PISA, COUNCILS OF: The council of Pisa in 1409, standing as a moment in the tendency to establish an episcopal oligarchy in place of a papal monarchy, was occasioned by the great schism in the western Church and the need of reforms. There had been since 1378 two popes in western Christendom and it was imperative to put an end to the confusion incident to a double system of bishops, priests, and sacraments. The two popes themselves, Gregory XII. of Rome and Benedict XIII. of Avignon, were opposed to arbitrating their claims. A majority of the cardinals of both parties resolved to ignore their obstinate chiefs and came together at Livorno in 1408 and invited the representatives of the Church to a general council at Pisa on Mar. 25, 1409. A large number of church dignitaries besides representatives of the sacred orders, universities, and secular kings and princes obeyed the summons of the cardinals. The claims of both papal pretenders were considered, and after ten days the cardinals entered into a conclave at the archiepiscopal palace at Pisa, and, on June 26, chose unanimously the Cardinal Peter Philargi, archbishop of Milan, as pope. He was a native Greek of the island of Crete, and reputed to be of a conciliatory disposition. He assumed the name of Alexander V. The cardinals had not taken pains to find out whether the several Christian states would accept their election as valid. The consequence was that instead of a two-headed papacy they had created a three-headed one, a result foreseen by such men as Pierre d'Ailly (q.v.). Rupert of Germany, Ladislaus of Naples, and certain other minor princes stood by Gregory XII.; Spain and Portugal supported Benedict XIII. The cause of union was thus unsuccessful. The cause of reformation, on the other hand, fared no better, for it proved that the great assembly was unprepared to deal with so great a problem. The reformation of the Church, both head and members, was postponed to the next council, to which both Pope Alexander V. and Council agreed. The materials of reformation were to be first discussed at provincial, diocesan, or chapter synods; but later developments proved that no one had in mind a reform of the hierarchical structure. The only consequence was the testimony to the world that there was a Church universal strong enough to withstand the strain of even a thirty-years schism. (P. TSCHACKERT.)
The second Council of Pisa was called by nine cardinals under the Spanish Cardinal Carvajal, three of whom, however, had not formally given assent, to convene Sept. 1, 1511. The council was a political step aimed at Pope Julius II., who was involved in conflict with Ferrara and France. It was of an abortive nature, attended by only a small contingent, and soon adjourned to Milan on account of popular opposition, where it declared Julius II. suspended, Apr. 21, 1512. Soon after, it dispersed to France from fear of the Swiss invasion, and died of inanition at Lyons toward the end of the year. Pope Julius II. retaliated by depriving the four leading schismatic cardinals of their dignities and calling a Lateran Council which met May 3, 1512, and excommunicated the members of the second Pisan Council. The whole matter was a futile attempt to galvanize into activity the conciliar movement of the previous century (ut sup.) and to employ it for political purposes.