WHOEVER has read the Gospel, knows that Jesus Christ founded no temporal power, no political sovereignty. He declares that his kingdom is not of this world he charges his apostles not to confound the mission he gives them, with the power exercised by the princes of the earth. St. Peter and his colleagues are sent not to govern but to instruct and the authority with which they are clothed, consists only in the knowledge and the benefits they are to bestow...
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ORIGIN OF THE TEMPORAL POWER OF THE POPES
ENTERPRISES OF THE POPES OF THE NINTH CENTURY
ENTERPRISES OF THE POPES OF THE ELEVENTH CENTURY
CONTESTS BETWEEN THE POPES AND THE SOVEREIGNS OF THE TWELFTH CENTURY
POWER OF THE POPES OF THE THIRTEENTH CENTURY
POLICY OF THE POPES OF THE SIXTEENTH CENTURY
ATTEMPTS OF THE POPES OF THE SEVENTEENTH CENTURY
WHOEVER HAS READ THE GOSPEL, knows that Jesus Christ founded no temporal power, no political sovereignty. He declares that his kingdom is not of this world; he charges his apostles not to confound the mission he gives them, with the power exercised by the princes of the earth. St. Peter and his colleagues are sent not to govern but to instruct and the authority with which they are clothed, consists only in the knowledge and the benefits they are to bestow.
Faithful to confining themselves within the bounds of so pure an apostolat, far from erecting themselves into rivals of the civil power, they, on the contrary, proclaimed its independence and the sacredness of its rights: obedience to sovereigns is one of the first precepts of their pious morality. To resist governments is, they say, to offend the Ruler of the world, and take up arms against God himself.
The successors of the apostles for a long time held the same language: they acknowledged no power superior to that of sovereigns but Divine Providence itself. They subjected to kings all the ministers of the altar, levites, pontiffs, evangelists, and even prophets. God alone was, immediately and without mediator, the only judge of kings; to him alone belonged their condemnation: the Church addressed to them only supplications or respectful advice.
She exercised empire only through the medium of her virtues and possessed no other inheritance than that of faith. These are the very expressions of the holy fathers, not only during the three first centuries, but subsequent to Constantine, and even after the time of Charlemagne.
Every one knows, that previous to Constantine, the Christian churches had been but individual associations, too frequently proscribed, and at all times unconnected with the state. The popes, in these times of persecution and of ferment, most assuredly were far from aspiring to the government of provinces: they were contented in being permitted to be virtuous with impunity; and they obtained no crown on earth save that of martyrdom.
From the year 321, Constantine allowed the churches to acquire landed property, and individuals to enrich them by legacies. Here we behold, in all probability, says the President Henault, what has given rise to the supposition of Constantine’s donation. This donation preserved its credit for such a lapse of time, that in 1478 some Christians were burned at Strasburgh for daring to question its authenticity.
In the twelfth century, Gratian and Theodore Balsamon copied it into their canonical compilations; and St. Bernard did not consider if apocryphal. It had its origin before the tenth century, notwithstanding what many critics say: for in 776 Pope Adrian avails himself of it in an exhortation to Charlemagne. But, in 755, Stephen II. had also an open to make use of it, as we shall shortly see; but as he neither mentions it, nor refers to it in any way, it follows that it was unknown to him as it had been to all his predecessors. It was therefore after the middle, and before the end of the eighth century, that it must have been fabricated. For the rest, the falsity of this piece is according to Fleury more universally recognized than that of the decretals of Isidore: and if the donation of Constantine could still preserve any credit, to strip it of such credit, it would be sufficient to transcribe it: here follow some lines:
“We attribute to the see of St. Peter all the dig-
“nity, all the glory, all the authority of the imperial
“power. Furthermore we give to Sylvester and to
“his successors our palace of the Latran, which is
“incontestibly the finest palace on earth; we give
“him our crown, our mitre, our diadem, and all
“our imperial vestments: we transfer to him the
“imperial dignity. We bestow on the Holy Pontiff
“in free gift the city of Rome and all the western
“cities of Italy; also the western cities of every
“other country. To cede precedence to him, we
“divest ourselves of our authority over all those
“provinces, and we withdraw from Rome, trans-
“ferring the seat of our empire to Byzantium;
“inasmuch as it is not proper, that an earthly
“emperor should preserve the least authority, where
“God has established the head of his religion.”
