A group of territories in central Italy ruled by the popes from 754 until 1870. They were originally given to the papacy by Pepin the Short and reached their greatest extent in 1859. The last papal state-the Vatican City-was formally established as a separate state by the Lateran Treaty of 1929.
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From our Archives: Today's Highlights, September 20, 2005
Accumulation of Land
The nucleus of the states consisted of endowments given to the popes from the 4th cent. in and around Rome, in other areas of the Italian mainland, and in Sicily, Sardinia, and other lands; these came to be called the Patrimony of St. Peter. The popes gradually lost their more distant lands, but in the duchy of Rome papal power became stronger and increasingly independent of the Eastern emperors and of the other states in Italy.
In 754 (confirmed 756), Pepin the Short gave to Pope Stephen II the exarchate of Ravenna and the Pentapolis (Rimini, Ancona, Fano, Pesaro, and Senigallia). (Like Pope Zacharias, Pope Stephen II had recognized Pepin as rightful king of the Franks, and Pepin now needed papal assistance against the Lombards.) Over these vast territories the popes were long unable to exercise effective temporal sovereignty. In 774, Charlemagne confirmed the donation of his father, Pepin the Short; moreover, to give the papal claim to temporal power greater antiquity, the so-called Donation of Constantine (see Constantine, Donation of) to Pope Sylvester I was forged. On its basis later popes also claimed suzerainty over Naples, Sicily, and Sardinia. In 1115, Countess Matilda of Tuscany, by leaving her territories to the church, helped to precipitate a long struggle between popes and emperors.
In Rome itself, the popes' temporal power, almost nonexistent in the 10th cent., remained greatly limited until the 14th cent. by the interference of the emperors, by the power of the nobles, and by the ambitions of the commune of Rome, which contended that its authority also extended over the Papal States. In the 13th and 14th cent., the emperors renounced their claims to the duchy of Spoleto, the Romagna, and the March of Ancona; however, the free communes and petty tyrannies that dominated these regions long resisted effective papal control. The Comtat Venaissin, a papal possession in S France until 1791 (though not a part of the Papal States), was acquired in 1274; in 1309, Avignon became the seat of the popes. From 1309 to 1417, during the "Babylonian Captivity" at Avignon and the Great Schism, the Papal States were in chaotic condition, only temporarily relieved by the efforts of Cardinal Albornoz.
Control of the Territories
Actual control by the papacy of its territories began in the 16th cent., when Cesare Borgia, son of Pope Alexander VI, conquered the petty states of the Romagna and Marche; after his fall (1503) most of them passed directly under papal rule. In the early 16th cent., Pope Julius II consolidated papal power by abolishing local autonomies and by participating effectively in the Italian Wars. The last principalities to lose their autonomy to the popes were Ferrara (1598) and Urbino (1631). The duchy of Castro was added in 1649. Parma and Piacenza were alienated (1545) through the nepotism of Pope Paul III.
Dissolution and Resolution
After the Counter Reformation (16th cent.) the spiritual power of the papacy grew while its political power waned. Papal troops, mostly Swiss and other mercenaries, offered almost no resistance to the French invaders under Napoleon Bonaparte (see Napoleon I) in 1796. Pius VI and his successor, Pius VII, saw their states curtailed, occupied, and twice abolished between 1796 and 1814. The Congress of Vienna fully restored (1815) the states of the papacy and placed them under Austrian protection.
Conspiracies and revolutions (notably of 1831 and 1848-49) characterized the following decades. Pius IX was liberal at his accession and granted his states a constitution, but the events of 1848 turned him against the revolutionists. During the Risorgimento, only French intervention at Rome prevented the total absorption of the Papal States. After the Austrians left (1859) Bologna and the Romagna, both united (1860) with the kingdom of Sardinia, as did Marche and Umbria. Giuseppe Garibaldi invaded the remaining Papal States twice but was prevented from taking Rome-in 1862 by the intervention of Victor Emmanuel II of Italy, and in 1867 by Napoleon III.
