Isidore of Kiev

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Isidore of Kiev
Latin Patriarch of Constantinople
Isidore of Kiev.jpg
Installed20 April 1458
Term ended27 April 1463
PredecessorGregory Mammas
SuccessorBasilios Bessarion
Other postsCardinal-bishop of Sabina
Created cardinal18 December 1439
RankCardinal bishop
Personal details
Monemvasia, Byzantine Greece, Byzantine Empire
Died27 April 1463
Rome, Papal States
DenominationRoman Catholic (formerly Eastern Orthodox)
Previous post
Coat of armsIsidore of Kiev's coat of arms
Styles of
Isidore of Kiev
External Ornaments of a Cardinal Bishop.svg
Reference styleHis Eminence
Spoken styleYour Eminence
Informal styleCardinal
SeeSabina e Poggio Mirteto (suburbicarain)

Isidore of Kiev, also known as Isidore of Thessalonica or Isidore, the Apostate (Greek: Ἰσίδωρος τοῦ Κιέβου; Russian: Исидор; Ukrainian: Ісидор; 1385 – 27 April 1463), was a Byzantine Greek Metropolitan of Kiev, cardinal bishop, humanist, and theologian. He was one of the chief Eastern defenders of reunion at the time of the Council of Florence.[1]

Early life[edit]

Isidore was born in southern Greece in circa 1385.[1] He arrived at Constantinople, became a monk, and was there made hegumenos of the monastery of St Demetrius. He knew Latin well, and had considerable fame as a theologian. He was also an accomplished orator; he seems from the beginning to have been eager for reunion with the West.[citation needed]

It was the time when the Court of Constantinople, on the eve of its final destruction by the Turks, was considering the chance of rescue from the Western princes as a result of reuniting with Rome. In 1434 Isidore was sent to Basel by John VIII Palaiologos (1425–1448) as part of an embassy to open negotiations with the Council of Basel. Here he made a mellifluous speech about the splendour of the Roman Empire at Constantinople. On his return he continued to take part in all the preparations for reunion among his own people.[citation needed]

Metropolitan of Kiev[edit]

Isidore's Sluzebnik liturgical book

In 1437, Isidore was appointed Metropolitan of Kiev and all Rus' (seated in Moscow) by Emperor John VIII Palaeologus to draw the Russian Orthodox Church into communion with the Roman Catholic Church and secure Constantinople's protection against the invading Ottoman Turks. Grand Prince of the Grand Duchy of Moscow[a 1] Vasili II (1425–62) met the new Metropolitan with hostility. However, Isidore managed to persuade him to ally with Catholicism for the sake of saving the Byzantine Empire and the Orthodox Church of Constantinople.[citation needed]

After Isidore had received funding from Vasili II, he went to Florence to attend the continuation of the Council of Basel in 1439. He was made a cardinal-presbyter and a papal legate for the provinces of Lithuania, Livonia, all Rus' and Galicia (thenceforth referred to as "the Ruthenian (Ukrainian Catholic) cardinal[1]). During this Council, Isidore fervently defended the union between the Churches of East and West, but he was opposed only by the secular representative from Ruthenia - ambassador Foma (Thomas) of Tver. Finally, the union agreement was signed and Isidore returned to Eastern Europe. In 1437 he was sent by the Byzantine Patriarch Joseph II (1416–39, a conspicuous friend of reunion, who died a Catholic at Florence) to be Metropolitan in Moscow.[clarification needed] As soon as he arrived he began to arrange a Rus' legation for the council about to be held at Ferrara. Vassili II made difficulties about this, and let him go eventually only after he had promised to come back with "the rights of Divine law and the constitution of the holy Church" uninjured. Syropulus and other Greek writers charge Isidore with perjury because in spite of this he accepted the union.[citation needed]

Council of Ferrara[edit]

It is possible that Isidore had been a pupil of the neoplatonist Gemistus Pletho, and went with his teacher and two other of Pletho's students, Bessarion and Mark Eugenikos, to attend the Council of Ferrara, which was intended to negotiate the reunion of the Orthodox and Catholic Churches.[2]

The large delegation of theologians and philosophers set out with a great following on 8 September 1437, travelled via Riga and Lübeck, and arrived at Ferrara on 15, August, 1438. On the way he offended his suite by his friendly conduct towards the Latins. At Ferrara and at Florence, where the council moved to in January, 1439, Isidore was one of the six chief speakers on the Byzantine side. Together with Bessarion he steadfastly worked for the union, and never swerved afterwards in his acceptance of it.[citation needed]

After the council, Pope Eugene IV made him his legate for all Ruthenia and Lithuania. On his way back news reached Isidore, at Benevento, that he had been made Cardinal-Priest of the Title of St Peter and Marcellinus. This was one of the few cases at the time in which a person not of the Latin Rite was made a cardinal.[citation needed]

From Buda, in March 1440, he published an encyclical calling on all Rus' bishops to accept the union, but when he at last arrived in Moscow (Easter, 1441), and proclaimed the union in the Kremlin church, he found that Vasily II and most of the bishops and people would have none of it. Then, at Vasily's command, six Rus' bishops met in a synod, deposed Isidore, and shut him up in prison.[citation needed]