The respect which we owe to our readers, forbids all observation on such palpable absurdities: but we have believed it not altogether useless to relate them here, as they may give an idea of the means resorted to in the eighth century to establish the temporal power of the popes. They also furnish a standard of the public ignorance during the succeeding centuries, in which this strange concession, revered by the people, and even by their kings, effectually contributed to the development of the power of the Holy See. But we must also state, that at the restoration of literature the first rays of light sufficed to dissipate so contemptible an imposture.
Laurence Valle having demonstrated, towards the middle of the fifteenth century, the falsity of this donation, the best writers of the sixteenth, even those of Italy, treated it with the contempt it deserved. Ariosto energetically expresses the contemptinto which it had fallen and places it among the various chimeras which Astolphus meets with in the moon.
Four hundred and sixty-three years had passed from the death of Constantine in 337, to the coronation of Charlemagne in 800. Now during all this period, no epoch, no year, can be specified, in which the popes exercised sovereign authority. The immediate successors of Constantine reigned, as he did, over Italy: and when on the death of Theodoras two empires arose out of one, Rome, the metropolis of the west, continued to be governed still by an emperor. Then, as all historians attest, the popes assumed apostolic functions alone; they were not reckoned in the number of the civil magistrates; although their election, the work of the people and of the clergy, was obliged to be confirmed by the prince. When they sought from their creed and the exercise of their spiritual ministry, an independence which they did not always obtain, they rendered homage to that of the civil power, and did not claim any of its properties.
In 476 the Western Empire fell: Augustulus was dethroned; the Heruli, the Ostrogoths, and other barbarians, invaded and laid waste Italy. Rome was governed by Odoacre down to 493, by Theodoric to 526, and, during the twenty-seven succeeding years, by Theodat, Vitiges, Totila, or the generals of the Eastern Emperors.
It is necessary to observe here, that the sovereignty of these emperors over Italy, and especially over the city of Rome, had been acknowledged by Odoacre and by Theodoric, and sometimes even by their successors But in 553, the victory of Narses over Theia restored to the Greek emperors an immediate sovereignty over the Roman territory and the neighbouring countries. Thus terminated seventy-seven years of wars and revolutions, during which the popes neither obtained nor aspired to the exercise of any temporal authority. Theodoric, in 498, confirmed the election of Pope Symmachus; and when, in the year 500, this pope was accused by his enemies, the decision of the matter was referred to Theodoric.
From 553 to 567, Narses governed Italy in the name of the emperors of Constantinople. Shortly after his death, the Lombards, led by Alboin, made themselves masters of the northern parts of Italy, and there founded a kingdom, which lasted about two hundred years. The other regions of Italy remained more or less under the authority of the emperors of the East, which was administered by the Exarchs of Ravenna.
The exarch was a governor general, to whom the dukes, prefects or patricians, and also the governors of particular territories or cities, were subordinate. From the exarch or the emperor they sought the ratification of the election of each bishop of Rome: this is a fact of which the proof exists in an ancient collection of the formulas of the Romish Church Once only, at the election of Pelagius II. in 577, they dispensed with the consent of the emperor, because the Lombards besieged Rome, and cut off the communication with Constantinople. Paul Diacre, in speaking of Gregory the Great, who in 590 succeeded Pelagius II. says expressly, that it was not permitted to instal a pope without the order of the Greek emperor.
A letter of Martin I. to Gregory I. called ‘the Great’ has rendered frequent homage to the civil authority; but letters have been fabricated, under his name, in which he declares, that every king, every prelate, every judge, who shall neglect to ascertain the privileges of the three monasteries of Autun, and those of the Abbey of St. Medard de Soissons, shall be deprived of his dignity, and condemned, like Judas, to the pit of hell, unless he do penance, and become reconciled with the monks.—See Maimbourg. Historical Treatise on the Church of Rome, chap. 99, the emperor thus commences: “Martin, bishop, to “the emperor our most serene lord,” and ends with these words: “May the grace from above preserve “the very pious empire of our lord, and bow the “neck of all nations unto him.” Thus a pope expresses himself who, imprisoned, exiled, and deposed by Constantius, never disputed the rights of the sovereign who treated him with so much rigour and even injustice. When this emperor, Constantius, came to Rome in 662, the pope, Vitalien, paid him the homage of a faithful subject.
Two apostolic nuncios, stationed, the one at Constantinople, the other at Ravenna, offered to the emperor and to the exarch the respect, devotion, and tribute of the Roman pontiff. Pope Leo II. towards the year 683, writing to Constantine Pogonat, calls him his king and lord. In 686 and 687, the elections of the popes Conon and Sergius were confirmed, the one by the Exarch Theodoric, the other by the Exarch Platys, who exacted from Sergius a large sum, although this description of tribute had been abolished by the Emperor under the pontificate of Agathon.
