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Gennadius II

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Patriarch of Constantinople (1454-1456).

His original name was George Scholarius (Georgios Kourtesios Scholarios). He was born about 1400, was first a teacher of philosophy and then judge in the civil courts under the Emperor John VIII (1425-1448). In this capacity he accompanied his master to the Council of Ferrara-Florence (1438-1439) and was at that time in favour of the union. He made four speeches at the council, all exceedingly conciliatory, and wrote a refutation of the first eighteen of Marcus Eugenicus's syllogistic chapters against the Latins. But when he came back to Constantinople, like most of his countrymen, he changed his mind. Marcus Eugenicus converted him completely to anti-Latin Orthodoxy, and from this time till his death he was known (with Marcus) as the most uncompromising enemy of the union. He then wrote many works to defend his new convictions, which differ so much from the earlier conciliatory ones that Allatius thought there must be two people of the same name ("Diatriba de Georgiis" in Fabricius-Harles "Bibliotheca Græca", X, 760-786); to whom Gibbon: "Renaudot has restored the identity of his person, and the duplicity of his character" ("Decline and Fall", lxviii, note 41. For Renaudot's work see bibliography below). Scholarius entered the monastery "of the Almighty" (tou Pantokratoros) under Constantine XI (1448-1453) and took, according to the invariable custom, a new name — Gennadius. Before the fall of the city he was already well known as a bitter opponent of the union. He and Marcus Eugenicus were the leaders of the anti-Latin party. In 1447, Marcus on his death-bed praised Gennadius's irreconcilable attitude towards the Latins and the union (P.G., CLX, 529). It was to Gennadius that the angry people went after seeing the Uniat services in the great church of Santa Sophia. It is said that he hid himself, but left a notice on the door of his cell: "O unhappy Romans, why have you forsaken the truth? Why do you not trust in God, instead of in the Italians? In losing your faith you will lose your city", and so on (quoted by Gibbon, ibid., ed. Bury, VII, 176).

As soon as the massacre of 29 May, 1453, was over, when Mohammed the conqueror thought of reorganizing the now subject Christians, he was naturally anxious to put an end to any sort of alliance between them and the Western princes. So he sent for this Gennadius because he was one of the chief enemies of the union, and told him to be patriarch. The see had been vacant three years, since the resignation of Athanasius II (1450). On 1 June, 1453, the new patriarch's procession passed through the streets that were still reeking with blood; Mohammed received Gennadius graciously and himself invested him with the signs of his office — the crosier (dikanikion) and mantle. This degrading ceremony has continued ever since, except that now (since the Turks hanged Parthenius III in 1657) the sultan thinks it beneath his dignity, so that it is performed by the grand vizier (Pitzipios, "L'Église Orientale", Rome, 1855, III, 83). Mohammed also arranged with Gennadius the condition of Orthodox Christians (the so-called "Roman nation") in the Turkish Empire made the patriarch their acknowledged civil head before the Porte and gave him a diploma (called berat) exactly defining his rights and duties. This berat is still given to every patriarch before his consecration (or enthronement). Gennadius, who was not in Holy orders, was then ordained to each grade. Although he so disliked Latins, he seems to have kept good relations with the sultan. One of the symbolic books of the Orthodox Church is the Confession (Homologia) made by him to Mohammed, by which he is said to have secured a certain measure of tolerance for his people (see below). As the Santa Sophia had been made into a mosque, he used as his patriarchal church, first that of the Apostles (where the emperors were buried), then that of the All-Blessed (tes pannakaristou = the Blessed Virgin). But after two years, in 1456 (Gedeon in his Patriarchikoi Pinakes, Constantinople, 1890; others say it was in 1459), he resigned. It is difficult to give the full reason for this step. It is commonly attributed to his disappointment at the sultan's treatment of Christians. On the other hand, Mohammed seems to have kept the fairly tolerant conditions he had allowed to them; various writers hint darkly at other motives (see Michalcescu, op. cit. infra, 13). Gennadius then, like so many of his successors, ended his days as an ex-patriarch and a monk. He lived in the monastery of St. John Baptist at Seres in Macedonia (north-east of Saloniki), and wrote books till his death in 1468 (Papageorgiu in the "Byzantinische Zeitschrift", III,315). Gennadius Scholarius fills an important place in Byzantine history. He was the last of the old school of polemical writers and one of the greatest. Unlike most of his fellows he had an intimate acquaintance with Latin controversial literature, especially with St. Thomas Aquinas and the Schoolmen. He was as skilful an opponent of Catholic theology as Marcus Eugenicus, and a more learned one. His writings show him to be a student not only of Western philosophy but of controversy with Jews and Mohammedans, of the great Hesychast question (he attacked Barlaam and defended the monks; naturally, the Barlaamites were lateinophrones, in short, of all the questions that were important in his time. He has another kind of importance as the first Patriarch of Constantinople under the Turk. From this point of view he stands at the head of a new period in the history of his Church; the principles that still regulate the condition of Orthodox Christians in the Turkish Empire are the result of Mohammed II's arrangement with him.


Gennadius was a prolific writer during all the periods of his life. He is said to have left from 100 to 120 works (Michalcescu, op. cit. infra, 13). Of these a great number are still unedited. P.G., CLX, 320-773, contains the chief collection of what has been published. To this must be added the works in Simonides, Orth Hellen. theologikai graphai (London, 1859), 42-72; Jahn, "Anecdota græca theologica" (Leipzig, 1893), 1-68 and others mentioned below.

