The Donation of Constantine ( Latin: Donatio Constantini) is a forged Roman imperial decree ( Diplom ) by which the 4th-century emperor Constantine the Great supposedly transferred authority over Rome and the western part of the Roman Empire to the Pope. Composed probably in the 8th century, it was used, especially in the 13th century, in support of claims of political authority by the papacy. In many of the existing manuscripts (handwritten copies of the document), including the oldest one, the document bears the title Constitutum domini Constantini imperatoris. The Donation of Constantine was included in the 9th-century collection Pseudo-Isidorean Decretals .
Lorenzo Valla, an Italian Catholic priest and Renaissance humanist, is credited with first exposing the forgery with solid philological arguments in 1439–1440, although the document's authenticity had been repeatedly contested since 1001.
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The text is purportedly a decree of Roman Emperor Constantine I, dated 30 March - a year mistakenly said to be both that of his fourth consulate (315) and that of the consulate of Gallicanus (317). [ citation needed ] In it "Constantine" professes Christianity (confessio) and entitles to Pope Silvester several imperial insignia and privileges (donatio), as well as the Lateran Palace. Rome, the rest of Italy, and the western provinces of the empire are made over to the papacy.
The text recounts a narrative founded on the 5th-century hagiography the Legenda S. Silvestri. This fictitious tale describes the sainted Pope Sylvester's rescue of the Romans from the depredations of a local dragon and the pontiff's miraculous cure of the emperor's leprosy by the sacrament of baptism.The story was rehearsed by the Liber Pontificalis ; by the later 8th century the dragon-slayer Sylvester and his apostolic successors were rewarded in the Donation of Constantine with temporal powers never in fact exercised by the historical Bishops of Rome under Constantine .
In his gratitude, "Constantine" determined to bestow on the seat of Peter "power, and dignity of glory, vigor, and imperial honor," and "supremacy as well over the four principal sees: Alexandria, Antioch, Jerusalem, and Constantinople, as also over all the churches of God in the whole earth". For the upkeep of the church of Saint Peter and that of Saint Paul, he gave landed estates "in Judea, Greece, Asia, Thrace, Africa, Italy and the various islands". To Sylvester and his successors he also granted imperial insignia, the tiara, and "the city of Rome, and all the provinces, places and cities of Italy and the western regions".
The Donation sought reduction in the authority of Constantinople; if Constantine had elevated Sylvester to imperial rank before the 330 inauguration of Constantinople, then Rome's patriarch had a lead of some fifteen years in the contest for primacy among the patriarchates. Implicitly, the papacy asserted its supremacy and prerogative to transfer the imperial seat; the papacy had consented to the translatio imperii to Byzantium by Constantine and it could wrest back the authority at will.
It has been suggested that an early draft of the Donation of Constantine was made shortly after the middle of the 8th century, in order to assist Pope Stephen II in his negotiations with Pepin the Short, who then held the position of Mayor of the Palace (i.e., the manager of the household of the Frankish king).In 754, Pope Stephen II crossed the Alps to anoint Pepin king, thereby enabling the Carolingian family to supplant the old Merovingian royal line. In return for Stephen's support, Pepin gave the pope the lands in Italy which the Lombards had taken from the Byzantine (Eastern Roman) Empire. It is also possible it originated in the chancery of Stephen's immediate successor Paul I. These lands would become the Papal States and would be the basis of the papacy's temporal power for the next eleven centuries.
Another interpretation holds that the Donation was not an official forgery directed at Constantinople, but was instead a ploy in Roman ecclesiastical politics to bolster the status of the Lateran, which does have historical Constantinian connections, against the rising status of the Vatican, and it may have been composed by a Greek monk working in a Roman monastery.In one study, an attempt was made at dating the forgery to the 9th century, and placing its composition at Corbie Abbey, in northern France.
German medievalist Johannes Fried draws a distinction between the Donation of Constantine and an earlier, also forged version, the Constitutum Constantini, which was included in the collection of forged documents, the False Decretals, compiled in the later half of the ninth century. Fried argues the Donation is a later expansion of the much shorter Constitutum.Christopher B. Coleman understands the mention in the Constitutum of a donation of "the western regions" to refer to the regions of Lombardia, Veneto, and Istria.
