Patriarch Gennadios II of Constantinople

Gennadius II (in Greek Γεννάδιος Β') (lay name Georgios Kourtesios Scholarios, in Greek Γεώργιος Κουρτέσιος Σχολάριος) (c. 1400 – c. 1473), Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople from 1454 to 1464, philosopher and theologian, was one of the last representatives of Byzantine learning, and a strong advocate of Aristotelian philosophy in the Eastern Church.

Council of Florence

Georgios appears to have been born at Constantinople in c.1400 and to have been a teacher of philosophy before entering the service of the emperor John VIII Palaeologus as a theological advisor. Georgios first appears in history when, as judge in the civil courts under John VIII (1425-1448), he accompanied his Emperor to the Council of Basel, held in 1438-1439 in Ferrara and Florence with the object of bringing about a union between the Greek and Latin Churches and was at that time in favour of the union. He made four speeches at the council, all exceedingly conciliatory, and wrote a refutation of the first eighteen of Mark of Ephesus' syllogistic chapters against the Latins.

At the same council appeared the celebrated Platonist, Gemistus Pletho, the most powerful opponent of the then dominant Aristotelianism, and consequently an antagonist of Georgios. In church matters, as in philosophy, the two were opposed — Pletho advocating a partial return to Greek paganism in the form of a syncretic union between Christianity and Zoroastrianism; while Georgios, more cautious, pressed the necessity for ecclesiastical union with Rome on doctrinal grounds, and was instrumental in drawing up a form which from its vagueness and ambiguity might be accepted by both parties. Georgios was at a disadvantage because, being a layman, he could not directly take part in the discussions of the council.

Return to Constantinople

Despite his advocating the union (and berating many of the Orthodox bishops for their lack of theological learnedness), when he came back to Constantinople, like most of his countrymen, he changed his mind, apparently at the behest of his mentor Mark of Ephesus, who converted him completely to anti-Latin Orthodoxy, and from this time till his death he was known (with Mark of Ephesus) as the most uncompromising enemy of the union. He then wrote many works to defend his new convictions, which differ so much from the earlier conciliatory ones that Allatius thought there must be two people of the same name ("Diatriba de Georgiis" in Fabricius-Harles "Bibliotheca Græca", X, 760-786); to whom Gibbon: "Renaudot has restored the identity of his person, and the duplicity of his character" ("Decline and Fall", lxviii, note 41).

After the death of John VIII in 1448, Georgios entered the Pantokrator monastery in Constantinople under Constantine XI (1448-1453) and took, according to the invariable custom, a new name: Gennadius. Before the fall of the city he was already well known as a bitter opponent of the union. He and Eugenikos were the leaders of the anti-Latin party. In 1447, Mark of Ephesus on his deathbed praised Gennadius's irreconcilable attitude towards the Latins and the union ("P.G.", CLX, 529). It was to Gennadius that the angry people went after seeing the Uniate services in the great church of Hagia Sophia. It is said that he hid himself, but left a notice on the door of his cell: "O unhappy Romans [= Byzantines] , why have you forsaken the truth? Why do you not trust in God, instead of in the Italians? In losing your faith you will lose your city", and so on (quoted by Gibbon, ibid., ed. Bury, VII, 176).

Ottoman period

After the fall of Constantinople, Gennadius was taken prisoner by the Turks. When Sultan Mehmed II, the conqueror, thought of reorganizing the now subject Christians, he was naturally anxious to put an end to any sort of alliance between them and the Western princes. Wanting to use the Church to stabilize his empire, and resolved to elect someone to the office, he sent for this Gennadius because he was one of the chief enemies of the union, and told him to be patriarch. On 1 June, 1453, the new patriarch's procession passed through the streets that were still reeking with blood; Mehmed received Gennadius graciously and himself invested him with the signs of his office -- the crosier ("dikanikion") and mantle.

Mehmed gave Gennadius both ecclesiastical and political authority as of the Greek Orthodox, by making the patriarch "Ethnarch", i.e. acknowledged civil head, of all Orthodox Christians (the so-called "Roman nation"), the main millet in the Turkish Empire, before the Porte and gave him a "berat" (diploma) exactly defining his rights and duties, which is still given to every patriarch before his consecration (or enthronement), and as a result, since Gennadius, the Greek Orthodox Church of Constantinople became a civil as well as a religious entity.

