Ὁ Παλαιολόγος + ··
Partial signature of John VIII Palaiologos, 1439
In mid-June I had a letter from Daniel Moss, a London dealer in historical letters and manuscripts, asking for my help in confirming this partial signature of John Palaiologos. I say "partial" because the full signature is below:
This is from the Laurentian copy of the Act of Union. Ὁ Παλαιολόγος with the cross and two dots comes in the second line.
+ Ἰωάννης ἐν Χριστῷ τῷ θεῷ πιστὸς βασιλεὺς καὶ αὐτωκράτωρ ῥωμαίων
+ John Palaiologos, faithful ruler in Christ our God, emperor of the Romans +··
Here in the Venetian copy held in the Vatican, the signature line is broken in the middle of auto - krator.
I sent Moss the signature pictures I had, reading references, and a link to my blog on the Florence signing. We discussed the signature a little more, and the conversation seemed to have come to a natural end. Then four days later I received an e-mail from him in which he asked me if I would like to have it. Two weeks after Daniel Moss had first written me, I was holding John's signature in my hands.
It is a large signature, 9 cm long, written with a quill pen. The ink is still red, red edging toward brown, but very red where it collected in the loops and down-strokes.
At the bottom left of the paper is part of a watermark, an eagle with sun? a sphere on a rod?
At some point, the paper with the signature (16.8cm x 7.7cm) was glued at six places to a slightly larger, darker, stiffer paper. Someone made a note on it that says: The signature of the emperor Palaiologos to the Condordat / between Eugenius IV & the Emperor, made St. Maria / Novella in Florence 1439. In the Laurentian Library.
The signing was not done at S. Maria Novella: that is the Dominican convent where most of the Greek delegation was staying. Fra Angelico was working there at the time, and his assistant was the young Benozzo Gozzoli who later painted the Greeks into his frescos for the Medici chapel.
The Act of Union should have been signed on July 2, but an error was found in the text and the whole thing -- in Latin and Greek -- had to be recopied, the Latin text on the left side, the Greek on the right. The Greeks signed in the early afternoon of 5 July, a Sunday. They signed at the Palazzo Peruzzi where John was staying, a palazzo where the Florentine government put important visitors, on the main route from the piazza to S. Croce, and quite a long way from the rest of the Greeks. They signed in order of precedence, witnessed by three Latin bishops. Then John sent the document with ten clerics and four court officials over to Pope Eugenius. John said that Bessarion would make a speech when they got there. Bessarion did, a long one, and after the speech everyone went into another room where the Pope signed Eugenius catholice ecclesie episcopus ita diffiniens subscripsi, followed by the Latins in order of precedence. The next day, Monday July 6, was the formal day of Union. A high mass was said at the Duomo. Somehow, arrangements could not quite be worked out for an Orthodox liturgy.
Later in the month, four or five more official copies were signed -- this was at the Pope's request. John said, "Why five? Two are enough -- we take one and you take the other" -- and then still more copies, with varying numbers of signatures, depending on who showed up, or who had left town. The cost of the gold for the Emperor's seals would have made seals for twenty-nine of them, looking at the footnote in Gill: seals for four, looking at the footnote in Syropoulos.
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Thank you, Daniel Moss