The Council of Constance took place in the lovely lakeside city of Constance in the Cathedral of Constance. The international church council was the most important church council since the Council of Nicaea in 325 presided over by Emperor Constantine. The issue at Constance was the unity of the Church. The Roman Catholic Church was in tatters by 1400. During the 14th century, the church had found itself with two popes and then later with three. Two popes is one too many popes. The whole church knew by the late 1390s that somehow the Roman Christian church had to find a way back to unity. Thus was called a church council in Constance. Constance was a choice that attempted to satisfy both Northern European countries as well as the very important Italians. It was really "German" in a sense with German language population and a location on the edge of Germanic territories; it was French in the sense that much of the Swiss territories spoke French; and it was Italian with close ties to all the northern Italian Lake District cities and city states. The council's main purpose was to end the Papal schism which had resulted from the confusion following the Avignon Papacy. Pope Gregory XI's return to Rome in 1377, followed by his death (in 1378) and the controversial election of his successor, Pope Urban VI, resulted in the defection of a number of cardinals and the election of a rival pope based at Avignon in 1378. After thirty years of schism, the rival courts convened the Council of Pisa seeking to resolve the situation by deposing the two claimant popes and electing a new one. The council claimed that in such a situation, a council of bishops had greater authority than just one bishop, even if he were the bishop of Rome. Though the elected Antipope Alexander V and his successor, Antipope John XXIII (not to be confused with the 20th-century Pope John XXIII), gained widespread support, especially at the cost of the Avignon antipope, the schism remained, now involving not two but three claimants: Gregory XII at Rome, Benedict XIII at Avignon, and John XXIII. Therefore, many voices, including Sigismund, King of the Romans and of Hungary (and later Holy Roman Emperor), pressed for another council to resolve the issue. That council was called by John XXIII and was held from 16 November 1414 to 22 April 1418 in Constance, Germany


Steven Ozment,

A Mighty Fortress: A New History of the German People,

Harper Perennial,

ISBN 0060934832

Gordon A. Craig,

The Germans,


ISBN 0452010853