The Council of Pisa is not one of the 21 ecumenical councils recognized by the Roman Catholic Church today. It was held in 1409 in an attempt to end the Western Schism, sometimes called the Papal Schism. This schism lasted from 1378 to 1417 some thirty years. By 1409 none of the means employed to bring it to an en had been successful. Most say that compromise or arbitral agreement between the parties had never been seriously attempted largely because of the obstinacy of the rival popes, both equally convinced of their rights. The interference of princes and armies did not help either.  

The council proposed deposing both Benedict XIII (Avignon) and Gregory XII (Rome). Instead of ending the Western Schism, the Council elected a third papal claimant, Alexander V, He reigned from June 26, 1409, to his death in 1410.  He was succeeded by John XXIII who reigned from 1410-1415.  Both Alexander V and this John XXIII are considered antipopes by the Roman Church today.  

The chart below shows the claimants to the papal throne

 Rome Avignon  Pisa  Comment 
1316-1334 John XXII  
Moved seat of Papacy from Avignon back to Rome  
1378-1389 Urban VI 1378–1394 Clement VII The French king, Charles V, had recommended that the cardinals assembled at Anagni and Fondi revolt against Urban VI 
1389-1404 Boniface IX
1394–1423 Benedict XIII  
1404-1406 Innocent VII  
1406-1415  Gregory XII  1409–1410 Alexander V The cardinals of the reigning pontiffs were dissatisfied, both with the lack of strong leadership and nepotism of Gregory XII and the obstinacy and bad will of Benedict XIII, conviened the council of Pisa and tried to depose both Gregory and Benedict. They elected Alender V  olved to make use of a more efficacious means, namely a general council.
1410–1415 John XXIII  
1417-1431  Martin V      



The cardinals of the reigning pontiffs being greatly dissatisfied, both with the pusillanimity and nepotism of Gregory XII and the obstinacy and bad will of Benedict XIII, resolved to make use of a more efficacious means, namely a general council. The French king, Charles V, had recommended this, at the beginning of the schism, to the cardinals assembled at Anagni and Fondi in revolt against Urban VI, and on his deathbed he had expressed the same wish (1380). It had been upheld by several councils, by the cities ofGhent and Florence, by the Universities of Oxford and Paris, and by the most renowned doctors of the time, for example: Henry of Langenstein ("Epistola pacis", 1379, "Epistola concilii pacis", 1381); Conrad ofGelnhausen ("Epistola Concordiæ", 1380); Gerson (Sermo coram Anglicis); and especially the latter's master, Pierre d'Ailly, the eminent Bishop of Cambrai, who wrote of himself: "A principio schismatis materiam concilii generalis primus ... instanter prosequi non timui" (Apologia Concilii Pisani, apud Tschackert). Encouraged by such men, by the known dispositions of King Charles VI and of the University of Paris, four members of the Sacred College of Avignon went to Leghorn where they arranged an interview with those of Rome, and where they were soon joined by others. The two bodies thus united were resolved to seek the union of the Church in spite of everything, and thenceforth to adhere to neither of the competitors. On 2 and 5 July, 1408, they addressed to the princes and prelates an encyclical letter summoning them to a general council at Pisa on 25 March, 1409. To oppose this project Benedictconvoked a council at Perpignan while Gregory assembled another at Aquilea, but those assemblies met with little success, hence to the Council of Pisa were directed all the attention, unrest, and hopes of theCatholic world. The Universities of Paris, Oxford, and Cologne, many prelates, and the most distinguisheddoctors, like d'Ailly and Gerson, openly approved the action of the revolted cardinals. The princes on the other hand were divided, but most of them no longer relied on the good will of the rival popes and were determined to act without them, despite them, and, if needs were, against them.

Meeting of the Council

On the feast of the Annunciation, 4 patriarchs, 22 cardinals, and 80 bishops asembled in the cathedral of Pisa under the presidency of Cardinal de Malesset, Bishop of Palestrina. Among the clergy were the representatives of 100 absent bishops, 87 abbots with the proxies of those who could not come to Pisa, 41 priors and generals of religious orders, 300 doctors of theology or canon law. The ambassadors of all the Christian kingdoms completed this august assembly. Judicial procedure began at once. Two cardinal deacons, two bishops, and two notaries gravely approached the church doors, opened them, and in a loud voice, in the Latin tongue, called upon the rival pontiffs to appear. No one replied. "Has anyone been appointed to represent them?" they added. Again there was silence. The delegates returned to their places and requested that Gregory and Benedict be declared guilty of contumacy. On three consecutive days this ceremony was repeated without success, and throughout the month of May testimonies were heard against the claimants, but the formal declaration of contumacy did not take place until the fourth session. In defence of Gregory, a German embassy unfavourable to the project of the assembled cardinalswent to Pisa (15 April) at the instance of Robert of Bavaria, King of the Romans. John, Archbishop of Riga, brought before the council several excellent objections, but in general the German delegates spoke so blunderingly that they aroused hostile manifestations and were compelled to leave the city as fugitives. The line of conduct adopted by Carlo Malatesta, Prince of Rimini, was more clever. Robert by his awkward friendliness injured Gregory's otherwise most defendable cause; but Malatesta defended it as a man of letters, an orator, a politician, and a knight, though he did not attain the desired success. Benedictrefused to attend the council in person, but his delegates arrived very late (14 June), and their claims aroused the protests and laughter of the assembly. The people of Pisa overwhelmed them with threats and insults. The Chancellor of Aragon was listened to with little favour, while the Archbishop of Tarragonamade a declaration of war more daring than wise. Intimidated by rough demonstrations, the ambassadors, among them Boniface Ferrer, Prior of the Grande Chartreuse, secretly left the city and returned to their master. 1/27/14 1/27/14 1/27/15