Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Council of Constance

In 2010 I had told you about Feierabend, a grouping of elderly people interested in computer activities who generally meet on the second Saturday of each month for a coffee morning. Some members even are more active arranging excursions, bicycle tours, and visits to museums or exhibitions in addition.

Last Friday I joined eighteen members of Feierabend to go by bus from Freiburg to Constance. There we were scheduled for a visit of the exhibition commemorating the Church Council of Constance that opened six hundred years ago on November 4, in the small city on the Lake* and closed four years later ending the Western Schism.
*sometimes affectionately called the Swabian Sea

Since the authorization of scheduled bus services over long distances in Germany many companies offer connections between cities particularly those that are badly connected by train service. To travel by train from Freiburg to Munich will take - in going to Mannheim first and change train - 4 hours and 30 minutes for a minimum of 75 euros in second class. The long distance bus (several companies are operating from Freiburg) will take you to Munich in 4 hours and 45 minutes for just 14 euros.

In case of Constance transport by bus is way ahead in all aspects. It will at least take two and a half hours from Freiburg to Constance changing trains twice and the fare is 47 euros. The direct bus with one stop at Singen covers the distance between the two cities in a mere one hour and 45 minutes and will cost between 8 and 11 euros.

In the present gold-rush mood competition is fierce between various bus companies serving Freiburg. In view of the low fares actually practiced experts are waiting for the first carrier to throw the towel.

The bus ride to Constance was on schedule and smooth. Our group arrived in the city that in comparison with other German cities is small but beautiful for it is nicely situated, as Dietrich von Nieheim attending the Church Council wrote in 1414.

Artist's impression: Constance 1414:  The warehouse at the bottom left was used for the conclave in 1417 when the cardinals elected Pope Martin V. The building now is wrongly called Konzilshaus and located one hundred meter inland. The negotiations took place in the Münster church (in the centre), in other churches, and in the Dominican monastery (building on the island right). 
The Council of Constance was a world conference and it is still a mystery how a city of 6000 inhabitants could house the 50,000 participants and furnish enough flaisch, visch, höw und haber (meat, fish, hay, and oats) to satisfy the needs of men and horses. And for further needs there were offene Frauen in den Frauenhäusern und sonst Frauen, die Häuser gemiethet hatten, und in den Ställen lagen oder sonst wo Platz fanden, seien gegen 700 da gewesen, ohne die heimlichen ("open" women in brothels and other women who had rented houses and lay in the stables or found space elsewhere, there were about 700 not counting the illegally present).
The Council under the spell of Imperia
(Statue at the entrance of Constance harbor)(©Fn78 Wikipedia)
The Council had to solve three enormous tasks. Get rid of three popes thus regaining the unity of the church (causa unionis), undertake necessary internal root-and-branch reforms (causa reformationis) urgently, and deal with basic questions of faith (causa fidei).

Three popes at a Constance fountain. Who carries the best polished tiara?
(©Anmargi Feierabend)
Burning Hus alive at the stake on July 6, 1415
The Council solved the first task in dethroning three popes and electing Martin V. as their one and only pope. Although the German King Sigismund was pressing the assembly for reforms the causa reformationis was not even touched upon and made Luther one hundred years later break with the Church. Johann Hus who had come from Prague to discuss the causa fidei was not even listened to but burned alive at the stake as a heretic, a fact that caused political unrest in Bohemia and led to the Hussite Wars. You may like to read more about the Council of Constance in German or in English.

 Like the outcome of the Council the exhibition in Constance was unsatisfying. The first part was just an collection of 15th century church treasures from all over Europe with explanations too small to read. The second part was better leading the visitor through the time sequence of the Council with columns standing for milestones showing dates and documents.

A Luther citation closes the exhibition: In Constance they roasted a goose (Hus means goose in Czech) but in one hundred years from now they will listen to a swan, singing, where Brother Martin clearly meant himself.

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