The fall of Napoleon permitted Victor Emmanuel to seize Rome in 1870. However, Pius IX refused to recognize the loss of temporal power and became a "prisoner" in the Vatican; his successors followed his example. The so-called Roman Question was only resolved in 1929 by the Lateran Treaty, which, among other things, established Vatican City.
See L. M. Duchesne, The Beginnings of the Temporal Sovereignty of the Popes, A.D. 754-1073 (1898, tr. 1908); D. P. Waley, The Papal State under Martin V (1958); P. Partner, The Lands of St. Peter: The Papal State in the Middle Ages and the Early Renaissance (1972). See also bibliography under papacy.
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|States of the Church
Stati della Chiesa
Noi vogliam Dio, Vergine Maria ( – 1857)
"We want God, Virgin Mary"
Marcia trionfale (1857–1870)
"Great Triumphal March"
|-||754–757||Stephen II (first)|
|-||1846–1870||Pius IX (last)|
|-||Treaty of Venice (Independence from the Holy Roman Empire)||1177|
|-||1st Disestablishment||February 15, 1798|
|-||2nd Disestablishment||September 20, 1870|
|-||Vatican City||February 11, 1929|
|Currency||Papal States scudo,
Papal States lira
|Today part of|| France
The Papal State(s), the State(s) of the Church, the Pontifical States, the Ecclesiastical States, or the Roman States (Italian: Stato Pontificio, also Stato della Chiesa, Stati della Chiesa, Stati Pontifici, and Stato Ecclesiastico; Latin: Status Pontificius, also Dicio Pontificia) were among the major historical states of Italy from roughly the 6th century until the Italian peninsula was unified in 1861 by the Kingdom of Piedmont-Sardinia. After 1861 the Papal States, in less territorially extensive form, continued to exist until 1870.
The Papal States were territories under the direct sovereign rule of the papacy, and at their most extensive they covered most of the modern Italian regions of Romagna, Marche, Umbria and Lazio. This was commonly called the temporal power of the Pope, as opposed to his ecclesiastical primacy.
The plural Papal States is usually preferred; the singular Papal State (equally correct since it was not a mere personal union) tends to be used (normally with lower-case letters) for the modern State of Vatican City, an enclave within Italy's national capital, Rome. The Vatican City was founded in 1929, again allowing the Holy See the political benefits of territorial sovereignty.
For its first three hundred years the Catholic Church was persecuted and unrecognized, unable to hold or transfer property. Early congregations met in special rooms of the homes of well-to-do individuals which were set aside for that purpose, and a number of early churches on the outskirts of Ancient Rome were held in custody for the Church by members. These were known as Titular churches. Things changed with the Christian emperorship of Constantine I. The Lateran Palace was the first significant donation, a gift from Constantine himself.
Other donations followed, mainly in mainland Italy but also in the provinces. But the Church held all of these lands as a private landowner, not as a sovereign entity. When in the fifth century the Italian peninsula passed under the control of first Odoacer and then the Ostrogoths, the church organization in Italy, and the bishop of Rome as its head, submitted to their sovereign authority while asserting their spiritual primacy over the whole Church.
The seeds of the Papal States as a sovereign political entity were planted in the sixth century. The Eastern Roman (or Byzantine) government in Constantinople launched a reconquest of Italy that took decades and devastated the country's political and economic structures; just as those wars wound down, the Lombards entered the peninsula from the north and conquered much of the countryside. By the seventh century, Byzantine authority was largely limited to a diagonal band running roughly from Ravenna, where the Emperor's representative, or Exarch, was located, to Rome and south to Naples (the "Rome-Ravenna corridor").
With effective Byzantine power weighted at the northeast end of this territory, the Bishop of Rome, as the largest landowner and most prestigious figure in Italy, began by default to take on much of the ruling authority that Byzantines were unable to project to the area around the city of Rome. While the Bishops of Rome – now beginning to be referred to as the Popes – remained de jure Byzantine subjects, in practice the Duchy of Rome, an area roughly equivalent to modern-day Latium, became an independent state ruled by the Church.
