Open main menu
This page has been proofread, but needs to be validated.

1528 to 1531), while the historical museum (in the old Franciscan church) contains many treasures, and among them the fragments of the famous Dance of Death, wrongly attributed to Holbein. The university (founded by Pius II. in 1460) is the oldest in Switzerland, and of late years has been extended by the construction of detached buildings for the study of the natural sciences, e.g. the Vesalianum and the Bernoullianum. The university library is very rich, and contains the original MSS. of the acts of the great oecumenical council. There are a number of modern monuments in the city, the most important being that set up to the memory of the Swiss who fell in the battle of St Jakob (1444), won by the French. Basel is the seat of the chief missionary society in Switzerland, the training school for missionaries being at St Chrischona, 6 m. out of the city.

The town was founded in A.D. 374 by the emperor Valentinian, from whose residence there it takes its name. In the 5th century the bishop of Augusta Rauricorum (now called Kaiser Augst), 7½ m. to the east, moved his see thither. Henceforth the history of the city is that of the growing power, spiritual and temporal, of the bishops, whose secular influence was gradually supplanted in the 14th century by the advance of the rival power of the burghers. In 1356 the city was nearly destroyed by a great earthquake. After long swaying between the neighbouring Rhine cities and the Swiss Confederation, it was admitted into the latter in 1501. It later became one of the chief centres of the Reformation movement in Switzerland, so that the bishop retired in 1525 to Porrentruy, where he resided till 1792, finally settling at Soleure in 1828, the bishopric having been wholly reorganized since 1814. As in other Swiss towns the trade gilds got all political power into their hands, especially by the 18th century. They naturally favoured the city at the expense of the rural districts, so that in 1832 the latter proclaimed their independence, and in 1833 were organized into the half canton of Basel Landschaft, the city forming that of Basel Stadt.

See Basler Biographien (3 vols., 1900-1905); Basler Chroniken (original chronicles), (5 vols., Leipzig, 1872-1890); H. Boos, Geschichte von Basel, vol. i. (to 1501) alone published (1877); A. Burckhardt, Bilder aus d. Geschichte von Basel (3 vols., 1869-1882); Festschrift z. 400ten Jahrestage d. ewig. Bundes zwisch. B. und den Eidgenossen (1901); T. Geering, Handel und Industrie d. Stadt Basel (1885); A. Heusler, Verfassungsgeschichte d. Stadt Basel im Mittelalter (1860), and Rechtsquellen von Basel (2 vols., 1856-1865); L. A. Stocker, Basler Stadtbilder (1890); L. Stouff, Pouvoir temporel des évêques de Bâle (2 vols., Paris, 1891); R. Thommen, Gesch. d. Universität B., 1532-1632 (1889); Urkundenbuch d. Landschaft B. (pub. from 1881), and ditto for the city (pub. from 1890); W. Vischer, Gesch. d. Universität B., 1460-1529 (1860); R. Wackernagel, Gesch. d. Stadt Basel (3 vols., 1906 sqq.); K. Weber, Die Revolution im Kanton Basel, 1830-1833 (1907); G. Gautherot, La République rauracienne (1908).

 (W. A. B. C.) 

BASEL, CONFESSION OF, one of the many statements of faith produced by the Reformation. It was put out in 1534 and must be distinguished from the First and Second Helvetic Confessions, its author being Oswald Myconius, who based it on a shorter confession promulgated by Oecolampadius, his predecessor in the church at Basel. Though it was an attempt to bring into line with the reforming party both those who still inclined to the old faith and the anabaptist section, its publication provoked a good deal of controversy, especially on its statements concerning the Eucharist, and the people of Strassburg even reproached those of Basel with celebrating a Christless supper. Up to the year 1826 the Confession (sometimes also known as the Confession of Mühlhausen from its adoption by that town) was publicly read from the pulpits of Basel on the Wednesday of Passion week in each year. In 1872 a resolution of the great council of the city practically annulled it.

