Theatre, religion and propaganda: the performances for the 1439 Ecumenical Council in Florence

Risultato della ricerca: Contributo in libroChapter


In 1439 a Council was organised in Florence which focused on two doctrinal problems: the Filioque and Plenitudo potestatis. These were fundamental issues, not only in religious but also in political terms, because they both involved the recognition of the Roman Pope’s supremacy over the entirety of Christianity, Catholic and Orthodox. During the Council, two theatrical performances were organized: the Annunciation and the Ascension. The performances were characterised by complex stage mechanisms that were absolutely ground-breaking at the time. Our knowledge of these performances is based on two exceptional descriptions in ancient Russian that were penned by Bishop Abraham of Suzdal, an eyewitness to these events. Based on a new edition of the bishop’s accounts, an English translation, a new reconstruction of the historic context, and a close analysis of the phases of the Council debates, this essay casts light on how the scenic arrangements and the dramatic content of the performances were designed to transmit a propagandist message to the prelates of the Orthodox Church supporting a resolution of the schism and the pro-unionist position of Pope Eugenius IV. This crucial episode also confirms the unrivalled propagandist and expressive potential of theatre. This is particularly striking at a time in which the exploitation of the performing arts for educational and parenetic purposes was still in an entirely experimental phase. Moreover, one of the acquisitions of this contribution relates to the detailed reconstruction of the development of the stage action of the two performances and the interpretation of its doctrinal significance. Both these aspects have been made possible by the new edition of the bishop’s accounts in Russian, complete with an English translation (both of which are published in the appendix), which has made it possible to fill the gaps in the versions used by previous scholars.
Lingua originaleEnglish
Titolo della pubblicazione ospiteReligiöses Wissen im mittelalterlichen und frühneuzeitlichen Schauspiel
EditorBeatrice von Lüpke, Michael Neumaier Klaus Ridder
Numero di pagine68
Stato di pubblicazionePubblicato - 2021


  • 1439 Florentine Council, Pope eugenius IV, Filippo Brunelleschi, Ambrogio Traversari, Cosimo de' Medici the Old, Annunciation feast, Ascension feast, Filioque, Plenitudo Potestatis, theatre, Florence, Humanism
  • Concilio di Firenze del 1439, Papa Eugenio IV, Filippo Brunelleschi, Ambrogio Traversari, Cosimo de' Medici il Vecchio, festa dell'Annunciazione, festa dell'Ascensione, Filioque, Plenitudo Potestatis, teatro, Firenze, umanesimo


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