily assigns and determines for the triple canonical monition. Otherwise, since failure to come to the sacred general council so as to aid the church in its great necessities will without doubt be judged as contributing to the danger of a serious challenge to the catholic faith and to the harm of the whole church, this holy council at the expiry of the stated interval will take proceedings against those who have failed to come, since their contumacy demands this, according as the order of divine as well as human law shall dictate and allow, and will take steps, with the help of the most High, to provide for the necessities of the church. In the aforesaid however, the said synod has no intention of including the most reverend lord cardinal of holy Cross as long as he is engaged in negotiations for peace between the kingdoms of France and England; but in respect of the most reverend lord cardinals of Plasencia and of Foix, as they are commonly called, and the cardinal of St Eustathius, since they are in nearer localities, it limits the above-mentioned interval to two months.

Further the holy synod orders all lord patriarchs, archbishops, bishops and other prelates of churches, and clerics, notaries and ecclesiastical personages, as also other faithful of Christ, of every status, dignity, grade and condition, and it requires and requests all princes and lords, even if they possess imperial, regal, ducal or any other authority, who shall have been requested regarding the above, that in virtue of holy obedience, under threat of the divine judgment and under pain of excommunication, they should report, intimate and notify all and each of the aforesaid things to the said most holy lord pope and to the most reverend lord cardinals, and should have them reported, intimated and notified to these people in person, if they have safe and convenient access to them. Where personal access is not possible, this is to be done by affixing notices drawn up by a public notary, if this can be done safely, to their residences and also on the door of the apostolic palace and on the churches of St John Lateran, St Peter's and St Mary Maggiore; or failing that, on the chief churches of the cities of Sutri Viterbo and Siena, or three other neighbouring cities, as it shall seem better. This holy synod decrees that these places are suitable for the execution of all the aforementioned.

Yet this holy synod, desiring to meeting future eventualities and to avoid all waste of time, since delay in these matters is fraught with danger, ordains and decrees that a decree of admonition and citation of this kind, after it has been read out in this solemn session and published, shall be affixed to the doors of the cathedral church of Basel so that, should it happen that its intimation cannot be effected in any of the ways outlined above, in that case, as by a public edict, for four months to be calculated from this day, the publication, monition and citation shall be considered as performed in respect of all its effects, so that all its effects are obtained and it binds those to whom it is directed as if it had been insinuated and presented in person, the above peremptory force and threats being considered here as inserted.

Further, this holy council declares and insists that, despite the aforesaid delays, since a legal summons has already been issued by the decrees of the council of Constance, and since the urgency of the situation suggests the following, as does also the nature of what is to be accomplished in the continuation of the council and of the things to be done in it, it means to proceed in an orderly, due and mature manner, and for that reason not to be remiss in any way in the process. Lastly, this holy synod decrees citations for all prelates and others who are obliged to come to a general council, and each and all generals of orders and also inquisitors of heresy, with the delay of a fixed term or terms as it shall seem good to the deputies, with penalties and censures and suitable conditions.


Session 4—20 June 1432

The holy general synod of Basel, legitimately assembled in the holy Spirit, representing the universal church. By this decree we indicate to all that to each and every priest, baron, noble, soldier and citizen and every other man of whatever status, condition or rank from the kingdom of Bohemia and the marquisate of Moravia, from Prague and the cities and other places of the same, and to all other ecclesiastical and secular persons who, male or female, will be sent with them to the general council of Basel and are about to set out, to all these persons under whatever name they are listed or can be called, within however the number of two hundred persons, by the force of this present decree we grant and give our fullest and perfect safe-conduct and we bestow a most genuine security for their coming to this city of Basel and their abiding, staying and resting here, and for their treating with us on affairs suitably committed to them and their arranging, concluding and ending them. We allow them to perform the divine offices in their lodgings without any obstacle on our part; so that also, on account of their presence, neither on their journey nor in any other place of their journey, in coming, remaining or returning, nor in the city itself of Basel, will cessation from divine offices be imposed in any way in the form of an interdict.

Further, they will be allowed freely to propose and explain in the general council or synod of Basel, by word of mouth or in writing, the four articles on whose clarity they insist; to prove, support and recommend them with quotations from the sacred scriptures and the blessed doctors and, if need be, to reply to the objections of the general synod or to argue about them with one or several from the council or to discuss them in a charitable way without any impediment; with reproach, abuse and taunt being totally excluded, observing the form and the ways specified and mutually agreed between our envoys and the messengers of the aforesaid kingdom and marquisate in the city of Eger; and specifically that in the case of the four articles proposed by them, the divine law, the apostolic practice of Christ and of the primitive church, and the councils and doctors truly founding themselves on the same, will be accepted in the council of Basel as the most true and impartial judge. Whether these discussions are or are not brought to a conclusion, whenever by the order or permission of their superiors they, or any one of them, shall choose to return home, then straightaway, without any refusal, condition or delay, they may return freely and safely at their pleasure, with their goods, honour and persons intact, but with the knowledge of the deputies of the council so that suitable provision may be made, without guile or fraud, for their safety.

Moreover, in this safe-conduct of theirs we wish all clauses to be included and contained, and to be held as included, which are necessary and opportune for full, efficacious and sufficient safety in coming, staying and returning; we express these things clearly in order to secure and keep the good of peace. If any one or several of them, whether coming on their journey to us in Basel or while staying here or on their return, shall commit (may it not be so) some heinous crime by which the benefit of security conceded to them could be annulled and quashed, we wish, admit and concede that those arrested in a deed of such sort shall straightaway be punished only by their own people, not by others, by an adequate censure and a sufficient penalty to be approved and praised by us, with the form, conditions and ways of their security remaining completely unimpaired. Similarly if any of ours, whether on their way to us in Basel or while staying here or returning, shall commit (may it not be so) some heinous crime through which the benefit of the security conceded to them could be annulled or quashed, we wish that those arrested in a crime of this sort shall straightaway be punished only by us and our people, not by others, by an adequate censure and a sufficient penalty to be approved and praised by the lord ambassadors and envoys, with the present form, conditions and ways of the security remaining completely unimpaired.

We wish also that it be allowed to each and every ambassador as often as it is opportune or necessary, to leave the city of Basel in order to take the air and to return to it, and freely to send and despatch their messengers to any place for the arrangement of necessary affairs and to receive a messenger or messengers as often as it suits them, in such a way that they are accompanied by the deputies of the council who will provide for their safety. Further, neither in discussions, public sermons or other conferences can or may our side, in prejudice, derogation or depreciation of the case of the four articles, employ or procure in the locality of the city of Basel any terms that tend to disorder. These safe-conducts and assurances are to remain in force from the moment when, and for as long as, they are received into the care of our protection, to be brought to Basel, and in all the period of their staying here: and again on the conclusion of a sufficient hearing, an interval of twenty days having been set in advance, when they shall request it, or after the hearing the council shall decide, we shall, with God's help and without any guile or fraud, let them return from Basel to Tuschkau, Tachov or Engelsberg, to whichever of these places they prefer to go.

Also for all of Christ's faithful, especially for the most holy lord the Roman pontiff, the most serene prince the lord Sigismund, king of the Romans etc. , the venerable lord cardinals, archbishops and bishops and lord abbots, prelates and clerics as well as for the most illustrious princes, kings, dukes, marquises, counts, barons and noble soldiers, universities, and communities of cities, castles and towns, and their councillors, magistrates, officials and others of whatever condition and status, whether ecclesiastical or secular, under whatever name they go, and for the subjects of all the aforesaid and every part of them, we promise in good faith and guarantee that all of us and every one of the aforesaid persons will observe and guard the prescribed security and the form of their safe-conduct in all its conditions, points and clauses elaborated above, inviolably and unbroken in good faith and with pure heart. Further, we promise that we neither wish nor ought on any alleged occasion, covertly or overtly, to employ any authority, power, law, statute or privilege of laws or canons or of any councils whatever, especially of Constance and Siena, in whatever form of words they may be expressed, to any prejudice of the safe-conduct or assurance and the public hearing which we have granted to them. But if we or anyone of us, of whatever condition or status or pre-eminence, shall violate in any detail or clause the form and way of the above assurance and safe-conduct (which, however, may the Almighty deign to avert), and a suitable penalty shall not have followed straightaway, to be fittingly approved and praised by their judgment, let them hold us, as indeed they can, to have incurred all penalties which by divine and human law or by custom violators of such safe-conducts incur, without any excuse or any challenge from this side .

[If the apostolic see becomes vacant while the council is in progress, the election may not be held outside the council]

The holy general synod of Basel, legitimately assembled in the holy Spirit, representing the universal church, bears in mind that it pertains to the duty of providence to foresee the future with clear-sighted consideration and to take wholesome steps against what could bring harm to the common good. The synod is intent upon the extirpation of heresies, peace among the people of Christ and the reformation of morals, with the grace of the holy Spirit, as is really necessary in view of the present situation. It has summoned the venerable fathers in Christ, the cardinals of the holy Roman church, to this sacred council, convinced that their presence at it is fruitful in many ways in view of their authority, wisdom and knowledge of affairs. If, then, as obedient sons they are coming to the council when the apostolic see falls vacant elsewhere, such a situation would redound to the benefit of the church but the obedient cardinals would be serving the council to their own disadvantage, whereas everyone knows that obedience should bring with it not disadvantage but an increase of benefit and honour. Lest disobedience may seem to be to the advantage of some who fail to come, this holy synod, with purposeful anticipation and for the above and other reasons which can and should motivate a prudent mind establishes, decrees and defines that, in the event of a vacancy of the apostolic see while this sacred council is in progress, the election of the supreme pontiff shall be held in the place of this sacred council, and it forbids it to be held elsewhere. The synod also decrees that any attempt against this by any authority whatsoever, be it even papal, notwithstanding any constitutions issued or to be issued or anything else acting to the contrary, even if there should be special mention in so many words or a confirmation on oath, which the synod rejects with full knowledge, is null and void and of no force or importance by law; and that those who attempt such things shall be disqualified in both active and passive voice with respect to the election of a Roman pontiff and for every other dignity, and deprived perpetually of all dignities which they hold, and shall automatically incur the mark of infamy as well as sentence of excommunication. If any such pretended election should be attempted, then both the one allegedly elected and his supporters as well as those who treat him as elected incur in the same way the above-mentioned penalties. The said synod reserves to itself, except at the moment of death, absolution of everyone who in any way shall incur the said sentences or any one of them. It declares that the present decree shall bind and come into force after forty days following its publication.


Session 5—9 August 1432

[In this session there were approved rules about the organization of the council: On cases and the procurator of the faith; Judges are deputed for the general examination of cases; That members of the council may not be brought to trial outside the place of this council; Officials are appointed. ]


Session 6—6 September 1432

[This session was devoted to reading: Petition of the promoters of the council against the pope and the cardinals. ]


Session 7—6 November 1432

[Interval for a papal election]

The most holy general synod of Basel, legitimately assembled in the holy Spirit, representing the universal church, for an everlasting record. Earlier this holy synod issued a decree about the election of a Roman pontiff if a vacancy of the apostolic see occurs during this sacred council. It is entitled, It pertains to the duty of providence . . . , and is to be found in full in the fourth session. However, a doubt about that decree has occurred to some, namely that the interval of ten days which the constitution of the council of Lyons fixed for the cardinals of the holy Roman church to enter the conclave, might elapse and be too restricted at least by the time that notification of the vacancy reaches this council. For, the interval would seems to be too rigid and too short for many of the cardinals who may be away in localities distant from this council. Moreover this holy synod wishes to eliminate all grounds for doubt and to provide carefully for what is conducive to the peace and unity of God's holy church, and with all modesty and due maturity to proceed with what is known in this matter, as in all things to promote the exaltation of the catholic faith and the general reformation and peace of the Christian people, for which the council is legitimately assembled in the holy Spirit. It therefore decrees that in the case of a vacancy of the apostolic see in the lifetime of this present council, nothing shall be done for the election of a Roman pontiff before the expiry of sixty days from the day of the vacancy.


