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The PAPAL STATES, officially the STATE OF THE CHURCH (Italian : Stato
della Chiesa, Italian pronunciation: ; Latin : Status Ecclesiae),
were territories in the
Italian Peninsula under the sovereign direct
rule of the pope , from the 8th century until 1870. They were among
the major states of
Italy from roughly the 8th century until the
Italian Peninsula was unified in 1861 by the Kingdom of
Piedmont-Sardinia . At their zenith, they covered most of the modern
Italian regions of
Lazio (which includes Rome),
Romagna , and portions of Emilia . These holdings were considered to
be a manifestation of the temporal power of the pope , as opposed to
his ecclesiastical primacy.
By 1861, much of the Papal States' territory had been conquered by
Kingdom of Italy . Only Lazio, including Rome, remained under the
Pope's temporal control. In 1870, the pope lost
Rome and had
no physical territory at all, not even the Vatican. Italian Fascist
Benito Mussolini ended the crisis between unified
Italy and the
Holy See by signing the
Lateran Treaty in 1929, thus granting the
Vatican City State sovereignty.
* 1 Name
* 2 History
* 2.1 Origins
Donation of Pepin
Donation of Pepin
* 2.3 Relationship with the
Holy Roman Empire
Holy Roman Empire
* 2.4 The
* 2.7 Napoleonic era
* 3 Regional governors
* 4 Papal army
* 5 See also
* 6 References
* 7 Sources
* 8 External links
Papal States were also known as the PAPAL STATE (although the
plural is usually preferred, the singular is equally correct as the
polity was more than a mere personal union ). The territories were
also referred to variously as 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).
Further information: History of
History of the Papacy
Main articles: Duchy of
Patrimonium Sancti Petri
For its first 300 years the
Catholic Church was persecuted and
unrecognized, unable to hold or transfer property. Early
congregations met in rooms set aside for that purpose in the homes of
well-to-do individuals, and a number of early churches , known as
titular churches and located on the outskirts of Ancient
Rome , were
held as property by individuals, rather than by the Church itself.
Nonetheless, the properties held nominally or actually by individual
members of the Roman churches would usually be considered as a common
patrimony handed over successively to the legitimate "heir" of that
property, often its senior deacons, who were, in turn, assistants to
the local bishop. This common patrimony attached to the churches at
Rome, and thus under its ruling bishop, became quite considerable,
including as it did not only houses etc. in
Rome or near by but landed
estates, whole or in part, across
Italy and beyond. This system began
to change during the reign of the emperor Constantine I , who made
Christianity legal within the Roman Empire, and restoring to it any
properties that had been confiscated (in the larger cities of the
empire this would have been quite considerable, and the Roman
patrimony not least among them). The
Lateran Palace was the first
significant new donation to the Church, most probably a gift from
Other donations followed, primarily in mainland
Italy but also in the
provinces of the Roman Empire. But the Church held all of these lands
as a private landowner, not as a sovereign entity. When in the 5th
century the Italian peninsula passed under the control of
Ostrogoths , the church organization in Italy, with the
pope at 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 6th century. Beginning In 535, the
Byzantine Empire ,
Justinian I , launched a reconquest of
Italy that took
decades and devastated Italy's political and economic structures. Just
as these wars wound down, the
Lombards entered the peninsula from the
north and conquered much of the countryside. By the 7th century,
Byzantine authority was largely limited to a diagonal band running
Ravenna , where the Emperor's representative, or Exarch ,
was located, to
Rome and south to Naples (the "Rome-
), plus coastal enclaves.
With effective Byzantine power weighted at the northeast end of this
territory, the pope, 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 popes remained Byzantine subjects, in
practice the Duchy of
Rome , an area roughly equivalent to modern-day
Latium , became an independent state ruled by the pope.
The Church's independence, combined with popular support for the
papacy in Italy, enabled various popes to defy the will of the
Pope Gregory II even excommunicated Emperor Leo III
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
Donation of Pepin
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. The popes renewed earlier
attempts to secure the support of the Franks . In 751,
had Pepin the Younger crowned king in place of the powerless
Merovingian figurehead king
Childeric III . Zachary's successor, Pope
Stephen II , later granted Pepin the title Patrician of the Romans.
Pepin led a Frankish army into
Italy in 754 and 756. Pepin defeated
Lombards – taking control of northern
Italy – and made a gift
Donation of Pepin
Donation of Pepin ) of the properties formerly
constituting the Exarchate of
Ravenna to the pope.
