Skip to content
Catholic Online Logo

( Italian Lo Stato della Chiese )

Consists of the civil territory which for over 1000 years (754-1870) acknowledged the pope as temporal ruler. The expression "Patrimonium Sancti Petri" originally designated the landed possessions and revenues of various kinds that belonged to the Church of St. Peter at Rome. Until the middle of the eighth 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. Our subject may thus be conveniently treated under the following heads: I. Patrimony of St. Peter (tracing the origin of the States of the Church to the time of Charlemagne ); II. History of the States of the Church.


(1) Patrimonial Possessions of the Church of Rome

The law of Constantine the Great (321), by which the Christian Church was declared qualified to hold and transmit property, first gave a legal basis to the possessions of the Church of Rome. Subsequently the possessions were rapidly augmented by donations. Constantine himself set the example, the Lateran Palace being most probably presented by him. Constantine's gifts formed the historical nucleus, which the Sylvester Legend later surrounded with that network of myth, that gave rise to the forged document known as the "Donation of Constantine". The example of Constantine was followed by wealthy families of the Roman nobility, whose memory frequently survived, after the families themselves had become extinct, in the names of the properties which they had once presented to the Roman See .

The donation of large estates ceased about 600. The Byzantine emperors subsequently were less liberal in their gifts; the wars with the Lombards likewise had an unfavourable effect, and there remained few families in a position to bequeath large estates. Apart from a number of scattered possessions in the Orient, Dalmatia, Gaul, and Africa, the patrimonies were naturally for the most part situated in Italy and on the adjacent islands. The most valuable and most extensive possessions were those in Sicily, about Syracuse and Palermo. The revenues from the properties in Sicily and Lower Italy in the eighth century, when Leo the Isaurian confiscated them, were estimated at three and one-half talents of gold. But the patrimonies in the vicinity of Rome were the most numerous and, after most of the remote patrimonies had been lost in the eighth century, were managed with especial care. Of other patrimonies may be mentioned the Neapolitan with the Island of Capri, that of Gaeta, the Tuscan, the Patrimonium Tiburtinum in the vicinity of Tivoli, estates about Otranto, Osimo, Ancona, Umana , estates near Ravenna and Genoa, and lastly properties in Istria, Sardinia, and Corsica.

With these landed possessions, scattered and varied as they were, the pope was the largest landowner in Italy. For this reason every ruler of Italy was compelled of necessity to reckon with him first of all; on the other hand he was also the first to feel the political and economical disturbances that distressed the country. A good insight into the problems that required the attention of the pope in the administration of his patrimonies can be obtained from the letters of Gregory the Great (Mon. Germ. Epist., I). The revenues from the patrimonies were employed, not only for administrative purposes, for the maintenance and construction of church edifices, for the equipment of convents, for the household of the pope, and the support of the clergy, but also to a great extent to relieve public and private want. Numerous poorhouses, hospitals, orphanages, and hospices for pilgrims were maintained out of the revenues of the patrimonies, many individuals were supported directly or indirectly, and slaves were ransomed from the possession of Jews and heathens. But, above all, the popes relieved the emperors of the responsibility of providing Rome with food, and later also assumed the task of warding off the Lombards, an undertaking generally involving financial obligations, The pope thus became the champion of all the oppressed, the political champion of all those who were unwilling to submit to foreign domination, who were unwilling to become Lombards or yet wholly Byzantines, preferring to remain Romans.

(2) Political Position of the Papacy

This political aspect of the papacy became in time very prominent, inasmuch as Rome, after the removal of the imperial residence to the East, was no longer the seat of any of the higher political officials. Even after the partition of the empire, the Western emperors preferred to make the better-protected Ravenna their residence. Here was the centre of Odoacer's power and of the Ostrogothic rule; here also, after the fall of the Ostrogoths, the viceroy of the Byzantine emperor in Italy, the exarch, resided. In Rome on the other hand, the pope appears with ever-increasing frequency as the advocate of the needy population; thus Leo I intercedes with Attila and Geiserich, and Gelasius with Theodoric. Cassiodorus as prœfectus prœtorio under the Ostrogothic supremacy actually entrusted the care of the temporal affairs to Pope John II. When Emperor Justinian issued the Pragmatic Sanction (554), the pope together with the Senate was entrusted with the control of weights and measures. Thenceforth for two centuries the popes were most loyal supporters of the Byzantine Government against the encroachments of the Lombards, and were all the more indispensable, because after 603 the Senate disappeared. They, too, were the only court of judicature at which the Roman population, exposed as it was to the extortion of the Byzantine functionaries and officers, could find protection and defence. No wonder then that at scarcely any other time was the papacy so popular in Central Italy, and there was no cause which the native population, who had again begun to organise themselves into bodies of militia, espoused with greater zeal then the freedom and independence of the Roman See. And naturally so, for they took part in the election of the pope as a separate electoral body.