The Grand Duchy of Moscow[a 1] princes denounced the union with Rome, but Isidore persisted. On his return from Italy, during his first Pontifical Divine Liturgy in the Dormition Cathedral in the Moscow Kremlin, Isidore had a Latin Rite crucifix carried in front of the procession and named Pope Eugene IV during the prayers of the liturgy. He also read aloud the decree of unification. Isidore passed a message to Vasili II from the Vatican, containing a request to assist the Metropolitan in spreading the Union in Rus'. Three days later, Isidore was arrested by the Grand Prince and imprisoned in the Chudov Monastery. He was denounced by certain Rus' clergymen, who were under pressure of Vasili II, for refusing to renounce the union with "heretical Rome".[citation needed]


In September 1443, after two years of imprisonment, Metropolitan Isidor escaped to Tver, then to Lithuania and on to Rome. He was graciously received by the pope in 1443. Pope Nicholas V (1447–1455) sent him as legate to Constantinople to arrange the reunion there in 1452, and gave him two hundred soldiers to help the defence of the city. On 12 December of that year he was able to unite three hundred of the Byzantine clergy in a celebration of the short-lived reunion.[3]

Before the Fall of Constantinople in 1453 he subsidized the repair of fortifications at his own expense and he was wounded in the early hours of the sack. He managed to escape the carnage by dressing up a dead body in his cardinal's robes. While the Turks were cutting off its head and parading it through the streets, the real cardinal was shipped off to Asia Minor with a number of insignificant prisoners, as a slave and later found safety in Crete. He composed a series of letters describing the events of the siege. He warned of the danger of further expansion of the Turks in the multiple letters and even seems to be the earliest eyewitness to have compared Mehmed II with Alexander the Great.[4][5]

Later he came back to Rome. Here he was made Bishop of Sabina, presumably adopting the Latin Rite. Pope Pius II (1458–64) later gave him two titles successively, those of Latin Patriarch of Constantinople and Archbishop of Cyprus, neither of which he could convert into real jurisdiction. He was Dean of the Sacred College of Cardinals from October 1461.[citation needed]

In popular media[edit]

Cardinal Isidore is portrayed by İzzet Çivril in 2012 film Fetih 1453. In the film, the Cardinal is depicted to be a prisoner after the fall of Constantinople.

He is played by Lex Gigeroff in the 2006 film The Conclave.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b The Grand Duchy of Moscow was a predecessor state of current Russia. (Sources: Russia: People and Empire, 1552–1917 by Geoffrey Hosking, Harvard University Press, 1998, ISBN 0674781198 (page 46) & Russia and The Commonwealth of Independent States 2012 by M. Wesley Shoemaker, Stryker Post, 2012, ISBN 1610488938 (page 10).)


  1. ^ a b c Isidore of Kiev, Encyclopædia Britannica, 2008, O.Ed.
  2. ^ George Gemistos Plethon, the Last of the Hellenes, by CM Woodhouse, Clarendon Press, Oxford, 1986, pp37 passim.
  3. ^ Dezhnyuk, Sergey (2017). Council of Florence: The Unrealized Union. CreateSpace. pp. 74–75. ISBN 978-1543271942.
  4. ^ Patrologia Graeca, CLIX, 953.
  5. ^ Philippides, Marios (2007). "The Fall of Constantinople 1453: Classical Comparisons and the Circle of Cardinal Isidore". Viator. Medieval and Renaissance Studies. 38 (1): 349–383. doi:10.1484/J.VIATOR.2.302088.

Further reading[edit]

  • Histories of the Council of Florence describe the adventures of Cardinal Isidore.
  • Sergey F. Dezhnyuk, "Council of Florence: The Unrealized Union", 2017.ISBN 978-1543271942
  • Ludwig Pastor, Geschichte der Paepste, I (3rd and 4th ed., Freiburg im Br., 1901), 585, etc., and his references.
  • The Monumenta Hungariae historica, XXI, 1, contain two versions of the letter to Nicholas V (pp. 665–95, 696–702); see Krumbacher, Byzantinische Litteraturgeschichte (Munich, 1897), 311
  • Strahl, Geschichte der russischen Kirche, I (Halle, 1830), 444
  • Frommann, Kritische Beitraege zur Geschichte der Florentiner Kircheneinigung (Halle, 1872), 138 seq.
  • Hefele, Conciliengeschichte, VII (Freiburg im Br., 1886), passim.
  • Silvano, Luigi, "Per l'epistolario di Isidoro di Kiev: la lettera a papa Niccolò V del 6 luglio 1453", Medioevo Greco 13 (2013), 223–240 (edition of a letter to Pope Nicholas V)
  • Silvano, Luigi, "Per l'epistolario di Isidoro di Kiev (II): la lettera al Doge Francesco Foscari dell'8 luglio 1453", Orientalia Christiana Periodica 84.1 (2018), 99–132 (edition of a letter to Doge Francesco Foscari).
  •  This article incorporates text from a publication now in the public domainHerbermann, Charles, ed. (1913). Catholic Encyclopedia. New York: Robert Appleton Company. Missing or empty |title= (help)

External links[edit]

Eastern Orthodox Church titles
Preceded by
Gerasimus of Kiev
Metropolitan of Kiev and all Rhosia
(in Moscow)

Succeeded by
Gregory the Bulgarian
as uniate Metropolitan of Kiev, Halych and all Ruthenia in 1458
Succeeded by
Jonah of Moscow
as Metropolitan of Moscow and all Rus' in 1448
Catholic Church titles
Preceded by
Astorgio Agnensi
Camerlengo of the Sacred College of Cardinals
Succeeded by
Latino Orsini
Preceded by
Andrea di Costantinopoli
Apostolic Administrator of Nicosia
Succeeded by
Nicola Guglielmo Goner
Preceded by
Gregory Mammas
Latin Patriarch of Constantinople
Succeeded by
Johannes Bessarion