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
Duchy of the Pentapolis , parts of
the Duchy of
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
RELATIONSHIP WITH THE HOLY ROMAN EMPIRE
The precise nature of the relationship between the popes and emperors
– and between the
Papal States and the Empire – is disputed. It
was unclear whether the
Papal States were a separate realm with the
pope as their sovereign ruler, merely a part of the Frankish Empire
over which the popes had administrative control, as suggested in the
late 9th century treatise Libellus de imperatoria potestate in urbe
Roma , or whether the Holy Roman Emperors were 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 10th century by a powerful and corrupt aristocratic family, the
Theophylacti . This period was later dubbed the Saeculum obscurum
("dark age"), 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 centred upon a fortified rocca .
Over several campaigns in the mid-10th 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
Diploma Ottonianum , by which the emperor became the
guarantor of 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.
Gregorian Reform worked to free the administration of the
church from imperial interference, the independence of the Papal
States increased in importance. After the extinction of the
Hohenstaufen dynasty , the German emperors rarely interfered in
Italian affairs. In response to the struggle between the Guelphs and
Ghibellines , the
Treaty of Venice made official the independence of
Papal States from the
Holy Roman Empire
Holy Roman Empire in 1177. By 1300, the Papal
States, along with the rest of the Italian principalities, were
effectively independent. The domain of the
Papal States c. 1430
THE AVIGNON PAPACY
From 1305 to 1378, the popes lived in the papal enclave of
Provence and under the influence of the French kings.
This period was known as the "Avignonese" or "Babylonian Captivity".
During this period the city of
Avignon itself was added to the
Papal States; it remained a papal possession for some 400 years even
after the popes returned to Rome, until it was seized and incorporated
into the French state during the
French Revolution .
Avignon Papacy , local despots took advantage of the
absence of the popes to establish themselves in nominally papal
Pepoli in Bologna, the
Forlì , the Manfredi
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
Pope Clement V to bring
Ferrara under his direct
rule: however, it was governed by his appointed vicar, Robert
d\'Anjou, King of Naples , for only nine years 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.
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 early October 1354 as
he was assassinated by supporters of the Colonna family. To many,
rather than an ancient Roman tribune reborn, he had become just
another tyrant using the rhetoric of Roman renewal and rebirth to mask
his grab for power. As Prof.
Guido Ruggiero states, "even with the
Petrarch , his return to first times and the rebirth of
Rome was one that would not prevail."
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 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
Galeotto Malatesta of
Rimini and the
Ordelaffi of Forlì, the
Urbino and the da Polenta of
Ravenna , and against the
Ancona . The last holdouts against full papal
Giovanni Manfredi of
Faenza and Francesco II
Forlì. Albornoz, at the point of being recalled, in a meeting with
all the Papal vicars on 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
Avignon in 1370 just before his death. The
Quirinal Palace ,
papal residence and home to the civil offices of the
Papal States from
Renaissance until their annexation
Renaissance , the papal territory expanded greatly,
notably under the 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
Papal responsibilities were often (as in the early 16th century) in
Papal States were involved in at least three wars in the
first two decades.
Pope Julius II , the "Warrior Pope", fought on
their behalf. Antichristus (1521) by
Lucas Cranach the Elder
Lucas Cranach the Elder is a
woodcut of the
Papal States at war during the Renaissance.
Reformation began in 1517. Before the
Holy Roman Empire
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 defeated 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
Rimini (a possession of the Malatesta family) were brought
back under Papal control. In 1512 the state of the church annexed
Parma and Piacenza, which in 1545 became an independent ducate under
an illegitimate son of
Pope Paul III . This process culminated in the
reclaiming of the
Duchy of Ferrara in 1598, and the Duchy of Urbino
At its greatest extent, in the 18th century, the Papal States
included most of central
Marche and the
Bologna extending north into the
Romagna . It also included the small enclaves of
Pontecorvo in southern
Italy and the larger
Comtat Venaissin around
Avignon in southern France.
Map of the
Italian Peninsula in 1796, showing the Papal States
Napoleonic wars changed the face of the peninsula.
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 (the
Papal States' northern territories ) were seized and became part of
Cisalpine Republic .
Two years later, the
Papal States as a whole were invaded by French
forces, who declared a
Roman Republic .