When the Byzantine emperors, infected with cæsaro-papist tendencies, attempted to crush the papacy also, they found in the Roman militia an opposition against which they were able to accomplish nothing. The particularism of Italy awoke and concentrated itself about the pope. When Emperor Justinian II in 692 attempted to have Pope Sergius II (as formerly the unfortunate Martin I ) forcibly conveyed to Constantinople to extract from him his assent to the canons of the Trullan Council , convoked by the emperor, the militia of Ravenna and of the Duchy of Pentapolis lying immediately to the south assembled, marched into Rome, and compelled the departure of the emperor's plenipotentiary. Such occurrences were repeated and acquired significance as indicating the popular feeling. When Pope Constantine, the last pope to go to Constantinople (710), rejected the confession of faith of the new emperor, Bardanas, the Romans protested, and refused to acknowledge the emperor or the dux (military ruler) sent by him. Not until news was brought that the heretical emperor had been replaced by one of the true Faith was the dux allowed to assume his office. That was in 713. Two years later the papal chair, which had last been occupied by seven Oriental popes, was filled by a Roman, Gregory II, who was destined to oppose Leo III the Isaurian in the Iconoclastic conflict. The time was ripening for Rome to abandon the East, turn toward the West, and enter into that alliance with the Germano-Romanic nations, on which is based our Western civilization, of which one consequence was the formation of the States of the Church. It would have been easy for the popes to throw off the Byzantine yoke in Central Italy as early as the time of Iconoclasm. If they resisted the impulse, it was because they correctly recognized that such an attempt would have been premature. They foresaw that the end of the Byzantine supremacy and the beginning of the Lombard power would have been encompassed at the same time. It was necessary first to establish the fact that the Byzantines could no longer protect the pope and the Romans against the Lombards, and then to find a power that could protect them. Both of these conditions were fulfilled in the middle of the eighth century.

(3) Collapse of the Byzantine Power in Central Italy

The strange shape which the States of the Church were destined to assume from the beginning is explained by the fact that these were the districts in which the population of Central Italy had defended itself to the very last against the Lombards. The two chief districts were the country about Ravenna, the exarchate, where the exarch was the centre of the opposition, and the Duchy of Rome, which embraced the lands of Roman Tuscany north of the Tiber and to the south the Campagna as far as the Garigliano, where the pope himself was the soul of the opposition. Furthermore, the greatest pains were taken, as long as it was at all possible, to retain control of the intervening districts and with them communication over the Apennines. Hence the strategic importance of the Duchy of the Pentapolis (Rimini, Pesaro, Fano, Sinigaglia, Ancona ) and Perugia. If this strategic connexion were broken, it was evident that Rome and Ravenna could not singly maintain themselves for any length of time. This was recognized by the Lombards also. The same narrow strip of land in fact broke the connexion between their Duchies of Spoleto and Benevento and the main portion of the king's territories in the north, and it was against this therefore that, from the second decade of the eighth century, they aimed their attacks with ever-increasing energy. In the beginning the popes were able repeatedly to wrest from their hands all that they had gained. In 728 the Lombard king Liutprand took the Castle of Sutri, which dominated the highway at Nepi on the road to Perugia. But Liutprand, softened by the entreaties of Pope Gregory II, restored Sutri "as a gift to the blessed Apostles Peter and Paul". This expression of the "Liber pontificalis" was erroneously interpreted to mean that in this gift the beginning of the States of the Church was to be recognized. This is incorrect inasmuch as the popes continued to acknowledge the imperial Government, and Greek officials appear in Rome for some time longer. True it is, however, that here for the first time we meet the association of ideas on which the States of the Church were to be constructed. The pope asked the Lombards for the return of Sutri for the sake of the Princes of the Apostles and threatened punishment by these sainted protectors. The pious Liutprand was undoubtedly susceptible to such pleas, but never to any consideration for the Greeks. For this reason he gave Sutri to Peter and Paul, that he might not expose himself to their punishment. What the pope then did with it would be immaterial to him.

