Out of the disaster of Great Schism (1378−1415) arose the Conciliar Movement: A group of prominent cardinals decided that only a council of all the church’s bishops deliberating together could decide which pope was the truearose the Conciliar Movement: A group of prominent cardinals decided that only a council of all the church’s bishops deliberating together could decide which pope was the true pope. There were also suggestions that, after such a decision, the council would take over as the highest authority in the church, with the pope as a kind of secondary administrator. The council would then be able to achieve true church reform, which the papacy had proven incapable of. Papal leadership in the church had hit rock bottom.
A first attempt at such a church council was held in Pisa in 1409. The bishops elected a new pope and declared the previous two quarreling popes deposed. However, the Rome and Avignon popes refused to recognize this deposition; now there were three popes— in Pisa, Rome, and Avignon. The conciliar solution seemed to have failed.
Under pressure from the Holy Roman Empire, the conciliar solution was tried again in 1415. This time, the council was held in Constance, Switzerland. It lasted from 1415−1418 and dealt with numerous matters, such as the Hussite heresy in Bohemia. But no matter was as pressing as ending the schism. Again, a new pope was elected—Martin V—and the others were declared deposed. This time, however, the results were different: under intense pressure, the other popes were eliminated, leaving Martin as the one true pope. Martin, however, was forced by the council to agree to its conditions that the council would rule the church and the pope would submit himself to conciliar decrees. Constance was a mixed blessing for papal power in the church.
After Constance, a struggle for power in the church developed between pope and council. Neither Martin nor subsequent popes were satisfied as subordinates of the council in church government, and several popes negotiated agreements with secular rulers to win their backing against the council. The battle came to a climax at the Council of Basel (1431−1443), where after an acrimonious struggle, the pope was able to reestablish himself as head of the church.