Pope Pius VI fled to
and died in exile in Valence (France) in 1799. The
Papal States were
restored in June 1800 and
Pope Pius VII took up residency once again,
but the French under
Napoleon again invaded in 1808, and this time on
17 May 1809, the remainder of the States of the Church were annexed to
France, forming the départements of
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
IX was elected to succeed Gregory and began to introduce liberal
Papal States under
Pope Pius IX
Pope Pius IX and Administrative
subdivisions of the
Papal States from 1816 to 1871
Italian nationalism had been stoked during the Napoleonic period but
dashed by the settlement of the
Congress of Vienna (1814–15), which
sought to restore the pre-Napoleonic conditions: most of northern
Italy was under the rule of junior branches of the Habsburgs and the
Bourbons , with the
House of Savoy in Sardinia-Piedmont constituting
the only independent Italian state. The
Papal States in central Italy
and the Bourbon
Kingdom of the Two Sicilies in the south were both
restored. Popular opposition to the reconstituted and corrupt clerical
government led to numerous revolts, which were suppressed by the
intervention of the Austrian army.
The nationalist and liberal revolutions of 1848 affected much of
Europe, and in February 1849, a
Roman Republic was declared, and the
Pope Pius IX
Pope Pius IX had to flee the city. The
revolution was suppressed with French help in 1850 and Pius IX
switched to a conservative line of government.
As a result of the Austro-Sardinian War of 1859 , Sardinia-Piedmont
annexed Lombardy, while
Giuseppe Garibaldi overthrew the Bourbon
monarchy in the south. Afraid that Garibaldi would set up a
republican government, the Piedmont government petitioned French
Napoleon III for permission to send troops through the Papal
States to gain control of the south. This was granted on the condition
Rome be 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,
Pontecorvo were all formally annexed by November of the same year.
While considerably reduced, the
Papal States nevertheless still
Latium and large areas northwest of Rome. The Breach
of Porta Pia, on the right, in 1870. The Papal States,
Kingdom of Italy was declared and in March 1861, the first
Italian parliament, which met in
Turin , the old capital of Piedmont,
Rome the capital of the new Kingdom. However, the Italian
government could not take possession of the city because a French
Pope Pius IX. The opportunity for the
Kingdom of Italy to eliminate the
Papal States came in 1870; the
outbreak of the Franco-Prussian War in July prompted
Napoleon III to
recall his garrison from
Rome and the collapse of the Second French
Empire at the Battle of Sedan deprived
Rome of its French protector.
Victor Emmanuel II
Victor Emmanuel II at first aimed at a peaceful conquest of the
city and proposed sending troops into Rome, under the guise of
offering protection to the pope. When the pope refused,
war on September 10, 1870, and the Italian Army, commanded by General
Raffaele Cadorna , crossed the frontier of the papal territory on
September 11 and advanced slowly toward Rome. The Italian Army reached
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 more than a token resistance to
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 a 1600-year-old
wall in poor repair.
Pope Pius IX
Pope Pius IX ordered the commander of the papal
forces to limit the defense of the city in order to avoid bloodshed.
The city was captured on September 20, 1870.
Rome and what was left of
Papal States were annexed to the
Kingdom of Italy as a result of a
plebiscite the following October. This marked the definite end of the
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
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 with
Italy (then ruled by the National
Fascist Party under
Benito Mussolini ) 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.
Papal Zouaves pose in 1869.
As the plural name
Papal States indicates, the various regional
components retained their identity under papal rule. The pope was
represented in each province by a governor, a number of styles arose;
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 .
Other titles like Papal
Vicar General, and several noble
titles like "count" or even "prince" were used. However, throughout
the Papal States' history many warlords and even bandit chieftains
ruled cities and small duchies with no title bestowed by the Pope.
Papal States maintained military forces composed of
volunteers and mercenaries . Between 1860 and 1870 the Papal Army
(Esercito Pontificio in Italian) comprised two regiments of locally
recruited Italian infantry, two Swiss regiments and a battalion of
Irish volunteers, plus artillery and dragoons . In 1861 an
international Catholic volunteer corps, called
Papal Zouaves after a
kind of French colonial native Algerian infantry, and imitating their
uniform type, was created. Predominantly made up of Dutch, French and
Belgian volunteers, this corps saw service against Garibaldi 's
Redshirts , Italian patriots, and finally the forces of the newly
The Papal Army was disbanded in 1870, leaving only the Palatine Guard
, which was itself disbanded on 14 September 1970 by
Pope Paul VI ,
Swiss Guard , which continues to serve both as a ceremonial
unit at the Vatican and as the pope's protective force.
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