What may perhaps be the earliest known allusion to the Donation is in a letter of 778, in which Pope Hadrian I exhorts Charlemagne - whose father, Pepin the Younger, had made the Donation of Pepin granting the Popes sovereignty over the Papal States - to follow Constantine's example and endow the Roman Catholic church. Otto III's chancery denied its authenticity.
The first pope to directly invoke the decree was Pope Leo IX, in a letter sent in 1054 to Michael I Cerularius, Patriarch of Constantinople.He cited a large portion of the document, believing it genuine, furthering the debate that would ultimately lead to the East–West Schism. In the 11th and 12th centuries, the Donation was often cited in the investiture conflicts between the papacy and the secular powers in the West.
The document's contents contradicted the Byzantines' notion that Constantine's translatio imperii transferred the seat of imperial authority from Rome to his foundation of Constantinople, named the "New Rome". Consequently, the Donation featured in the east-west dispute over ecclesiastical primacy between the patriarchal sees of Rome and New Rome.Cardinal Humbert of Silva Candida also issued a version of the document to support the papacy's claims against the eastern emperors' and patriarchs' primacy.
By the 12th century the text was existed in Greek translation, of which a 14th century manuscript survives, and Byzantine writers were also using the Donation in their polemics; John Kinnamos, writing in the reign of eastern emperor Manuel I Komnenos, criticized western Staufer emperors as usurpers and denied the popes had the right to bestow the imperial office.Theodore Balsamon justified Michael Cerularius's behaviour in 1054 using the Donation as a rationale for his dismissal of the papal legation and the mutual excommunications that followed.
In 1248, the Chapel of St Sylvester in the Basilica of the Santi Quattro Coronati was decorated with fresco showing the story of the Roman baptism and Donation of Constantine.
In his Divine Comedy , written in the early 14th century, the poet Dante Alighieri wrote:
Ahi, Costantin, di quanto mal fu matre,
non la tua conversion, ma quella dote
che da te prese il primo ricco patre!
(Ah, Constantine, how much evil was born,
not from your conversion, but from that donation
that the first wealthy Pope received from you!)— Dante Alighieri, Inferno, canto 19, lines 115–117.
During the Middle Ages, the Donation was widely accepted as authentic, although Emperor Otto III did possibly raise suspicions of the document "in letters of gold" as a forgery, in making a gift to the See of Rome.It was not until the mid-15th century, with the revival of Classical scholarship and textual criticism, that humanists, and eventually the papal bureaucracy, began to realize that the document could not possibly be genuine. Cardinal Nicholas of Cusa declared it to be a forgery and spoke of it as an apocryphal work.
Later, the Catholic priest Lorenzo Valla argued in his philological study of the text that the language used in manuscript could not be dated to the 4th century.The language of the text suggests that the manuscript can most likely be dated to the 8th century. Valla believed the forgery to be so obvious that he leaned toward believing that the Church knew that the document was inauthentic. Valla further argued that papal usurpation of temporal power had corrupted the church, caused the wars of Italy, and reinforced the "overbearing, barbarous, tyrannical priestly domination."
This was the first instance of modern, scientific diplomatics. Independently of both Cusa and Valla, Reginald Pecocke, Bishop of Chichester (1450–57), reached a similar conclusion. Among the indications that the Donation must be a fake are its language and the fact that, while certain imperial-era formulas are used in the text, some of the Latin in the document could not have been written in the 4th century; anachronistic terms such as "fief" were used. Also, the purported date of the document is inconsistent with the content of the document itself, as it refers both to the fourth consulate of Constantine (315) as well as the consulate of Gallicanus (317).
Pope Pius II wrote a tract in 1453, five years before becoming pope, to show that though the Donation was a forgery, the papacy owed its lands to Charlemagne and its powers of the keys to Peter; however, he did not publish it.
Contemporary opponents of papal powers in Italy emphasized the primacy of civil law and civil jurisdiction, now firmly embodied once again in the Justinian Corpus Juris Civilis . The Florentine chronicler Giovanni Cavalcanti reported that, in the very year of Valla's treatise, Filippo Maria Visconti, Duke of Milan, made diplomatic overtures toward Cosimo de' Medici in Florence, proposing an alliance against the pope. In reference to the Donation, Visconti wrote: "It so happens that even if Constantine consigned to Sylvester so many and such rich gifts – which is doubtful, because such a privilege can nowhere be found – he could only have granted them for his lifetime: the empire takes precedence over any lordship."[ citation needed ]
Later, scholars further demonstrated that other elements, such as Sylvester's curing of Constantine, are legends which originated at a later time. Wolfram Setz, a recent editor of Valla's work, has affirmed that at the time of Valla's refutation, Constantine's alleged "donation" was no longer a matter of contemporary relevance in political theory and that it simply provided an opportunity for an exercise in legal rhetoric.