Gennadius, who was not in holy orders, was then ordained to each grade. Although he so disliked Latins, he seems to have kept good relations with the sultan. One of the symbolic books of the Orthodox Church is the "Confession" ("Homologia") made by him to Mehmed, by which he is said to have secured a certain measure of tolerance for his people (see below). As the Santa Sophia had been made into a mosque, he used as his patriarchal church, first that of the Apostles (one of those were emperors were buried), then that of the All-Blessed ("tes pammakaristou" = the Blessed Virgin).


In the spring of 1454 he was consecrated by the metropolitan of Heraclea Pontica, but, since both the Church of St. Sophia and the palace of the patriarch were now in the hands of the Ottomans, he took up his residence successively in two monasteries of the city. While holding the episcopal office Gennadius drew up, apparently for the use of Mehmed, a confession or exposition of the Christian faith, which was translated into Turkish by Ahmed, judge of Beroea (and first printed by A. Brassicanus at Vienna in 1530).

Gennadius was unhappy as patriarch, and tried to abdicate his position at least twice, in 1456 (Gedeon in his "Patriarchikoi Pinakes", Constantinople, 1890; others say it was in 1459), he resigned. The full reason for this step commonly attributed to his disappointment at the sultan's treatment of Christians, though Mehmed seems to have kept the fairly tolerant conditions he had allowed to them; various writers hint darkly at other motives (see Michalcescu, op. cit. infra, 13). Eventually, he found the tensions between the Greeks and the Ottomans overwhelming. Gennadius then, like so many of his successors, ended his days as an ex-patriarch and a monk. He lived in the monastery of John the Baptist near Serrae in Macedonia (north-east of Saloniki), where he wrote books until he died in about 1473.

Gennadius fills an important place in Byzantine history. He was the last of the old school of polemical writers and one of the greatest. Unlike most of his fellows he had an intimate acquaintance with Latin controversial literature, especially with St. Thomas Aquinas and the Scholastics. He was as skilful an opponent of Catholic theology as Mark of Ephesus, and a more learned one. His writings show him to be a student not only of Western philosophy but of controversy with Jews and Muslims, of the great Hesychast question (he attacked Barlaam and defended the monks; naturally, the Barlaamites were "latinophrones", in short, of all the questions that were important in his time. He has another kind of importance as the first Patriarch of Constantinople under the Turks. From this point of view he stands at the head of a new period in the history of his Church; the principles that regulated the condition of Orthodox Christians in the Turkish Empire are the result of Mehmed II's arrangement with him.


About 100 to 120 of his alleged writings exist, some of which remain in manuscript, and some of which are of doubtful authenticity. As far as is known, his writings may be classified into philosophical (interpretations of Aristotle, Porphyry, and others, translations of Petrus Hispanus and Thomas Aquinas, and defenses of Aristotelianism against the recrudescence of Neoplatonism) and theological and ecclesiastical (partly concerning the union and partly defending Christianity against Muslims, Jews, and pagans), in addition to numerous homilies, hymns, and letters.

Gennadius was a prolific writer during all the periods of his life. [Michalcescu, op. cit., 13.] . The complete works of Gennadius were published in three volumes by Jugie, Petit & Siderides, 1928-1930. [M. Jugie, L. Petit, and X.A. Siderides, 1928-1930, "Oeuvres complètes de Georges (Gennadios) Scholarios", Paris: Maison de la bonne presse] . (Note: this edition supersedes the references made below.)