The Church's independence, combined with popular support for the Papacy in Italy, enabled various Popes to defy the will of the Byzantine emperor; Pope Gregory II even excommunicated Emperor Leo III the Isaurian during the Iconoclastic Controversy. Nevertheless the Pope and the Exarch still worked together to control the rising power of the Lombards in Italy. As Byzantine power weakened, though, the Papacy took an ever larger role in defending Rome from the Lombards, usually through diplomacy. In practice, the papal efforts served to focus Lombard aggrandizement on the Exarch and Ravenna. A climactic moment in the founding of the Papal States was the agreement over boundaries embodied in the Lombard king Liutprand's Donation of Sutri (728) to Pope Gregory II.
Donation of Pepin
When the Exarchate of Ravenna finally fell to the Lombards in 751, the Duchy of Rome was completely cut off from the Byzantine Empire, of which it was theoretically still a part. Pope Stephen II acted to neutralize the Lombard threat by courting the de facto Frankish ruler, Pepin the Short. With the urging of Pope Zachary to depose the Merovingian figurehead Childeric III, Pepin was crowned in 751 by Saint Boniface.
Stephen later granted Pepin the title Patrician of the Romans. Pepin led a Frankish army into Italy in 754 and 756. Pepin defeated the Lombards – taking control of northern Italy – and made a gift (called the Donation of Pepin) of the properties formerly constituting the Exarchate of Ravenna to the Pope.
In 781, Charlemagne codified the regions over which the Pope would be temporal sovereign: the Duchy of Rome was key, but the territory was expanded to include Ravenna, the Pentapolis, parts of the Duchy of Benevento, Tuscany, Corsica, Lombardy and a number of Italian cities. The cooperation between the Papacy and the Carolingian dynasty climaxed in 800, when Pope Leo III crowned Charlemagne the first "Emperor of the Romans" ('Augustus Romanorum').
Relationship with the Holy Roman Empire
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The precise nature of the relationship between the Popes and Emperors – and between the Papal States and the Empire – was disputed. Was the Pope a sovereign ruler of a separate realm in central Italy, or were the Papal States just a part of the Frankish Empire over which the Popes had administrative control? (This last was the view of the late 9th-century Libellus de imperatoria potestate in urbe Roma.) Or were the Holy Roman Emperors vicars of the Pope (as a sort of Archemperor) ruling Christendom, with the Pope directly responsible only for the environs of Rome and spiritual duties?
Events in the 9th century postponed the conflict: the Holy Roman Empire in its Frankish form collapsed as it was subdivided among Charlemagne's grandchildren. Imperial power in Italy waned and the papacy's prestige declined. This led to a rise in the power of the local Roman nobility, and the control of the Papal States during the early tenth century by a powerful and corrupt aristocratic family, the Theophylacti. This period was later dubbed the Saeculum obscurum or "dark age of the papacy", and sometimes as the "rule by harlots". In practice, the Popes were unable to exercise effective sovereignty over the extensive and mountainous territories of the Papal States, and the region preserved its old system of government, with many small countships and marquisates, each centered upon a fortified rocca.
Over several campaigns in the mid-tenth century, the German ruler Otto I conquered northern Italy; Pope John XII crowned him emperor (the first so crowned in more than forty years), and the two of them ratified the Diploma Ottonianum, which guaranteed the independence of the Papal States. Yet over the next two centuries, Popes and Emperors squabbled over a variety of issues, and the German rulers routinely treated the Papal States as part of their realms on those occasions when they projected power into Italy. A major motivation for the Gregorian Reform was to free the administration of the Papal States from imperial interference, and after the extirpation of the Hohenstaufen dynasty, the German emperors rarely interfered in Italian affairs. In response of the struggle between the Guelphs and Ghibellines, the treaty of Venice officialize the independence of Papal States from the Holy Roman Empire in 1177. By 1300, the Papal States, along with the rest of the Italian principalities, were effectively independent. During the Renaissance the Spanish Emperors fought wars over the Papal States, often against the Pope.
