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Julian (Giuliano) Cesarini (Rome 1398 – Varna, Bulgaria, 10 November 1444) was one of the group of brilliant cardinals created by Pope Martin V on the conclusion of the Western Schism. His intellect and diplomacy made him a powerful agent first of the Council of Basel and then, after he broke with the Consiliar movement at Basel, of Papal superiority against the Conciliar movement. The French bishop Bossuet described Cesarini as the strongest bulwark that the Catholics could oppose to the Greeks in the Council of Florence.

One of five brothers of a well-established Roman family of the minor nobility[1] he was educated at Perugia, where he lectured on Roman law and had Domenico Capranica among his pupils. When the schism was ended by the general recognition of Martin V as pope, Giuliano returned to Rome, where he attached himself to Cardinal Branda da Castiglione.

The suggestions for wide reform that informed the Conciliar Movement were rife, and Cesarini devoted his career to the principles of the outward unity of the Church and its reformation from within.

In 1419 he accompanied Cardinal Branda da Castiglione, who thought highly of him, on his difficult mission to Germany and Bohemia, where the Hussites were in open rebellion. He also served as a papal envoy to England. In 1426 Martin V created Cesarini a cardinal and later sent him to Germany to preach a crusade against the Hussites. After the crusade failed, Cesarini went to Basel to preside over the council that had begun there.

Council of Basel

Cesarini was made President of the Council of Basel, in which capacity he successfully resisted the efforts of Eugenius IV to dissolve the council, though later (1437) he withdrew, believing the majority of delegates present were more anxious to humiliate the pope than to accomplish reforms, for his first loyalty was to the idea of church unity. When Eugenius convoked the rival Council of Ferrara, Cesarini was made head of the commission appointed to confer with the Greeks. In 1439, owing to a plague, the council was transferred from Ferrara to Florence, where Cesarini continued to play a prominent part in the negotiations with the Greeks. These negotiations ended in a brief-lived ecclesiastical reunion of East and West.

After the council was dissolved, Cesarini was sent as papal legate to Hungary (1443) to promote a national crusade against the Ottoman Turks. He was opposed to the Peace of Szeged between Ladislaus, King of Hungary and Poland, and Sultan Murad II, and persuaded the former to break it and renew the war. It was an unfortunate step and resulted in the disastrous defeat of the Christian army at Varna, 10 November 1444, when Cardinal Giuliano was slain in the fight. Rumors that Cesarini had escaped proved false. The Roman curia, however, was slow to accept that the cardinal was dead.

His two well-known letters to Aeneas Sylvius Piccolomini (later Pius II)about the pope's relations to the Council of Basel are printed among the works of Pius II (Pii II Opera Omnia, Basel 1551, p. 64).


  1. ^ Cesarini genealogy; his brother Giacomo was appointed papal Podestà of Orvieto and Foligno in 1444; his great-nephew, also Giuliano Cesarini Giuliano (1466-1510) was made a cardinal in 1493. (Salvador Miranda, "Cardinals of the Holy Roman Church").

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