In 710 Pope Constantine, ordered to Constantinople by Justinian the Second, hastened to obey this superior order. We shall only cite a letter written by the Pontiff to the Duke of Venice in 727:
“The city of Ravenna having been taken, because
“of our sins, by the wicked nation of the Lombards,
“and our excellent master, the Exarch, being, as
“we are informed, retired to Venice, we conjure
“your Highness to unite with him, in order to re-
“store the city of Ravenna to the imperial domi-
“nion; to the end that we may, by the Lord’s as-
“sistance, remain inviolably attached to Leo and
“Constantine, our august emperors.”
The Pope who thus expresses himself, is Gregory the Second, one of those who may be suspected of having been amongst the first, who sought to extend, beyond the bounds of the apostolat, the pontifical authority. His letter at least proves that the imperial sovereignty was then a right universally acknowledged; a public and undeniable fact.
It is however in the eighth century, and a short time after the date of this epistle, that we perceive, not the establishment certainly, but the first symptoms of the temporal power of the Roman prelates. The various causes which could tend to this result, about this period begin to be perceptible, and to acquire additional strength from their combined operation.
The first of these causes consisted in the vast extension of all the ecclesiastical institutions. Many popes, and other prelates, merited by their virtues and their talents the respect of the people and the esteem of their sovereigns: they obtained that imposing reputation, which, in the midst of public troubles and misfortunes, is the universal prelude to power. Zealous missionaries had spread the light of the gospel through most of the countries of Europe, and prepared, nay, forwarded, by religious instruction, the civilization of some barbarous nations. On all sides churches and monasteries arose and were enriched: the pious liberality of princes and private individuals increased every where, but especially at Rome, the treasures and estates of the clergy: their landed property acquired sufficient extent to be transformed insensibly into principalities; a metamorphosis but too easy under such weak governments and such vacillating legislation.— Let us add to these circumstances the frequency and the solemnity of the councils, the general interest which their decisions excited, and the almost inevitable collision of their discussions with the quiet or disordered state of political affairs. We may observe, in particular, that at the commencement of the eighth century, there did not exist any great empire save the Eastern; and, nevertheless, that the power of the Greek Emperors—limited in Asia by that of the Caliphs, weakened in the very heart of Constantinople by internal revolutions, represented at Ravenna by unfaithful or injudicious Exarchs—with difficulty was upheld in Italy against the arms of the Lombards, and occasionally required to be defended by the influence of the Roman Pontiffs. In the mean while, the thrones which had been newly erected here and there by some barbarous conquerors, already tottered under their successors, whose ignorance, generally equal to that of their subjects, seemed to tempt the enterprises of the clergy. This clergy, though better informed than the common people, was not, however, sufficiently so to perceive the bounds of its proper functions under such circumstances, or to neglect profiting, at all hazards, by the opportunities offered to increase its power. When, in 681, a Council of Toledo loosed the subjects of Vamba from their allegiance to this prince, perhaps the thirty-five bishops who sat in this synod, neither perceived the weakness nor the monstrous disloyalty of such a sentence. Fleury was right to point out to us this first example of a king deposed by bishops; but he might also have remarked, that so serious a novelty excited no reprehension—that kings complained not of it, and that no obstacle opposed the execution of this strange decree.
We may place in the catalogue of causes which favoured the ambition of the popes, the preposterous taste of the Greek Emperors for dogmatical controversies, and, the unfortunate part they incessantly took in them.
They thus provoked apostolic resistance, which, by its splendor and success, hum-bled in the eyes of the people the imperial authority. They beheld the doctrines of the pontiff exercising a solemn triumph over the edicts of the sovereign; and he, whose pastoral charges thus limited the civil authority, must have appeared competent to exercise it, the moment he ceased to disdain it. A sect was formed in Constantinople against the images, brought into disrepute in some places by the victories of the Mahometans over them. The Emperor Leo the Isaurian placed himself at the head of the Iconoclasts or Image-breakers: he published, at the same time nearly, an edict which prohibited the worship of every image, and the proposition of a new capitation-tax to be paid by the people of Italy. Pope Gregory the Second, become the defender of their temporal and spiritual interests, and their faith, addressed respectful but energetic letters to the emperor, to induce him to maintain in the churches an ancient and salutary practice. Leo replied only by menaces calculated to strengthen in the hearts of the Italians their love and veneration for the pontiff. What does Gregory do? he appears inattentive to his personal danger, but implores for the people and their prince the divine mercy he thunders no anathemas, but recommends good works, and sets himself the example of them; he desires especially that each may remain faithful to the head of the empire, whatever may the deviations of Leo, and perseveres in applying to him the terms of emperor and head of the Christians. According to Gregory, it is God himself who preserves the empire to Leo the Image-breaker: a pontiff has no right, says this pope, to bestow crowns: his eye should not seek to penetrate into the palaces of kings: and it no more belongs to him to meddle in politics, than for a sovereign to become a teacher of dogmas in religion. The army, the people, Venice, Ravenna, all Italy revolted, says Paul Diacre, against Leo the Isaurian, and would undoubtedly have acknowledged some other emperor, if the Roman pontiff had not himself opposed it. Anastasius relates the same facts, and represents Gregory to us occupied in retaining the provinces in allegiance to their legitimate sovereign.
