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  • Das Basler Konzil. Synodale Praxis zwischen Routine und Revolution
  • Götz-Rüdiger Tewes
Das Basler Konzil. Synodale Praxis zwischen Routine und Revolution. By Stefan Sudmann. [Tradition—Reform—Innovation, Band 8.] (Frankfurt/ Main: Peter Lang. 2005. Pp. 508. $88.95. ISBN 3-631-54266-6.)

Despite a series of excellent modern studies on the Council of Basel Lausanne (1431–49), there are still a lot of fields to cultivate. Members and their networks, theological treatises, discussions and conceptions are well studied. But the Council of Basel as collective corporation and its daily work are now analyzed for the first time by Sudmann. The topic is more than relevant because the practical business favored the conflict with the pope and finally the schism between them. In becoming a high ecclesiastical court, this council seemed to become a second caput ecclesiae—even in the years of co-operation with Pope Eugenius IV. The major concerns of the council formed the structure of the research: pax, fides, and reformatio.

Church reform attracted contemporaries and scholars, but as far as it concerned the reformatio in membris it did not create crucial points between pope and council. Therefore, rigid decrees like those on Jews and concubines could be received by many regional synods; clerical reforms did not depend on the decisions of a council. However, a reform in capite—especially when the council published a plenary indulgence and claimed the right to grant it or when it passed a decree on the annates that undermined papal finances and by this means papal power—could not be accepted by the pope. It is astonishing that the author treated the first topic on thirty-three pages, the second, however, on not more than three pages, trying to diminish its significance by treating it as a compromise and final product of the general debate on simony which should include the whole clergy.

In the field of the causae fidei the Council of Basel was able to register a great success with its decree on the immaculata conceptio that was favored all over Europe and as well by papalists and—not as a decree but substantially—by popes like the Franciscan Sixtus IV. Even singular acts of canonization or judgments of heretics must not have been in opposition to papal politics, but the entire conciliar administration neglected the plenitudo potestatis of the pope. [End Page 349]

As Sudmann could detect in the field of pax, the Council of Basel was not only very busy, but it produced even a new system. While the Roman Court practiced a system of pax et iusticia, the conciliar court of Basel and Lausanne created a system of pax aut iusticia, that led to two different, distinct ways of treating juridical proceedings: the primary being the via pacis with deputies sent by the council in partibus, and the secondary the via iusticie as a legal procedure in Basel or Lausanne.

The reason why the Council of Basel, acting in the fields of pax and fides, provoked a rivalry with Rome and the pope's fierce resistance was according to the author its acting as a corporation. In this way, not with treatises by singular conciliarists, it formed an ecclesiastical monarchy that threatened the papacy, above all when it prepared (as a result of its ideal of peace) to become a concilium perpetuum. [End Page 350]

Götz-Rüdiger Tewes
University of Cologne


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