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THREEFOLD PAPAL SCHISM

Though both of the Popes had been invited, neither appeared. Thereupon the Council conferred upon itself the authority it lacked, so that Gerson and d'Ailly crowned their theory with victory. The assembly deposed both Popes and chose the archbishop of Milan, who had been born in Greece, as Alexander V. He closed the Council of Pisa and postponed the reform for which the countries were clamouring until such time as another Council could convene. The rightful cardinals lent him their support and the greater part of the Church followed suit, but unity of obedience was so far from being established that matters were now worse than before. After Alexander suddenly died, the man who had dominated him and the Council completed, as John XXIII (1410–1415), what one chronicler termed "the accursed trinity of the Papacy." This unscrupulous and lucky Neapolitan was far more suited to the role of a criminal than to that of a Pope (after him no other Pontiff took the name of John) and the number of those who ardently desired a great council of reform increased.

 

It was to prove a boon to the Papacy that there still existed an Imperial authority which had not abandoned the idea that part of its function was to exercise a protectorate over the Church. After a three-fold Imperial schism, Sigismund became master of Germany in 1410 and could deal with the monstrous apparition of a three-fold schism in the Papacy. The hopes of the tottering Church rested on him alone. With energy and diplomacy he brought about the Council of Constance. This was a European congress of spiritual and temporal leaders, and means more in the history of the Papacy than merely an attempt to end the schism through arbitration. The Council attempted to undermine the absolutism of the Papal universal monarchy by emphasizing the democratic and national elements in the constitution of the Church. Nevertheless the monarchical system was not surmounted either during the debates of the four years during which the Council remained in session, or during the eighteen years which the Council of Basel consumed. Nevertheless the nations strengthened in the political as well as in the spiritual sense their desire for self-determination. The deepest reason for this outcome, which cannot at all be ascribed to a great Papal personality (for no such personality appeared during these two decades), must be seen