Conciliarism and Church Law in the Fifteenth Century: Studies on Franciscus Zabarella and the Council of Constance, 1st Edition (Hardback) book cover

Conciliarism and Church Law in the Fifteenth Century

Studies on Franciscus Zabarella and the Council of Constance, 1st Edition

By Thomas E. Morrissey


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Hardback: 9781472423870
pub: 2014-04-11
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Crises are never the best of times and the era of the Great Western Schism (1378-1417) easily qualifies as one of the worst of times. As a professor of canon law at the University of Padua and later cardinal, and as a major theorist in the conciliarist movement, Franciscus Zabarella (1360-1417) tried to do what a good legal mind does: find and explicate a viable and legal solution to the crises of his time, a solution that would stand up in his own era and for the generations that followed. In this volume Thomas Morrissey looks at what he said, wrote and did, and places him and his thought in the context of the late medieval and early modern era, how he reflected that world and how he influenced it. Particular studies elucidate what he wrote on the authority and on the duty of the people in power, what they could do and should do, as well as what they should not do. They also show how he explored the area of early constitution law and human rights in civil and religious society and that his work leads down the road to our modern constitutional democratic societies. The volume includes two previously unpublished studies, on the situation in Padua c. 1400 and on a sermon from 1407, together with an introduction contextualizing the articles.


"Morrissey’s studies provide an excellent account of Zabarella as both a man of thought and a man of action, a friend of humanists, and above all a consummate jurist. The author also nicely illustrates Zabarella’s practical realism by editing and translating a little handbook of advice that the great canonist wrote for the university teachers and students of his age. Most of it would apply just as well to their present-day counterparts." - Catholic Historical Review

"Morrisey’s articles are an indispensable resource for studying the Conciliar Movement. So this is a book for libraries of law, history and theology, and one that scholars working on the history and theory of conciliarism will need to use." - Paul Avis, University of Exeter

Table of Contents

Contents: Introduction; Nicholas of Cusa and Zabarella: Cardinal Zabarella and Nicholas of Cusa: from community authority to consent of the community; Ein unruhiges Leben. Franciscus Zabarella an der Universität von Padua (1390-1410): die welt, die Nikolaus von Kues vorfand; Ecce sacerdos magnus: on welcoming a new bishop. Three addresses for bishops of Padua by Franciscus Zabarella; Canonists in crisis ca.1400-1450: Pisa, Constance, Basel. Constance and Conciliarism: The decree ‘Haec Sancta’ and Cardinal Zabarella. His role in its formulation and interpretation; Emperor-elect Sigismund, Cardinal Zabarella, and the Council of Constance; The call for unity at the Council of Constance: sermons and addresses of Cardinal Zabarella, 1415-1417; Cardinal Franciscus Zabarella (1360-1417) as a canonist and the crisis of his age: schism and the Council of Constance; ‘More easily and more securely’: legal procedure and due process at the Council of Constance; Natural rights, natural law and the canonist: Franciscus Zabarella, 1360-1417; Radicalism and restraint in a late medieval canonist; Reform at the Council of Constance in the view of a canonist and cardinal, Franciscus Zabarella. Zabarella: Cardinal Zabarella on papal and episcopal authority; Franciscus Zabarella (1360-1417): papacy, community and limitations upon authority; The art of teaching and learning law: a late medieval tract; Padua in crisis and transition around 1400; A sermon for the Feast of Saints Peter and Paul, June 29 1407: a mixed papalist response. Index.

About the Author

Thomas E. Morrissey is Distinguished Teaching Professor in the History Department at SUNY Fredonia, USA.

About the Series

Variorum Collected Studies

The first title in the Variorum Collected Studies series was published in 1970. Since then well over 1000 titles have appeared in the series, and it has established a well-earned international reputation for the publication of key research across a whole range of subjects within the fields of history.

The history of the medieval world remains central to the series, with Byzantine studies a particular speciality, but the range of titles extends from Hellenistic philosophy and the history of the Roman empire and early Christianity, through the Renaissance and Reformation, up to the 20th century. Islamic Studies forms another major strand as do the histories of science, technology and medicine.

Each title in the Variorum Collected Studies series brings together for the first time a selection of articles by a leading authority on a particular subject. These studies are reprinted from a vast range of learned journals, Festschrifts and conference proceedings. They make available research that is scattered, even inaccessible in all but the largest and most specialized libraries. With a new introduction and index, and often with new notes and previously unpublished material, they constitute an essential resource. 

For further information about contributing to the series please contact Michael Greenwood at

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Subject Categories

BISAC Subject Codes/Headings:
HISTORY / Medieval
RELIGION / Christianity / General