The Donation the Constantine (Donatio Constantini or the Donatio) is a middle ages forgery dated to the 8th century CE purporting to be an initial 4th-century CE record in which the roman inn emperor Constantine the good (r. 306-337 CE) granted supreme temporal and also spiritual power to the Church. The document claims that c. 315-317 CE Constantine was cured that leprosy through Pope Sylvester ns (served 315-335 CE) and, in gratitude, surrendered his power and also lands come the pope and also the pope then generously gave that strength back, permitting the emperor his reign.

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The Donation that Constantine was most most likely written, and virtually certainly used, to coerce Pepin the Short, King of the Franks (r. 751-768 CE) into offering the lands he conquered from the Lombards to the Church under Pope Stephen II (served 752-757 CE), was supplied again – this time v no result – v Pepin\"s kid Charlemagne (l. 742-814 CE), and made appearances transparent the reigns of later on European queens until that was lastly proved a forgery through the priest and scholar Lorenzo Valla (l. C. 1407-1457 CE) c. 1439-1440 CE.

Background come Donation

It is unknown precisely when The Donation that Constantine was written yet it is almost specific it was sometime in between 751-756 CE, indigenous the beginning of Pepin the Short\"s regime to the date when he provided the church The Donation of Pepin, a large land approve of the areas he had overcame from the Lombards.

The Merovingian dynasty (c. 450-751 CE) rule the Franks of northern Gaul, steadily losing power and also authority until, through the regime of King Childeric III (r. 743-751 CE), the monarchy had virtually no influence and decisions to be made through the office of market of the palace (equivalent to element Minister), who at that time to be Pepin the Short. Childeric III had been living in a monastery since c. 747 CE while Pepin in reality fulfilled every one of his responsibilities.

Pepin was illiterate & would not have actually known what any record Stephen waved at him even said, much much less whether it was authentic.

Pepin grew worn down of gift the strength behind the Merovingian throne, issuing dictates i m sorry Childeric III was attributed for, and wrote come Pope Zachary (served 741-752) explaining the situation and asking, “Is it ideal that a powerless ruler should continue to bear the title of King?” (Hollister, 108). Zachary was currently inundated through various troubles he can hardly manage. The Lombards had actually seized large tracts of floor in Italy, prolonging their regions by acquisition those once asserted by the papacy.

At the same time, the Church the Rome was being intimidated by the east Church and also its statements condemning icons (the so-called an initial Iconoclastic Controversy) together pagan idolatry. The east Church declared that any kind of representation the Christ or the saints in arts was nothing more than a extension of pagan practice, was in problem with Exodus 20 which prohibited graven images, and banned all such images from its churches, demanding the Church that Rome perform the very same in the interests of a united Christian vision.

The roman Church had actually no interest in complying however was in together a dilute state right now it seemed it had actually no choice. Pepin\"s letter must have seemed choose a literal godsend to Zachary who construed he to be being presented with an opportunity to elevate a noble come a king who might be the Church\"s champion against the Lombards and, v their defeat, combine the position of the Church come fend turn off its east counterpart\"s demands.

Pepin, because that his part, essential the Church come legitimize his reign. He could not just depose Childeric III and hope the his world – and especially the noble of the court – would certainly accept him as their brand-new monarch. The self-interests that both men coincided perfectly and also Childeric III to be deposed by Pope Zachary that then crowned Pepin together King the the Franks in 751 CE.

Origin & first Use

Pepin practically instantly visited war against the Lombards, beat them in 752 CE, and also seized their lands. Zachary had died by this time and also the brand-new pope was Stephen II. In 753 CE, Stephen overcome the Alps (the an initial pope to execute so) and met with Pepin in ~ Quierzy-sur-Oise to discuss the disposition the the lands that had conquered from the Lombards. These lands were previously the Exarchate the Ravenna, regions which had belonged come the oriental Empire, and also which Stephen declared for the Church.


Pepin to be illiterate and also would not have known what any record Stephen waved in ~ him even said, much less whether it was authentic. No document from the conference at Quierzy-sur-Oise survives, although later writers seem come quote indigenous one currently lost, but The Donation the Constantine – never mentioned in any kind of records of any type of kind previously – appears to have made its first appearance in ~ this point. The use of the Donation in ~ this meeting v Pepin has never been proven yet is taken into consideration likely in that, when it mirrors up again throughout Charlemagne\"s reign, it seems acquainted to him.

Stephen anointed Pepin Patrician the the Romans in 754 CE, for this reason linking him v Constantine the an excellent and, at Pepin\"s request, likewise anointed Pepin\"s young sons and successors Charlemagne and also Carloman (l. 751-771 CE). Pepin required the Lombards come surrender their lands which that then gave to the papacy through The Donation of Pepin which developed the overcame lands as Church property and formed the Papal states of Italy.

The Donation that Constantine Content

The document itself starts with a an extensive prologue top top the goodness of God, the sanctity that the Church, and also the legitimacy the the papacy. It climate maintains the fact of God together three-in-one embodied in the holy Trinity of Father, Son, and also Holy Ghost and also of Jesus Christ as God\"s just begotten son before discussing the background of the human being from creation through the loss of guy as described in the Bible.