Session 8—18 December 1432

[Decree that there ought to be only one council]

The most holy general synod of Basel, legitimately assembled in the holy Spirit, representing the universal church, for an everlasting record. Just as there is only one holy catholic church, as Christ her spouse says, My dove, my perfect one, is only one, and as an article of the faith declares, since unity does not tolerate division, so there can be only one general council representing the holy catholic church. Since, therefore, by decrees of the sacred general councils of Constance and of Siena and by the approval of two Roman pontiffs, namely Martin V and Eugenius IV of happy memory, a general council was instituted and established in this city of Basel and assembled legitimately in the holy Spirit, it is clear that during this council another general council cannot exist elsewhere. Whoever therefore, during the lifetime of this sacred council shall presume to raise and hold another assembly with the title of a general council, is convicted of raising and holding a conventicle of schismatics and not a council of the catholic church. Therefore this holy council warns and exhorts all Christ's faithful, of whatever status or rank they may be, even if papal, imperial or regal, under the adjuration of the divine judgment which holy scripture relates in the case of Korah, Dathan and Abiram, authors of schism, and it strictly commands and forbids them in virtue of holy obedience and under the penalties laid down by the law, not to hold or summon, during this sacred council, another assembly with the title of a general council, which in reality would not be a council, nor to go to or to take part in or in any way to have recourse to it as if it were a general council, even under the pretext of any promise or oath, nor to hold or esteem it to be or even to call it a general council, even if it claims to have been summoned or shall try in the future to be summoned. If any ecclesiastical person, even a cardinal of the holy Roman church, or anyone else of whatever status, rank or condition he may be, shall dare to go to or stay in Bologna or any place with a pretended general council, during this present council, he shall automatically incur sentence of excommunication and deprivation of all benefices, dignities and offices and disqualification from them; and the dignities, offices and benefices of such persons may be freely disposed of by those to whom this pertains by law.


Session 9—22 January 1433

[This session was entirely taken up with the solemn reception of the emperor Sigismund. ]


Session 10—19 February 1433

[This session was almost entirely taken up with reading: Accusation of contumacy of the pope. ]


Session 11—27 April 1433

[For the permanent validity of the authority of general councils]

The holy general council of Basel, legitimately assembled in the holy Spirit representing the universal church, for an everlasting record. Since the frequent holding of general councils, as a principal means of cultivating the Lord's field affects the universal church, every effort should be made that all obstacles that could impede so holy an institution are removed with great care. Hence this holy synod, obeying the decree of the council of Constance beginning The frequent, and anxious that no scandals such as unhappily have occurred in our day should spring up again in the future, to the detriment of the church, establishes and decrees that the Roman pontiff, who ought to be the first in working in the Lord's vineyard and in drawing others to work by his example, should take part in general councils in person or by a legate or legates a latere who is or are to be chosen in consultation with and with the consent — which is not to be just by word of mouth — of two-thirds of the cardinals. Also, all ecclesiastical persons who by law or custom ought to attend general councils are bound henceforward to come in person without further summons to general councils, both by force of the constitution The frequent and by the authority of this sacred council of Basel or of some other future council legitimately assembled, unless they are prevented by a legitimate impediment, in which case they are bound to send suitable persons with a sufficient mandate. If the Roman pontiff or other above-mentioned persons fail to do this, or in any way take means to impede change, prorogue or dissolve the council, and shall not have repented with real satisfaction within four months, thereafter the pope will be automatically suspended from the papal administration and the other persons from the administration of their dignities; the papal administration will devolve by law upon the sacred council. If they persist with hardened hearts under the aforesaid penalties for a further two months after the said four months, then the general council shall proceed against both the Roman pontiff and the above-mentioned persons up to and including the penalty of deprivation.

[That everybody is free to come to the council]

This holy synod decrees that, notwithstanding any prohibition, even from the Roman pontiff, there is freedom for absolutely all persons, of whatsoever status or condition they may be, even if they are cardinals of the Roman church, to go to general councils; and that the Roman pontiff is bound to grant permission to those who wish to go to general councils, especially to the aforesaid cardinals, if they request it.

[The council explains the phrase about prorogation of the council, and annuls attempts to the contrary, including future attempts]

This holy synod also declares that those words "it may never be prorogued", contained in the said decree, are to be understood so prohibitively that it cannot be prorogued even by a pope, and that a council actually assembled cannot be dissolved or moved from place to place by a Roman pontiff without the express consent of the council itself, and it quashes, voids and annuls anything that may be attempted in the future against this or even in disparagement or obstruction of this general council or of the persons, prelates and supporters of it, by deprivation, translation and ecclesiastical censures or in any other way.

[That the council may not be dissolved or moved without the express consent of two-thirds of each deputation, etc. ]

For certain reasonable causes it decrees that the present council of Basel cannot be dissolved or moved from place to place by anybody, even by the pope, unless there is obtained the express consent of two-thirds of each deputation, after a scrutiny of the votes of individual members, and then the approval of two-thirds of the general congregation, after a similar scrutiny of the votes of individual members, and finally a declaration is to be made in a public session. It prays through the tender mercy of Jesus Christ, and by the sprinkling of his precious blood it adjures all members of this sacred council, both present and future, that in no way they give their consent to a dissolution or allow a change of place, except for just and manifest reasons, before the reform in head and members has been completed, in so far as this can reasonably be achieved.

[That the place of the council should be chosen a month before the dissolution, and the phrase "in ten years" is clarified]

In accordance with the ordinance of the council of Constance, it wishes that the place of the future council should be chosen at least a month before the date of the dissolution. It also declares, as a precaution, that the phrase "in ten years" which is used in the said constitution should be understood in this way, namely that the ten years should be completely finished, and when it is fully completed the authorization to hold a general council begins. If it happens for any reason that those who are obliged to attend general councils do not come at the beginning, it declares that the said authorization to hold the council does not thereby cease, but that it should be held as soon as it conveniently can. But so that it cannot be deferred for a long time, this council decrees that for twenty days before the end of the said ten years, or of some other interval if perhaps this should reasonably be determined by the council, the Roman pontiff in person or through his legate or legates, and the archbishop in whose province or diocese the council is to be held and all the prelates who are within four days' journey of the place of the forthcoming council, provided there is no canonical impediment, in person or, if that cannot be, through suitable men constituted as proxies for this purpose, are obliged to present themselves so as to negotiate about the disposition of the place and other preliminaries of the council. On the day appointed for the opening of the council, those present shall celebrate a solemn mass of the holy Spirit, and the council shall be considered constituted and begun from that day. However, on account of the many necessities that can occur for those coming to a council, this holy synod exhorts those who shall be present not to bring difficult questions to a conclusion until after a reasonable wait for those absent and a fitting interval of time, rather, with divine fear as a guide, let everything proceed with due gravity, as the great mass of business of the universal church demands and requires. In those cases in which, according to the decree of Constance, the pope may, with the consent of the cardinals of the holy Roman church, change the place of a future council, it determines that, should the pope fail to do this, the college of cardinals may supply for the defect, on condition however that two-thirds of the cardinals agree, keeping, , nevertheless to the procedure contained in the said decree The frequent. The said cardinals shall swear by God and their consciences that they are making the change of place, if indeed they decide this, for the clear reasons that are mentioned in the decree The frequent.

[That the electors of a pope before entering the conclave shall swear that, if one of them is elected, he will observe the said decrees]

So that the aforesaid may be put into execution the more easily, the holy synod determines that the electors of a Roman pontiff are bound, before entering the conclave, to swear to God and to promise the church that, should one of them be chosen as pope, he will observe the above decrees, statutes and ordinances, and to the best of his ability will endeavour to fulfil them really and effectively adding that whoever in future years shall be chosen as Roman pontiff must swear, among the other things which he must profess according to the decree of the council of Constance beginning Since the Roman pontiff, effective observance of the present decree. Later, in his first public consistory, he is bound to make again the same profession and let him also profess that, if he violates what is contained in this decree or commits a notorious crime which scandalizes the church, he will subject himself to the judgment of a general council. Both he and the college of cardinals shall insert this profession in the letters which they customarily send throughout the world on the accession of a new pope.

[That this decree should be published in synods]

So that nobody may plead ignorance of this wholesome and necessary decree, the holy synod orders, in virtue of holy obedience, all metropolitan bishops to have this decree read and published in provincial and synodal councils, and superiors of religious to have it read and published in their general chapters. 2

Session 12—13 July 1433

[Decree on elections and confirmations of bishops and prelates]

Just as in building a house the architect's chief concern is to lay such a foundation that the edifice built on it will endure immovable, so in the general reformation of the church the principal preoccupation of this holy synod is that the pastors set over the church may be such that, like pillars and bases, they will firmly uphold the church by the strength of their doctrine and merits. The office enjoined on prelates manifestly shows how great care should be taken in their election, for they are appointed for the government of souls for which our lord Jesus Christ died and shed his precious blood. Therefore the sacred canons promulgated under the Spirit of God, providentially established that each church and college or convent should elect a prelate for itself. Adhering to these prescriptions this holy synod, assembled in the same Spirit, establishes and defines that a general reservation of all metropolitan, cathedral, collegiate and monastic churches and elective dignities ought not to be made or used by the Roman pontiff in the future, always with the exception of reservations contained in the body of law and those which may arise in territories mediately or immediately subject to the Roman church by reason of direct or beneficial dominion. Rather, provision should duly be made for the aforesaid metropolitan, cathedral, monastic and collegiate churches and elective dignities, when they are vacant, by canonical elections and confirmations in conformity with the dispositions of the common law, without thereby derogating from statutes, privileges and reasonably customs, all postulations in the disposition of the common law remaining intact. This holy synod also decrees that it will be in conformity with reason and beneficial for the common good that the Roman pontiff should attempt nothing contrary to this salutary decree, except for an important, reasonable and manifest cause, which is to be specified expressly in an apostolic letter. So that this salutary decree may be more strictly adhered to, the same holy synod wishes that, among other things that the Roman pontiff shall profess on assuming office, he shall swear to observe inviolably this decree.

Since prelates should be such as is described above, those with the right of electing them should be very careful that they make a worthy election in the presence of God and of the people, and let them be most solicitous to elect such persons as can fill so great an office. Let them remember that if they act in so important an affair either fraudulently or carelessly or without regard for the fear of God, they will be the authors and cause of evil pastors and will therefore share in the penalties which the evil pastors themselves will suffer in the severe judgment of God. Since the endeavour of human fragility can effect nothing without the help of almighty God, from whom every good endowment and every perfect gift comes down, those in whose hands lies the election of a pontiff or an abbot shall meet in church on the day of the election in order to hear with great devotion a mass of the holy Spirit, whom they will humbly petition to deign to inspire them to elect a worthy pastor. The more devoutly they approach the act of election, the more readily they will merit that grace, so let them confess and reverently receive the sacrament of the eucharist. When they have entered the place of the election of any prelate who is to be chosen through election, they shall swear in the hands of the president of the chapter, and the president in the hands of his immediate subordinate, in these words: I, N. , swear and promise to almighty God and to such and such a saint (according to the dedication of the church) to elect the person who I believe will be the more useful to the church in spiritual and temporal things, and not to give a vote to anyone who I think is procuring the election for himself by the promise or gift of some temporal thing, or by making a request in person or through another, or in any other way directly or indirectly. He who appoints a procurator to elect a certain person shall take the same oath and shall confess and communicate; so also shall a procurator with a general mandate for election in matters in which by common law he can be appointed a procurator in the business of such an election. The oath shall be taken also by those who may have made an agreement about the election of a future prelate, and they too are obliged to confess and to communicate. If they do not do so, for that occasion they shall be deprived by law of the power of electing. Thereupon let them elect to the said prelacy a man of lawful age, of serious character and adequate education, already in sacred orders and suitable in other respects in accordance with canonical regulations.

