Beginnings of the Papal States 756–814

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Map Code: Ax00841

The Papal States were territories in central Italy under direct papal control, in both a secular and spiritual sense. In the 4th century, the bishops of Rome acquired lands known as the patrimony of St Peter. After the Lombard invasions (568–774) and the weakening of the Byzantine Empire in Italy, many Italians sought refuge in the patrimony. Pope Gregory the Great (c. 590–604) took them in, while consolidating church lands into a unified territory. In 754, when the Lombards were about to seize Rome, Pope Zachary secured the support of Pepin the Younger, king of the Franks, who led his army against the Lombards, driving them south. Pepin gained control of northern Italy and gifted further lands to the papacy. The Franks established the Carolingian dynasty, which became the Holy Roman Empire under Charlemagne (r. 768–84). Each respected the other’s territorial boundaries.

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