It would be difficult for us to verify, after a lapse of ten centuries, whether Leo really attempted, through the medium of his officers, the life of Gregory; but no person in Rome, none in all Italy, doubted it; and these abortive attempts excited general indignation, or contempt more dangerous still: on the contrary, when the Duke Peter is driven from Rome, when the Exarch Paul is killed at Ravenna, Gregory conducts himself so orderly that no one thinks of imputing these things to him. Liutprand, king of the Lombards, however, took advantage of these troubles to make himself master of Ravenna and many other places: in this conjuncture it was that Gregory wrote to the Duke of Venice the letter which we have already transcribed. Gregory did more, he negociated with Liutprand, he soothed him: but the King of the Lombards in abandoning the cities he had conquered and pillaged, was not disposed to restore them to the officers of the emperor; he made them a present to the Roman Church, which abstained alike from an acceptance or refusal of them. Disconcerted by so much wisdom, Leo, the Isaurian, saw himself limited in his vengeance to detaching from the patriarchate of Rome the churches of Illyria, of Sicily, the duchy of Naples and of Calabria, in order to subject them to the patriarch of Constantinople. This was all the mischief he could do to Gregory II. who died, without condescending to complain of it. Whatever Theophanes and other Byzantine authors may say on the subjectwho have very severely animadverted upon this pontiff, there prevailed great moderation in his conduct; and if it was policy, it was so profound, that we are induced to ascribe it to good faith.
His successor, Gregory the Third, conceived himself dispensed from so rigorous a circumspection: at the head of a council, he excommuuicatcd the Emperor, not, indeed, by name but by not excepting him from the general sect of the Iconoclasts; and while Leo applied to himself this anathema, evidenced by the burst of anger with which he resented it; while he confiscated in Sicily the lands of the Roman church; while a fleet, dispatched by him against Italy, was perishing by shipwreck; the Pope laboured to create in the bosom of Rome an independent state, or, at least, one destined to become so. Some authors think they perceive, from the year 736, in the pontificate of Gregory the Second, a semblance of a Roman republic; and we may assure ourselves, at least, that in 730, a short.time previous to the death of this pope, and apparently without his concurrence, the Romans formally erected themselves into a republic. But it was especially subsequent to the year 731, and down to 741, that is to say, under the pontificate of Gregory III. that the expressions ‘republic of the Romans—republican association— body of the Roman army,’ were accredited phrases which did not disappear till the year 800, and which, during the seventy preceding years, are very often employed, both in the acts of interior administrations, and in the negociations with the Kings of the Lombards, or Mayors of the palace of Ferara.
They always avoided the positive declarations which would have irritated the Court of Constantinople; in case of necessity they even acknowledged the supremacy of the Emperor, solicited his assistance, and received his officers: and the homage paid to the imperial authority, is the ground of the opinion of those authors who deny the existence of this republic.— Without doubt, it was but a shadow of a republic; but they loved to present themselves under this title to the sovereigns of the west of Europe: it was a mode of ranking themselves secretly in the number of independent states, and of weakening still more the ties which held them to the Byzantine empire. Generally, the pope did not fill in person the office of first magistrate of this republic; he left the insignia of its power to a prefect, a duke, or a patrician; and prepared to substitute, in a short time, for these unstable forms, a definite and pontifical government.
Baronius ascribes the embassy of one of these to Gregory II.an important mistake, which Bossuet has removed.—Def. Cler. Gall, p. 2. b. 6. ch. 18.