If the election is made in another way and of a different kind of person than the above or by the wickedness of simony, the election shall be invalid and null by law. Those electing simoniacally shall be automatically subject to perpetual deprivation of the right of electing, besides other penalties. Others shall be subject to canonical penalties. Those elected simoniacally and those who take part in such a simoniacal election, as well as the electors and those confirmed shall automatically incur the penalty of excommunication in horror of so great a crime. Moreover, those so elected and confirmed cannot be absolved from such guilt and excommunication unless they freely resign the churches and dignities which they had disgracefully obtained, and they are rendered perpetually disqualified from acquiring them again. In order to remove every root of ambition this holy synod implores through the tender mercy of Jesus Christ and most earnestly exhorts kings and princes, communities and others of whatever rank or dignity, ecclesiastical or secular, not to write letters to electors or to provide petitions for someone who will get such petitions or letters for himself or for another, and much less to resort to threats or pressure or anything else whereby the process of election would be rendered less free. Similarly, in virtue of holy obedience, it is enjoined on electors not to elect anyone on the strength of such letters, petitions, threats or pressure.

When the election has been completed and presented to the person who has the right of confirmation, if a co-elected person or an objector to the election shows himself, he should be summoned by name to discuss the matter of the disputed election. Usually a public announcement should be made in the church in which the election was held, in accordance with the constitution of Boniface VIII of happy memory. Whether or not a co-elected person or an objector appears, the confirmer should proceed in virtue of his office, as is done in the business of the inquisition, using diligence in the due examination and discussion of the form of the election, of the merits of the one elected and of all the circumstances. The confirmation or the annulment of the election should be done in a judicial manner. So that the whole process may be clean and without blemish or even a suspicion of it, the confirmer should altogether refrain, personally as well as through others, from presuming to demand anything at all or even to receive free offerings in return for the confirmation or under the pretext of homage, subvention, gratitude or any other excuse of supposed custom or privilege. For notaries and scribes in such cases, let a moderate fee be levied which is proportionate to the work of writing and not to the value of the prelacy. If the said confirmers shall confirm elections in contravention of the above regulations or in respect of unsuitable persons or involving simony, such confirmations are automatically null. This is to be the case for the occasion, for those who confirm persons other than as stated above: but for the stain of simony, if they have incurred it, they automatically incur sentence of excommunication, from which they cannot be absolved except by the Roman pontiff', except at the point of death.

This holy synod exhorts the supreme pontiff, since he should be the mirror and standard of all sanctity and purity, not to demand or accept anything at all for confirming elections referred to him. Otherwise, if he scandalizes the church by notorious and repeated contraventions, he will be delated to a future council. However, for the burdens which he must carry for the government of the universal church, and for the sustenance of the cardinals of the holy Roman church and of other necessary officials, this holy council will make due and suitable provision before its dissolution. If it does not make any provision in this way, then those churches and benefices which hitherto paid a certain tax on the entry into office of a new prelate, shall be obliged thenceforward to pay in parts half of this tax for the year after their peaceful possession; this provision shall continue until the sustenance of the said pope and cardinals is otherwise provided for. By these ordinances the same synod does not intend any prejudice to the holy Roman and universal church or to any other church.


Session 13—11 September 1433

[In this session there was read out, Accusation of contumacy of the pope made by the promoters of the sacred council; the time-limit already intimated to Eugenius IV for him to come to Basel and to abrogate his decree dissolving the council was deferred; finally a new Decree for the protection of members was approved. ]


Session 147 November 1433

[In this session there was made, Another deferral, for ninety days, of the monition to the pope, to which were added two proposals, one regarding the revoking of the suspension of the council. the other regarding Eugenius IV's assent to the council. ]


Session 1526 November 1433

[On provincial and synodal councils]

The holy general council of Basel, legitimately assembled in the holy Spirit, representing the universal church, for an everlasting record. Already this holy synod has promulgated a most salutary decree on the stability and authority of general councils, the frequent holding of which is a principal means of cultivating the Lord's field. Indeed, since there is no doubt that episcopal synods and provincial councils form part of this same cultivation, inasmuch as the ancient canons decreed that they should be frequent, so this holy synod, desiring that ancient and praiseworthy customs should be observed in our age, establishes and commands that an episcopal synod should be held yearly in every diocese after the octave of Easter, or on another day according to diocesan custom, at least once a year where custom does not prescribe two, by the diocesan in person unless he is prevented by a canonical impediment, in which case by a vicar who is fitted for the task. This synod should last at least two or three days, or as the bishops deem to be necessary.

On the first day, when the diocesan and all those who are obliged to be present at the synod have assembled, during or after the celebration of mass, the diocesan or another in his name shall expound the word of God, exhorting all to strive after good behaviour and refrain from vice, and to strive after what pertains to ecclesiastical discipline and each one's duties, and especially that those who have the care of souls should instruct the people subject to them in doctrine and with salutary exhortations on Sundays and feast-days. Then there should be read out the provincial and synodal statutes and, among other things, a comprehensive treatise on how the sacraments should be administered and other useful points for the instruction of priests. Then the diocesan himself should diligently inquire into the life and morals of his subjects and check with suitable correction the evil of simony, usurious contracts, concubinage, fornication and all other faults and excesses. He should revoke alienations of ecclesiastical property forbidden by law, and he should correct and reform abuses of clerics and other subjects who have failed in respect of the divine office and the wearing of proper dress. Since many scandals often arise because Pope Boniface VIII's constitution Periculoso on the enclosure of nuns is not observed, the diocesan should insist that this enclosure be strictly observed in accordance with that constitution; also that all religious subject to the diocesan should inviolably observe the rules and constitutions of their orders, especially that all ownership is renounced by them. Also let nothing be demanded simoniacally at their reception into a religious order. A chief care of the bishop at the synod should be to make inquiry and to apply proper remedies lest any teaching that is heretical, erroneous, scandalous or offensive to pious ears, or fortune-telling, divinations incantations, superstitions or any diabolic inventions, infiltrate into his diocese. Let there be appointed synodal witnesses, who should be serious, prudent and honest men, filled with zeal for God's law, in a number proportionate to the area of the diocese, or others with their powers if none are appointed for this, who may be removed by the diocesan if they seem to him to be unsuitable and he may appoint others (as he thinks fit). They shall be obliged to take an oath in the hands of the diocesan himself or of his vicar, as is stated in the canon Episcopus in synodo; they shall travel round the diocese for a year and shall refer what they have seen to be in need of correction and reform to those whose duty it is to correct and reform. If these matters are not corrected and reformed, they shall refer them to a subsequent synod, when proper remedies should be applied. Besides what the diocesan hears from the synodal witnesses or others exercising their office, he should himself inquire assiduously about the faults of his subjects and so confront the guilty with the discipline of needed correction that it may serve as an example to others inclined to do evil.

Also, in every province within two years of the end of a general council, and thereafter at least once in every three years, a provincial council should be held in a safe place. It should be attended by both the archbishop and all his suffragans and others who are obliged to take part in such provincial councils, after a due summons has been issued to them. If a bishop is prevented by a canonical impediment, he should designate his procurator, not only to excuse and justify his absence, but also to participate in the council in his name and to report back what the council decides. Otherwise the bishop is automatically suspended from receiving half the fruits of his church for one year: these should be effectively diverted to the fabric of his church by someone deputed in the council itself. Others who fail to attend are to be punished at the decision of the council and other penalties of the law are to remain in force. Provincial councils are not to be held while a general council is sitting and for six months beforehand. At the beginning of a provincial council the metropolitan or someone in his name during the celebration of mass or afterwards, shall deliver an exhortation calling to mind the things that pertain to the ecclesiastical state and especially the episcopal office and warning all the participants that, as the prophet says, if any soul is lost by their fault his blood will be required by the Lord at their hands. In particular, there should be a strict warning that orders and benefices should be conferred, without any simony, on worthy and deserving persons whose lives are sufficiently well known. Above all, the greatest care and mature inquiry should be used when entrusting the care of souls. Ecclesiastical property on no account should be used for illegal purposes, but for the glory of God and the conservation of churches and, following the holy canons, with a primary concern for the poor and needy, mindful that at the tribunal of the eternal judge they will have to give an account of all of it to the very last farthing. In these councils there should be, according to the regulations of the law, a careful investigation into the correction of faults, the reform of the morals of subjects and especially the conduct of bishops in conferring benefices, confirming elections, administering orders, deputing confessors, preaching to the people, punishing the faults of their subjects and observing episcopal synods, and in any other points respecting the episcopal office and the jurisdiction and administration of bishops in spiritual and temporal matters, especially whether they keep their hands clean of the stain of simony, in order that all those who are found to have transgressed in the aforesaid matters may be corrected and punished by the council. A similar careful inquiry should be instituted about the metropolitan himself in all these respects, and the council should explain clearly to him his faults and defects, admonishing and imploring him that since he is called and ought to be the father of others, he should altogether desist from such failings. Even so, the council should send straightaway to the Roman pontiff, or to another of his superiors if he has one, a written account of the investigation made about him, so that he may receive punishment and fitting reform from the Roman pontiff or other superior. Besides, if there are discords, quarrels and feuds among some which could disturb the peace and tranquillity of the province, the holy council should strive to pacify them and seek watchfully, as would a dutiful father, for peace and agreement among its sons. If discords of this sort arise between kingdoms, provinces and principalities, the holy bishops of God should straightaway arrange the simultaneous convocation of provincial councils and, in combining their respective counsel and help, strive to banish whatever promotes discord; they should not cease from this out of love or hatred for anyone, but raising the eyes of their minds to God alone and the salvation of their people and putting aside all half-heartedness, they should be intent on the sacred work of peace.

Moreover, in a provincial synod that immediately precedes a forthcoming general council, thought should be given to all that is likely to be dealt with in that general council, to the glory of God and the good of the province and the salvation of the Christian people. Let a suitable number of people be elected at it to go in the name of the whole province to the next general council; let them be provided for by a grant or in some other way, according to the law and the judgment of the provincial council; in such a way, however, that those wishing to go to the council or their clergy, in addition to those deputed as above, shall in no way be disadvantaged thereby. Also, let there be read out in each provincial council those things which the canonical regulations order to be read out in them, so that they may be observed inviolably and transgressors may be duly punished. If metropolitans and diocesans fail to celebrate provincial and episcopal synods at the aforesaid time, after the cessation of any legal impediment, they shall lose half of all fruits and revenues accruing to them by reason of their churches, and these shall be applied immediately to the fabric of their churches. If they persist in such neglect for three consecutive months, they shall automatically be suspended from their offices and benefices. After these intervals of time have elapsed, with the aforesaid penalties, the senior bishop in the province of the metropolitan, or the person in orders who is highest in dignity below a bishop, unless by custom or privilege it pertains to another, is obliged to supply for this failure to hold the said provincial and episcopal synods. Moreover, this holy synod bids all superiors of religious communities and orders of all kinds, who are responsible for holding chapters, to hold them at the appointed times, under the aforesaid penalties, and to see that they are held; and let them aim in them, in accordance with canonical sanctions and the constitutions of the orders, at a true reform of the individual communities and orders, so that thereafter regular observance may duly flourish in all monasteries in accordance with their rules and constitutions, and in particular that the three fundamental vows of profession may be strictly observed. By the aforesaid, however, the holy synod does not mean to derogate in any way from anyone's rights.

Session 16—5 February 1434

[This session declares the adherence of Pope Eugenius to the council, with the usual ceremonies; Eugenius's bull Dudum sacrum, and three other bulls abrogated by that bull, are incorporated into the acts. ]


Session 17—26 April 1434

[On the admission of the presidents into the council in the name of the lord pope Eugenius IV]

The holy general synod of Basel, legitimately assembled in the holy Spirit, representing the universal church, admits the beloved sons of the church Nicholas, priest of the title of holy Cross in Jerusalem, and Julian, deacon of St Angelo, cardinals of the holy Roman church, the venerable John, archbishop of Taranto, and Peter, bishop of Padua, and the beloved son of the church Louis, abbot of St Justina of Padua, as presidents in this sacred council in the name, stead and place of the most holy lord pope Eugenius IV, to have the fullest authority and effect throughout, but only on the following conditions: they are to be without any coercive jurisdiction, and the way of proceeding hitherto observed in this council is to remain unchanged, especially what is contained in the ordinances of this sacred council beginning, First, there shall be four deputations, as there are, among which all from the council shall be distributed equally as far as is possible, etc. It also ordains that apart from on a Friday, which is the ordinary day for a general congregation, another general congregation cannot be called unless at least three of the deputations agree to this beforehand. And then the presidents should be informed, or one of them, so that they may announce the programme. If they do not, one of the promoters of the council or someone from the deputations shall announce the programme. All from the council shall come to the congregation. On the other occasions, if the three deputations do not agree, nobody shall come to that congregation; and whatever is done there shall be null and void. The same with regard to a session. When what has been agreed upon by the deputations has been read out in the general congregation, the first of the presidents there present, even if another or others of them are absent, shall conclude the matter in accordance with the ordinances of the sacred council. If he or another of the presidents then presiding refuses to do this, the next prelate in the order of seating shall conclude the matter. If he is unwilling, let another in succession do it. If it happens that none of the presidents comes to a congregation or a session of the general council, then the first prelate, as indicated above, shall fulfil the office of president for that day. Also, all the acts of this sacred council shall be made and despatched under the name and seal of this council, as has been done until now.