Period of the Avignon papacy
From 1305 to 1378, the Popes lived in the papal enclave of Avignon, surrounded by Provence, and were under the influence of the French kings in the 'Babylonian Captivity'. During this Avignon Papacy, local despots took advantage of the absence of the popes, to establish themselves in nominally papal cities: the Pepoli in Bologna, the Ordelaffi in Forlì, the Manfredi in Faenza, the Malatesta in Rimini all gave nominal acknowledgement to their papal overlords and were declared vicars of the Church.
In Ferrara, the death of Azzo VIII d'Este without legitimate heirs (1308) encouraged Clement to bring Ferrara under his direct rule: for only nine years, however, was it governed by his appointed vicar, Robert d'Anjou, King of Naples, before the citizens recalled the Este from exile (1317); interdiction and excommunications were in vain: in 1332 John XXII was obliged to name three Este brothers as his vicars in Ferrara.
In Rome itself the Orsini and the Colonna struggled for supremacy, dividing the city's rioni between them. The resulting aristocratic anarchy in the city provided the setting for the fantastic dreams of universal democracy of Cola di Rienzo, who was acclaimed Tribune of the People in 1347 and met a violent death in 1354.
The Rienzo episode engendered renewed attempts from the absentee papacy to re-establish order in the dissolving Papal States, resulting in the military progress of Cardinal Egidio Albornoz, who was appointed papal legate, and his condottieri heading a small mercenary army. Having received the support of the archbishop of Milan and Giovanni Visconti, he defeated Giovanni di Vico, lord of Viterbo, moving against Galeotto Malatesta of Rimini and the Ordelaffi of Forlì, the Montefeltro of Urbino and the da Polenta of Ravenna, and against the cities of Senigallia and Ancona. The last holdouts against full papal control were Giovanni Manfredi of Faenza and Francesco II Ordelaffi of Forlì. Albornoz, at the point of being recalled in 1357, in a meeting with all the Papal vicars, April 29, 1357, promulgated the Constitutiones Sanctæ Matris Ecclesiæ, which replaced the mosaic of local law and accumulated traditional 'liberties' with a uniform code of civil law. These Constitutiones Egidiane mark a watershed in the legal history of the Papal States; they remained in effect until 1816. Pope Urban V ventured a return to Italy in 1367 that proved premature; he returned to Avignon in 1370
During this period the city of Avignon itself was added to the Papal States; it remained a papal possession even after the popes returned to Rome, being seized and incorporated into the by then unitary French state only during the French Revolution.
During the Renaissance, the papal territory expanded greatly, notably under Popes Alexander VI and Julius II. The Pope became one of Italy's most important secular rulers as well as the head of the Church, signing treaties with other sovereigns and fighting wars. In practice, though, most of the Papal States was still only nominally controlled by the Pope, and much of the territory was ruled by minor princes. Control was always contested; indeed it took until the 16th century for the Pope to have any genuine control over all his territories.
Papal responsibilities were often (as in the early 16th century) in conflict. The Papal States were involved in at least 3 wars in the first 2 decades.Pope Julius II, the "Warrior Pope", fought on their behalf. The Reformation began in 1517. Before the Holy Roman Empire fought the Protestants, its soldiers (including many Protestants), sacked Rome as a side effect of battles over the Papal States. A generation later the armies of king Philip II of Spain stomped those of Pope Paul IV over the same issues.
This period saw a gradual revival of the Pope's temporal power in the Papal States. Throughout the 16th century virtually independent fiefs such as Rimini, (a possession of the Malatesta family) were brought back under Papal control. This process culminated in the re-claiming of the powerful Duchy of Ferrara in 1598 and the Duchy of Urbino in 1631.
At its greatest extent, in the 18th century, the Papal States included most of Central Italy — Latium, Umbria, Marche and the Legations of Ravenna, Ferrara and Bologna extending north into the Romagna. It also included the small enclaves of Benevento and Pontecorvo in southern Italy and the larger Comtat Venaissin around Avignon in southern France.
