BESSARION, bes-sê'ri-en, JOHANNES or BASILIUS: Cardinal; b. at Trebizond 1395; d. at Ravenna Nov. 19, 1472. He studied at Constantinople and at Misithra in the Peloponnesus under Gemistos Plethon; entered the Basilian order; became archbishop of Nicæa in 1437. As such he labored at Ferrara and Florence, 1438-39, for the union of the Greek and Roman Churches (see FERRARA-FLORENCE, COUNCIL OF). Having been made a cardinal, he remained in Italy, by voice and pen working for the union. His house at Rome became the center not only for his fugitive countrymen, but also for the cultivation of Greek literature in the West; and during his activity as legate in Bologna, 1451-55, he worked in the same interest at that ancient gymnasium illustre. At the papal election in 1455 he lacked only a few votes of being chosen pope, and his influence in the curia may be seen from the numerous diplomatic missions with which he was entrusted. While returning from a missionary tour to France, which he had undertaken for the sake of reconciling Louis XI and the duke of Burgundy, he died at Ravenna.
Bibliography: On the works of Bessarion consult: Fabricius-Harles, Bibliotheca Græca, x, 491, xi, 480. Hamburg, 1807-08; MPG, clxi. On his life and activities consult: Pastor, Popes, vol. iv, passim (well worth using); Creighton, Papacy, vols. ii-v, passim (gives an excellent treatment of the subject); G. Voigt, Die Wiederbelebung des classischen Alterthums, Berlin, 1859; J. Burckhardt, Kultur der Renaissance in Italien, Basel, 1860, Eng. transl., 2 vols., London, 1878; H. Vast, Le Cardinal Bessarion, Paris, 1878; R. Rocholl, Bessarion, Leipsic, 1904.