Gennadius Scholarius

Gennadios II
Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople

Gennadios II Scholarios on a wall fresco in a monastery in Serres
Church Church of Constantinople
In office 6 Jan 1454 – 6 Jan 1456
Apr 1463 – c. June 1463
Aug 1464 – autumn 1465[1]
Predecessor Athanasius II
Joasaph I
Sophronius I[1]
Successor Isidore II
Sophronius I
Mark II[1]
Personal details
Birth name Georgios Kourtesios Scholarios
Born c. 1400
Died c. 1473
Saint John Prodromos Monastery near Serrae

Gennadius II (in Greek Γεννάδιος Β') (lay name Georgios Kourtesios Scholarios, in Greek Γεώργιος Κουρτέσιος Σχολάριος) (c. 1400 – c. 1473), Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople (the first under Turkish rule) 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.


Scholarius is believed to have been born as Georgios in Constantinople in c.1400. His abecedary was Mark of Ephesus[2] (d. 1444).[3] Following his tutelage under the famous John Chortasmenos ("didaskalos" of the Patriarchal School), Manuel-Mark might have then recommended him to study under his own previous master, Georgios Gemistus Pletho (d. 1452/1454), c. 1428.[4] However, his studies under Pletho are a matter of speculation and, at any rate, would have been more likely attendance at Pletho's lectures at Mistra.[5] Scholarius had been a teacher of philosophy before entering the service of the emperor John VIII Palaeologus as a theological advisor. In fact, in 1437 – in anticipation of the Council of Ferrara-Florence – the emperor formally studied Nilus Cabasilas' works along with Mark of Ephesus and Gennadius Scholarius. Curiously, the trio also formally studied the works of John Duns Scotus (d. 1308) because of his rejection of the Filioque in thomistic metaphysics, as well as Scotus' doctrine of a "formal distinction" between the persons and essence of God, as well as God's attributes (or "energies").[6] It was for this reason that Scholarius wrote an academic refutation of the first eighteen of Mark of Ephesus' "Syllogistic Chapters against the Latins." From this, we can surmise that Scholarius was likely writing an academic exercise to inform his former master that Thomas Aquinas' opinions did not constitute a universally Latin approach to questions on the Trinity.

Council of Florence

Scholarius becomes historically important when, as judge in the civil courts under John VIII (1425–1448), he accompanied his Emperor to the Council of Ferrara-Florence, held in 1438–1439 in Ferrara and Florence. The object of this endeavor was bringing a union between the Greek and Latin Churches, which he supported at that time. He made four speeches at the council – all exceedingly conciliatory.

At the same council appeared the celebrated Platonist, Gemistus Pletho, the most powerful opponent of the then dominant Aristotelianism, and consequently an antagonist of Scholarius. In church matters, as in philosophy, the two were opposed — Pletho advocated a partial return to Greek paganism in the form of a syncretic union between Christianity and Zoroastrianism; while Scholarius, 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. Scholarius was at a serious 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. This should not be exaggerated, however, since Scholarius abandoned the Council early on and never signed its decree of union (horos). At the behest of his mentor Mark of Ephesus, who converted him completely to anti-Latin Orthodoxy, till his death, Scholarius was known (with Mark of Ephesus) as the most uncompromising enemy of the union. It was at just about this time (1444) that Scholarius began to draw attention to the putative heterodoxy of Aquinas' "distinction of reason" between the attributes (viz., energies) and essence of God. First, as contained in Jugie's edition of his opera omnia, Scholarius interrupts chapters 94-96 of his discourse "On Being and Essence" of Thomas Aquinas, and replaces the Thomistic explanation with that of Scotism in order to agree better with Palamas. However, he initially mitigates total condemnation of Aquinas, noting that later Scholastics (like Hervaeus Natalis) interpret Aquinas in a more Orthodox light.[7] This point marks Scholarius' increasing theological distance from Aquinas, where he begins to be more theologically condemnatory of him in later works (e.g., his treatises on the Holy Spirit and his Preface to the Greek "Summa Theologiae"). 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;[8] to whom Gibbon: "Renaudot has restored the identity of his person, and the duplicity of his character".[9]