French Revolution and Napoleonic era
The French Revolution proved as disastrous for the temporal territories of the Papacy as it was for the Roman Church in general. In 1791 the Comtat Venaissin and Avignon were annexed by France. Later, with the French invasion of Italy in 1796, the Legations were seized and became part of the revolutionary Cisalpine Republic.
Two years later, the Papal States as a whole were invaded by French forces, who declared a Roman Republic. Pope Pius VI died in exile in Valence (France) in 1799. The Papal States were restored in June 1800 and Pope Pius VII returned, but the French again invaded in 1808, and this time the remainder of the States of the Church were annexed to France, forming the départements of Tibre and Trasimène.
With the fall of the Napoleonic system in 1814, the Papal States were restored once more. From 1814 until the death of Pope Gregory XVI in 1846, the Popes followed a reactionary policy in the Papal States. For instance, the city of Rome maintained the last Jewish ghetto in Western Europe. There were hopes that this would change when Pope Pius IX was elected to succeed Gregory and began to introduce liberal reforms.
Italian nationalism and the end of the Papal States
Italian nationalism had been stoked during the Napoleonic period but dashed by the settlement of the Congress of Vienna (1814–15), which left Italy divided: with Sardinia-Piedmont, Tuscany and the other northern states under the rule of junior cadet branches of the Habsburgs and in the south the Kingdom of the Two Sicilies was under Bourbon rule. In 1848, nationalist and liberal revolutions began to break out across Europe; in 1849, a Roman Republic was declared and Pope Pius IX fled the city.
After the Austro-Sardinian War of 1859, much of northern Italy was unified under the House of Savoy, and Giuseppe Garibaldi led a revolution that overthrew the Bourbon monarchy in the Kingdom of the Two Sicilies. Afraid that Garibaldi would set up a republican government in the south, the Sardinians petitioned Emperor Napoleon III of France for permission to send troops through the Papal States to gain control of the Two Sicilies, which was granted on the condition that Rome was left undisturbed. In 1860, with much of the region already in rebellion against Papal rule, Sardinia-Piedmont conquered the eastern two-thirds of the Papal States and cemented its hold on the south. Bologna, Ferrara, Umbria, the Marches, Benevento and Pontecorvo were all formally annexed by November of the same year, and a unified Kingdom of Italy was declared.
The Papal States were reduced to Latium, the immediate neighbourhood of Rome, which was declared Capital of Italy in March 1861, when the first Italian Parliament met in the Piedmontese kingdom's old capital, Turin. However, the Italian Government could not take possession of its capital because Napoleon III kept a French garrison in Rome in order to protect Pope Pius IX. The opportunity to eliminate the Papal States came when the Franco-Prussian War began in July 1870, and Napoleon III had to recall his garrison from Rome. Following the collapse of the Second French Empire at the Battle of Sedan, widespread public demonstrations demanded that the Italian Government take Rome. King Victor Emmanuel II sent Count Gustavo Ponza di San Martino to Pius IX with a personal letter offering a face-saving proposal that would have allowed the peaceful entry of the Italian Army into Rome, under the guise of offering protection to the pope.
On September 10, 1870, Italy declared war on the Papal States, and the Italian Army, commanded by General Raffaele Cadorna, crossed the frontier of the then remaining papal territory on September 11 and advanced slowly toward Rome. The Italian Army reached the Aurelian Walls on September 19 and placed Rome under a state of siege. Although the pope's tiny army was incapable of defending the city, Pius IX ordered it to put up at least a token resistance to emphasize that Italy was acquiring Rome by force and not consent. This incidentally served the purposes of the Italian State and gave rise to the myth of the Breach of Porta Pia, in reality a tame affair involving a cannonade at close range that demolished without much fuss a 1600-year-old wall in poor repair. The city was captured on September 20, 1870. Rome and Latium were annexed to the Kingdom of Italy as a result of a plebiscite the following October.