Another cause tended to, and even justified, the revolution which was going to take place in Italy against the authority of the Greek Emperors; this was, the almost absolute state of abandonment in which, for nearly two centuries, they left the provinces they possessed in this country. They kept no garrison in Rome, and this city, continually menaced by the Lombards, solicited more than once, through the organ of its dukes or its pontiffs, but in vain, the protection of the Exarch and the power of the Emperor. The Byzantine historians of this period scarcely ever speak of Italy: one of them, Theophylactus Simosatta, wrote the history of the empire from the year 582 to 802, without once naming Italy, Rome, or the Lombards. Deserted by their master, the Romans of necessity attached themselves to their pontiffs, who were generally Romans, and meriting such attachment. Fathers and defenders of the people, mediators between the great, and heads of the religion of the empire, the popes united in themselves the various sources of authority and influence which are conferred by riches, benefactions, virtue, and the high priesthood. They reconciled, or set at variance around them, the princes of the earth; and that temporal power, which as yet they possessed not, they could at pleasure strengthen or weaken in the hands of others.
Things being so disposed, it was inevitable but that occasions must have occurred, favorable to the ambition of the Roman Pontiffs; or, rather, they had now need only of a more active ambition. While Zachary continued to pay homage to the sovereignty of the emperors, Liutprand made himself master of the exarchate, and his successor, Rachis, immediately after stipulated with the Romans for a peace of twenty years. Under the same pope, Pepin dethroned in France the Merovingian dynasty, submitted to the Holy See a famous case of conscience, and obtained from it a reply, which, absolving in the eyes of the people his audacious enterprise, placed in his hands a sceptre which he alone could wield. A short time after this wise reply,Astolphus, the successor of Rachis, broke the truce of twenty years, conquered Istria, repossessed himself of Ravenna, which the Greek officers had re-entered, and drove them from it for ever. Eutychius, the last of the exarchs, took flight and retired to Naples; and every thing announced that the power of the emperors was about to be extinguished in Middle as it had been in Upper Italy.
The Pope, Stephen II. supplicated Constantine Copronymus to relieve the city of Rome, by dispatching an army which might put the Lombards to flight and maintain in Italy the integrity of the empire and the honor of the imperial authority. It is evidently as the sovereign of Rome that Stephen addresses Constantine. But Constantine, occupied in making war against images, directs Stephen to negociate with Astolphus, and, if Astolphus was intractable, with Pepin king of the French. The pontiff proceeds into France; there, as minister of the Greek emperor, he gives, in 753, to Pepin and to his sons, the title of Roman Patricians, which Charles Martel had before borne: and received, they assert, in exchange, the gift of the provinces which Astolphus usurped, and which this same emperor claimed, in whose name Stephen negociated. Pepin hesitated the less in bestowing them, as he was neither their possessor nor sovereign.
Ambitious, however, to derive some advantage from his title of patrician, he passed the Alps in 754, besieged Pavia, and compelled Astolphus to promise that he would restore the Exarchate and the Pentapolis, not to the Emperor of Constantinople, but to St. Peter—to the Roman Church and Roman Republic. Vain promise! no sooner is King Pepin returned into France, than the Lombard king forgets his oaths, lays waste the environs of Rome, and labours to become master of the city. It was at this time, in 755, the pope wrote to the French monarch many letters, of which the one written in St. Peter’s name, gives us to perceive, says Fleury, “the genius of the age, and to what extent the most grave of mankind may carry fiction when they consider it useful.”:
“Peter, called to the apostolat by Jesus Christ,
“the Son of the living God, &c........As by me the
“Roman Church, of which Stephen is bishop, is
“founded upon the stone........I adjure you, O ex-
“cellent Pepin, Charles, and Carloman, three kings,
“and with you the bishops, abbes, priests, and
“monks, and also the dukes, counts, and people....
“I adjure you, and with me the Virgin Mary, the
“angels, the martyrs, and all the other saints adjure
“you, not to suffer that my city of Rome, and my
“people, be any longer left a prey to the Lom-
“bards........If you obey me quickly, you shall in
“this life receive an abundant recompense for it;
“you shall overcome your enemies, you shall live
“long, you shall eat the fat of the land, and you
“shall, besides, receive eternal life. If you obey
“me not, know that by the authority of the Holy
“Trinity and of my apostolat, you shall be deprived
“of the kingdom of God.”
