Historiebloggen: Metropolitan Isidore of Kyiv

Metropolitan of Kyiv, born at Thessalonica (Saloniki) towards the end of the fourteenth century; died at Rome, 27 April, 1463. He was one of the chief Eastern defenders of reunion at the time of the Council of Florence. He arrived at Constantinople, became a monk, and was there made hegumenos of the monastery of St. Demetrius. He had evidently received an unusually complete education: he knew Latin well, and had considerable fame as a theologian. He was also an accomplished orator; he seems from the beginning to have been eager for reunion with the West. It was the time when the Court of Constantinople, on the eve of its final destruction by the Turks, was considering the chance of rescue from the Western princes as a result of reuniting with Rome. In 1434 Isidore was sent to Basle by Emperor John VIII (1425-48) as part of an embassy to open negotiations with the Council of Basle. Here he made a mellifluous speech about the splendour of the Roman Empire at Constantinople. On his return he continued to take part in all the preparations for reunion among his own people. In 1437 he was sent by the Byzantine patriarch (Joseph II, 1416-39, a conspicuous friend of reunion, who died a Catholic at Florence) to be Metropolitan of Kyiv. He is constantly called Ruthenian Bishop of Kyiv. Kyiv was the old metropolis of Ruthenia. As soon as he arrived he began to arrange a Ruthenian legation for the council about to be held at Ferrara. Syropulus and other Greek writers charge Isidore with perjury because in spite of this he accepted the union. Isidore set out with a great following on 8 Sept., 1437, travelled by Luebeck, and arrived at Ferrara on 15, August, 1438. On the way he offended his suite by his friendly conduct towards the Latins. At Ferrara and at Florence, whither the council moved in January, 1439, Isidore was one of the six chief speakers on the Byzantine side. Together with Bessarion he steadfastly worked for the union, and never swerved afterwards in his acceptance of it.

After the council, the pope (Eugene IV, 1431-47) made him his legate for all Ruthenia and Lithuania. On his way back news reached Isidore, at Benevento, that he had been made Cardinal-Priest of the Title of St. Peter and St. Marcellinus. This is one of the few cases in which a person not of the Latin Rite has been made a cardinal. From Budapest in March, 1440, he published an encyclical calling on all Ruthenian bishops to accept the union. He at last arrived in Kyiv (Easter, 1441), and proclaimed the union in the church. He returned to Rome, and was graciously received by the pope in 1443. Nicholas V (1447-55) sent him as legate to Constantinople to arrange the reunion there in 1452, and gave him two hundred soldiers to help the defence of the city. On 12 December of that year he was able to unite three hundred of the Byzantine clergy in a celebration of the short-lived reunion. He saw the taking of the city by the Turks on 29 May, 1453, and only escaped the massacre by dressing up a dead body in his cardinal's robes. While the Turks were cutting off its head and parading it through the streets, the real cardinal was shipped off to Asia Minor with a number of insignificant prisoners, as a slave. Afterwards he wrote an account of the horrors of the siege in a letter to Nicholas V (P.G., CLIX, 953). He escaped from captivity, or bought himself free, and came back to Rome. Here he was made Bishop of Sabina, presumably adopting the Latin Rite. Pius II (1458-64) later gave him two titles successively, those of Patriarch of Constantinople and Archbishop of Cyprus, neither of which he could convert into real jurisdiction. He died at Rome on 27 April, 1463.

Isidore Of Kyiv, (born c. 1385, southern Greece—died April 27, 1463, Rome), Greek Orthodox patriarch of Ruthenia, Roman cardinal, Humanist, and theologian who strove for reunion of Greek and Latin Christendom but was forced into exile because of concerted opposition, particularly from the Byzantine and Ruthenian Orthodox churches, and by the fall of Constantinople to the Ottoman Turks in 1453.

Abbot of St. Demetrius monastery in Constantinople and recognized for his cultured rhetoric, Isidore was sent abroad as envoy of the Byzantine emperor John VIII Palaeologus to arrange for a council to unite the Eastern and Western churches. Unsuccessful, he returned to Constantinople and in 1436 was named patriarch of Kyiv and Ruthenia. Isidore attended the council, first in Ferrara (1438), then in Florence (1439), at which he was one of six Greek spokesmen. Together with the Greek cardinal John Bessarion, he drew up the document of unification that was proclaimed on July 5, 1439; soon after, he was made a Roman cardinal, thenceforth referred to as “the Ruthenian (Ukrainian Roman Catholic) cardinal.” Commissioned papal legate by Eugenius IV, Isidore successfully implemented the decree of union at Kyiv. He on Easter 1444 received sanctuary from King Ladislas of Hungary-Poland. From Siena, Isidore was dispatched by Pope Nicholas V to Constantinople and in December 1452, on the eve of the city’s fall to the Turks, solemnly announced to the hard-pressed Byzantines in the basilica of Hagia Sophia (“Holy Wisdom”) the union of the Greek and Latin churches. Although the court and hierarchy were agreeable, the people rejected relations with the papacy. Isidore and his staff then joined in the futile defense of Constantinople. Wounded, he escaped capture by fleeing to Crete. Returning to Rome in 1454, he wrote of the traumatic experience of Constantinople’s collapse in his Epistula lugubris (“The Mournful Letter”). After resigning his other ecclesiastical offices in 1459, he received the honorary title Greek Patriarch of Constantinople from Pope Pius II, at whose election he assisted.

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