Council of Constance

From 1414 to 1418, a Church Council took place in Constance. It was the only council, that ever took place north of the Alps. It ended the Great Schism of Western Christianity. From 1378 on, the catholic church was divided. From 1378 to 1409 there were two competing popes in Rome and Avignon. A first attempt of reunification failed in 1409 in Pisa. The result of the Pisa council was, that there were even three rival popes between 1409 and 1415. In 1417, during the Council of Constance, the cardinal Oddo di Colonna was elected as pope Martin Vth and the (catholic) church was reunited.

And what was the fate of the three rival popes? The pope John XXIII (Pisa), hoped to be elected pope by the Council of Constance and therefore he travelled to the council. When he recognised, that his chances were small, he fled in 1415, disguised as a simple priest. But he was arrested outside Constance and held in prison for three years. After he was released from prison, he died soon. The Roman antipope Georg XII resigned in 1415. Benedikt XII, who resided in Avignon had to step down in 1417.

The building named after the Council (Konzil), which was built until 1391
by the merchants of Constance, as a warehouse.

The Czech reformer Jan Hus was executed in 1415 in Constance. King Sigismund, who also attended the council, had given Hus a kind of promise of safe conduct which was worded ambiguously. Jan Hus came to Constance, was tried in the cathedral (Münster) and finally burnt west of the town wall.

Why did this huge medieval congress take place in Constance? At the beginning of the 15th century, the town had between 6.000 and 8.000 inhabitants. And so, Constance was quite big for those times. Constance had close trade ties to Italy, was international, wealthy and had a bishop. And there were buildings, that were well suited for such a council, as the warehouse which was finished in 1391 (which is called Konzil today, after the church council). It is reported that there was an average of 20.000 visitors in town during the 4-year congress. The duration of the council was much longer than originally planned. Afterwards the king granted further rights to the town of Constance, among them the right to held blood court. Since then, there is the red bar in the enblem of the town.