Session 18—26 June 1434

[On the renewal of the decree of the council of Constance about the authority and power of general councils]

The holy general synod of Basel, legitimately assembled in the holy Spirit, representing the universal church, for an everlasting record. It is well known that it redounds to the great benefit of the catholic church that its authority, which was earlier declared in the sacred council of Constance and to which all are obliged to submit, should be manifested frequently and the attention of all should be drawn to it. Just as councils of the past were accustomed to renew the salutary institutions and declarations of previous synods, so this holy synod too renews that necessary declaration on the authority of general councils, which was promulgated in the said council of Constance in the words that follow: First it declares . . . and Next it declares ,


Session 19—7 September 1434

[On the agreement between the council and the Greeks about union]

The holy general synod of Basel, legitimately assembled in the holy Spirit representing the universal church, for an everlasting record. As a dutiful mother is ever anxious about the health of her children and is uneasy until any dissension among them has been quietened, so and to a much greater extent holy mother church, which regenerates its children to eternal life, is wont to strive with every effort that all who go by the name of Christian may put aside all quarrelling and may guard in fraternal charity the unity of the faith, without which there can be no salvation. It has therefore been a primary care of this holy synod from the beginning of its meeting to put an end to the recent discord of the Bohemians and the ancient discord of the Greeks, and to bind them to us in the same permanent bond of faith and charity. We invited in all charity to this sacred council, through our letters and envoys, first the Bohemians, since they are nearer, and then the Greeks, so that the holy union might be achieved. Although many from the beginning thought that the Bohemian affair was not only difficult but almost impossible and judged our labours to be a waste of time and useless, nevertheless our lord Jesus Christ, to whom nothing is impossible, has so safely directed the business until now that the invitation to the Bohemians has been of much greater benefit to holy church than the many powerful armies which frequently invaded their country.

This fills us with greater hope to pursue the union with the Greeks with all confidence and perseverance. We approach this task the more willingly because we perceive the Greeks to be very inclined to this union. For as soon as the most serene emperor of the Greeks and the patriarch of Constantinople were approached by our envoys, straightaway 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 union will assuredly 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. For what happier and more glorious thing could ever happen to the catholic church than that so many eastern peoples, who seem to be about equal in number to those of our faith, should be joined with us in the unity of faith ? What could be more useful and fruitful to the Christian people, since the beginning of the church, than for an inveterate and destructive schism to be completely eradicated ? Moreover, we trust that with God's help another benefit will accrue to the Christian commonwealth; because from this union, once it is established, there is hope that very many from the abominable sect of Mahomet will be converted to the catholic faith. What, then, should not be attempted and done by Christ's faithful for so holy and salutary an objective? What Catholic is not in duty bound to risk not only the passing substance of this world but even his body and soul for such an advance of the Christian name and the orthodox faith? Wherefore, we venerable cardinals of the holy Roman church, presidents of the apostolic see, casting all our thought 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 envoys, 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.

[Agreement of the deputies of the sacred council with the ambassadors of the Greeks]

The ambassadors of the most serene lord emperor of the Greeks and of the lord patriarch of Constantinople, namely the lord Demetrius protonostiarius Palaeologus Metotides, the venerable Isidore abbot of the monastery of St Demetrius, and the lord John Dissipatus of the household of the same emperor, meeting together with the lord deputies of the sacred council, first declared that if the western church would agree that this synod should be held in Constantinople, the eastern church would meet there at its own expense and there would be no need for the western church to pay any expenses to eastern prelates. Indeed, the lord emperor himself would, within his limits, provide for Latin prelates on their way to Constantinople. But if it was preferred that the prelates of the eastern church should come to Latin territories for the said synod, then for legitimate reasons the western church would have to meet the expenses of the eastern church. Since the said lord deputies for many reasons believed that this union would be more conveniently arranged in the city of Basel, where in fact the council was sitting, they frequently and urgently pressed the lord envoys that this place should be chosen for the holy union and offered to pay the necessary expenses for this. The envoys replied that since the instructions given to them by the emperor and the patriarch contained limitations on certain places, they would not choose the city of Basel because it was not mentioned in the instructions. The deputies of the sacred council, aware of the holy and perfect intention of the council not to spare any labour and expenditure for the honour of God and the advance of the catholic faith, judged it inexpedient to miss so great a good merely on a question of place. So they agreed, subject to the council's consent, to one of the places named below with the condition, which is detailed later, that one or more persons should be sent to the lord emperor, the patriarch and others to persuade them by cogent reasons to agree to the city of Basel. The nominated places are these: Calabria, Ancona or another maritime territory; Bologna, Milan or another Italian city; and outside Italy, Buda in Hungary, Vienna in Austria or in the last place, Savoy.

The lord deputies agreed with the lord ambassadors in what follows, subject to the council's consent. First, the ambassadors promised that the emperor of the Greeks, the patriarch of Constantinople, the other three patriarchs and the archbishops, bishops and other ecclesiastics who can conveniently come, will come to the synod. Likewise, representatives will come from all the kingdoms and territories subject to the churches of the Greeks, with full power and authority which shall be confirmed by oath and suitable documents by both the secular authorities and the prelates. Also, the sacred council shall send one or more ambassadors with eight thousand ducats for the holding of a congregation of the prelates of the eastern church in Constantinople. The eight thousand ducats will be paid out by the ambassadors of the sacred council, as it shall seem good to the lord emperor or to the ambassadors themselves; but in such a way that, if the said prelates refuse to come to Constantinople or, having come to Constantinople, refuse to go to the synod, then the emperor shall be bound to restore to the said ambassadors whatever they may have expended on this matter.

Also, that the western church shall pay the expenses of four large galleys, of which two shall be from Constantinople and two from elsewhere, to convey to our port at the appropriate time the emperor, the patriarchs and the prelates of the eastern church with their suites, to the number of seven hundred persons, and to return them to Constantinople. The western church shall pay the expenses for this in the following way. For the expenses of the emperor and of seven hundred persons from Constantinople to our last port, it will give the emperor fifteen thousand ducats. From the said last port to the place of the said council, and thereafter as long as they remain at the synod and until their return to Constantinople, it will give to the emperor with the said seven hundred persons fair expenses. Also that within the ten months after next November, the sacred council shall be obliged to send two large galleys and two lighter ones to Constantinople with three hundred crossbowmen. On these galleys shall travel the ambassadors of the sacred council and the lord Demetrius protonostiarius Palaeologus, chief of the lord emperor's ambassadors. These ambassadors of the sacred council will have with them fifteen thousand ducats to be given to the lord emperor for the expenses that he and the patriarchs, prelates and others who are coming, to the number of seven hundred persons, shall incur between Constantinople and the last port at which they shall put in, as mentioned above. Also, the said ambassadors of the sacred council who are to travel on the galleys will arrange that ten thousand ducats are at hand to be expended, if necessary, on the defence of the city of Constantinople against any danger that the Turks might cause the city during the lord emperor's absence; this money will be expended by someone deputed by the said ambassadors of the sacred council in proportion to the necessity. Also, the said ambassadors of the sacred council will pay the cost of two light galleys and three hundred crossbowmen for the defence of the city of Constantinople in the lord emperor's absence, and shall ensure that the crews of the said galleys and the crossbowmen take an oath in the hands of the emperor that they will serve him faithfully. Their captains shall be appointed by the emperor. Also, that the said ambassadors shall have for the expenses of the two large galleys what is usually expended in arming such galleys.

Also, the ambassadors of the sacred council who are to go with the said galleys to Constantinople, shall name to the lord emperor the port at which they should finally land and the place, from among those listed above, where the said universal synod shall be held. They will, however, strive with all their might that the city of Basel be chosen, as is to be hoped. Also, this sacred council of Basel will remain meanwhile at Basel, and shall not be dissolved as long as there is no legitimate impediment; but if a legitimate impediment arises, which may God avert, it may transfer itself for its continuation to another city, in accordance with the decree The frequent . If the lord emperor is not satisfied with this place, then within one month after he has landed at the said last port, the sacred council will transfer itself to one of the said places nominated by the same council, as was said above.

Also that, in any event, all the above shall be fulfilled by both parties; and all the above shall be effected in a really stable way and with the greatest force and security that is possible for the sacred council, namely by a decree and under a seal. Also, when all the aforesaid matters have been concluded and agreed and, as was said, fully confirmed, the supreme pontiff should give his express consent by his patent bulls. Everything above is to be understood in good faith, without fraud or deceit and without legitimate or manifest impediment. If all the clauses are fulfilled, the said ambassadors of the Greeks shall state and promise that assuredly the above persons will come even if there should be war and threats to their city, and in confirmation of all this they will deliver to the sacred council a chrysobull of the said emperor, and on behalf of the said emperor they and the others shall take an oath, in writing and signed, in pledge of their firm and true belief that the universal holy synod ought to take place with God's help, unless there intervenes the death of the emperor or some obvious and real obstacle that cannot be escaped or avoided.

Lastly, the ambassadors of the Greeks were requested to explain the meaning of some terms contained in their instructions. First, what they understand by "universal synod". They replied that the pope and the patriarchs ought to be present at the synod either in person or through their procurators; similarly other prelates ought to be present either in person or through representatives; and they promised, as is stated above, that the lord emperor of the Greeks and the patriarch of Constantinople will participate in person. "Free and inviolate", that is each may freely declare his judgment without any obstacle or violence. "Without contention", that is without quarrelsome and ill-tempered contention; but debates and discussions which are necessary, peaceful, honest and charitable are not excluded. "Apostolic and canonical", to explain how these words and the way of proceeding in the synod are to be understood, they refer themselves to what the universal synod itself shall declare and arrange. Also that the emperor of the Greeks and their church shall have due honour, that is to say, what it had when the present schism began, always saving the rights, honours, privileges and dignities of the supreme pontiff and the Roman church and the emperor of the Romans. If any doubt arises, let it be referred to the decision of the said universal council. There follows the text of the chrysobull of the said emperor translated from Greek into Latin, Whereas there were sent . . . 1; and the letter of the lord patriarch of Constantinople with a leaden seal translated from Greek into Latin, which is as follows, Joseph by the grace of God archbishop of Constantinople . . . we receive the letter of your reverence . . . 2

By the authority of the universal church, therefore, this holy synod by this present decree approves, ratifies, confirms, determines and decrees the above clauses and agreements, and it promises to observe each and all of them and to keep them intact, as is said above. As they lead to an increase of the orthodox faith and the benefit of the catholic church and the whole Christian people, they should be most welcome and acceptable to all who love the faith of Christ. Since, as has been said above, the Greeks for a variety of reasons request that the most holy lord pope Eugenius IV should expressly consent to these clauses and agreements, lest on this account so great a good should be let slip, this holy synod implores and begs Eugenius in all charity, and through the tender mercy of Jesus Christ it requests and demands with all possible insistence, that he expresses his assent, for the benefit of the faith and of ecclesiastical unity, to the aforesaid clauses and agreements, which have already been approved and ratified by a synodal decree, by his bulls in the customary style of the Roman curia.

