Sunday, September 25, 2022

The Papal States

Although the early popes had no temporal power or property, as the Roman Catholic Church grew in popularity and influence, they accrued territory. It started simply, when Constantine gave the Lateran Palace for the pope's use, but the Renaissance saw a significant expansion and increase in the papacy's temporal and political influence.

As the Church grew post-Edict of Milan, donations of and (or buildings to be used as churches) followed from well-to-do Christins. These were all initially treated as property privately held, not as property of a political entity. This may have helped when the Roman Empire crumbled under attacks: Odoacer's overthrow of Romulus Augustus in 476, and the later rule by the Ostrogoths, would have made the Church's position more precarious if it were seen as a political rival. At this time, however, it was just a private "corporation," so to speak. The pope could be a dutiful subject under the new (and potentially hostile) administrations, while still professing spiritual authority.

When the Eastern Roman (Byzantine) Empire, headquartered in Constantinople, decided to reconquer the Western Roman Empire from the Goths, it set in motion a chain that would pass more temporal power to the popes. True, the East managed to regain much territory in Italy between 535 and 554, but the fighting left the economy in disarray. This made it easier for the Lombards to enter from the north and proceed to conquer most—not all—of the territory held by Constantinople.

The remaining strip of land stretching diagonally from coast to coast and including Rome. As the Eastern Empire's ability to manage these lands from far away waned, they increasingly left the popes in charge, since by this time the popes were the single largest landowner. At some point, these lands and others became known s the Duchy of Rome.

As their temporal power grew, of course, it led to severe clashes with other rulers. But then, it was other rulers' generosity that contributed to the papal increase in power. One such example was the Donation of Pepin, which I'll tell you about next time.

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