(30 Nov. 1406–4 July 1415: d. 18 Oct. 1417)
Successor of Innocent VII, Angelo Correr was born of noble family at Venice c.1325, and was successively bishop of Castello, Venice, (1380), Latin patriarch of Constantinople (1390), cardinal priest of S. Marco (1405), and papal secretary. In their eagerness to see the end of the Great Schism (1378–1417), each of the fourteen Roman cardinals at the conclave following Innocent VII's death swore that, if elected, he would abdicate provided Antipope Benedict XIII did the same or should die; also that he would not create new cardinals except to maintain parity of numbers with the Avignon cardinals, and that within three months he would enter into negotiations with his rival about a place of meeting. A learned and widely read octogenarian, of exemplary austerity but vacillating character, Angelo owed his elevation primarily to the keen concern he had hitherto shown for the restoration of unity: he chose the title Gregory to honour the pope who had brought the papacy back to Rome.
At first it seemed that the hopes everywhere aroused by his election would be speedily fulfilled. Gregory immediately announced to the Christian world his readiness in appropriate circumstances to renounce his title as he had promised during the conclave, and sent a delegation (led by an inexperienced and unsuitable nephew) to Benedict XIII at Marseilles to agree a place where the two might confer. After stormy discussions it was decided (21 Apr. 1407) that, each accompanied by his cardinals and with security guaranteed, they should meet at Savona, a city belonging then to the Avignon obedience, by 1 Nov. at latest. From this point, however, Gregory's attitude altered; personal doubts and fears, combined with pressures from quarters apprehensive of what might ensue if he had to resign (from King Ladislas of Naples (1386–1414), the kings of Hungary and Bohemia, who distrusted the influence of the French king on Benedict, and even from the nephews who basked in his indulgence), made him postpone, and eventually refuse, the planned meeting. For months the two popes, Gregory at Lucca, where he arrived on 28 Jan. 1408, and Benedict at Portovenere, engaged in sterile negotiations; it was evident that, for all his protestations, Benedict had no intention of stepping down, while Gregory had good reasons to fear his hostile designs. As the negotiations dragged on, Gregory's cardinals became increasingly restive. An open break became inevitable when Gregory, suspicious of their loyalty, broke his pre-election promise and on 4 May announced the creation of four new cardinals (including two of his nephews). All but three of his original college now left him and fled to Pisa; from there, in a letter addressed to him, they appealed over his head to Christ and a general council, and circulated a letter to Christian princes declaring their zeal for union. They then joined forces with four of Benedict's cardinals at Livorno, made a solemn agreement with them to establish the peace of the church by a general council, and in early July sent out with them a united summons for such a council to meet at Pisa in March 1409.
Subjects: Early Modern History (1500 to 1700) — Christianity.