It is most important here to remark, that this letter makes no mention either of the donation of Constantine, or that which Pepin-le-Bref has the credit of having made in 703, and renewed in 754. It is not the most feeble argument of those who dismiss to the rank of chimeras, the second as well as the-first of these donations. They add, that the original title of Pepin’s grant exists no where in the world—that no authentic copy of it can be produced —and that its directions, omitted by contemporary historians, are only known to us through Anastasius, who compiled his History of the Popes at the end of the ninth century, one hundred and thirty years after the death of Stephen II. The supporters of this grant confine themselves to asserting, that Anastasius declares his having seen the original of it, and cites besides the remains of an inscription preserved at Ravenna, without very scrupulously inquiring the era in which so mutilated a monument might have been erected.
Will they now ask us what the nature of the concession was which was made to the popes by Pepin-le-Bref: if he bestowed the absolute sovereignty or the mere administration; a secondary or delegated power, or the property only, and, as it is termed, the fee-simple of it? In default of a positive text which would offer an immediate reply to these questions, we have no other way of resolving them, but by continuing, even to the year 800, the examination of facts relative to the government of Rome and the authority of the popes. Now, it is certain, as we have stated, that during the fifty last years of the eighth century, the popes had never been sovereigns, seldom administrators. We have a series of letters in which they complain of the non-fulfilment of the promises of Pepin, and of the infidelity of the Lombard kings, who ravaged, or again seized on, the possessions of the church. Besides, Constantine Copronymus never renounced his rights: he offered to pay the expenses attending’the victories of the French army over the Lombards, provided the places recovered from them were restored to him. Pepin, though very little disposed to comply with these requisitions, evaded characterizing the power which he exercised over the Roman republic by the title of patrician; leaving it undecided, whether he considered himself as actual sovereign, or as but provisionally invested with the functions of the impeiial authority. What is very remarkable is, that in fixing the limits of the states of this monarch, no French historian extends them beyond the Alps. As to the popes, although their influence almost always swayed the authority of the deputies of the patrician, they did not as yet exercise a civil magistracy, properly so called, either regularly instituted or delegated. They continued to date from the reign of the emperors of Constantinople, and to call them their lords and masters. This is to be seen in an epistle written by Stephen II. in 757, a short time before his death; in a diploma subscribed the same year by Paul I. the brother and successor of Stephen; in a statute or rule of the same Paul in 758; in a letter which Adrian addressed, in 772, to the emperor, in transmitting to him the decision respecting a crime committed in the duchy of Rome; and in 785, in an epistle of the same Adrian to Constantine V. and his mother Irene.
Many cities comprised in the pretended donation were governed, according to the instructions of Pepin, by the Archbishops of Ravenna, who seem to have succeeded the Exarchs, whose title remained unrevived.
Charlemagne, called by Adrian against Didier, king of the Lombards, blockaded Pavia, and renewed in Rome, in 774, the donation of Pepin.—This act, however, is no better authenticated to us than those of 753 and 754. There is no original document, no authentic copy, nor even unauthenticated one. It is Anastasius also, who, after one hundred years, specifies its conditions to us.
To Pepin’s gift Charlemagne added, according to this Anastasius, Corsica, Sardinia, Liguria, Sicily, Venice, Beneventum; and deposited the chart, which was to enrich to this extent the Roman church, upon the tomb of the holy apostles Peter and Paul. Anastasius does not explain to us how Charlemagne bestowed provinces which he never possessed, and over which he had no right of sovereignty, not even that of conquest. Sicily and Sardinia were never in his possession: Venice, struggling more and more for independence, yet recognised in form the sovereign rights of the Greek emperors. A duke governed Beneventum, which had been ceded to the Holy See only in 1047 by Henry the Black. This cession of 1047, does not embrace the whole territory of Beneventum, and the deed by which it is transferred is besides not the most authentic: but what is to be noticed here is, that this act does not renew in any way the pretended donation of Charlemagne; it makes no mention of it: on the contrary it implies, that the Court of Rome, for the first time, in 1047 is going to possess the city of Beneventum.
Another objection which Anastasius does not resolve, is, that after 774, the popes did not assume the government or administration of either Beneventum, Venice, Sicily, Sardinia, the Exarchate, or even the city of Rome. Charlemagne, the conqueror and successor of the Lombard kings, adds the title of King of Italy, to that of Patrician of the Romans. The sovereignty or supreme authority remained in his hands; he exercised it either by himself or by his delegates, received the homage of the pontiffs, invested himself with the right of confirming their elections, and subjected their possessions and their persons in such sort to his authority, that we cannot suppose him to have ceded to them anything more than the ownership or feudal tenure of their domains. The Duchy of Rome, the Exarchate, the Pentapolis, were comprised, by the historians of this prince, in the account of the states over which he ruled, previous to the year 800, and Piga thinks proper to add Corsica to them.
