Papal States

From 756 to 1870, certain civil territories in Italy acknowledged the pope as their temporal ruler. Constantine* probably gave the Lateran Palace to the Church of Rome after 321, when it could legally own property. By 600, gifts of large estates formed the Patrimony of Peter,* around which grew the legend that Constantine had donated these lands to Pope Sylvester I. A forged document called “The Donation of Constantine”* buttressed these claims until proven a forgery in the fifteenth century. Laurentius Valla in particular exposed the use of oriental language such as “satraps” to describe fourth- century Rome.

Until the eighth-century dispute over Iconoclasm, the largest papal estates were in Sicily. Even with the loss of these properties to the Byzantine emperor, the pope still controlled more land than any other person in Italy. The Isle of Capri, Gaeta, Tivoli, and other properties in Tuscany and about Ravenna and Genoa speak of wealth and trouble. Pope Gregory I* used his income for charitable purposes as well as food for Rome. From the sixth to eighth centuries the popes supported Byzantine authority at Ravenna against the Lombards.

Under Gregory II,* the Roman popes filled the vacuum left by Byzantine collapse in central Italy. The exarchate about Ravenna and the duchy of Rome were central, especially the Pentapolis (Rimini, Pesaro, Fano, Sinigaglia, Ancona) and the fortress city of Perugia. When the Lombard king Liutprand* cut off Perugia in 738, Gregory II turned to Charles Martel.*

Pope Stephen II* (III) left Rome in 753 to travel to St.- Denis. There in January 754 he anointed Pepin,* giving him and his sons the title “Patrician of the Romans.” Pepin promised in writing to give certain territories to the pope. Lands in central Italy perhaps stem from this last document of 754. In the summer of that year Pepin forced the Lombard king Aistulf to give up the Pentapolis and the exarchate. Pepin obtained such a deed for the pope, only to find necessary a second invasion and deed in 756. Pepin founded the States of the Church when in 756 he refused to return the territories wrested from the Lombards to the Byzantines. The pope was freed from foreign interference and entered into alliance with the West. In 781 Charlemagne* guaranteed to Pope Adrian I* the Pepin donations. The coronation of Charlemagne in 800 cemented this policy.

After this independence and Western policy the Papal States provoked a bitter quarrel among Roman nobility for control of this temporal authority and the papacy itself, and this in turn entailed internal turmoil for the church. Poverty of mind and political opportunism describe papal affairs until the sack of Rome in 1527. In modern times, papal administration or arbitration of direct control led one conqueror after another into central Italy, from Charles VIII of France and the emperor Charles V to Napoleon Bonaparte. The Congress of Vienna returned the confiscated properties of 1798, the Roman Republic, to the pope in 1815. The Austrians protected these properties until, first in 1846 under Massimo d'Azeglio and finally under Garibaldi from 1860, foreign influence ended. Italian troops of the Risorgimento entered Rome on 20 September 1870. On 13 May 1871, the Vatican, Lateran, and Castel Gandolfo were declared to be papal territory. Pius IX* refused to accept the Papal Guarantee, though under Mussolini Pius XI* signed the Lateran Pact on 11 February 1929. After 1944 this pact became part of the Republican Constitution.