The belief that the Roman territory (at first in the more restricted, but afterwards also in the wider sense) was defended by the Princes of the Apostles became more and more prevalent. In 738 the Lombard duke Transamund of Spoleto captured the Castle of Gallese, which protected the road to Perugia to the north of Nepi. By the payment of a large sum of money Gregory III induced the duke to restore the castle to him. The pope then sought by an alliance with Duke Transamund to protect himself against Liutprand. But Liutprand conquered Spoleto, besieged Rome, laid waste the Duchy of Rome, and seized four important frontier fortresses (Blera, Orte, Bomarzo, and Amelia), thereby cutting off the communication with Perugia and Ravenna. In this exigency the pope now (739) for the first time turned to the powerful Frankish kingdom, under the protection of which Boniface had begun his successful labours as a missionary in Germany. He sent to Charles Martel, "the powerful mayor of the palace" of the Frankish monarchy and the commander of the Franks in the famous battle at Tours, undoubtedly with the consent of the Greek dux , and appealed to him to protect the tomb of the Apostle. Charles Martel replied to the embassy and acknowledged the gifts, but was unwilling to offer aid against the Lombards, who were helping him against the Saracens. Accordingly the successor of Gregory III, Zacharias (the last Greek who occupied the papal chair) changed the policy that had been previously followed toward the Lombards. He formed an alliance with Liutprand against Transamund, and received (741) in return the four castles. This Zacharias obtained as the result of a personal visit to the camp of the king at Terni. Liutprand also restored a number of patrimonies that had been seized by the Lombards, and furthermore concluded a twenty years' peace with the pope. The duchy now had a respite from Lombard attacks. The Lombards fell upon Ravenna, which they had already held from 731 to 735. The exarch had no other recourse than to seek the aid of the pope. Liutprand did in fact allow himself to be induced by Zacharias to surrender the greater part of his conquests. Nor was it unimportant that these districts too once owed their rescue to the pope. Only a short time after Liutprand's death (744) Zacharias was successful in further postponing the catastrophe. When Rachis, the Lombard king, was besieging Perugia (749), Zacharias so wrought upon his conscience that the king raised the siege. But as a result of this Rachis was overthrown, and Aistulf, who was put into his place, at once showed by his acts that no consideration could halt him in his course.

In 751 Aistulf conquered Ravenna, and thereby decided the long delayed fate of the exarchate and the Pentapolis. And when Aistulf, who held Spoleto also under his immediate sway, directed all his might against the Duchy of Rome, it seemed that this too could no longer be held. Byzantium could send no troops, and Emperor Constantine V Copronymus, in answer to the repeated requests for help of the new pope, Stephen II , could only offer him the advice to act in accordance with the ancient policy of Byzantium, to pit some other Germanic tribe against the Lombards. The Franks alone were powerful enough to compel the Lombards to maintain peace, and they alone stood in close relationship with the pope. It is true that Charles Martel had on a former occasion failed to respond to the entreaties of Gregory III. But meanwhile the relations between the Frankish rulers and the popes had become more intimate. Pope Zacharias had only recently (751), at Pepin's accession to the throne, spoken the word that removed all doubts in favour of the Carlovingian mayor of the palace. It was not unreasonable, therefore, to expect an active show of gratitude in return, when Rome was most grievously pressed by Aistulf. Accordingly Stephen II secretly sent a letter to Pepin by pilgrims, soliciting his aid against Aistulf and asking for a conference. Pepin in turn sent Abbot Droctegang of Jumièges to confer with the pope, and a little later dispatched Duke Autchar and Bishop Chrodengang of Metz to conduct the pope to the Frankish realm. Never before had a pope crossed the Alps. While Pope Stephen was preparing for the journey, a messenger arrived from Constantinople, bringing to the pope the imperial mandate to treat once more with Aistulf for the purpose of persuading him to surrender his conquests. Stephen took with him the imperial messenger and several dignitaries of the Roman Church, as well, as members of the aristocracy belonging to the Roman militia, and proceeded first of all to Aistulf. In 753 the pope left Rome. Aistulf, when the pope met him at Pavia, refused to enter into negotiations or to hear of a restoration of his conquests. Only with difficulty did Stephen finally prevail upon the Lombard king not to hinder him in his journey to the Frankish kingdom.