BASEL, COUNCIL OF. A decree of the council of Constance (9th of October 1417) sanctioned by Martin V. had obliged the papacy periodically to summon general councils. At the expiry of the first term fixed by this decree, Martin V. did, in fact, call together at Pavia a council, which it was necessary to transfer almost at once to Siena, owing to an epidemic, and which had to be dissolved owing to circumstances still imperfectly known, just as it was beginning to discuss the subject of reform (1424). The next council was due to assemble at the expiry of seven years, i.e. in 1431; with his usual punctuality, Martin V. duly convoked it for this date to the town of Basel, and selected to preside over it the cardinal Julian Cesarini, a man of the greatest worth, both intellectually and morally. Martin himself, however, died before the opening of the synod.

From Italy, France and Germany the fathers were slow in appearing at Basel. Cesarini devoted all his energies to the war against the Hussites, until the disaster of Taus forced him hastily to evacuate Bohemia. The progress of heresy, the reported troubles in Germany, the war which had lately broken out between the dukes of Austria and Burgundy, and finally, the small number of fathers who had responded to the summons of Martin V., caused that pontiff's successor, Eugenius IV., to think that the synod of Basel was doomed to certain failure. This opinion, added to the desire which he had of himself presiding over the council, induced him to recall the fathers from Germany, whither his health, impaired of late, probably owing to a cerebral congestion, rendered it all the more difficult for him to go. He commanded the fathers to disperse, and appointed Bologna as their meeting-place in eighteen months' time, his intention being to make the session of the council coincide with some conferences with representatives of the Greek church, which were to be held there with a view to union (18th December 1431).

This order led to an outcry among the fathers of Basel and incurred the deep disapproval of the legate Cesarini. The Hussites, it was said, would think that the Church was afraid to face them; the laity would accuse the clergy of shirking reform; in short, this failure of the councils would produce disastrous effects. In vain did the pope explain his reasons and yield certain points; the fathers would listen to nothing, and, relying on the decrees of the council of Constance, which amid the troubles of the schism had proclaimed the superiority, in certain cases, of the council over the pope, they insisted upon their right of remaining assembled, hastily beat up the laggards, held sessions, promulgated decrees, interfered in the government of the papal countship of Venaissin, treated with the Hussites, and, as representatives of the universal Church, presumed to impose laws upon the sovereign pontiff himself. Eugenius IV. resolved to resist this supremacy, though he did not dare openly to repudiate a very widespread doctrine considered by many to be the actual foundation of the authority of the popes before the schism. However, he soon realized the impossibility of treating the fathers of Basel as ordinary rebels, and tried a compromise; but as time went on, the fathers became more and more intractable, and between him and them gradually arose an impassable barrier.

Abandoned by a number of his cardinals, condemned by most of the powers, deprived of his dominions by condottieri who shamelessly invoked the authority of the council, the pope made concession after concession, and ended on the 15th of December 1433 by a pitiable surrender of all the points at issue in a bull, the terms of which were dictated by the fathers of Basel, that is, by declaring his bull of dissolution null and void, and recognizing that the synod had not ceased to be legitimately assembled. It would be wrong, however, to believe that Eugenius IV. ratified all the decrees coming from Basel, or that he made a definite submission to the supremacy of the council. No express pronouncement on this subject could be wrung from him, and his enforced silence concealed the secret design of safeguarding the principle of sovereignty.

The fathers, who were filled with suspicion, would only allow the legates of the pope to preside over them on condition of their recognizing the superiority of the council; the legates ended by submitting to this humiliating formality, but in their own name only, thus reserving the judgment of the Holy See. Nay more, the difficulties of all kinds against which Eugenius had to contend, the insurrection at Rome, which forced him to escape by the Tiber, lying in the bottom of a boat, left him at first little chance of resisting the enterprises of the council. Emboldened by their success, the fathers approached the subject of reform, their principal object being to curtail the power and resources of the papacy. This is why, besides the disciplinary