[Decree on Jews and neophytes]

The holy general synod of Basel, legitimately assembled in the holy Spirit, representing the universal church, for an everlasting record. This holy synod following in the footsteps of our saviour Jesus Christ, desires in deepest charity that all may acknowledge the truth of the gospel and thereafter abide in it faithfully. By these salutary instructions it desires to provide measures whereby Jews and other infidels may be converted to the orthodox faith and converts may remain steadfastly in it. It therefore decrees that all diocesan bishops should depute persons well trained in scripture, several times a year, in the places where Jews and other infidels live, to preach and expound the truth of the catholic faith in such a way that the infidels who hear it can recognise their errors. They should compel infidels of both sexes who have reached the age of discretion, to attend these sermons under pain both of being excluded from business dealings with the faithful and of other apposite penalties. But the bishops and the preachers should behave towards them with such charity as to gain them for Christ not only by the manifestation of the truth but also by other kindnesses. The synod decrees that Christians of whatever rank or status who in any way impede the attendance of Jews at these sermons, or who forbid it, automatically incur the stigma of being supporters of unbelief.

Since this preaching will be more fruitful in proportion to the linguistic skill of the preachers, we decree that there must be faithful observance of the constitution of the council of Vienne, which ordered the provision in certain universities of teachers of the Hebrew, Arabic, Greek and Chaldean languages. So that this may be more adhered to, we wish that the rectors of these universities should add to what they swear to on taking office, that they will endeavour to observe the said constitution. It should be clearly laid down, at the councils of the provinces in which these universities are situated, that the teachers of the said languages are to be adequately recompensed.

Furthermore, renewing the sacred canons, we command both diocesan bishops and secular powers to prohibit in every way Jews and other infidels from having Christians, male or female, in their households and service, or as nurses of their children; and Christians from joining with them in festivities, marriages, banquets or baths, or in much conversation, and from taking them as doctors or agents of marriages or officially appointed mediators of other contracts. They should not be given other public offices, or admitted to any academic degrees, or allowed to have on lease lands or other ecclesiastical rents. They are to be forbidden to buy ecclesiastical books, chalices, crosses and other ornaments of churches under pain of the loss of the object, or to accept them in pledge under pain of the loss of the money that they lent. They are to be compelled, under severe penalties, to wear some garment whereby they can be clearly distinguished from Christians. In order to prevent too much intercourse, they should be made to dwell in areas, in the cities and towns, which are apart from the dwellings of Christians and as far distant as possible from churches. On Sundays and other solemn festivals they should not dare to have their shops open or to work in public.

[About those who desire conversion to the faith]

If any of them wishes to be converted to the catholic faith, all his goods, both movable and immovable, shall remain intact and unharmed in his possession. But if his goods were acquired by usury or illicit dealings, and the persons to whom restitution ought to be made are known, it is absolutely necessary that this restitution be made, since the sin is not forgiven unless the illegal object is restored. However, if these persons are no longer an issue because the church has turned the goods to pious uses, this holy synod, acting for the universal church, grants in favour of the baptism received that the goods should remain with the church as a pious use, and it forbids both ecclesiastics and secular persons, under pain of divine anathema, to cause or allow to be caused any vexation on this count under any pretext whatsoever, but they should regard it as a great gain to have won such persons for Christ. Moreover since, as it is written, if anyone has this world's goods and sees his brother in need, yet closes his heart against him, how does God's love abide in him ?, this holy synod through the tender mercy of God exhorts all, both ecclesiastics and secular persons, to stretch out helping hands to such converts if they are poor or in need at the time of their conversion. Bishops should exhort Christians to aid these converts and should themselves support them from the income of churches, as far as they can, and from what passes through their hands for the benefit of the poor, and they should defend them with fatherly solicitude from detraction and invective.

Since by the grace of baptism converts have been made fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God, and since regeneration in the spirit is of far greater worth than birth in the flesh, we determine by this edict that they should enjoy these privileges, liberties and immunities, of the cities and localities in which they are regenerated by holy baptism, which others obtain merely by reason of birth and origin. Let the priests who baptise them and those who receive them from the sacred font carefully instruct them, both before and after their baptism, in the articles of the faith and the precepts of the new law and the ceremonies of the catholic church. Both they and the bishops should strive that, at least for a long time, they do not mingle much with Jews or infidels lest, as occurs with convalescents from illness, a small occasion may make them fall back into their former perdition. Since experience shows that social communication between converts renders them weaker in our faith, and has been found to damage much their salvation, this holy synod exhorts local ordinaries to exercise care and zeal that they are married to born-Christians, in so far as this seems to promote an increase of the faith. Converts should be forbidden, under pain of severe penalties, to bury the dead according to the Jewish custom or to observe in any way the sabbath and other solemnities and rites of their old sect. Rather, they should frequent our churches and sermons, like other Catholics, and conform themselves in everything to Christian customs. Those who show contempt for the above should be delated to the diocesan bishops or inquisitors of heresy by their parish priests, or by others who are entrusted by law or ancient custom with inquiring into such matters, or by anyone else at all. Let them be so punished, with the aid of the secular arm if need be, as to give an example to others.

There should be careful inquiry into all these things in provincial councils and synods, and an opportune remedy should be applied not only to negligent bishops and priests but also to converts and infidels who scorn the above. If anyone, of whatever rank or status, shall encourage or defend such converts against being compelled to observe the Christian rite or anything else mentioned above, he shall incur the penalties promulgated against abettors of heretics. If converts fail to correct themselves after a canonical warning, and as Judaizers are found to have returned to their vomit, let proceedings be taken against them as against perfidious heretics in conformity with the enactments of the sacred canons. If there have been granted to Jews or infidels, or perhaps shall be granted to them in the future, any indults or privileges by any ecclesiastics or secular persons, of whatever status or dignity, even papal or imperial, which tend in any way to the detriment of the catholic faith, the Christian name or anything mentioned above, this holy synod decrees them quashed and annulled; the apostolic and synodal decrees and constitutions enacted about the above remaining in force. In order that the memory of this holy constitution may be perpetually retained and that nobody may be able to claim ignorance of it, the holy synod orders that it should be promulgated at least once a year during divine service in all cathedral and college churches and other holy places where the faithful gather in large numbers.

Session 20—22 January 1435

[Decree on concubinaries]

The holy general synod of Basel, legitimately assembled in the holy Spirit representing the universal church, for an everlasting record. We are inclined to grant requests for authentic statutes and decrees in proportion to the likelihood that they will be observed. For this reason we ordered to be extracted from our acts and recorded in this present document, at the request of the beloved sons of the church N. and N. , who assert that they need texts of this kind for judicial and extra-judicial purposes, the texts of the constitutions transcribed below, which we issued some time ago and promulgated in the cathedral church of Basel on 22 January 1435 and incorporated into our acts. They are as follows.

Any cleric of whatsoever status, condition, religious order or dignity, even if it be episcopal or some other pre-eminence, who, after receiving notice of this constitution, as he may be presumed to have done, for two months after its publication in cathedral churches, which bishops are bound to arrange, after the constitution has come to his notice, still persists as a public concubinary, shall automatically be suspended for three months from the fruits of all his benefices. These fruits shall be consigned by his superior to the fabric or some other evident need of the churches from which the fruits come. His superior is bound to admonish him, as soon as he is aware that he is a public concubinary, to dismiss his concubine within a very short time. If he does not dismiss her, or having dismissed her takes her again or another woman, this holy synod orders his superior to deprive him of all his benefices. These public concubinaries moreover, shall be disqualified from receiving any goods, dignities, benefices or offices until such time as, after dismissing their concubines and an evident emendation of their lives, they shall have received a dispensation from their superiors. Those who receive a dispensation and then return to public concubinage, as to their vomit, shall be totally debarred from the above without any hope of another dispensation. If those who are responsible for correcting such people fail to punish them, as stated above, their superiors shall punish properly both them for their neglect and the others for their concubinage. Severe measures must be taken also in provincial and synodal councils against both those who neglect to punish and those who are reputed offenders, even by suspension from the conferment of benefices or some other adequate penalty. Those who are found by provincial councils or their superiors to deserve deprivation for public concubinage, but who can be deprived only by the supreme pontiff, should be referred immediately to the supreme pontiff together with the process of inquiry. The same diligence and inquiry should be employed by general and provincial chapters in respect of their subjects: and other penalties established against them and other non-public concubinaries are to remain in force. By "public" is meant not only someone whose concubinage is made notorious by a judicial sentence or a legal confession or by a notoriety that no subterfuge can conceal, but also anyone who keeps a woman suspected of incontinence and of ill repute and who, after being admonished by his superior, does not dismiss her.

Because in some regions there are persons with ecclesiastical jurisdiction who are not ashamed to accept bribes from concubinaries for allowing them to wallow in their filth, this holy synod commands, under pain of eternal malediction, that henceforth they shall not tolerate or dissemble such conduct in any way by agreement, composition or promise; otherwise, in addition to the aforesaid penalty for negligence, they shall be strictly obliged and compelled to give to pious causes double what they have received in this way. Prelates should take every care to segregate from their subjects concubines and women of doubtful repute, even by recourse to the secular arm if need be, and they should not allow children born of such concubinage to live with their fathers. This holy synod also orders that this constitution is to be published in the aforesaid synods and chapters, and that stern warning should be given to subjects to dismiss their concubines. It also enjoins on all secular men, even if they are of royal rank, not to interpose any obstacle whatever under any excuse to prelates who proceed, in virtue of their office, against their subjects for concubinage. Moreover, since fornication of every kind is forbidden by divine law and is to be avoided under pain of mortal sin, this holy synod warns all lay people, both married and single, to abstain from concubinage. That man is most blameworthy who has a wife but goes to another woman. If a single man cannot abstain, let him marry, as the apostle advises. Let those responsible strive with all their strength, by salutary advice and canonical sanctions, for the observance of this divine precept.

[Excommunicates are not to be shunned unless specifically named]

To avoid scandals and many dangers and to relieve timorous consciences, this holy synod decrees that henceforth nobody shall be obliged to abstain from communion with anyone in the administration and reception of sacraments or in any other sacred or profane matters, or to shun someone or to observe an ecclesiastical interdict, on the ground of any ecclesiastical sentence, censure, suspension or prohibition that has been promulgated in general by a person or by the law, unless the sentence, prohibition, suspension or censure was specifically or expressly promulgated or pronounced by a judge against a specified person, college, university, church or place, or if it is clear that someone has incurred a sentence of excommunication with such notoriety that it cannot be concealed or in any way excused in law. For the synod wishes such persons to be avoided in accordance with canonical sanctions. By this, however, it does not intend any relief or favour to those so excommunicated, suspended, interdicted or prohibited.

[Interdicts are not to be imposed lightly]

Since an undiscriminating promulgation of interdicts has led to many scandals, this holy synod determines that no city, town, castle, vill or place may be laid under an ecclesiastical interdict except by reason or through the fault of the places themselves or of their lord, governors or officials. Such places cannot be laid under an interdict by any ordinary or delegated authority by reason or through the fault of any other private person, unless the person has been previously excommunicated and denounced, or publicly named in a church, and the lords or governors or officials of the places, though requested by the authority of a judge, have not effectively evicted the excommunicated person within two days or made him give satisfaction. If he is evicted after two days, or retires or gives satisfaction, divine services may be resumed straightaway. This applies also to dependencies of the place.

So that lawsuits may be brought to a speedier end, a second appeal is hereby forbidden if it is a question of the same complaint or if the appeal is made from the same interlocutory sentence which does not have the force of a final judgment. Anyone who makes a frivolous or unjust appeal before the final judgment shall be condemned by the appeal judge to pay to the party appealed against the sum of fifteen gold florins of the treasury, in addition to the expenses, damages and interest.


Session 21—9 June 1435

[On annates]

The holy general synod of Basel, legitimately assembled in the holy Spirit, representing the universal church, for an everlasting record. In the name of the holy Spirit the paraclete, this holy synod decrees that in future, both in the Roman curia and elsewhere, for the confirmation of elections, admission of postulations and provision of presentations and for collations, dispositions, elections, postulations, presentations, even if made by layfolk, institutions, installations and investitures, in respect of cathedral and metropolitan churches, monasteries, dignities, benefices and any ecclesiastical offices whatsoever, and for sacred orders, blessings and pallia, nothing whatsoever is to be exacted, either before or after, for sealing the bull of the letters, or for common annates, minor services, first fruits or dues, or under any other title or name, or on the pretext of any custom, privilege or statute, or for any other reason or occasion, directly or indirectly. Only the writers abbreviators and registrars of the letters or minutes shall receive a suitable salary for their work. If anyone dares to contravene this sacred canon by demanding, giving or promising anything, he shall incur the penalty inflicted on simoniacs and shall acquire no right or title to the dignities or benefices thus obtained. Obligations, promises, censures and mandates, and whatever is done to the prejudice of this most salutary decree, are to be deemed null and void. Even if, which God forbid, the Roman pontiff, who beyond all others should carry out and observe the canons of universal councils, should scandalize the church by acting contrary to this sanction, he should be delated to a general council. Others are to be punished by their own superiors with a fitting penalty, proportionate to their offence, in accordance with canonical sanctions.