(4) Intervention of the Franks. Formation of the States of the Church.

The pope thereupon crossed the Great St. Bernard into the Frankish kingdom. Pepin received his guest at Ponthion, and there promised him orally to do all in his power to recover the Exarchate of Ravenna and the other districts seized by Aistulf. The pope then went to St-Denis near Paris, where he concluded a firm alliance of friendship with the first Carlovingian king, probably in January, 754. He anointed King Pepin, his wife, and sons, and bound the Franks under the threat of excommunication never thereafter to choose their kings from any other family than the Carlovingian. At the same time he bestowed on Pepin and his sons the title of "Patrician of the Romans", which title, the highest Byzantine officials in Italy, the exarchs, had borne. Instead of the latter the King of the Franks was now to be the protector of the Romans. The pope in bestowing this title probably acted also in conformity with authority conferred on him by the Byzantine emperor. In order, however, to fulfil the wishes of the pope Pepin had eventually to obtain the consent of his nobles to a campaign into Italy. This was rendered imperative, when several embassies, which attempted by peaceful means to induce the Lombard king to give up his conquests, returned without accomplishing their mission. At Quiercy on the Oise the Frankish nobles finally gave their consent. There Pepin executed in writing a promise to give to the Church certain territories, the first documentary record for the States of the Church. This document, it is true, has not been preserved in the authentic version, but a number of citations, quoted from it during the decades immediately following, indicate its contents, and it is likely that it was the source of the much interpolated "Fragmentum Fantuzzianum", which probably dates from 778-80. In the original document of Quiercy Pepin promised the pope the restoration of the lands of Central Italy, which had been last conquered by Aistulf, especially in the exarchate and in the Roman Duchy, and of a number of more or less clearly defined patrimonies in the Lombard Kingdom and in the Duchies of Spoleto and Benevento. The lands were not yet in Pepin's hands. They had therefore first to be conquered by Pepin, and his gift was conditioned by this event. In the summer of 754 Pepin with his army and the pope began their march into Italy, and forced King Aistulf, who had shut himself up in his capital, to sue for peace. The Lombard promised to give up the cities of the exarchate and of the Pentapolis, which had been last conquered, to make no further attacks upon or to evacuate the Duchy of Rome and the districts of Venetia and Istria, and acknowledged the sovereignty of the Franks. For the cities in the exarchate and in the Pentapolis, which Aistulf promised to return, Pepin executed a separate deed for the pope. This is the first actual "Donation of 754". But Pepin had hardly recrossed the Alps on his return home, when Aistulf not only failed to make preparations for the return of the promised cities, but again advanced against Rome, which had to endure a severe siege. The pope sent a messenger by sea, summoning Pepin to fulfil anew his pledge of loyalty. In 756 Pepin again set out with an army against Aistulf and a second time hemmed him in at Pavia. Aistulf was again compelled to promise to deliver to the pope the cities granted him after the first war and, in addition, Commachio at the mouth of the Po. But this time the mere promise was not considered sufficient. Messengers of Pepin visited the various cities of the exarchate and of the Pentapolis, demanded and received the keys to them, and brought the highest magistrates and most distinguished magnates of these cities to Rome. Pepin executed a new deed of gift for the cities thus surrendered to the pope, which together with the keys of the cities were deposited on the grave of St. Peter (Second Donation of 756).

The Byzantine Government naturally did not approve of this result of the intervention of the Franks. It had hoped through the instrumentality of the Franks to regain possession of the districts that had been wrested from it by the Lombards. But Pepin took up arms, not to render a service to the Byzantine emperor, but for the sake of St. Peter alone, from whose protection he expected earthly happiness and everlasting salvation. Just as kings at that time founded monasteries and endowed them with landed properties, that prayers might be offered for them there, so Pepin wished to provide the pope with temporal territories, that he might be certain of the prayers of the pope. Therefore Pepin answered the Byzantine ambassadors, who came to him before the second expedition of 756 and asked him to return to the emperor the cities to be taken from the Lombards, that he had undertaken the expedition for St. Peter alone and not for the emperor; that to St. Peter alone would he restore the cities. Thus did Pepin found the States of the Church. The Greeks undoubtedly had the formal right to the sovereignty, but as they had failed to meet the obligation of sovereignty to give protection against foreign enemies, their rights became illusory. If the Franks had not interfered, the territory would by right of conquest have fallen to the Lombards; Pepin by his intervention prevented Rome with the native population from falling into the hands of the foreign conquerors. The States of the Church are in a certain sense the only remnant of the Roman Empire in the West which escaped foreign conquerors. Gratefully did the Roman population acknowledge that they had escaped subjection to the Lombards only through the mediation of the pope. For it was only for the pope's sake that Pepin had resolved to interfere. The results were important,