In 778, to Charles is referred the decision of the disputes which sprung up between the pope and the archbishop of Ravenna: the latter retained the administration of the Exarchate, perhaps from Charlemagne having tacitly authorised it. Many letters addressed to this monarch, by Pope Adrian, after the year 775, have been collected into the code of Charlemagne, they prove that Charles was not very desirous to invest the Holy Fathers with the temporal power. The donation of Constantine is mentioned in one of these epistles, as we have already observed; the name of the new Constantine is there promised to Charles, if he fulfils his engagements. But in 789, the pope complains of the delightful expectation held out to him, being still unfulfilled; he again brings forward the donation of Pepin as an act remaining without effect. It appears, however, that Adrian, in the course of the six last years of his pontificate, did exercise some actual power, since we find coin bearing his name. But the dukes of Beneventum, and other delegated governors, exercised at the time the same privilege, with the consent of their sovereigns. A much greater number of medals were struck at Rome in the name of Charlemagne; and appeals were made to his officers from the decisions passed by the popes.
Charlemagne, before the end of the eighth century, so little thought of investing the popes with a sovereign power, that he avoided, on the contrary, assuming to himself an absolute sovereignty over the city and territory of Rome. He did not dispute that of the Greek Emperors; and although he governed without receiving their commands, he left it to be supposed that he considered himself only as their representative. It is even conjectured, that in 781, he had received from Irene the letter which created him, in express terms, Patrician of the Romans. When Paul Diacre says, that Charles added Rome to his States from the year 774; it is according to Duquet an hyperbolical expression since Charles himself was satisfied with the simple patriciate. Theophanus ascribes only to the year 779, the commencement of the domination of the French, over the capital of Italy; and even he is not exact, as we shall shortly see, since he anticipates by a year, the absolute extinction of the sovereignty of the Greek Emperors over the Romans.
To measure the extent of the authority exercised by Charles in Rome, previous to the year 800, it is necessary to form an idea of the nature of the dignity of patrician, with which he was invested.
Constantine, anxious to restore the ancient patricians, had invented this personal title of patrician, to be given to the governor or first magistrate of the city of Rome. From 729 to 800, that is, during the existence of a shadow of the Roman republic, the office of patrician was often conferred by the clergy, the nobles, and the people of this city, almost always at the will of the popes, but never at their sole discretion. The Greek emperors ratified either expressly or tacitly the election of the patrician; preferring that it might be supposed he governed in their name, rather than it should be believed he ruled in despite of them. Many barbarous kings, Visigoths, Ostrogoths, and others, have received and borne this title; and Charlemagne did not disdain a dignity, subordinate in appearance, but in reality independent, and which might serve as a step to a more perfect sovereignty.
Leo III. succeeding, in 790, to Pope Adrian, hastened to address to Charlemagne a letter of homage, similar to those which this prince was accustomed to receive from his vassals. However, there remains to us a monument of the supremacy still preserved by the Emperor of the East over the Romans in 797; it is a mosaic, with which Leo III. ornamented the hall of the Lateran palace.
We here behold a prince crowned, which circumstances prove to be Constantine V.: another prince, without a crown, and a pope, are represented kneeling, and by an inscription are named Charles and Leo. The Emperor receives a standard from the hands of Jesus Christ; Charlemagne receives another of them from St. Peter’s left hand, who, with his right hand, bestows a pallium on the pope. This mosaic is at once the emblem of the supremacy of the emperor, the power of the patrician, and the pretensions of the pontiff.
In 799 a conspiracy is formed against Leo III.— he is accused before Charlemagne, who refers to commissioners the investigation and decision of the whole affair. This fact suffices to shew, how far the pope was from being a sovereign before the year 800.
The 25th of December this year, Charles is proclaimed emperor. He had been raised to this supreme dignity, not by the pope alone, but by an assembly of the clergy, of the nobility, and of the people of Rome.
Behold, then, the precise period of the extinction of the sovereign rights of the Eastern Emperor in Rome: then, also, ceased the patriciate, properly so called; and the pope, no longer recognizing any intermediate person between him and the Western Emperor, became, indeed, the governor or first magistrate of Rome and of its territory. Charlemagne, in order to deceive the court of Constantinople, had pretended to fill only a passive part in his own coronation:—it was without his knowledge that they decreed him the imperial crown —it was against his consent that he suffered it to be placed on his victorious head: such, at least, is the account which his chancellor Eginhard has given us of this event; an account which Sigonius and Muratori have classed with the fabulous, and to which even Father David himself refuses all credence.