The futile efforts of pagan clergymans to subvert Christian reality is then addressed prior to the writer (allegedly Constantine himself) tells how he received a revelation that this reality in a dream which he did not understand and brought his questions to Pope Sylvester I, asking who these “gods” were who went by the names Peter and also Paul, both of who he had seen in his dream. Sylvester defines that they are not gods however apostles the Jesus Christ and also the writer asks if that has any type of images of them. Sylvester produces paintings of both males whom the writer recognizes as the same numbers from his dream.

The writer then submits come penance for his sins, obtain absolution and also baptism through Sylvester, and also is cleansed of leprosy and filled v the divine Spirit. At this point, the file decrees the dominance of the papacy over temporal rulers, approving the office that the pope the authority to provide power to temporal rulers and take it away if understood necessary, power over all the priests and churches in the world, stipulates the king will act as the pope\"s groom in processions, and grants the pope and also Church of Rome other privileges and also powers. The latter part of the document reads, in part:

We ordain and also decree the shall have the supremacy too over the four chief seats Antioch, Alexandria, Constantinople, and also Jerusalem, as likewise over every the churches of God in the entirety world. And also he who for the moment being shall it is in pontiff that that holy Roman Church chandelier be much more exalted than, and also chief over, every the priests of the whole world and, according to his judgment, every little thing which is to be provided for the company of God or the stability of the confidence of the christians is to be administered.

And we decree, as to those most reverend men, the clergy that serve, in various orders, the same divine Roman Church, that they shall have actually the very same advantage, distinction, power and excellence by the glory of which our many illustrious senate is adorned; that is, the they shall it is in made patricians and also consuls, we commanding the they shall also be decorated with the other imperial dignities. And also even as the royal soldiery, so, we decree, chandelier the priest of the holy Roman church it is in adorned.

We also decreed this, that this exact same venerable one our father Sylvester, the supreme pontiff, and all the pontiffs his successors, can use and bear upon their heads, come the praise of God and also for the honor of St. Peter, the diadem - that is, the crown which we have granted that from our own head, of purest gold and also precious gems. Yet he, the most holy pope, did not at all permit that crown of yellow to be supplied over the clerical crown which that wears come the glory of St. Peter; yet we placed upon his most divine head, with our own hands, a tiara that gleaming splendor representing the glorious resurrection of our Lord. And, holding the bridle that his horse, the end of reverence for St. Peter, we performed because that him the duty the groom; decreeing the all the pontiffs his successors, and also they alone, may use that tiara in processions.

In imitation that our own power, in order the for that cause the supreme pontificate may not deteriorate, but may quite be adorned through power and glory even an ext than is the dignity of one earthly rule, behold we offering over come the oft-mentioned most blessed pontiff, our dad Sylvester the global pope, too our palace, as has actually been said, as also the city that Rome and also all the provinces, districts and cities that Italy or that the west regions; and relinquishing them, by our inviolable gift, to the power and also sway of himself or the pontiffs his successors-do decree, by this our godlike charter and also imperial constitution, that it shall it is in so arranged; and also do concede that they (the palaces, provinces etc.) shall lawfully remain with the divine Roman Church. (Donation, 5-6)

Impact that the Donation

The Donation that Constantine not just solved the papacy\"s problems with the Lombards, no only provided the Church the land they had actually sought, but also attempted to settle the troubles with the east Church in showing how images of the apostles Peter and Paul had saved the spirit of Constantine by revealing the message of salvation in his dream. Icons, therefore, to be obviously authorized by God and the east Church was in error to condemn Christian iconography as a pagan practice. Over there is no proof the Donation was ever used to deal with the Iconoclastic controversy in its first phase, however, which finished in 787 CE in ~ the saturday Ecumenical the supervisory board of Nicaea at which the bishops claimed icons legit expressions that orthodox Christian faith.

The Donation, in fact, had actually no affect on teach assertions together the best of the papacy had actually been legitimately recognized in the fourth century CE as developed by Church chronicler Eusebius (l. 263-339 CE). The office that the pope was construed as the head that the Church but not together a temporal authority. This to be the significant significance the The Donation of Constantine in that it granted the pope power to interact in temporal, civil, affairs. Later on popes who made use of the Donation – most notably Leo IX (served 1049-1054 CE) – thought it a genuine file and supplied it to justify ecclesiastical interference in temporal affairs.

Leo IX\"s insistence top top the legitimacy that the Donation, in fact, to be a major contributing factor in the good Schism that 1054 CE which break-up the east Orthodox Church indigenous the roman Catholic Church in the west. The western Church insisted top top its superiority to the eastern Church in the Peter had established the Church of Rome and so the roman Church was established by the right-hand-man that Jesus Christ himself while the east Church had arisen later. The Donation made this same claim and also Leo IX referenced the in saying that the eastern Church need to surrender that is authority, and very profitable land holdings, come the Church that Rome. The east Orthodox Church denied these claims and also cut contact with the west.