  • chiefly because the pope through his temporal sovereignty received a guarantee of his independence, was freed from the fetters of a temporal power, and obtained that freedom from interference which is necessary for the conduct of his high office;
  • because the papacy threw off the political ties that bound it to the East and entered into new relations with the West, which made possible the development of the new Western civilization.

The latter was destined to become especially prominent under Pepin's son, Charlemagne.

Under Charlemagne the relations with the Lombards soon became strained again. Adrian I complained that the Lombard king Desiderius had invaded the territories of the States of the Church, and reminded Charlemagne of the promise made at Quiercy. As Desiderius also championed the claims of Charlemagne's nephews, he endangered the unity of the Frankish kingdom, and Charlemagne's own interests therefore bade him to oppose Desiderius. In the autumn of 773 Charlemagne entered Italy and besieged Desiderius at Pavia. While the siege was in progress, Charlemagne went to Rome at Easter, 774, and at the request of the pope renewed the promises made at Quiercy. Soon after this Desiderius was forced to capitulate, and Charlemagne had himself proclaimed King of the Lombards in his place. Charlemagne's attitude toward the States of the Church now underwent a change. With the title of King of the Lombards he also assumed the title as "Patricius Romanorum", which his father had never used, and read into this title rights which under Pepin had never been associated with it. Moreover, differences of opinion arose between Adrian and Charlemagne concerning the obligations which had been assumed by Pepin and Charlemagne in the document of Quiercy. Adrian construed it to mean that Charlemagne should take an elastic concept of the "respublica Romana" to the extent of giving up not only the conquests of Aistulf in the exarchate and in the Pentapolis, but also earlier conquests of the Lombards in Central Italy, Spoleto, and Benevento. But Charles would not listen to any such interpretation of the document. As both parties were anxious to come to an understanding, an agreement was reached in 781. Charlemagne acknowledged the sovereignty of Adrian in the Duchy of Rome and in the States of the Church founded by Pepin's donations of 754-56. He now executed a new document in which were enumerated all the districts in which the pope was recognized as ruler. The Duchy of Rome (which had not been mentioned in the earlier documents) heads the list, followed by the exarchate and the Pentapolis, augmented by the cities which Desiderius had agreed to surrender at the beginning of his reign (Imola, Bologna, Faenza, Ferrara, Ancona, Osimo, and Umana ); next the patrimonies were specified in various groups: in the Sabine, in the Spoletan and Beneventan districts, in Calabria, in Tuscany, and in Corsica. Charlemagne, however, in his character as "Patricius", wanted to be considered as the highest court of appeal in criminal cases in the States of the Church. He promised on the other hand to protect freedom of choice in the election of the pope, and renewed the alliance of friendship that had been previously made between Pepin and Stephen II.

The agreement between Charlemagne and Adrian remained undisturbed. In 787 Charlemagne still further enlarged the States of the Church by new donations : Capua and a few other frontier cities of the Duchy of Benevento, besides several cities in Lombardy, Tuscany, Populonia, Roselle, Sovana, Toscanella, Viterbo, Bagnorea, Orvieto, Ferento, Orchia, Marta, and lastly Città di Castello appear to have been added at that time. All of this, of course, is based upon painstaking deductions, since no document has come down to us either from the time of Charlemagne or from that of Pepin. Adrian in these negotiations proved himself no mean politician, and is justly ranked with Stephen II as the second founder of the States of the Church. His arrangements with Charlemagne remained authoritative for the relations of the later popes with the Carlovingians and the German emperors. These relations were given a brilliant outward expression by Charlemagne's coronation as emperor in 800.