The bulls of Nicholas V and his successors made no further mention of the Donation, even when partitioning the New World, though the doctrine of "omni-insular" papal fiefdoms, developed out of the Donation's vague references to islands since Pope Nicholas II's grant of Sicily to Robert Guiscard, was deployed after 1492 in papal pronouncements on the overlapping claims of the Iberian kingdoms in the Americas and Moluccas, including Inter caetera , a bull that resulted in the Treaty of Tordesillas and the Treaty of Zaragoza.Valla's treatise was taken up vehemently by writers of the Protestant Reformation, such as Ulrich von Hutten and Martin Luther, causing the treatise to be placed on the index of banned books in the mid-16th century. The Donation continued to be tacitly accepted as authentic until Caesar Baronius in his Annales Ecclesiastici (published 1588–1607) admitted that it was a forgery, after which it was almost universally accepted as such. Some continued to argue for its authenticity; nearly a century after Annales Ecclesiastici, Christian Wolff still alluded to the Donation as undisputed fact.
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Pope Stephen II was the bishop of Rome from 26 March 752 to his death. Stephen II marks the historical delineation between the Byzantine Papacy and the Frankish Papacy. During Stephen's pontificate, Rome was facing invasion by the Lombards when Stephen II went to Paris to seek assistance from Pepin the Short. Pepin defeated the Lombards and made a gift of land to the pope, eventually leading to the establishment of the Papal States.
Sylvester I was the bishop of Rome from 314 until his death. He is regarded as the 33rd Pope of the Catholic Church. He filled the see of Rome at an important era in the history of the Western Church, yet very little is known of him. The accounts of his pontificate preserved in the seventh- or eighth-century Liber Pontificalis contain little more than a record of the gifts said to have been conferred on the church by Constantine I, although it does say that he was the son of a Roman named Rufinus. His feast is celebrated as Saint Sylvester's Day in Western Christianity on 31 December, while Eastern Christianity commemorates it on 2 January.
The Papal States, officially the State of the Church, were a series of territories in the Italian Peninsula under the direct sovereign rule of the pope, from the 8th century until 1870. They were among the major states of Italy from roughly the 8th century until the Kingdom of Piedmont-Sardinia successfully unified the Italian Peninsula by conquest in a campaign virtually concluded in 1861 and definitively in 1870. At their zenith, the Papal States covered most of the modern Italian regions of Lazio, Marche, Umbria and Romagna, and portions of Emilia. These holdings were considered to be a manifestation of the temporal power of the pope, as opposed to his ecclesiastical primacy.
Pope Constantine was the bishop of Rome from 25 March 708 to his death. One of the last popes of the Byzantine Papacy, the defining moment of Constantine's pontificate was his 710/711 visit to Constantinople where he compromised with Justinian II on the Trullan canons of the Quinisext Council. Constantine's was the last papal visit to Constantinople until 1967.
In ancient Rome, Imperium was a form of authority held by a citizen to control a military or governmental entity. It is distinct from auctoritas and potestas, different and generally inferior types of power in the Roman Republic and Empire. One's imperium could be over a specific military unit, or it could be over a province or territory. Individuals given such power were referred to as curule magistrates or promagistrates. These included the curule aedile, the praetor, the consul, the magister equitum, and the dictator. In a general sense, imperium was the scope of someone's power, and could include anything, such as public office, commerce, political influence, or wealth.
Translatio imperii is a historiographical concept that originated from the Middle Ages, in which history is viewed as a linear succession of transfers of an imperium that invests supreme power in a singular ruler, an "emperor". The concept is closely linked to translatio studii. Both terms are thought to have their origins in the second chapter of the Book of Daniel in the Hebrew Bible.
Lorenzo Valla was an Italian humanist, rhetorician, educator and Catholic priest. He is best known for his textual analysis that proved that the Donation of Constantine was a forgery.
The Donation of Pepin in 756 provided a legal basis for the creation of the Papal States, thus extending the temporal rule of the Popes beyond the duchy of Rome.
