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Pope Eugene IV (1383 – February 23, 1447), born Gabriele Condulmer, was Pope from March 3, 1431, to his death.


He was born in Venicemarker to a rich merchant family, a Correr on his mother's side. Condulmer entered the Order of Saint Augustine at the monastery of St. George in his native city. At the age of twenty-four he was appointed by his uncle Pope Gregory XII (1406–15), as Bishop of Siena, and came into prominence. In Siena, the political class objected to a 24-year old bishop who was a foreigner. Therefore, the issue was not pressed, and he resigned the appointment, becoming instead his uncle's papal treasurer, protonotary and Cardinal Priest of San Clementemarker. Pope Martin V named him Cardinal Priest of Basilica di Santa Maria in Trasteveremarker.

He made himself useful to Pope Martin V (1417–31) and was quickly elected to succeed him. Eugene was crowned as Eugene IV at St. Peter'smarker, March 11, 1431. By a written agreement made before his election he agreed with the cardinals to distribute to them one-half of all the revenues of the Church and promised to consult with them on all questions of importance, both spiritual and temporal. Upon taking the Papal Chair, Eugene IV took violent measures against the numerous Colonna relations of his predecessor, Pope Martin V (Ottone Colonna), who had rewarded his numerous clan with castles and lands. This at once involved him in a serious contest with the powerful house of Colonna that nominally supported the local rights of Romemarker against the interests of the Papacy. A truce was soon arranged.

Conciliar reform

But by far the most important feature of Eugene IV's pontificate was the great struggle between the Pope and the Council of Basel, commonly referred to as the Council of Florence, (1431–39), part of the historic Conciliar movement. On July 23, 1431, his legate, Giuliano Cesarini, opened the council, which had been convoked by Martin V, but, distrustful of its purposes and emboldened by the small attendance, the pope issued a bull on December 18, 1431, dissolving the council and calling a new one to meet in eighteen months at Bolognamarker. The council resisted this premature expression of papal prerogative, as it appeared to the majority of them. Eugene IV's action gave some weight to the contention that the Curia was opposed to any authentic measures of reform. The council refused to dissolve; instead they renewed the resolutions by which the Council of Constancemarker had declared a council superior to the Pope, and cited Eugene IV to appear at Basel. A compromise was arranged by Sigismund, Holy Roman Emperor, who had been crowned emperor at Rome on May 31, 1433. By its terms the Pope recalled his bull of dissolution, and, reserving all the rights of the Holy See, acknowledged the council as ecumenical (December 15, 1433). The pope agreed to name presidents to lead the council on his behalf.

These concessions also were due to the invasion of the Papal Statesmarker by the former Papal condottiero Niccolò Fortebraccio and the troops of Filippo Maria Visconti led by Niccolò Piccinino, in retaliation to Eugene's support to Florence and Venice against Milan (see also Wars in Lombardy). This situation led also to establishment of an insurrectionary republic at Rome, controlled by the Colonna family. In early June, disguised in the robes of a Benedictine monk, he was rowed down the center of the Tiber, pelted by stones from either bank, to a Florentinemarker vessel waiting to pick him up at Ostiamarker. The city was restored to obedience by Giovanni Vitelleschi, the militant Bishop of Recanatimarker, in the following October. In August of 1435 a peace treaty was signed at Ferrara by the various belligerents. The Pope moved to Bolognamarker in April of 1436. His condottieri Francesco Sforza and Vitelleschi in the meantime reconquered much of the Papal States. Traditional papal enemies such as the Prefetti di Vico were destroyed, while the Colonna were reduced to obedience after the destruction of their stronghold in Palestrinamarker (August, 1436).

Meanwhile the struggle with the council sitting at Basel broke out anew. Eugene IV at length convened a rival council at Ferraramarker on January 8, 1438, and excommunicated the prelates assembled at Basel. The result was that the Council of Basel suspended him on January 24, 1438, then formally deposed him as a heretic on June 25, 1439, and in the following November elected the ambitious Amadeus VIII, Duke of Savoy, antipope under the name of Felix V. The conduct of Francemarker and Germanymarker seemed to warrant this action, for Charles VII of France had introduced the decrees of the Council of Basel, with slight changes, into France through the Pragmatic Sanction of Bourges (July 7, 1438), and the Diet of Mainz had deprived the Pope of most of his rights in the Empire (March 26, 1439).

At Florence, where the council of Ferrara had been transferred on account of an outbreak of the plague, a union with the Eastern Orthodox Church was effected in July, 1439, which, as the result of political necessities, proved but a temporary bolster to the papacy's prestige.

This union was followed by others of even less stability. Eugene IV signed an agreement with the Armeniansmarker on November 22, 1439, and with a part of the Jacobites in 1443, and in 1445 he received the Nestorians and the Maronites. He did his best to stem the Turkish advance, pledging one-fifth of the papal income to the crusade which set out in 1443, but which met with overwhelming defeat at Varna. Cardinal Cesarini, the papal legate, perished in the rout.