First Period (pro-Uniate)

The chief works of this time are the "speeches" made at the Council of Florence [Printed in Hardouin, IX, and "P.G.", CLX, 386 sqq.] , also a number of letters addressed to various friends, bishops, and statesmen, mostly unedited. An "Apology for five chapters of the Council of Florence" [Edited first (in Latin) at Rome in 1577, and again in 1628.] is doubtful [In "P.G.", CLIX it is attributed to Joseph of Methone.] . A "History of the Council of Florence" under his name (in manuscript) is really identical with that of Syropulos [Ed. Creighton, The Hague, 1660.] .

econd Period (anti-Uniate)

A great number of polemical works against Latins were written in this time. Two books about the "Procession of the Holy Ghost" [One in Simonides, loc. cit., the other in "P.G.", CLX, 665] ; another one "against the insertion of the "Filioque" in the Creed" [ibid., 713] ; two books and a letter about "Purgatory"; various sermons and speeches; a "Panegyric of Marcus Eugenicus" (in 1447), etc. Some translations of works of St. Thomas Aquinas, and polemical treatises against his theology by Gennadius are still unedited, as is also his work against the Barlaamites. There are also various philosophical treatises of which the chief is a "Defence of Aristotle" ("antilepseis hyper Aristotelous") against the Platonist, Gemistus Pletho ["P.G.", CLX, 743 sqq.] .

His most important work is easily his "Confession" ("Ekthesis tes pisteos ton orthodoxon christianon", generally known as "Homologia tou Gennadiou") addressed to Mehmed II. It contains twenty articles, of which however only the first twelve are authentic. It was written in Greek; Achmed, Kadi of Berrhoea, translated it into Turkish. This is the first (in date) of the Orthodox Symbolic books. It was published first (in Greek and Latin) by Brassicanus [Vienna, 1530] , again by Chytræus [Frankfort, 1582.] . Martin Crusius printed it in Greek, Latin, and Turkish (in Greek and Latin script) in his "Turco-Græcia" [Basle, 1584 reprinted in "P.G.", CLX 333, sqq.] . Rimmel has reprinted it (Greek and Latin) [In his "Monumenta fidei Eccl. Orient." (Jena, 1850), I, 1-10.] ; and Michalcescu in Greek only ["Die Bekenntnisse und die wichtigsten Glaubenszeugnisse der griech.-orient. Kirche" (Leipzig, 1904), 17-21.] . There exists an arrangement of this Confession in the form of a dialogue in which Mehmed asks questions ("What is God?" -- "Why is he called "theos"?" -- "And how many Gods are there?" and so on) and Gennadius gives suitable answers. This is called variously Gennadius's "Dialogue" ("dialexis", διάλεξις), or "Confessio prior", or "De Via salutis humanæ" ("Peri tes hodou tes soterias anthropon"). Rimmel prints it first, in Latin only [op. cit., 1-10] , and thinks it was the source of the Confession [ibid., iii.] . It is more probably a later compilation made from the Confession by someone else [Otto, op. cit.] . It should be noticed that Gennadius's (quasi-Platonic) philosophy is in evidence in his Confession (God cannot be interpreted, "theos" from "theein", etc.; cf. Rimmel [op. cit., viii-xvi.] . Either for the same reason or to spare Muslim susceptibility he avoids the word "Prosopa" in explaining the Trinity, speaking of the three Persons as "idiomata" "which we call Hypostases" [Conf., 3.] .

During the third period, from his resignation to his death (1459-1468), he continued writing theological and polemical works. An encyclical letter to all Christians "In defence of his resignation" is unedited, as are also a "Dialogue with two Turks about the divinity of Christ", and a work about the "Adoration of God". Jahn ("Anecdota græca") has published a "Dialogue between a Christian and a Jew" and a collection of "Prophecies about Christ" gathered from the Old Testament. A treatise, "About our God, one in three, against Atheists and Polytheists" ("P.G.", CLX, 667 sqq.), is chiefly directed against the theory that the world may have been formed by chance. Five books, "About the Foreknowledge and Providence of God" and a "Treatise on the manhood of Christ", are also in "P.G.", CLX. Lastly, there are many homilies by Gennadius, most of which exist in manuscript at Mount Athos ("Codd. Athous", Paris, 1289-1298).



* [ Thesaurus Linguae Graecae: Bibliography of Gennadius Scholarius]

ee also

*Greek scholars in the Renaissance
*Marie-Hélène Blanchet, Georges-Gennadios Scholarios (vers 1400-vers 1472):un intellectuel face à la disparition de l'empire byzantin, Institut Français d'Etudes Byzantines, Paris, 2008.

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