The history of the papacy, the office held by the pope as head of the Catholic Church, according to Catholic doctrine, spans from the time of Peter to the present day.
The Patrimony of Saint Peter originally designated the landed possessions and revenues of various kinds that belonged to the apostolic Holy See i.e. the "Church of Saint Peter" in Rome, by virtue of the apostolic see status as founded by Saint Peter, according to Catholic tradition. Until the middle of the 8th century this consisted wholly of private property, but the term was later applied to the States of the Church, and more particularly to the Duchy of Rome.
Donation may refer to:
There was no uniform procedure for papal selection before 1059. The bishops of Rome and supreme pontiffs (popes) of the Catholic Church were often appointed by their predecessors or by political rulers. While some kind of election often characterized the procedure, an election that included meaningful participation of the laity was rare, especially as the popes' claims to temporal power solidified into the Papal States. The practice of papal appointment during this period would later result in the jus exclusivae, i.e., a right to veto the selection that Catholic monarchs exercised into the twentieth century.
The East–West Schism that occurred in 1054 represents one of the most significant events in the history of Christianity. It includes various events and processes that led to the schism and also those events and processes that occurred as a result of the schism. Eastern and Western Christians had a history of differences and disagreements, some dating back to the period of Early Christianity. At the very root of what later became the Great Schism were several questions of pneumatology and ecclesiology. The most important theological difference occurred over various questions regarding the procession of the Holy Spirit, and the use of the Filioque clause in the Creed. One of the main ecclesiological issues was the question of Papal supremacy. Other points of difference were related to various liturgical, ritual, and disciplinary customs and practices. Some political and cultural processes also contributed to the breakout of the schism.
The Byzantine Papacy was a period of Byzantine domination of the Roman papacy from 537 to 752, when popes required the approval of the Byzantine Emperor for episcopal consecration, and many popes were chosen from the apocrisiarii or the inhabitants of Byzantine-ruled Greece, Syria, or Sicily. Justinian I conquered the Italian peninsula in the Gothic War (535–554) and appointed the next three popes, a practice that would be continued by his successors and later be delegated to the Exarchate of Ravenna.
Michael I Cerularius or Keroularios was the Patriarch of Constantinople from 1043 to 1059 AD. He is most notable for his role in the events that led to the Great Schism in 1054.
From 756 to 857, the papacy shifted from the orbit of the Byzantine Empire to that of the kings of the Franks. Pepin the Short, Charlemagne, and Louis the Pious had considerable influence in the selection and administration of popes. The "Donation of Pepin" (756) ratified a new period of papal rule in central Italy, which became known as the Papal States.
Constantine the Great's (272–337) relationship with the four Bishops of Rome during his reign is an important component of the history of the Papacy, and more generally the history of the Catholic Church.
The Placidia Palace was the official residence of the papal apocrisiarius, the ambassador from the pope to the patriarch of Constantinople, and the intermittent home of the pope himself when in residence at Constantinople. The apocrisiarius held "considerable influence as a conduit for both public and covert communications" between pope and Byzantine emperor.
The Symmachian forgeries are a sheaf of forged documents produced in the papal curia of Pope Symmachus (498–514) in the beginning of the sixth century, in the same cycle that produced the Liber Pontificalis. In the context of the conflict between partisans of Symmachus and Antipope Laurentius the purpose of these libelli was to further papal pretensions of the independence of the Bishops of Rome from criticisms and judgment of any ecclesiastical tribunal, putting them above law clerical and secular by supplying spurious documents supposedly of an earlier age. "During the dispute between Pope St. Symmachus and the anti-pope Laurentius," the Catholic Encyclopedia reports, "the adherents of Symmachus drew up four apocryphal writings called the 'Symmachian Forgeries'. ... The object of these forgeries was to produce alleged instances from earlier times to support the whole procedure of the adherents of Symmachus, and, in particular, the position that the Roman bishop could not be judged by any court composed of other bishops."
Libellus de imperatoria potestate in urbe Roma is an anonymous Latin treatise on the authority of the Holy Roman Emperor in the city of Rome. It has been dated as early as the late 9th century and as late as the middle of the 10th. It was probably written at Spoleto. It survives in one manuscript, which was appended to the a contemporary work, Chronicon by Benedict of Sant'Andrea.