[About those in peaceful possession]

Whoever has been in possession for the last three years, not through violence but with a specious title, peacefully and without a lawsuit, of a prelacy, dignity, benefice or office, or shall have possession of them in the future, cannot be disturbed afterwards in his claim or possession by anyone, even by reason of a newly enacted law, except in the case of warfare or some other legitimate impediment, which he must protest and intimate in accordance with the council of Vienne. A lawsuit in this case is to be understood as regards future controversies, if the proceedings have reached the execution of the citation, the exhibition of his right in the judgment and the observance of all the terms. Ordinaries, however, should make careful inquiry to see that nobody possesses a benefice without a title. If they find such a person, they shall declare that the right does not belong to him, and they shall give the right either to him, if they think fit, unless he is an intruded person or violent or undeserving in some other way, or to some other suitable person.

[How the divine office is to be celebrated in church]

A person who is about to make a request to a secular prince takes pains to compose himself and his words by decent dress, becoming gesture, regulated speech and close attention of mind. How much more careful ought he to be in all these things when he is about to pray to almighty God in a sacred place! The holy synod therefore decrees that in all cathedral and collegiate churches, at suitable times and at the sound of a bell, the divine praises shall be reverently celebrated by everyone through all the hours, not hurriedly but gravely and slowly and with reasonable pauses, especially in the middle of each verse of the psalms, and with a suitable distinction between solemn and ferial offices. Those who recite the canonical hours shall enter the church wearing an ankle-length gown and a clean surplice reaching below the middle of the shin-bone or a cloak, according to the different seasons and regions, and covering their heads not with a cowl but with an amice or a biretta. Having arrived in the choir, they shall behave with such gravity as the place and the duty demand, not gossiping or talking among themselves or with others, nor reading letters or other writings. They have gathered there to sing, so they should not keep their mouths shut rather all of them, especially those with more important functions, should sing to God eagerly in psalms, hymns and canticles. When "Glory be to the Father and, to the Son and to the holy Spirit" is being recited, all shall rise. Whenever mention is made of the glorious name of Jesus, at which every knee should bow in heaven, on earth and under the earth, they shall bow their heads. Nobody should read or say the office there privately during the public chanting of the hours in common, for not only does this take away due honour from the choir but also it distracts the singers. To ensure that these things and whatever else concerns the performance of the divine office and the discipline of the choir are duly observed, the dean, or the person whose duty it is, shall carefully keep watch, looking round, to see if there is anything not in order. Transgressors shall be punished with the penalty of that hour in which the offence was committed, or even more severely, as the gravity of the fault demands.

[The times at which each one should be in choir]

Whoever is not present at matins before the end of the psalm Come let us exult at the other hours before the end of the first psalm, and at mass before the last Lord have mercy, until the end, except in cases of necessity and then only with the permission of the president of the choir, is to be considered absent from that hour, saving however any stricter regulations of churches in this regard. The same is to be observed with regard to those who do not remain in processions from the start until the finish. To ensure observance of this, someone, who shall be under oath to act honestly and to spare none, should be deputed with the duty of noting individuals who are absent at the appointed times. This holy synod also orders that in churches in which stipends are not allotted for individual hours, a deduction should be made from the gross revenues of delinquents so that their emoluments are more or less proportionate to their labours, thus destroying the abuses whereby anybody present at only one hour gets a full day's stipend and presidents or deans or other officials, from the mere fact of being officials, receive the daily stipends even when absent for purposes other than those of their church.

[How the canonical hours should be recited outside choir]

This holy synod admonishes all holders of benefices, or those in holy orders, since they are bound to the canonical hours, if they wish their prayers to be acceptable to God, to recite the day and night offices, not in a mumble or between their teeth, nor swallowing or abbreviating their words, nor intermingling conversation and laughter, but, whether they are alone or with others, reverently and distinctly and in such a place as will not diminish devotion, for which they ought to dispose and prepare themselves, as the scripture says: Before prayer prepare your soul, and do not be like someone who tempts God.

[About those who wander about the church during services]

Any holder of a benefice in a church, especially of a major one, if he is seen wandering around inside or outside the church during the divine services, strolling or chatting with others, shall automatically forfeit his attendance not only for that hour but also for the whole day. If after being corrected once he does not stop, let him be deprived of his stipends for a month, or, if he is obstinate, let him be subjected to a heavier penalty so that in the end he is forced to desist. Also, noisy comings and goings in the church should not be allowed to impede or disturb the divine service. Regulars who err in these matters in conventual churches should be punished with a heavy penalty at the judgment of their superior.

[About a notice-board hanging in the choir]

So that everything may be well ordered in the house of God and that each person may know what he has to do, let there be affixed a notice-board permanently hanging in the choir, with information on it of the duties of each canon or other benefice-holder as regards reading or singing at the individual hours during the week or a longer time. Anyone who fails to do in person or by proxy what is prescribed there, shall forfeit for each hour the stipend of one day.

[On those who at mass do not complete the creed, or sing songs, or say mass in too low a voice or without a server]

There are abuses in some churches whereby the "I believe in one God", which is the symbol and profession of our faith, is not sung to the end, or the preface or the Lord's prayer is omitted, or secular songs are sung in the church, or masses (including private ones) are said without a server, or the secret prayers are said in so low a voice that they cannot be heard by the people nearby. These abuses are to stop and we decree that any transgressors shall be duly punished by their superiors.

[About those who pledge divine worship]

We abolish also that abuse, so manifestly incompatible with divine worship, whereby some canons of churches, having contracted debts, bind themselves to their creditors in such a way that, if they do not pay their debts by a fixed time there will be a cessation of divine services. We declare this obligation null even if it has been confirmed by oath. We decree that those who make these illicit agreements shall automatically lose for three months their revenues, which shall be applied to their church They shall receive no emoluments from their church until they resume the divine services.

[On holding chapters at the same time as the principal mass]

This holy synod forbids chapters and other meetings of canons to be held, or chapter business to be transacted, at the same time as the principal mass, especially on solemn feasts, unless an urgent and manifest necessity suddenly occurs. Whoever summons the chapter for that time shall be suspended from receiving his daily stipends for a week, and the canons shall forego their stipends for that hour.

[On not performing spectacles in churches]

In some churches, during certain celebrations of the year, there are carried on various scandalous practices. Some people with mitre, crozier and pontifical vestments give blessings after the manner of bishops. Others are robed like kings and dukes; in some regions this is called the feast of fools or innocents, or of children. Some put on masked and theatrical comedies, others organize dances for men and women, attracting people to amusement and buffoonery. Others prepare meals and banquets there. This holy synod detests these abuses. It forbids ordinaries as well as deans and rectors of churches, under pain of being deprived of all ecclesiastical revenues for three months, to allow these and similar frivolities, or even markets and fairs, in churches, which ought to be houses of prayer, or even in cemeteries. They are to punish transgressors by ecclesiastical censures and other remedies of the law. The holy synod decrees that all customs, statutes and privileges which do not accord with these decrees, unless they add greater penalties, are null.


Session 22—15 October 1435

[On the condemnation of the book of friar Augustine of Rome, archbishop of Nazareth]

The holy general synod of Basel, legitimately assembled in the holy Spirit, representing the universal church, for an everlasting record. The main reason, among other pious aims, why this holy synod assembled was to preserve the truth of the catholic faith and to eradicate errors and heresies. Therefore the chief goal of our activity is, as soon as we learn of the spread of something that can harm the purity of the Christian faith or in any way obscures the brilliance of the light in the minds of the faithful, to eradicate it completely and carefully to clear the Lord's field of noxious weeds and brambles. This holy synod therefore condemns and censures a certain book by master Augustine, commonly called "of Rome", archbishop of Nazareth. Its first treatise is entitled, "On the sacrament of the unity of Jesus Christ and the church, or on the whole Christ"; the second, "On Christ the head and his glorious sovereignty", another, "On the charity of Christ towards the elect and his infinite love". The holy synod condemns and censures the book as containing teaching that is unsound and erroneous in the faith, as well as its defenders.

The holy synod especially condemns and censures, in the book, the assertion which is scandalous, erroneous in the faith and offensive to the ears of the pious faithful, namely: Christ sins daily and has sinned daily from his very beginning, even though he avers that he does not understand this as of Christ our saviour, head of the church, but as referring to his members, which together with Christ the head form the one Christ, as he asserts. Also, the propositions, and ones similar to them, which the synod declares are contained in the articles condemned at the sacred council of Constance, namely the following. Not all the justified faithful are members of Christ, but only the elect, who finally will reign with Christ for ever. The members of Christ, from whom the church is constituted, are taken according to the ineffable foreknowledge of God; and the church is constituted only from those who are called according to his purpose of election. To be a member of Christ, it is not enough to be united with him in the bond of charity, some other union is needed. Also the following. The human nature in Christ is really Christ. The human nature in Christ is the person of Christ. The intimate cause that determines the human nature in Christ is not really distinguished from the nature that is determined. The human nature in Christ is without doubt the person of the Word; and the Word in Christ, once the nature has been assumed, is really the person who assumes. The human nature assumed by the Word in a personal union is truly God, natural and proper. Christ according to his created will loves the human nature united to the person of the Word as much as he loves the divine nature. Just as two persons in God are equally lovable, so the two natures in Christ, the human and the divine, are equally lovable on account of the common person. The soul of Christ sees God as clearly and intensely as God sees himself.

These propositions and others springing from the same root, which are to be found in the said book, this holy synod condemns and censures as erroneous in the faith. Lest it come to pass that any of the faithful fall into error on account of such teaching, the synod strictly forbids anyone to teach, preach, defend or approve the teaching of the said book, especially the aforesaid condemned and censured propositions, and its supporting treatises. It decrees that transgressors shall be punished as heretics and with other canonical penalties. By these measures the synod intends to detract in nothing from the sayings and writings of the holy doctors who discourse on these matters. On the contrary, it accepts and embraces them according to their true understanding as commonly expounded and declared by these doctors and other catholic teachers in the theological schools. Nor does the synod intend by this judgment to prejudice the person of the said author since, though duly summoned, he gave reasons for being absent, and in some of his writings and elsewhere he has submitted his teaching to the church's judgment. Further, this holy synod orders all archbishops, bishops, chancellors of universities and inquisitors of heresy, who are responsible in this matter, to ensure that nobody has the said book and supporting treatises or presumes to keep them with him, rather he shall consign them to these authorities, so that they may deal with them in accordance with the law: otherwise let such persons be proceeded against with canonical censures.

Session 23—26 March 1436

[On the election of the supreme pontiff]

The holy general synod of Basel, legitimately assembled in the holy Spirit, representing the universal church, for an everlasting record. Since a good shepherd is the salvation of his flock, it is the duty of this sacred synod to strive, with all the diligence that human law can contrive, that the Roman pontiff, who is first in the Lord's flock and the supreme shepherd, should be and continue to be such as to provide for the salvation of all souls and the benefit of the whole Christian world and to fulfil worthily so great an office. Therefore it renews the constitutions about the election of Roman pontiffs which sacred councils and supreme pontiffs have issued and it adds to them some further salutary norms. It decrees that whenever the apostolic see falls vacant, all the cardinals of the holy Roman church who are present in the place where the election of the supreme pontiff is to be held, shall meet together on the tenth day after the see becomes vacant in some chapel or place near the conclave. From there they shall process behind a cross, two by two, devoutly singing the Veni creator Spiritus, and enter the place of the conclave, each taking with him not more than two necessary attendants. In view of the ceremonies, two clerics may also be admitted, at least one of whom shall be a notary. The chamberlain together with the deputies for the custody of the conclave shall ensure that nobody, apart from the aforesaid persons, enters the conclave. After the cardinals have entered and the doors have been closed, the chamberlain shall enter with the deputies and carefully examine the cells of all the cardinals. He shall remove any food and edibles found there, except medicines of the sick and infirm. He shall ensure a careful guard whenever he leaves and closes the door, and each day he shall closely inspect the food being brought in for the cardinals and allow only what seems necessary for moderate refreshment, without prejudice to the decrees passed in the fourth and seventh sessions of this sacred council.