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 Mark of Ephesus were the leaders of the anti-Latin party. In 1444, Mark of Ephesus on his deathbed praised Gennadius's irreconcilable attitude towards the Latins and the union.[10] 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."[11]

Ottoman period

Patriarch Gennadios with Mehmet II depicted on a 20th-century mosaic[12]

After the fall of Constantinople, Gennadius was taken prisoner by the Turks. In administering his new conquest, 21-year-old conquering Sultan Mehmed II wished to assure the loyalty of the Greek population and above all avoid them appealing to the West for liberation, potentially sparking a new round of Crusades. Mehmed therefore sought the most anti-Western cleric he could find as a figure of unity for the Greeks under Turkish rule – and Gennadius as leading anti-Union figure was a natural choice. On 1 June 1453, just three days after the fall of the city, the new Patriarch's procession passed through the streets where Mehmed received Gennadius graciously and himself invested him with the signs of his office – the crosier (dikanikion) and mantle. This ceremonial investiture would be repeated by all sultans and patriarchs thereafter.

The city's famous patriarchal basilica, the Hagia Sophia, had already been converted into a mosque by the conquerors, so Gennadius established his seat at the Church of the Holy Apostles. Three years later the edifice, which was in a dilapidated state (in 1461 it was demolished by the Ottomans to make way for the Fatih Mosque),[13] was abandoned by the Patriarch, who moved again to the Church of the Pammakaristos.

The Ottomans divided their Empire into millets or subject nations, of which the Greeks were the largest, known as the Rum Millet. The Patriarch was appointed the official head or Ethnarch of the Greek millet, which was used as the Ottomans as a source for imperial administrators. Gennadius became a political authority as well as a religious one, as were all his successors under the Ottomans.

As was normal when a monk or lay scholar was appointed patriarch, Gennadius was consecutively ordained, first as a deacon, then as a priest, then finally as a bishop before being appointed patriarch.


In the spring of 1454 he was consecrated by the metropolitan of Heraclea Perinthus, but, since both the Church of Hagia 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, Qadi of Berrhoea (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 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.[14] Eventually, he found the tensions between the Greeks and the Ottomans overwhelming.

He was later called two times to guide the Christian community as Patriarch during the turbulent period that followed the patriarchate of Isidore II. There is no consensus among scholars about the exact dates of his last two patriarchates: according to Kiminas (2009), he reigned again from April 1463 to c. June 1463 and from August 1464 to autumn 1465.[1][15] Blanchet objects to the existence itself of these two additional terms.[16]

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, 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 Peter of Spain 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.[14] The complete works of Gennadius were published in eight volumes by Jugie, Petit & Siderides, 1928–1936.[17] (Note: this edition supersedes the references made below.)

First Period (pro-Union)

The chief works of this time are the "speeches" made at the Council of Florence,[18] also a number of letters addressed to various friends, bishops, and statesmen, mostly unedited. An Apology for five chapters of the Council of Florence[19] is doubtful.[20] A History of the Council of Florence under his name (in manuscript) is really identical with that of Syropulos.[21]

Second Period (anti-Union)

A great number of polemical works against Latins were written in this time. Two books about the Procession of the Holy Ghost;[22] another one "against the insertion of the Filioque in the Creed";[23] 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 Neoplatonist, Gemistus Pletho.[24]

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, Qadi 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), and again by Chytræus (Frankfurt, 1582). Martin Crusius printed it in Greek, Latin, and Turkish (in Greek and Latin script) in his Turco-Græcia (Basle, 1584 reprinted in Patrologia Graeca, CLX 333, sqq.). Rimmel reprinted it (Greek and Latin) (in his Monumenta fidei Eccl. Orient. (Jena, 1850), I, 1–10.); and Michalcescu in Greek only. 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, and thinks it was the source of the Confession. It is more probably a later compilation made from the Confession by someone else. 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. 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".

