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The Catholic Historical Review 89.4 (2003) 771-773

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Der Traktat des Antonio Roselli "De Conciliis ac Synodis Generalibus." Historisch-kanonistische Darstellung und Bewertung. By Thomas A. Weitz. [Konziliengeschichte. Reihe B: Untersuchungen.] (Paderborn: Ferdinand Schöningh. 2002. Pp. xli, 463. €67.40.)

Antonio Roselli (ca. 1380-1466) as shown in this study was a man of some unusual characteristics. He had a career at the papal curia, but when he composed [End Page 771] his major tracts that are at the heart of this book, he wrote as an advocate of the rights and powers of the emperor. He wrote also as a member of that generation who came during or after the relative successes of the Council of Constance, the problems of the Council of Basel, and the open break in the Latin Church between the papacy and the council resulting in a polarized Church, and finally the limited success at Ferrara-Florence in unification between the Latin Western Church and the Greek and Eastern Churches while the Eastern Roman Empire was disappearing from history. His major writings were De potestate imperatoris ac pape (first draft in 1438) and a later Monarchia. He taught at various places until 1461, when he was almost eighty, and finally died in December, 1466, leaving behind a variety of writings and a complex problem of the textual history and relationship between some of these works, which Weitz attempts to resolve and explain, but the major thrust of the book is in the title, the emphasis on Roselli's views on the authority of councils and synods.

For Roselli the starting point was that God had decreed that human society should be ruled by one, i.e., Roselli's monarchist view on both civil and ecclesiastical society. Since he was influenced by Dante and dedicated his Monarchia to Emperor Frederick III, this should hardly be surprising. Thus imperial authority is directly from God and modeled after the hierarchy in heaven. When Roselli then treats the policies and actions of the papacy and the papalist writings, he is willing to assert that papal striving for universal rule could be judged as heresy since it went against the divine order of things. Not surprisingly, Roselli's Monarchia, like Dante's, would end up on the Index after his death.

The major portion of this study considers the question of Roselli's lifetime: the authority and role of the general council in the Church, which he addressed in his De conciliis dedicated to the Doge of Venice. Roselli defined a council, gave the causes when a council should/could be summoned, and by whom. This led him, as it did many of the canonists and theologians of those generations, to ask major 'what if' questions. What if a major crisis was evolving and the pope who should convoke a council would not summon it? What if the reason a council was needed was precisely the reigning pope or papal claimants? For those of us living centuries later when a quite different consensus seems to have won the field, it is important to recall that for the writers of that era as for generations of their predecessors in earlier centuries, it was taken for granted that a pope could have become a heretic or a pope could have become schismatic and separated himself from the Church, the People of God, and so there had to be remedies proposed, discussed, critiqued, and defended in any discussion on the Church, the papacy, and the general council. In this extensive treatment Roselli stands as a good example of what were the assumptions and the parameters within which the canonists and theologians of the medieval and late medieval Church theorized and debated.

Weitz discusses the differences and nuances in Roselli's views as well as his links to earlier writers (de Butrio, Zabarella, Ancharano), and then shows how others of Roselli's generation differed from him in their responses to the questions [End Page 772] that Roselli considered. There were endless details to...


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