On the next day all the cardinals, in the presence of all those in the conclave, shall hear a mass of the holy Spirit and receive the eucharist. Before the voting begins, they shall swear before the holy gospels in these words: I, N. , cardinal of . . . , swear and promise to almighty God, Father, Son and holy Spirit, and to blessed Peter, prince of the apostles, that I shall elect as pontiff the person who I think will be beneficial to the universal church in both spiritual and temporal matters and suitable for so great a dignity; I shall not give my vote to anyone who I have reason to think is directly or indirectly aiming at getting himself elected, by his promising or giving some temporal thing or by asking in person or through another or in any other way whatsoever; and I shall not make obeisance to anyone elected as pontiff before he takes the oath prescribed by this council of Basel; so help me God, to whom on the day of tremendous judgment I shall have to give an account of this oath and all my deeds After this each cardinal shall submit a ballot-card, on which he shall nominate a maximum of three persons. If he nominates more than one person, the second and third persons shall be from outside the college of cardinals. There shall not be more than one ballot on any day and it shall be held immediately after the mass. When the ballot-cards have been read, they shall be burnt straightaway unless two-thirds of the votes are for the same person. No approach shall be made to anyone until six ballots have been completed. During this time let the cardinals reflect and seriously ponder how much merit or loss to themselves, how much fruit or damage to the Christian people, how much good or evil, they will be causing by their choice of a pontiff. There is nothing, indeed, by which they can more merit the grace or the wrath of our lord Jesus Christ than when they are setting his vicar over his sheep, which he loved so much as to suffer the torments of the cross and to die for them.

[On the profession of the supreme pontiff]

The holy synod decrees that the person elected as pope is obliged to express his consent to the election in the manner stated below. It is fitting that this consent should be made to the cardinals, if the person elected is present in the curia, or to one of the cardinals or someone mandated by them if he is not present there, in the presence of a notary and at least ten persons. After he has been informed of the election, he is bound to act within a day of the demand. If he does not do so, his election is annulled and the cardinals must proceed in the Lord's name to another election. But if he expresses his consent, as stated above, the cardinals shall straightaway make due obeisance to him as supreme pontiff. Once the obeisance has been made by the cardinals, nobody has any right to challenge his pontificate.

[Form of consent]

In the name of the holy and undivided Trinity, Father, Son and holy Spirit. I, N. , elected pope, with both heart and mouth confess and profess to almighty God, whose church I undertake with his assistance to govern, and to blessed Peter, prince of the apostles, that as long as I am in this fragile life I will firmly believe and hold the catholic faith, according to the tradition of the apostles, of general councils and of other holy fathers, especially of the eight holy universal councils — namely the first at Nicaea, the second at Constantinople, the third which was the first at Ephesus, the fourth at Chalcedon, the fifth and sixth at Constantinople, the seventh at Nicaea and the eighth at Constantinople — as well as of the general councils at the Lateran, Lyons, Vienne, Constance and Basel, and to preserve intact this faith unchanged to the last dot, and to defend and preach it to the point of death and the shedding of my blood, and likewise to follow and observe in every way the rite handed down of the ecclesiastical sacraments of the church. I promise also to labour faithfully for the defence of the catholic faith, the extirpation of heresies and errors, the reform of morals and the peace of the Christian people. I swear also to continue with the holding of general councils and the confirmation of elections in accordance with the decrees of the holy council of Basel. I have signed this profession with my own hand; I offer it on the altar with a sincere mind to you almighty God, to whom on the day of tremendous judgment I shall have to give an account of this and all my deeds; and I will repeat it at the first public consistory.

'So that this salutary institution may not fade from the supreme pontiff's memory with the passage of time, every year on the anniversary of his election or of his coronation, the first cardinal present shall, during mass, publicly and in a loud voice address the supreme pontiff thus: Most holy father, may your holiness heed and carefully ponder the promise which you made to God on the day of your election. He shall then read out the promise and shall continue as follows: May your holiness, therefore, for the honour of God, for the salvation of your soul and for the good of the universal church, strive to observe to your utmost all these things in good faith and without guile or fraud. Recall whose place it is that you hold on earth, namely of him who laid down his life for his sheep, who thrice asked the blessed Peter if he loved him, before he entrusted his sheep to him', and who, as the just judge whom nothing secret escapes, will exact from you an account of everything to the very last farthing. Remember what blessed Peter and his successors as pontiffs did: they thought only of the honour of God, the spread of the faith, the public good of the church and the salvation and benefit of the faithful; finally, imitating their master and Lord they did not hesitate to lay down their lives for the sheep entrusted to them. Do not lay up for yourself or your kinsfolk treasures on earth, where moth and rust consume and where thieves and robbers break in, but lay up for yourself treasure in heaven. Do not be an acceptor of persons or of blood-ties or of homeland or of nation. All people are children of God and have been equally entrusted to your care and safe-keeping. Say after the example of Christ: Whoever does the will of my Father in heaven, he is my brother and sister and mother. In distributing dignities and benefices put before yourself neither the flesh nor gifts nor anything temporal at all, but solely God and the virtues and merits of people. Exercise ecclesiastical discipline in correcting faults, mindful of what grace Phinehas merited and what punishment Eli, the one for avenging injuries to God, the other for pretending not to know them. Defend, help and support the poor and needy. Show a fatherly charity to all.

After the solemnities of his coronation, and each year after the anniversary of his election, the supreme pontiff shall carefully discuss with his brethren, for at least eight consecutive days, how he shall carry out his solemn promises to God. In the first place, therefore, he should examine where in the world the Christian religion is being persecuted by Turks, Saracens, Tartars and other infidels; where heresy or schism or any form of superstition flourishes, in which provinces there has been a decline in morals and observance of the divine precepts and in the right way of living, in both ecclesiastical and secular matters, where ecclesiastical liberty is infringed; among which kings, princes and peoples enmity, wars and fears of war are rife; and like a dutiful father he should strive with his brethren carefully to provide remedies.

When these affairs of an universal character have been settled, let him deal with those nearer at hand. Let him begin by reforming and ordering in an exemplary way his house, his household and the Roman curia, where and in so far as this is necessary, so that from the visible reform of the church which is the head of all others, lesser churches may draw purity of morals and no occasion may be given for calumny and malicious talk. Making diligent inquiry in person and through others about both important and lesser persons, he should allow no delay or pretence in correcting whatever is found in need of reform, remembering that the sin is twofold, the one being committed, the other and far more serious being its consequences. For whatever is done there is easily made into an example. That is why, if the head is sick, disease enters into the rest of the body. The papal household and court should be a kind of clear mirror, so that all who look at it form themselves and live according to its example. Thereafter let him banish and eradicate any traces of simony, filthy concubinage or whatever may offend God or scandalize people. He should take care that officials do not exercise their offices badly or oppress anybody or extort anything by threats or illegal means, and that those in charge of the officials do not let their excesses go unpunished. They should not tolerate clothes and colours which are forbidden by the sacred canons. Let him instruct the Roman clergy, who are chiefly and immediately subject to him, in all ecclesiastical decorum, admonishing them that God's approval depends not on the parade and splendour of clothes but on humility, docility, purity of mind, simplicity of heart, holiness of behaviour and the other virtues which commend their possessor to God and to people. Let him enact reforms especially so that the divine services may be observed in the churches of Rome with all seemly devotion and discipline. He should also instruct the people of Rome, which is his own parish, and direct them in the way of salvation. He should bid the cardinals to visit and reform their titular churches and parishes as befits their office. He should appoint some prelate of great learning and of proven and exemplary life as his vicar in the city, to take his place in the episcopal care of the clergy and people, and he should often inquire about whether he is fulfilling his task.

Next, let him reflect carefully with the same brethren on the good and wholesome administration of the temporalities of the Roman church and let him ensure that the provinces, cities, towns, castles and lands subject to the Roman church are justly and peacefully ruled with such moderation that the difference between government by ecclesiastics and by secular princes is like that between a father and a master. He should not aim at gain, but cherishing all with paternal charity he should esteem them not as subjects but as sons and daughters. Since he has charge of their spiritual and temporal well-being, he must watch to get rid of all factions and seditious groups — especially of Guelphs and Ghibellines and other similar parties — which breed destruction to both souls and bodies. He must strive, employing spiritual and temporal penalties of all possible kinds, to remove all causes of dissension and to keep people united for the defence of the church. To govern the provinces and chief cities, he should appoint cardinals or prelates of untarnished reputation who will seek not financial gain but justice and peace for their subjects. Their legation shall last for two, or at most three, years. When their legation has ended, since it is right that each one should give an account of his stewardship, one or more outstanding men shall be appointed to review their administration and to hear the complaints and petitions of the inhabitants and to render justice; these shall refer what they cannot easily effect to the pope, and he shall strive to find out what the former have done and to punish any illegal actions, so that their successors may learn from their example to avoid illegalities. Officials should be allotted a suitable salary on which they can live honestly, to prevent them turning their hand to what is illicit.

The supreme pontiff should often inquire how his legates, governors and commissars, as well as deputies and feudatories of the Roman church, rule their subjects and whether they oppress them with new taxes and exactions. He should not tolerate any austere measure or unjust burden being laid on his subjects' necks. For it would be wicked to allow those whom the pope should rule as a father to be treated tyrannically by others. He should ensure that statutes and ancient constitutions by which provinces and districts have been well governed in the past are kept intact. But if any have subsequently been issued unreasonably or from envy or partiality, they should be cancelled or altered when the reasons for doing so have been understood. Within a year from the day of his election, the Roman pontiff shall summon spokesmen and proctors of the provinces and chief cities of the Roman church and shall question them closely, with fatherly affection, about the following: the state and condition of their territories, how they were governed in the time of his predecessor, whether they are being oppressed by any unjust burden, and what should be done for their good government. Then let him apply to them as to sons remedies which will provide for their benefit and security and for the common good. He should not shrink from repeating this at least every two years. Among the other things that feudatories, captains, governors, senators, castellans and other high officials of Rome and of the lands of the church customarily swear to, there should be added at the time of their installation an oath that, when the papacy is vacant, they will hold their cities, lands, places, citadels, castles and peoples at the command of the cardinals, in the name of the Roman church, and that they will freely and without opposition hand them over to the same. Lest the supreme pontiff may seem to be influenced by carnal affection rather than by right reason, and to avoid the scandals that sad experience shows often arise, in future he shall not make or allow to be made anyone related to him by blood or affinity to the third degree inclusive a duke, marquis, count, feudatory, emphyteutic tenant, deputy, governor, official or castellan of any province, city, town, castle, fortress or place of the Roman church, nor give them any jurisdiction or power over them, nor appoint them captains or leaders of men under arms. The cardinals must never agree with a supreme pontiff attempting to act otherwise, and his successor as pontiff shall withdraw and revoke anything done in this way.

In accordance with the constitution of Pope Nicholas IV, the holy synod decrees that half of all fruits, revenues, proceeds, fines, penalties and taxes deriving from all the lands and places subject to the Roman church belongs to the cardinals of the holy Roman church, and that the institution and dismissal of all rulers and governors and guardians, howsoever they may be called, who are in charge of the aforesaid lands and places, and also of the collectors of the said fruits, should be made with the advice and agreement of the cardinals. The holy synod therefore admonishes the cardinals to protect the lands and subjects of the Roman church from harm and oppression and, mindful of their peace, safety and good government, to recommend them, if need be, to the supreme pontiff. While it is true that the supreme pontiff and the cardinals should give careful attention to all the territories of the Roman church, nevertheless the city of Rome should be at the centre of their concern. For there the holy bodies of blessed Peter and Paul and of innumerable martyrs and saints of Christ repose; there is the seat of the Roman pontiff, from which he and the Roman empire take their name; thither all Christians flock for the sake of devotion. They should feel for it a special love and affection, as being peculiarly their daughter and principal parish, so that it should be governed in peace, tranquillity and justice and should suffer no damage to its churches, walls and roads and the security of its streets. Hence this holy synod decrees that from the sum total of the income and proceeds of the city, an adequate portion shall be set aside for the preservation of the churches, walls, roads and bridges and the security of the streets in the city itself and the district; this money is to be administered by men of proven reputation who are to be chosen on the advice of the cardinals.