Despite the fact that the traditionally Catholic powers did not come to the Pope's aid, the papacy rejected any substantial accommodation with the Italian Kingdom, especially any proposal which required the Pope to become an Italian subject. Instead the papacy confined itself (see Prisoner in the Vatican) to the Apostolic Palace and adjacent buildings in the loop of the ancient fortifications known as the Leonine City, on Vatican Hill. From there it maintained a number of features pertaining to sovereignty, such as diplomatic relations, since in canon law these were inherent in the papacy. In the 1920s, the papacy – then under Pius XI—renounced the bulk of the Papal States and the Lateran Treaty (or Concordat) with Italy was signed on February 11, 1929, creating the State of the Vatican City, forming the sovereign territory of the Holy See, which was also indemnified to some degree for loss of territory.
- As the plural name Papal States indicates, the various regional components, usually former independent states, retained their identity under papal rule. The Pope was represented in each province by a governor, either styled papal legate, as in the former principality of Benevento, or Bologna, Romagna, and the March of Ancona; or papal delegate, as in the former duchy of Pontecorvo and in the Campagne and Maritime Province.
- The police force, known as sbirri ("cops" in modern Italian slang), was billeted in private houses (normally a practice of military occupation) and enforced order quite rigorously.
- For the defence of the states against the nascent Italian state in the last years of papal territorial autonomy, an international Catholic volunteer corps, called Papal Zouaves after a kind of French colonial native Algerian infantry, and imitating their uniform type, was created and fought in many engagements with great courage against superior odds in men and equipment.
- Donation of Constantine
- History of Rome
- Holy Roman Empire
- Italian unification
- Prisoner in the Vatican
- War of the Eight Saints
- Captain General of the Church
- This article incorporates text from a publication now in the public domain: Herbermann, Charles, ed. (1913). "States of the Church". Catholic Encyclopedia. Robert Appleton Company.
- Chambers, D.S. 2006. Popes, Cardinals & War: The Military Church in Renaissance and Early Modern Europe. I.B. Taurus. ISBN 1-84511-178-8.
- De Cesare, Raffaele (1909). The Last Days of Papal Rome. London: Archibald Constable & Co.
- Luther, Martin (1521). Passional Christi und Antichristi. Reprinted in W.H.T. Dau (1921). At the Tribunal of Caesar: Leaves from the Story of Luther's Life. St. Louis: Concordia. (Google Books)
- Mitchell, S.A. (1840). Mitchell's geographical reader. Thomas, Cowperthwait & Co. p. 368. http://books.google.com/books?id=bkUAAAAAYAAJ&redir_esc=y.
- "Sutri". From Civitavecchia to Civita Castellana. http://www.romeartlover.it/Civita3.html.
- Emile Amann and Auguste Dumas, ""L'église au pouvoir des laïques", in Auguste Fliche and Victor Martin, eds. Histoire de l'Église depuis l'origine jusqu'au nos jours, vol. 7 (Paris 1940, 1948). Liutprand of Cremona's biased account is adjusted by Bernard Hamilton, "The monastic revival in tenth-century Rome" and "The House of Theophylact and the promotion of the religious life among women in tenth-century Rome", both articles collected in Hamilton's Monastic Reform, Catharism and the Crusades (900–1300 (London, 1979).
- Lee, Roger A. (15 February 2013). "Wars of the Papacy and the Papal States". HistoryGuy.com. http://www.historyguy.com/wars_papal.html. Retrieved 7 March 2013.
- Ganse, Alexander. "History of the Papal States". World History at KDMLA. Korean Minjok Leadership Academy. http://www.zum.de/whkmla/military/italy/milxpapalstate.html. Retrieved 7 March 2013.
- Durant, Will (1953). The Renaissance. Chapter XXI: The Political Collapse: 1494–1534.
- Durant, Will (1953). The Renaissance. Chapter XXXIX: The Popes and the Council: 1517–1565.
- Charles A. Coulombe, The Pope's Legion: The Multinational Fighting Force that Defended the Vatican, Palgrave Macmillan, New York, 2008
- Papal States Coinage
- WorldStatesmen: Italy
- WHKMLA Historical atlas: here the page offering numerous links to maps of/containing Italy
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