(1) The Period of the Carlovingian Emperors

The States of the Church founded by the Carlovingians were the security for the friendly alliance between the papacy and the empire which dominated the Middle Ages. But this friendly alliance also was and remained the necessary condition for the existence of the States of the Church. Without the protection of the great power beyond the Alps the States of the Church could not have been maintained. The worst dangers threatened the States of the Church, not so much from foreign enemies, as from the factions of the nobility in the city of Rome, who were continually engaged in jealous quarrels, each striving to get control of the spiritual and temporal power attaching to the papacy. The degradation of the papacy reached its lowest point when it could obtain no protection from the empire against the lust for power of the factions of the Roman nobility or of the neighbouring patrician families. This lust for power manifested itself principally at the election of a new pope. For this reason the emperors, when they assumed the responsibility of protecting the States of the Church, also guaranteed a canonical election, and the popes laid great stress upon having this obligation renewed in writing by each new emperor in the confirmation of the old charters. Of these charters the oldest whose text is preserved is the "Hludovicianum" or Pactum of Louis the Pious, i.e. the instrument executed by that monarch for Paschal I in 817. With Paschal's successor, Eugene II, the friendly alliance was, by order of Louis, renewed in 824 by his eldest son and colleague in the empire, Lothair I. The pope, dependent on the protection of the emperor, then granted the emperor new rights, which mark the zenith of the imperial influence under the Carlovingians. The emperor received the right of supervising the government and the administration of justice at Rome through the instrumentality of permanent envoys, and no new pope was to be consecrated until he had, together with the Romans, taken the oath of allegiance to the emperor in the presence of imperial envoys.

In this way the empire received in the "Constitution of Lothair" an indirect influence over the election of the pope and a supervision of the papal government in the States of the Church. But soon after this the Carlovingians were so busily occupied by their dynastic quarrels that they had but little time to concern themselves about Rome. Leo IV had, in concert with some seaport towns of Italy, to take measures personally for the defence of Rome against the Saracens. The soldiers blessed by him won a brilliant victory at Ostia in 849. As the right bank of the Tiber with its Basilica of St. Peter was exposed to the pillage of the Saracens, Leo fortified it with a wall (848-52), and in his honour the part of the city so protected was called Civitas Leonina . In 850 Leo crowned Lothair's son, Louis II, as emperor. Although this emperor bravely opposed the Saracens in Lower Italy with all his power, this power was no longer that of Charlemagne, for Louis's rule extended only over Italy. To the papacy, then represented by Nicholas II, the regency of Louis II was at times a danger rather than a protection. His representative, Duke Lambert of Spoleto, under the pretence of superintending the election of the pope, invaded Rome in 867, and treated it as conquered territory. This was the prelude to the wretched period following the death of Louis (875), when Rome and the pope were placed at the mercy of the neighbouring feudal lords, who had come into Italy with the Carlovingians, and who now quarrelled first with the Carlovingians still ruling beyond the Alps, then among themselves for the apple of discord, the imperial crown. In vain did the able Pope John VIII hope for help and protection from the West Frankish king, Charles the Bald, who had been crowned emperor in 875. It is true Charles renewed the old charter relative to protection and donations and increased the domain of the States of the Church by new donations (Spoleto and Benevento ); he also gave up the claim to have envoys present at the consecration of the pope as well as the assignment to these envoys of the administration of justice. But beyond these donations on paper he did nothing. John VIII, at the head of his fleet at Cape Circeo (877), had to defend himself unaided against the Saracens. Fleeing from the dukes Lambert of Spoleto and Adalbert of Tuscany, who bore themselves as representatives of the imperial power, he went to France, vainly imploring the Carlovingians for help. The East Frank, Charles the Fat, who received the imperial crown from John VIII in 881, likewise did nothing, and Arnulf, who was crowned emperor in 896, was compelled by illness to suspend further interference. Severely did the defenceless pope have to suffer for having summoned him. Pope Stephen V had previously (891) yielded to the urging of Duke Guido of Spoleto and bestowed on him the imperial crown. Stephen's successor, Pope Formosus, had been compelled to give the crown also to Guido's son, Lambert as the associate of his father in the empire (892); he thus incurred the fierce hatred of Lambert, when he afterwards summoned Arnulf to Rome and crowned him emperor. When Lambert, after the death of Formosus, entered Rome in 897, he took a horrible revenge upon the corpse of the pope through the medium of Stephen VI.