The supreme pontiff calls himself the servant of the servants of God; let him prove it in deeds. As long as people from all parts have recourse to him as to a common father, he should give them all easy access. Let him set aside at least one day in the week for a public audience, when he shall listen with patience and kindness to all, especially the poor and oppressed, and shall grant their prayers as much as he can with God's help, and shall assist all with kind advice and help as each one has need and as a father does for his children. If he is prevented by some bodily need, he shall entrust this task to some cardinal or other noteworthy person who will report everything to him, and he shall order all officials of the curia, especially the vice-chancellor, the penitentiary and the chamberlain, to expedite business for the poor with speed and free of charge, bearing in mind the apostolic charity of Peter and Paul, who pledged themselves to remember the poor . He should attend a public mass on Sundays and feast-days, and after it for a while he should give audience to the needy. He should hold a public consistory each week, or at least twice a month, to treat of the business of cathedral churches, monasteries, princes and universities and other important affairs. But he should refer lawsuits and lesser matters to the vice-chancellor. He should keep himself free of lawsuits and lesser business as far as he can, so as to be freer to attend to major issues. Since the cardinals of the holy Roman church are considered to be part of the body of the Roman pontiff, it is extremely expedient for the common good that, following ancient custom, serious and difficult questions should hereafter be settled on their advice and direction after mature deliberation, especially the following: decisions on matters of faith; canonizations of saints, erections, suppressions, divisions, subjections or unions of cathedral churches and monasteries; promotions of cardinals; confirmations and provisions relating to cathedral churches and monasteries; deprivations and translations of abbots, bishops and superiors; laws and constitutions; legations a latere or commissions or envoys and nuncios functioning with the authority of legates a latere; foundations of new religious orders; new exemptions for churches, monasteries and chapels, or the revocation of those already granted without prejudice to the decree of the holy council of Constance about not transferring prelates against their will.

[On the number and qualities of cardinals]

Since the cardinals of the holy Roman church assist the supreme pontiff in directing the Christian commonweal, it is essential that such persons be appointed as may be, like their name, real hinges on which the doors of the universal church move and are upheld. The sacred synod therefore decrees that henceforth their number shall be so adjusted that it is not a burden to the church which now, owing to the malice of the times, is afflicted by many serious inconveniences) or cheapened by being too large. They should be chosen from all the regions of Christianity, as far as this is convenient and possible, so that information on new things in the church may be more easily available for mature consideration. They should not exceed twenty-four in number, including the present cardinals. Not more than a third of them at any given time shall be from one nation, not more than one from any city or diocese. None shall be chosen from that nation which now has more than a third of them, until its share has been reduced to a third. They should be men outstanding in knowledge, good conduct and practical experience, at least thirty years old, and masters, doctors or licentiates who have been examined in divine or human law. At least a third or a quarter of them should be masters or licentiates in holy scripture. A very few of them may be sons, brothers or nephews of kings or great princes; for them an appropriate education will suffice, on account of their experience and maturity of behaviour.

Nephews of the Roman pontiff, related to him through his brother or sister, or of any living cardinal shall not be made cardinals; nor shall bastards or the physically handicapped or those stained by a reputation of crime or infamy. There can, however, be added to the aforesaid twenty-four cardinals, on account of some great necessity or benefit for the church, two others who are outstanding in their sanctity of life and excellence of virtues, even if they do not possess the above-mentioned degrees, and some distinguished men from the Greeks, when they are united to the Roman church. The election of cardinals shall not be made by oral votes alone, rather only those shall be chosen who, after a genuine and publicized ballot, obtain the collegial agreement, signed with their own hands, of the majority of the cardinals. For this purpose let an apostolic letter be drawn up with the signatures of the cardinals. The decree of this sacred council beginning Also since the multiplication of cardinals, etc., which was published in the fourth session, is to remain in force. When cardinals receive the insignia of their dignity, whose meaning is readiness to shed their blood if necessary for the good of the church, they shall take the following oath in a public consistory, if they are in the curia, or publicly in the hands of some bishop commissioned for this purpose by an apostolic letter containing the oath, if they are not in the curia.

I,N., recently chosen as a cardinal of the holy Roman church, from this hour henceforward will be faithful to blessed Peter, to the universal and Roman church and to the supreme pontiff and his canonically elected successors. I will labour faithfully for the defence of the catholic faith, the eradication of heresies errors and schisms, the reform of morals and the peace of the Christian people. I will not consent to alienations of property or goods of the Roman church or of other churches or of any benefices, except in cases allowed by law, and I will strive to the best of my ability for the restoration of those alienated from the Roman church. I will give neither advice nor my signature to the supreme pontiff except for what is according to God and my conscience. I will faithfully carry out whatever I am commissioned to do by the apostolic see. I will maintain divine worship in the church of my title and will preserve its goods: so help me God.

For the preservation of the titular churches of the cardinals, some of which have sadly deteriorated both in divine worship and in their buildings, to the shame of the apostolic see and of the cardinals themselves, this holy synod decrees that from the revenues and incomes of the territories of the Roman church — half of which belongs to the cardinals in accordance with the constitution of Pope Nicholas, as was said above — a tenth of what each cardinal receives shall be applied each year to his titular church. Moreover, each cardinal shall leave to his titular church, either in his lifetime or at his death, enough for the upkeep of one person. If he fails to do so, regarding both this and the said tenth, all his goods shall be sequestrated until due satisfaction has been made. We place the burden of carrying this out on the first cardinal of the order in which he died. Each cardinal present in the curia should make an annual visitation of his titular church in person; each one not present should make it through a suitable deputy. He should also inquire carefully concerning the clergy and the people of his dependent churches, and make useful provision with regard to the divine worship and the goods of these churches as well as the life and conduct of the clergy and parishioners, about whom, since they are his sheep, he will have to render an account at the severe judgment of God. As regards the time of the visitation and other things, let him observe what is laid down in our decree on synodal councils.

Although both the dignity itself and the cardinal's own promise urge him to toil at the holy tasks just mentioned, yet results will be greater if the tasks are spread among individuals. Therefore cardinal-bishops shall inquire about what regions are infected with new or old heresies, errors and superstitions; cardinal-priests shall inquire about where conduct, observance of the divine commandments and ecclesiastical discipline are lax; cardinal-deacons shall inquire about which kings, princes and peoples are troubled by actual or possible wars. Like busy bees, both with the supreme pontiff and among themselves, they should promote these holy works with diligence and in detail, striving to provide a remedy where this is needed. The supreme pontiff for his part, as the common father and pastor of all, should have investigations made everywhere not only when requested to do so but also on his own initiative and he should apply salutary medicines, as best he can, for all the illnesses of his children. If the cardinals ever notice that a pope is negligent or remiss or acting in a way unbefitting his state, though may this never happen, with filial reverence and charity they shall beg him as their father to live up to his pastoral office, his good name and his duty. First, let one or some of them warn him that if he does not desist they will delate him to the next general council, and if he does not amend they shall all do this as a college together with some notable prelates. For the well-being of the supreme pontiff and the common good they should not fear the hostility of the supreme pontiff himself or anything else, provided they act with reverence and charity. Much more so, if it comes to the pope's notice that some cardinal is acting wrongly and reprehensibly, he should correct him, always with paternal charity and according to evangelical teaching. Thus, acting in charity towards each other, one to another, a father to his sons and sons to their father, let them direct the church with exemplary and salutary government.

Let the cardinals both publicly and privately treat with kindness and respect prelates and all others, especially distinguished persons who come to the Roman curia, and let them present their business to the supreme pontiff freely and graciously. Since the cardinals assist him who is the common father of all, it is very unseemly for them to become acceptors of persons or advocates. Hence this holy synod forbids them to exercise any favouritism as collateral judges, even if they take their origin from a favoured region. Neither should they be biased protectors or defenders of princes or communities or others against anyone, whether paid or unpaid, but putting aside all sentiment let them assist the pope in pacifying quarrels with harmony and justice. The holy synod urges and commends them to promote the just business of princes and anybody else, especially religious and the poor, without charge and without seeking reward, as an act of charity. Let them preserve with readiness and kindness the gravity and modesty that befits their dignity. Let them maintain towards all people godliness which, according to the Apostle, is profitable in every way. Although they should not neglect their kinsfolk, especially if they are deserving and poor, they should not load them with a mass of goods and benefices to the scandal of others. Let them beware of pouring out on flesh and blood, beyond the bounds of necessity, goods coming from the churches. If the pontiff notices such strutting among the great, he should reprimand and object, as is fitting, and he will be blameworthy if he fails to correct, in keeping with his office, whatever needs correction.

The household, table, furniture and horses of both pope and cardinals should not be open to blame as regards quantity, state, display or any other excess. The house and its contents should be on a moderate scale, a model of frugality and not a source of scandal. Both the supreme pontiff and the cardinals, as well as other bishops, should strive to observe the constitution of blessed Gregory which was published at a general synod and which this holy synod now renews the sense of which is as follows: Though the life of a pastor should be an example to disciples, the clergy for the most part do not know the private life-style of their pontiff, even though secular youths know it; we therefore declare by this present decree that certain clerics and even monks should be selected to minister in the pontifical chamber, so that he who is in the seat of government may have witnesses who will observe his true private behaviour and will draw an example of progress from this regular sight.

Let them also pay attention to the words of Pope Paschal: "Let bishops spend their time in reading and prayer and always have with them priests and deacons and other clerics of good reputation, so that, following the Apostle and the instructions of holy fathers, they may be found without blame."3 It does not profit the commonweal for cases other than those concerning elections to cathedral churches or monasteries, or princes or universities or similar matters, to be assigned by the pope or the chancery to cardinals, since they should devote themselves to the greater problems of the universal church. Lesser cases, therefore, should be sent to the court of the Rota, which was instituted for this purpose. Neither the pope nor cardinals should in future send their officials to prelates who have been confirmed or provided, as it were to accept gifts, lest they allow others to do what is unfitting for themselves to do. Something that has happened in the past — namely a sum of money or something else is subtracted from the goods of a dead cardinal, as a charge for the ring given to him on the assignment of his titular church — is not to occur in the future, since the labours of cardinals for the commonweal merit rather obsequies from public funds, if they are poor.

[On elections]

Already this holy synod, with its abolition of the general reservation of all elective churches and dignities, has wisely decreed that provision should be made for them by canonical elections and confirmations. It wishes also to forbid special and particular reservations of elective churches and dignities, whereby free elections and confirmations can be prevented; and to ensure that the Roman pontiff will attempt nothing against this decree, except for an important, persuasive and clear reason, which should be expressed in detail in an apostolic letter. However, much has been done against the intention of this decree and without the required reason, resulting in serious scandals already and the likelihood of even more serious ones in the future. This holy synod wishes to prevent this and does not want the purpose of the decree, which was to remove every obstacle to canonical elections and confirmations, to be deprived of its effect. It therefore decrees that elections should assuredly be held in the said churches without any impediment or obstacle and that, after they have been examined in accordance with common law and the dispositions of our decree, they shall be confirmed. However, if perhaps on occasion it should happen that an election is made which in other respects is canonical but which, it is feared, will lead to trouble for the church or the country or the common good, the supreme pontiff, when the election is referred to him for confirmation, if he is convinced that there exists such a most pressing reason, after mature discussion and then with the signed votes of the cardinals of the Roman church or the majority of them declaring that the reason is true and sufficient, may reject the election and refer it back to the chapter or convent for them to institute another election, from which such consequences are not to be feared, within the legal time or otherwise according to the distance of the place.

[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.

Introduction and translation taken from Decrees of the Ecumenical Councils, ed. Norman P. Tanner