Gennadius Scholarius

John Florens | Jul 4, 2023

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Genatius II of Constantinople (c. 1400 - ca. 1473) (Greek: Γεννάδιος Β'), whose lay name was George Kourtesios Scholarios (romaniz.: Georgios Kourtesios Scholarios), was the Greek Orthodox patriarch of Constantinople between 1453 and 1456 (or 1464 - see below), a philosopher and theologian, and one of the last representatives of Byzantine scholars. He was a strong defender of Aristotelian philosophy in the Orthodox Church.

George is believed to have been born in Constantinople around 1400 and had been a professor of philosophy before entering the service of the Byzantine emperor John VIII Paleologus as an advisor on theological matters. He first appears in history when, as a judge in the civil courts under the emperor, he accompanied the emperor to the Council of Basel, held in 1438-1439 in Ferrara and Florence. The purpose of this council was to attempt the reunion of the Orthodox Church and the Roman Catholic Church, an issue of which he was an advocate. George gave four speeches at the council - all strongly conciliatory - and wrote a refutation of the first eighteen syllogistic chapters of Mark of Ephesus against the Latins.

At the same council appeared the celebrated Platonist Gemisto Pleto, the most powerful opponent of the then dominant Aristotelianism and consequently an opponent of George. In ecclesiastical matters, as in philosophy, the two were opposites - Pleto advocated a partial return to Greek paganism in the form of a syncretic union between Christianity and Zoroastrianism while George pressed for the necessity of reunion with Rome on doctrinal grounds. He was instrumental in creating a formula that was both vague and ambiguous enough to be accepted by both sides. George was at a serious disadvantage because, being a layman at the time, he could not take part directly in the discussions of the council.

Despite his advocacy of union (and criticism of many orthodox bishops for their lack of theological scholarship), when he returned to Constantinople, like many of his countrymen, he changed his mind, apparently on account of his mentor, Mark of Ephesus, who converted him completely to anti-Latin orthodoxy. From then until his death he was known (with Mark) as the staunchest opponent of the union, writing many books to defend his new convictions, which differed so much from his previous conciliatory positions that Leo Alacius thought they were two different people with the same name. Gibbon said of him, "Renaudot restored this person's identity and the duplicity of his personality.

After the death of John VIII in 1448, George entered the Monastery of the Pantocrator (now the Zeyrek Mosque) in Constantinople under Constantine XI Palaeologus (r. 1448-1453) and took, according to an ancient custom, a new name for himself: Genadium. Before the fall of the city, he was already well known as a bitter opponent of the reunion, he and Eugenicos (an epithet of Marcos of Ephesus) being the leaders of the anti-Latin group. In 1447, Marcos of Ephesus, on his deathbed, praised the irreconcilable attitude of Genadium. It was Genadius whom the angry populace sought out after seeing the liturgical services unified in the great church of St. Sophia. He is said to have gone into hiding and left a note on his bedroom door saying, "O wretched Romans , why have you despised the truth? Why didn't you trust in God instead of the Italians? By losing your faith, you have lost your city...".

After the Fall of Constantinople, Genadium was imprisoned by the Ottoman Turks. In an attempt to manage his new conquest, the conquering sultan, only 21 years old, Mohammed II the Conqueror wanted to secure the loyalty of the Greek population and, above all, to prevent them from appealing to the West for their liberation, at the risk of starting a new wave of crusades. Muhammad then looked to the clergy for his most anti-Western member to cast as a figure to unite the Greeks under the Turkish yoke - and Genadium, as the anti-unionist leader, was a natural choice. On June 1, 1453, just three days after the fall, the procession of the new patriarch passed through the streets of the city, where Muhammad received Genadium graciously and himself invested him with the symbols of his new office - the crosier (dicnicium) and the mantle. This ceremonial investiture would be repeated by all subsequent sultans and patriarchs.

The city's famous patriarchal basilica, St. Sophia Basilica, had already been converted into a mosque by the conquerors, and so Genadius settled in the Church of the Holy Apostles. Eventually, Muhammad had this church demolished to build the Fatih Mosque and Genadium had to move again, this time to the Church of Pamacaristo.