When Pope Adrian i (served 772-795 CE) make the efforts to usage the Donation through Charlemagne in 778 CE, Charlemagne just ignored him, yet Charlemagne to be exceptional. Charlemagne\"s very own vision coincided perfectly with the self-interests of the Church and also so there yes, really was no reason to try to coerce him with the forged file – that donated lands consistently to the Church there is no anyone asking him to – but later Carolingian monarchs could have been pressured by the document\"s use also though that is tough to determine exactly how much influence, if any, that actually had on their reigns. The Donation appears to have been largely forgotten until its dramatic use by Leo IX.


It had much greater affect on encouraging so-called heretical sects, specifically the Waldensians that the 12th century CE. The Waldensians were started in 1173 CE by Peter Waldo (c. 1140 - c. 1205 CE), a affluent French merchant who uncovered material obtain interfered with a thank you very much Christian go of faith and also gave away all his wealth and also possessions to better serve God. The Waldensians condemned The Donation the Constantine and also the Church\"s acceptance of it claiming that it contradicted the virtues of humility and also poverty therefore integral come the spirituality life the a true monitor of Christ. Come the Waldensians, the Church had jeopardized itself by accepting Constantine\"s donation – i m sorry they interpreted as legit – and also should disapprove it and reform chin by letting temporal powers worry themselves with temporal objectives while the Church should focus only on spiritual matters.

Forgery Revealed

The legitimacy of the Donation walk unquestioned till the holy Roman Emperor otto III (r. 996-1002 CE) raised questions about its authenticity. These doubts were never ever taken seriously, obviously, because Leo IX made use of the Donation in 1054 CE. The theologian, philosopher, and writer Nicholas that Cusa (l. 1401-1464 CE), ideal known for his work The Layman on Wisdom and the Mind, appears to have actually been the very first to seriously inquiry the validity the the record and declared it a forgery. This case was proven through the priest and scholar Lorenzo Valla in 1439-1440 CE.

Valla protest the Donation on spiritual & political grounds & was only too happy to apply his considerable an essential skills to analyze the text.

Valla was functioning as a translator because that Alfonso V of Aragon (l. 1396-1458 CE), a patron of the arts with an attention in timeless literature, who was associated in a dispute with Pope Eugene IV (served 1431-1447 CE) and also needed the Donation discredited. Valla himself opposed the Donation on spiritual and political grounds and also was no doubt just too happy to apply his considerable critical skills to analysis the text. That proclaimed that a forgery top top concluding that the Latin was too bad for a 4th-century CE roman text, that there was no proof of any readjust in the management of the western Roman realm from Constantine\"s time till its loss which could be deadline to such a document, that sections of the piece were blatantly plagiarized indigenous a 5th-century CE text on Pope Sylvester\"s life, and that the emperor of Rome had no legal appropriate to cede his power to any pope. Valla further noted anachronisms such as the use of the word satrap and specific references which clearly argued against the document\"s 4th-century CE date.

Even though the Donation had not been employed come any significant degree because Leo IX, the Church ignored Valla\"s work and also the Donation ongoing to be pertained to as authentic till cardinal Caesar Baronius (l. 1538-1607 CE) admitted it was a forgery in his Ecclesiastical Annals (written in between 1588-1607 CE). Scholar still dispute whether the Church knew the record was a forgery all along, and also some have offered the excuse the those affiliated were simply rewriting a record they were sure had actually existed once however was then lost.


This claim notes that, in the middle Ages, files such as land grants were frequently rewritten once the original had actually gone missing, setup down the commitment in writing as interpreted by both initial parties, and so the new file still conveyed the details that the transaction and also was authentic. The trouble with this insurance claim is that, in the instance of the Donation, just one next of the \"transaction\" was claiming that had ever happened. Pepin the short would have had actually no idea whether Constantine was legally able come surrender his power to the pope, what the would have meant in old Rome, or even if it is Constantine had also ever had actually leprosy and been cured, yet he would not have actually questioned Stephen\"s claim because he essential papal approval come legitimize his reign.

The Donation that Constantine came to be a focal suggest for early reformers like Martin Luther (l. 1483-1546 CE) who, prefer the earlier Waldensians the admired, pointed come the document to prove the Church had jeopardized itself and also fallen right into sin and also corruption. Transparent the good news Reformation, the Donation would show up in assorted tracts to underscore this same point, and also it continued to it is in mentioned, debated, and argued over right into the Enlightenment period of the 18th century CE after ~ which it was greatly forgotten.

The Catholic Church put Valla\"s work-related on the index of Prohibited books for centuries and also seems to have done its finest to shot to bury The Donation that Constantine embarrassment. The document was revived in the 1920\"s CE, however, and in 1929 CE, the Church publicly admitted the record was a fake and returned the Papal states to Italy.

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A freelance writer and also former part-time Professor of approach at Marist College, new York, Joshua J. Mark has lived in Greece and also Germany and traveled v Egypt. He has taught history, writing, literature, and philosophy at the university level.