Deutsch Wikipedia
David Wallace
University of Pennsylvania


This Konzilgebäude or Council Building, built as a warehouse for the use of merchants, 1388-91, was taken over by clerics for sittings of the Council of Constance, which met between 1414 and 1418. Its waterside location emphasizes its suitability and centrality for a pan-European gathering: Lake Constance sits at the head of the Rhineland locations that lead off our fourth sequence (Basel, Strasbourg, Cologne…). Deliberations at the Council began with the question of nation status. The French, it was recognized, ‘are a kingdom by themselves. .. to their nation belong merely the lords and cities of their land’. But the English, au contraire, hardly seemed a nation at all. When belatedly granted nation status at Constance, England’s fantastical bounds were said to include ‘Hibernia, which is Scotland [sic], the kingdom of Arabia beyond the sea, the kingdom of the Medes, the kingdom of the Persians, the two Indias, the Greater and the Lesser, ruled by Prester John, the kingdom of Ethiopia, where the Moors live, the kingdom of Egypt. . . the kingdom of Nineveh and, reportedly, nine other kingdoms. . . beyond Tartary’. Questions of territorial demarcation continued to absorb this gathering, an attempt to heal the rift in western Christendom while entertaining some dialogue with the Christianities of the east. Ulrich Richental’s Chronicle of the Council of Constance illustrates a Greek Orthodox mass being celebrated there, in 1415, by long-haired men, and featuring rather large loaves. Jan Hus of Husinec, Bohemia, was burned on 6 July 1415. There was plenty of downtime between sessions at Constance: as musicians were free to wander between delegations, picking up new styles, so literary-minded clerics were able to form study circles, exchange ideas, expose themselves to new styles of Latin sermonizing, and even to make discoveries of lost works. It was ‘while we were doing nothing in Constance’ that Poggio Bracciolini was inspired to visit the Benedictine monastery of St Gall; here he found Quintilian’s twelve books on oratory.