The Ottomans divided their newly expanded empire into millets, or subject nations, among which the Greeks were the largest, known as Millet-i Rûm. The patriarch was appointed as the official leader or "ethnarch" of the Greek millet, which was used by the Ottomans as a source for administrators of the empire. Genadium became a political authority as well as a religious one, as did all his successors under the Ottomans.

As was normal when a monk or lay scholar was appointed as patriarch, Genadius sequentially received holy orders, first as deacon, then priest, and finally as bishop before becoming the patriarch.

In the spring of 1454, he was consecrated by the metropolitan bishop of Pontic Heracleia, but since both the Basilica Church of St. Sophia and the patriarch's palace were in the hands of the Ottoman conquerors, he moved successively to two monasteries in the city. While in office, Genadius created, apparently for Muhammad's use, a confession or exposition of the Christian faith, which was to be translated into Turkish by Amade, the curate of Beroia (and first published by A. Brassicano in Vienna in 1530).

Genatius was unhappy as patriarch and attempted to abdicate his position in 1456. The real reason behind this act is generally indicated as his disappointment with the sultan's treatment of Christians, even though Muhammad seems to have remained relatively tolerant toward them; several authors point obscurely to other motives. Eventually, he found the tensions between the Greeks and the Ottomans unbearable.

He was twice called upon to guide the Christian community as patriarch during the turbulent period following the patriarchate of Isidore II. There is no consensus among scholars about the exact dates of these last two patriarchates: according to Kiminas (2009), he reigned again from April 1463 until circa June 1463 and from August 1464 until the fall of 1465, Blanchet (2001) refutes even the existence of these two new patriarchates.

Genatius then, like so many of his successors, ended his days as a former patriarch and a monk. He lived in the Monastery of St. John the Baptist, near Serrae in Macedonia (northwest of Thessalonica), where he wrote his books until he died in 1473.

The former patriarch fills an important stretch of Byzantine history. He was the last of the old school of polemical writers and one of the greatest. Unlike many of his companions, he had a close proximity to the Latin controversy literature, especially Thomas Aquinas and the scholastics. He was as skilled an opponent of Catholic theology as Mark of Ephesus, only more erudite. His works show that he was a student not only of Western philosophy, but also of the controversies with the Jews and the Muslims, the great hesychast controversy (he attacked Barlaon of Seminara and defended the hesychast monks - in short, he regarded the barlamites as "Latinophiles") and all the important issues of his time. He was also of outstanding importance as the first patriarch under the Turks. From his point of view, he appears as the leader of a new period in the history of his Church: the principles that would regulate the conditions of Orthodox Christians in the Ottoman Empire are the result of the arrangement made between him and Mohammed II.

Some 100 to 120 of his supposed works still exist, some of them in manuscript and others of doubtful authenticity. As far as is known, his works can be classified into philosophical (interpretations of Aristotle, Porphyry, and others, translations of Peter of Spain and Thomas Aquinas, and defenses of Aristotelianism against the upsurge of Neoplatonism) and theological or ecclesiastical (part on union and part defending Christianity against Muslims, Jews, and pagans), as well as several homilies, hymns, and epistles.

Genadium was a prolific author during all periods of his life. His complete works were published in eight volumes by Jugie, Petit & Siderides, 1928-1930.

First Period (pro-Unification)

The main works of this period are the "discourses" made at the Council of Florence and several letters addressed to various friends, bishops and statesmen, most of them unpublished. An Apologia on five chapters of the Council of Florence is of doubtful origin (In the Patrologia Graeca, CLIX, it is attributed to Joseph of Metone). A History of the Council of Florence, under his name (in manuscript), is actually identical with that of Syropulos.

Second period (anti-Unification)

A great number of polemical works against the Latins were written in this period. Two books on the Procession of the Holy Spirit, another "against the insertion of the Filioque in the Creed", two books and a letter on "Purgatory"; several sermons and discourses; a Panegyric of Marcus Eugenius (in 1447), among others. Some translations of works by Thomas Aquinas and the polemical treatises against his theology by Genadius are still unpublished, as is his work against the Baarlamites. There are also several philosophical treatises of which the greatest is the Defense of Aristotle (antilepseis hyper Aristotelous) against the Neoplatonist Gemisto Pleton.