His rival, Felix V, meanwhile, obtained small recognition, even in the Empire. Eventually Frederick III, king of the Romans, moved toward acceptance of Eugene. The king's ablest adviser, the humanist Aeneas Sylvius Piccolomini, who was later to be Pope Pius II, made peace with Eugene IV in 1442. The Pope's recognition of the claim to Naplesmarker of King Alfonso V of Aragon (treaty of Terracinamarker, signed by Eugene at Siena somewhat later) withdrew the last important support from the council of Basel. In 1442 Eugene, Alfonso and Visconti sent Niccolò Piccinino to reconquer the March of Anconamarker from Francesco Sforza, but the defeat of the allied army at the Montolmo pushed the Pope to reconcile with Sforza.

So enabled, Eugene IV made a victorious entry into Rome on 28 September 1443, after an exile of nearly ten years.

His protests against the Pragmatic Sanction of Bourges were ineffectual, but by means of the Concordat of the Princes, negotiated by Piccolomini with the electors in February, 1447, the whole of Germanymarker declared against the antipope. This agreement was finalized only after Eugene's death.


Christianity had gained many converts in the Canary Islandsmarker by the early 1430s however the ownership of the lands had been the subject of dispute between Portugalmarker and the Kingdom of Castille. The lack of effective control had resulted in periodic raids on the islands to procure slaves. Pope Eugene IV was concerned that the enslavement of newly baptized Christians would impede the spread of Christianity and therefore issued a Papal Bull, "Creator Omnium", on 17 December 1434.

Eugene excommunicated anyone who enslaved newly converted Christians but no protection was offered to those who declined to become a Christian. Historian Richard Raiswell sees this as a significant turning point because prior to this Canon Law had only sanctioned slavery in the context of a just war and un-baptized captives, but with the issuing of this bull the only protection offered was if the person became a Christian.

Portuguese soldiers continued to raid the islands during 1435 and Eugene issued a further edict Sicut Dudum that prohibited wars being waged against the islands and affirming the ban on enslavement. Eugene condemned the enslavement of the peoples of the newly colonized Canary Islands and, under pain of excommunication, ordered all such slaves to be immediately set free. Joel S Panzer (2008) views "Sicut Dudum" as a significant condemnation of slavery, issued sixty-years before the Europeans found the New World. The prohibitions and ecclesiastical sanctions of Sicut Dudum related to the newly converted. Eugene tempered "Sicut Dudum" with another bull (15 September 1436) due to the complaints made by King Duarte of Portugal, now allowing the Portuguese to conquer any unconverted parts of the Canary Islands. According to Raiswell (1997) any Christian would be protected by the earlier edict but the un-baptized were implicitly allowed to be enslaved. Luis N. Rivera (1992) argues that Eugenes subsequent bull assumes that all Africans are pagans or Saracens and are therefore "enemies of God", language that Nicholas V would reflect later in Romanus Pontifex in which the same groups are described as "enemies of Christ", that they should be reduced to "perpetual servitude" and therefore the black slave market begins with Papal blessing.

Following the arrival of the first African slaves in Lisbon during 1441 Prince Henry asked Eugene to designate Portugal's raids along the West African coast as a crusade, a consequence of which would be the legitimization of enslavement for captives taken during the crusade. On 19 December 1442 Eugene replied by issuing "Illius qui" in which he granted full remission of sins to those who took part in any expeditions against the Saracens. Davidson (1961) asserts that "In Christianity as in Islam...the heathen was expendable.

Richard Raiswell argues that the bulls of Eugene helped in some way the development of thought which perceived the enslavement of Africans by the Portuguese and later Europeans "as dealing a blow for Christendom".

Death and legacy

Although his pontificate had been so stormy and unhappy that he is said to have regretted on his deathbed that he ever left his monastery, nevertheless Eugene IV's victory over the council of Basel and his efforts on behalf of church unity contributed greatly to the breakdown of the conciliar movement and restore the papacy to the dominant position it had held before the Western Schism (1378–1417).

Eugene IV was dignified in demeanour, but inexperienced and vacillating in action and excitable in temper. Bitter in his hatred of heresy, he nevertheless displayed great kindness to the poor. He laboured to reform the monastic orders, especially the Franciscans, and was never guilty of nepotism. Although austere in his private life, he was a sincere friend of art and learning, and in 1431 he re-established the university at Rome. Eugene was buried at Saint Peter's by the tomb of Pope Eugene III, the former pupil of Bernard of Clairvaux. Later his tomb was transferred in San Salvatore in Lauromarker-a parish church on the other bank of the Tiber river.


  • "The Historical Encyclopedia of World slavery",Contributor Richard Raiswell, Editor Junius P. Rodriguez, ABC-CLIO, 1997, ISBN 0874368855
  • "Christopher Columbus and the enslavement of the Amerindians in the Caribbean. (Columbus and the New World Order 1492-1992).", Sued-Badillo, Jalil, Monthly Review. Monthly Review Foundation, Inc. 1992. HighBeam Research. 10 Aug. 2009
  • "Development or Reversal?", Cardinal Avery Cardinal Dulles, S.J., First Things Magazine, October 2005[7946]
  • "The Popes and Slavery", Father Joel S Panzer, The Church In History Centre, 22 April 2008[7947], retrieved 9 August 2009
  • "A violent evangelism", Luis N. Rivera, Luis Rivera Pagán[7948], Westminster John Knox Press, 1992, ISBN 0664253679
  • "The African Slave Trade", Basil Davidson, James Currey Publishers, 1961, ISBN 0852557981



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