The papacy was now completely at the mercy of the struggling factions of the nobility. Benedict IV in 901 crowned as emperor Louis, King of Lower Burgundy, who had been summoned by the Italian nobles. In 915 John X crowned Louis's opponent, the Marquis Berengar of Friuli. Berengar was the last to receive the imperial crown before the founding of the Roman Empire of the German Nation. At Rome itself the greatest influence was won by the family of the later Counts of Tusculum, which traced its descent to the senator and dux , Theophylactus, and whose power was for a time represented by the wife of Theophylactus, Theodora (called Senatrix or Vesteratrix ), and her daughters Marozia and Theodora the Younger. The papacy also came under the power of these women. Alberic, the husband of Marozia, with John X , who had been raised to the papacy by the elder Theodora, defeated the Saracens on the Gangliano (916), and thereafter called himself Consul of the Romans. After his death this rank was transmitted to Marozia, and, on her fall, to his son Alberic. Marozia had John X deposed, and finally had her own son by her first husband placed upon the papal chair as John XI. John XI was entirely dominated by his mother. When Marozia's son, Alberic II, finally put an end to the despotic rule of his mother (932), the Romans proclaimed him their lord and master, conferred on him all temporal power, and restricted the pope's authority to purely spiritual matters. Alberic, who had a palace on the Aventine, refused the German king Otto I permission to enter Rome, when the latter appeared in Upper Italy in 951. But, when Otto appeared for the second time in Italy, conditions had changed.

(2) From the Coronation of Otto I as Emperor to the end of the Hohenstaufen Line

Alberic II died in 954. In accordance with a promise made to him, the Romans in 955 elected to the papacy as John XII his seventeen-year-old son Octavian, who had succeeded him in the temporal power. This pontiff thus united the spiritual and temporal power, but only in the territory which had been subject to Alberic — that is substantially the old Duchy of Rome, or the "Patrimonium Petri". The Pentapolis and the exarchate were in other hands, ultimately falling to King Berengar of Ivrea. To obtain protection against Berengar, John XII called upon Otto I for help. Otto came and on 2 February, 962, received the imperial crown. On 13 February he drew up the charter (still extant in a contemporary calligraphic copy, preserved in the archives of the Vatican ), in which he renewed the well-known covenants of his predecessors, increased the donations by the addition of several new ones, and undertook to secure the canonical election of the popes. The pope was not to be consecrated until imperial envoys had assured themselves of the legality of the election and obtained from the pope a sworn promise of allegiance (cf. Th. Sickel, "Das Privilegium Ottos I für die romische Kirche", Innsbruck, 1883). The necessary condition for the coöperation of emperor and pope was their common opposition to Berengar. This was removed when John XII, who not unreasonably feared Otto's power, entered into secret negotiations with Berengar. Otto thereupon again came to Rome, which the pope had left, and demanded of the Romans an oath that henceforth they would never again elect a pope without the express consent and sanction of the emperor. Therewith the papacy was declared subject to the emperor. This at once became evident, when a synod, over which Otto presided, deposed the pope. But Leo VIII , who was chosen in accordance with Otto's wishes, was unable to remain at Rome without Otto. The Romans, after the death of John XII, elected Benedict V, but Otto sent him into exile at Hamburg. Other afflictions beset John XIII, to secure whose elevation the Romans and Otto had acted in harmony in 966. John needed the protection of the emperor against a rebellious faction of the nobility, whereupon Otto appointed a prefect of Rome and enfeoffed him with drawn sword. In return the pope crowned the son of Otto I ( Otto II ) with the imperial crown in the next year (967), and later married him to the Greek princess Theophano. Otto II had to render the same protection to the popes of his time. John XIII's successor, Benedict VI, was imprisoned and murdered in the Castle of S. Angelo by hostile nobles. The Frank who was chosen in his place ( Boniface VII ) had to flee to Constantinople, but the position of Benedict VII, who was raised to the papacy with the consent of Otto II , remained uncertain until Otto in 980 came to Rome, where, after his defeat near Capo Colonne, he died (983) and was buried in St. Peter's . Boniface VII, who returned from Constantinople, had during the minority of Otto's son displaced John XIV, the successor of Benedict VII, and exposed him to death by starvation in the Castle of S. Angelo. And beside John XV, who was made pope after the fall of Boniface VII, the dux, Crescentius, under the usurped title of "Patrician", ruled over Rome, so that the times of an Alberic seemed to have returned.