His most important work is by far his "Confession" (in Greek: Ekthesis tes pisteos ton orthodoxon christianon, generally known as Homologia tou Gennadiou), addressed to Mohammed II. It contains twenty articles, of which only the first twelve are authentic, and was written in Greek. Ahmed, the qadi of Beroia, translated it into Turkish and it became the first known work among the orthodox symbolic books. It was first published (in Greek and Latin) by Brassicanus (Vienna, 1530) and again by Chytræus (Frankfurt, 1582). Martin Crusius published it in Greek, Latin and Turkish in his Turco-Græcia (Basel, 1584). Rimmel republished it (in Greek and Latin) in his Monumenta fidei Eccl. Orient. (Jena, 1850) and Michalcescu, only in Greek. There is a version of this "Confession" in the form of a dialogue, in which Muhammad asks questions ("What is God?" - "Why is he called theos?" - "And how many gods are there?" and so on) and Genadium provides appropriate answers. This variant is usually called Genadius' "Dialogue" (Greek: διάλεξις -dialexis), or Confessio prior or even De Via salutis humanæ (Greek: Peri tes hodou tes soterias anthropon). Rimmel published it first, in Latin only and believes it to have been the source for the "Confession". It is more likely to be a later compilation made from the "Confession" later by another author. It is important to note that Genatius' philosophy is evidenced in his "Confession" (God cannot be interpreted, theos from theein etc.), according to Rimmel. Either because of this or to avoid susceptibility to Muslim attacks, he avoids the word prosopa when explaining the Trinity, speaking of the three persons as idioms "which we call hypostases."

Third period (after resignation)

During the third period, from his resignation until his death (1459-1468), he continued to write polemical and theological works. An encyclical letter to all Christians in defense of his resignation is unpublished, as is a Dialogue with two Turks on the divinity of Christ and a work on the Worship of God. Jahn (Anecdota græca) published a Dialogue between a Christian and a Jew and a collection of Prophecies about Christ collected from the Old Testament. A treatise, On our God, one in three, against atheists and polytheists is primarily directed against the theory that the world may have been formed by chance. Five books, On the foreknowledge and providence of God and a Treatise on the humanity of Christ are also in the Patrologia Graeca. Finally, there are many homilies by Genatius, most of which are in a manuscript in Mount Athous (Codd. Athous, Paris, 1289-1298).


  1. Gennadius Scholarius
  2. Genádio II de Constantinopla
  3. ^ a b c d Kiminas (2009), pp. 37, 45
  4. Diatriba de Georgiis em Fabricius-Harles Bibliotheca Græca, X, 760-786
  5. Gibbon, Declínio e Queda do Império Romano, lxviii, nota 41
  6. P.G., CLX, 529
  7. Citado em Gibbon, Declínio e Queda do Império Romano, lxviiied. Bury, VII, 176
  8. Le manuscrit dans lequel Pléthon exposait ses idées religieuses tomba après sa mort entre les mains de Scholarios qui ordonna sa destruction. Runciman 1990, p. 14-15 ; Norwich 1996, p. 393.
  9. Les deux hommes s’attaquèrent violemment par écrit durant le concile, Scholarios défendant Aristote et par ce biais le christianisme, alors que Pléthon défendait Platon. Laiou et Morrisson 2011, p. 277.
  10. κατ' άλλους στη Χίο[2]
  11. «...μεγίστην αλλοίωσιν επήνεγκε εις τα πνεύματα[5]»
  12. Σύμφωνα με τον μελετητή του βίου του Σχολαρίου, καθ. Θεόδωρο Ζήση, «εκ των πηγών πάντως φαίνεται ότι ο κατακτητής άφησεν εις τους υποδούλους να υποδείξουν αυτοί το πρόσωπον του μέλλοντος πατριάρχου [...] Τα λεγόμενα [...] ότι ... ο διορατικός Μωάμεθ ... ανεζήτησε τον Σχολάριον ουδαμού στηρίζονται[8]»

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