Skip to content Skip to navigation
Skip to global navigation Menu

April 8, 1960

Students from ten academic departments presented papers at “East and West,” an intramural symposium held under the auspices of the department of history that focussed on the 15th century Council of Ferarra-Florence, the last great attempt to unite the separated Christian churches of East and West. Carole Lomax ’61, Elizabeth Clark ’60, Irene Stocksieker ’62 and Lynda Wallace ’61 delivered papers on Pope Eugenius IV and the Greeks, the “Greek schism” known as Filioque or the procession of the holy spirit, Patriarch Joseph II of Constantinople and Mark of Ephesus, the dissenting Archbishop, respectively. Hettie Albo ’61 spoke on the council’s unofficial translator, Ambrogio Traverari, showing how he became in influential Latin supporter of the Union; Susan Perkins ’61 described Isidore, Metropolitan of Kiev, another supporter of the Union, whose political travails and imprisonment upon his return to Russia became “a catalyst to the tradition of Moscow as the third Rome”; and Susan Merritt ’61, according to Sherrell Bingham ’62, Ann Friedberg ’62 and Margery Henderson ’62, writing in The Miscellany News, “gave the amusing impression of the anonymous Russian who accompanied Isadore as an illustratioin of the basic misconceptions and ignorance of the East and West about each other.”

Having established the purposes and some of the personae of the Council, the symposium turned to its effects. Lydia Vecchi ’62 discussed the influence on the Council and particularly on Cosimo de Medici, whom he met there, of the Neoplatonic Greek philosopher Georgius Gemistus—known as Plethon—which resulted in de Medici’s founding of the Platonic Academy in Florence. Margery Henderson’s paper introduced Plethon’s disciple Basilios Bessarion who, passionately engaged in the Council’s attempt at union between the Eastern and Western churchs, as a Cardinal in Rome commissioned the transmission and translation of Greek manuscripts into Latin, thus fostering humanistic study of Greek scholarship in Western Europe. Margot Lancastle ’61 interpreted a panel in Ghiberti’s “Gate of Paradise” in light of the approaching Council, and Nancy Dow ’62 used works by Fra Angelico, Benozzo Gozzoli and Piero della Francesca to demonstrate the effect of Eastern pageantry on Italian art. Concluding this session, Anne McPherson ’62 saw the failed attempt in the 1460s by Pope Pius II to liberate the Eastern church from the Turks as the final attempt for interrelation and aid.

The symposium’s keynote speaker, Professor Donald F. Lach from the University of Chicago, the preeminent scholar of Eastern influences on Western history and culture, presented what the students writing in The Miscellany News termed “a penetrating and meaningful survey of ‘Asia in the Eyes of Europe’” on the evening of the symposium’s first day. Commenting on politics, economics, religion, philosophy and the arts, Professor Lach in “a concise and illuminating manner,” they said, “emphasized how the West reached the East, how the purpose of the European contact often coincided with a salient interest in Western society, how the West interpreted the knowledge of the East in the light of its own biases and how this knowledge of the Orient contributed to Western culture.”

On the following morning the symposium’s final session, “The Missionary as Historian of China,” focused on one aspect of Professor Lach’s impressive survey in three historical periods. “Each of the papers,” said The Misc., “considered its period and group of missionaries as a whole, then concentrated on an individual historian to get at his particular view-point and the causes and effects of it.” Gail Ross ’60 discussed “The Missionary Friars of the Mongol Period, 13-14th Century,” with particualr attention to the 13th century missionary, explorer and envoy William of Rubruck and to Giovanni de’ Marignolli—known as John of Marignola—a 14th century Florentine traveller and envoy. The paper of Nada Beth Ellend ’61, “A Jesuit of the 17th Century: Matteo Ricci,” the influence of the court diaries of the Italian missionary, cartographer and mathematician—one of the first Westerners to learn to write and speak the Chinese language and the composer of the first Chinese map of the world—on subsequent Western understanding of Chinese culture and governance. In the symposium’s concluding paper, Linnea Bush ’62 discussed “Protestant Missionaries in the 19th Century.”

Pictorial exhibits accompanied the symposium, and eight students from the music department gave the American premiére of Lamentatio sanctae matris ecclesiae Constantinopolitanae (The Lament of the Holy Mother Church of Constantinople), a motet by the 15th century composer, Guillaume Dufay.

The Years