Charlemagne hastened to dispatch ambassadors to Constantinople; he received in return those of the Emperor Nicephoras, and concluded a treaty of friendship and alliance with him, which fixed the limits of the two empires, without, however, a formal recognition of the Emperors of the West by the Greeks. But the absolute sovereignty of Charles over the Exarchate, the Pentapolis, and the Roman territory, became undisputed.
It is no less evident, that the popes solicited the assistance of the French, not on account of the heresy of the Emperor, but because they had no other resources to oppose the Lombards: that their affairs were altogether desperate, and that they could hope for no succour from the emperors of the east. There were wanting none of the circumstances necessary, as is said in the present day, to justify the deposition of kings. These emperors were heretics, obstinate in error, cruel in their persecutions, and besides, were forgers and perjurers; a circumstance, which according to our adversaries, rendered them still more worthy of deposition, since it was against the church they sinned, in violating the oath, which they had taken at the foot of the altar, to commit no innovation in religion.
Notwithstanding the violation of these solemn promises, the catholics not only honored as emperor, the prince who persecuted them, but did all which lay in their power, to restrain those who, under such pretext, wished to excite seditions and revolt against the empire: so true it is, that they had not then the least idea of that power, in which, at the present day, all the hopes of the church are made to consist, and which is regarded as the firmest bulwark of the pontifical authority. Def. Cler. Grail, p. 26. 6 ch. 20. in the year 803, and in 806, dates from the reign of the Emperor Charles. This prince designates himself ‘Head of the Roman Empire;’ and the confines of his states are, henceforward extended, even to the lower Calabria, by Eginhardand other historians.
Stephen IV. as soon as he was elected successor to Leo. III. made the Romans take an oath of allegiance to Louis-le-Debonnaire, the successor of Charlemagne. Among the gifts of which the Holy See avails itself, there is one which bears the name of this first Louis, and the date of 816 or 817: it is pretended, that in confirming the concessions of Charlemagne and of Pepin, Louis has reckoned Sicily in the number of the territories acquired by the Roman Court, and that he has renounced for himself and his successors also, the right of ratifying the elections of the popes.
But we see him, in 827, examine into and approve that of Gregory IV. Eginhard, and another historian of Louis-le-Debonnaire, attest this circumstance to us. As to Sicily it did not in any wise belong to Louis: he never possessed it; the pope did not even dream of governing it; and it is so incredible that it should have been ceded to the pope in 816, by the emperor, that Father Morin, in supporting the authenticity of the donation of Louis I. is obliged to suppose, that the name of this isle had not been originally in it, but had been inserted in the course of time. Furthermore, it is a donation unknown to contemporary writers, and which appears not in historical records until long after its date.
The forgery of documents occurs often in the history of the temporal power of the popes. The Donation of Constantine was fabricated, as we have already observed, between the years 756 and 779, and it was about the same period that an Isidore, Mercator or Peccator, forged the decretals of the ancient popes, Anaclet, Clement, Evaristus, and others, down to St. Sylvester. In the sixth century, Dionysius-le-Petit was unable to collect any decretals, but those subsequent to St. Siricius, who died at the end of the fourth. Those of Isidore are long, full of common place, and all in the same style, which, according to Fleury is much more that of the eighth century, than of the early ages of the Church. “Their dates are almost all of them incorrect,” adds the historian we have just mentioned,:
“and the matter of these letters, still further
“evinces the forgery: they speak of archbishops,
“primates, patriarchs, as if these titles had been
“received from the birth of the Church. They
“forbid the holding of any council, even a provincial
“one, without the permission of the pope, and
“represent as a usual thing, the appeals to Rome.”
These false decretals have contributed to the extension of the popes’ spiritual power, and to invest them with political authority: their fatal effects have been fully exposed by Fleury, in his fourth discourse on ecclesiastical history.
We believe, that from the details we have collected, it is sufficiently clear, that up to the year 800, and still later, the pope and the Romans have always acknowledged, as their sovereigns, the emperors of the East or the West, and even particular governors, as the exarch, the patrician, and the kings of the Lombards, or of Italy.
The pope at the end of Louis-le-Deboimaire’s reign, in 840, was not yet a sovereign; and taking the word in its literal sense, that is, as expressing supreme authority, independent and undelegated, we may maintain with certain authors, that he did not begin to be such until 1355, when the Emperor Charles IV, receiving the imperial crown at Rome, renounced in the most express terms every sort of authority over the Holy See.
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