First Period (while he was in favour of the union, 1438-c. 1445).-- The chief works of this time are the "speeches" made at the Council of Florence (printed in Hardouin, IX, and P.G., CLX, 386 sqq.), also a number of letters addressed to various friends, bishops, and statesmen, mostly unedited. An "Apology for five chapters of the Council of Florence", edited first (in Latin) at Rome in 1577, and again in 1628, is doubtful (in P.G., CLIX, it is attributed to Joseph of Methone). A "History of the Council of Florence" under his name (in manuscript) is really identical with that of Syropulos (ed. Creighton, The Hague, 1660).

Second Period (as opponent of the union, to his resignation of the patriarchal see, c. 1445-1456 or 1459). A great number of polemical works against Latins were written in this time. Two books about the "Procession of the Holy Ghost" (one in Simonides, loc. cit., the other in P.G., CLX, 665); another one "against the insertion of the Filioque in the Creed" (ibid., 713); two books and a letter about "Purgatory"; various sermons and speeches; a "Panegyric of Marcus Eugenicus" (in 1447), etc. Some translations of works of St. Thomas Aquinas, and polemical treatises against his theology by Gennadius are still unedited, as is also his work against the Barlaamites. There are also various philosophical treatises of which the chief is a "Defence of Aristotle" (antilepseis hyper Aristotelous) against the Platonist, Gemistus Pletho (P.G., CLX, 743 sqq.).

His most important work is easily his "Confession" (Ekthesis tes pisteos ton orthodoxon christianon, generally known as Ohomologia tou Gennadiou) addressed to Mohammed II. It contains twenty articles, of which however only the first twelve are authentic. It was written in Greek; Achmed, Kadi of Berrhoea, translated it into Turkish. This is the first (in date) of the Orthodox Symbolic books. It was published first (in Greek and Latin) by Brassicanus (Vienna, 1530), again by Chytræus (Frankfort, 1582). Crusius printed it in Greek, Latin, and Turkish (in Greek and Latin letters) in his "Turco-Græcia" (Basle, 1584 reprinted in P.G., CLX 333, sqq.). Rimmel has reprinted it (Greek and Latin) in his "Monumenta fidei Eccl. Orient." (Jena, 1850), I, 1-10; and Michalcescu in Greek only [Die Bekenntnisse und die wichtigsten Glaubenszeugnisse der griech.-orient. Kirche (Leipzig, 1904), 17-21]. There exists an arrangement of this Confession in the form of a dialogue in which Mohammed asks questions ("What is God?" — "Why is he called theos?" — "And how many Gods are there?" and so on) and Gennadius gives suitable answers. This is called variously Gennadius's "Dialogue" (didalexis), or "Confessio prior", or "De Via salutis humanæ" (Peri tes hodou tes soterias anthropon). Rimmel prints it first, in Latin only (op. cit., 1-10), and thinks it was the source of the Confession (ibid., iii). It is more probably a later compilation made from the Confession by some one else (Otto, op. cit. infra). It should be noticed that Gennadius's (quasi-Platonic) philosophy is in evidence in his Confession (God cannot be interpreted, theos from theein, etc.; cf. Rimmel, op. cit., viii-xvi). Either for the same reason or to spare Moslem susceptibility he avoids the word Prosopa in explaining the Trinity, speaking of the three Persons as idiomata "which we call Hypostases" (Conf., 3).

During the third period, from his resignation to his death (1459-1468), he continued writing theological and polemical works. An Encyclical letter to all Christians "In defence of his resignation" is unedited, as are also a "Dialogue with two Turks about the divinity of Christ", and a work about the "Adoration of God". Jahn (Anecdota græca) has published a "Dialogue between a Christian and a Jew" and a collection of "Prophecies about Christ" gathered from the Old Testament. A treatise, "About our God, one in three, against Atheists and Polytheists" (P.G., CLX, 667 sqq.), is chiefly directed against the theory that the world may have been formed by chance. Five books, "About the Foreknowledge and Providence of God" and a "Treatise on the manhood of Christ", are also in P.G., CLX. Lastly, there are many homilies by Gennadius most of which exist only in manuscript at Athos ("Codd. Athous", Paris, 1289-1298). A critical edition of Gennadius's collected works is badly needed.


For the question of the supposed two persons, both named George Scholarius, see ALLATIUS, De Georgiis eorumque scriptis in De Eccl. occid. atque orient. perp. consensione (Cologne, 1648), III, 5, 6. His theory has been taken up again by KIMMEL, op. cit., ii-vii, but was confuted long ago by RENAUDOT, Dissertatio de Gennadii vita et scriptis (Paris, 1709) in P.G., CLX, 249 sqq. OUDIN, Comment. de Script. Eccles. (Leipzig, 1722), III, 2481; FABRICIUS-HARLES, Bibl. Graeca (Hamburg, 1790), XI, 349; and everyone since maintain the identity of Gennadius. TRYPHON EVANGELIDES, Gennadios b' ho Scholarios (Athens, 1896); Samos, Georgios Scholarios (1895); DRÄSEKE in the Byzantinische Zeitschrift IV (1895), 3 sqq.; GEDEON, Patriarchikoi Pinakes (Constantinople, s. d.), 471 sqq. CRUSIUS, Turcogræcia I, 2; Orro, Des Patr. Gennadsus Confessio kritisch untersucht (Vienna, 1864); KRUMBACHER, Byzantinische Litteratur (2nd ed., Munich, 1897), 119-121.

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APA citation. Fortescue, A. (1909). Gennadius II. In The Catholic Encyclopedia. New York: Robert Appleton Company.

MLA citation. Fortescue, Adrian. "Gennadius II." The Catholic Encyclopedia. Vol. 6. New York: Robert Appleton Company, 1909. <>.

Transcription. This article was transcribed for New Advent by Michael Kolarcik, S.J. In memory of Edward Kolarcik.

Ecclesiastical approbation. Nihil Obstat. September 1, 1909. Remy Lafort, Censor. Imprimatur. +John M. Farley, Archbishop of New York.

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