John V therefore earnestly desired the arrival of a German army. It appeared in 996 under the command of the sixteen-year-old Otto III. As John had died before Otto entered Rome, the German king, whom the Romans had asked to propose a candidate, designated, on the advice of the princes, his relative, the young Bruno, who was then elected at Rome and graced the papal chair as Gregory V (996-99). Crescentius was besieged in the Castle of S. Angelo and beheaded. Gregory V, who crowned Otto III emperor, was the first German pope. His successor, the first French pope, also designated by Otto, was the learned Sylvester II, near whom on the Aventine the emperor desired permanently to make his residence, that he might govern the West as the Roman emperors had once done. The old Roman law and a ceremonial fashioned after Byzantine forms were to be put into effect. But these plans soon came to naught. Only a few years later, in 1002, the youthful and visionary emperor, bitterly disillusioned, died in his camp outside Rome, which had risen against him. And, when Sylvester II also passed away in 1003, John Crescentius , the son of the Crescentius who had been beheaded by Otto III, having possessed himself of the patriciate, seized the government at Rome. After his death the Counts of Tusculum began to contend with the Crescentians for the supremacy, and, in opposition to the pope set up by their opponents, raised one of their own followers to the papal chair as Benedict VIII ; the latter was recognized as the lawful pope by Henry II, whom he crowned emperor at Rome on 14 February, 1014. An intimate friendship united Benedict and Henry. Together they planned a reform of the Church, which unfortunately was not carried out. Benedict was succeeded by his brother, John XIX, a man less worthy of the honour, who had previously held the temporal power in the city, and who as pope for the most part thought only of the interests of his family. These urged him to gain the good will of Henry's successor, Conrad II, whom he crowned emperor at Rome in 1027. The papal dignity sank to a still lower level under the nephew of John XIX, Benedict IX, whose elevation to the papal throne at the age of twenty was secured by his family through simony and violence. When the Romans set up an antipope, Sylvester III, in opposition, Benedict wavered for a time in doubt whether he ought not to resign; f

More Encyclopedia

The Catholic Encyclopedia is the most comprehensive resource on Catholic teaching, history, and information ever gathered in all of human history. This easy-to-search online version was originally printed between 1907 and 1912 in fifteen hard copy volumes.

Catholic Encyclopedia

Designed to present its readers with the full body of Catholic teaching, the Encyclopedia contains not only precise statements of what the Church has defined, but also an impartial record of different views of acknowledged authority on all disputed questions, national, political or factional. In the determination of the truth the most recent and acknowledged scientific methods are employed, and the results of the latest research in theology, philosophy, history, apologetics, archaeology, and other sciences are given careful consideration.

No one who is interested in human history, past and present, can ignore the Catholic Church, either as an institution which has been the central figure in the civilized world for nearly two thousand years, decisively affecting its destinies, religious, literary, scientific, social and political, or as an existing power whose influence and activity extend to every part of the globe. In the past century the Church has grown both extensively and intensively among English-speaking peoples. Their living interests demand that they should have the means of informing themselves about this vast institution, which, whether they are Catholics or not, affects their fortunes and their destiny.

Copyright © Catholic Encyclopedia. Robert Appleton Company New York, NY. Volume 1: 1907; Volume 2: 1907; Volume 3: 1908; Volume 4: 1908; Volume 5: 1909; Volume 6: 1909; Volume 7: 1910; Volume 8: 1910; Volume 9: 1910; Volume 10: 1911; Volume 11: - 1911; Volume 12: - 1911; Volume 13: - 1912; Volume 14: 1912; Volume 15: 1912

Catholic Online Catholic Encyclopedia Digital version Compiled and Copyright © Catholic Online


Newsletter Sign Up icon

Stay up to date with the latest news, information, and special offers

Daily Readings

Reading 1, Psalms 116:10, 15, 16-17, 18-19
4 I pleaded with Yahweh my God and made this ... Read More

Psalm, Psalms 116:10, 15, 16-17, 18-19
15 Costly in Yahweh's sight is the death of his ... Read More

Gospel, Mark 9:2-10
2 Six days later, Jesus took with him Peter and James ... Read More

Reading 2, Romans 8:31-34
31 After saying this, what can we add? If God is for ... Read More

Saint of the Day

Saint of the Day for March 1st, 2015 Image

St. David
March 1: According to tradition, St. David was the son of King Sant of ... Read More

Inform, Inspire & Ignite Logo

Find Catholic Online on Facebook and get updates right in your live feed.

Become a fan of Catholic Online on Facebook

Follow Catholic Online on Twitter and get News and Product updates.

Follow us on Twitter