Third Period (post-resignation)

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,[25] 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 Patrologia Graeca, CLX. Lastly, there are many homilies by Gennadius, most of which exist in manuscript at Mount Athos.[26]

In popular media

In 2012 film, Fetih 1453, Gennadius is played by Adnan Kürtçü.

See also


  1. 1 2 3 4 Kiminas (2009), pp. 37, 45
  2. M. Pilavakis, Introduction to "First Antirrhetic against Manuel Kalekas." (London: Doctoral Diss., 1988), p. 24
  3. For Mark of Ephesus’ death, see J. Gill, "The Year of the Death of Mark Eugenicus," Byzantinische Zeitschrift, 52 (1952) 23-31.
  4. Kappes (2013a)
  5. Kappes (2013a), pp. 214–215
  6. Monfasani (2011), pp. 165–168
  7. Kappes (2013b)
  8. Diatriba de Georgiis in Fabricius-Harles Bibliotheca Græca, X, 760–786
  9. E. Gibbon, Decline and Fall, lxviii, note 41
  10. Patrologia Graeca, CLX, 529
  11. Quoted by E. Gibbon, Decline and Fall, ed. J.B. Bury, VII, 176
  12. G. Ágoston, B.A. Masters, Encyclopedia of the Ottoman Empire (2009), 238.
  13. Müller-Wiener, Wolfgang (1977). Bildlexikon zur Topographie Istanbuls: Byzantion, Konstantinupolis, Istanbul bis zum Beginn d. 17 Jh. (in German). Tübingen: Wasmuth. ISBN 978-3-8030-1022-3, 406
  14. 1 2 Michalcescu (1904), p. 13
  15. For the different scholars' suggestions about the second and third terms of Gennadius see the list of Patriarchs of Constantinople.
  16. Blanchet (2001)
  17. M. Jugie, L. Petit, and X.A. Siderides, 1928–1930, Oeuvres complètes de Georges (Gennadios) Scholarios, Paris: Maison de la Bonne Presse
  18. Printed in Hardouin, IX, and Patrologia Graeca, CLX, 386 sqq.
  19. Edited first (in Latin) at Rome in 1577, and again in 1628.
  20. In Patrologia Graeca, CLIX it is attributed to Joseph of Methone.
  21. Ed. Creighton, The Hague, 1660.
  22. One in Simonides, the other in Patrologia Graeca, CLX, 665
  23. Patrologia Graeca, CLX, 713
  24. Patrologia Graeca, CLX, 743 sqq.
  25. Patrologia Graeca, CLX, 667 sqq.
  26. Codd. Athous, Paris, 1289–1298.


  • Blanchet, Marie-Hélène (2001). "Georges Gennadios Scholarios a-t-il été trois fois patriarche de constantinople?". Byzantion Revue Internationale des Etudes byzantines (in French). Bruxelles. 71 (1): 60–72. 
  • Kappes, Christiaan W. (2013a). "Idolizing paganism – demonizing Christianity à propos N. Siniossoglou: radical Platonism in Byzantium: illumination and utopia in Gemistos Plethon". Archiv für Mittelalterliche Philosophie und Kultur. 19: 210–243. 
  • Kappes, Christiaan W. (2013b). "The Latin sources of the Palamite theology of George-Gennadius Scholarius". Nicolaus. 40 (1): 71–113. 
  • Kiminas, Demetrius (2009). The Ecumenical Patriarchate. Wildside Press LLC. ISBN 978-1-4344-5876-6. 
  • Michalcescu, Jon (1904). Die Bekenntnisse und die wichtigsten Glaubenszeugnisse der griechisch-orientalischen Kirche. Leipzig. 
  • Monfasani, J. (2011). "The pro-Latin apologetics of the Greek émigrés to quattrocento Italy". In A. Rigo. Byzantine Theology and its Philosophical Background. Studies in Byzantine History and Civilization. 4. Turnhout. 

Further reading

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