Martin V

(Oddone Colonna, 1368-1431; pope from 1417)
   A member of a powerful family of the Roman aristocracy, Colonna was elected pope by the Council of Constance (1414-1418) in order to end the Western Schism which since 1378 had divided Latin Chris-tendom between allegiance to two, and for a time three, popes. His election represented a triumph for the principle of Conciliarism, the theory that a general council, not the pope, was the ultimate authority in the church, and before his election Martin had to pledge to under-take reform of the church and to commit himself to summon periodic church councils which would have limited the autocratic powers claimed by the popes of the High Middle Ages. Once he was elected, however, Martin distanced himself from Conciliarism; he summoned the promised council at Pisa in 1423 but did not attend it in person, and when it proved to be poorly attended, he dissolved it. In 1431, under intense pressure from bishops and secular rulers, he called an-other council to meet in Basel, but he died before it convened.
   Martin was a shrewd political manipulator, able to persuade secu-lar princes to give him military support that enabled him to regain control of the disorderly city of Rome but unwilling to undertake any reforms that would significantly restrict his own claim to absolute power over the church. He reorganized the central bureaucracy of the papacy into an overwhelmingly Italian institution, not only in mem-bership but also in outlook. Both the pope and his servants sought to rebuild the centralized power of the papacy, leaving many of the spir-itual and organizational issues that had arisen in the later Middle Ages still unresolved.

Historical Dictionary of Renaissance. . 2004.

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