The Foundation of the Papal States 756–814

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Map Code: Ax01424

Since the collapse of the Roman Empire in the 5th century, the papacy had retained substantial landholdings through the patrimony of St Peter, but continued to recognize the temporal authority of the eastern emperor in Constantinople. In the early 8th century, a rift developed over doctrinal differences and increasing imperial taxation so, when threatened by the aggressive Lombard King Aistulf, Pope Stephen turned to the Franks rather than the Byzantines for protection. The Frankish King Pepin owed the papacy for its recognition of his seizure of the throne. He both vanquished Aistulf, and annexed substantial Byzantine territory to the papacy. The ‘Donation of Pepin’ marked the establishment of the papacy as a temporal power. The Frankish monarchy would prove munificent patrons. Pepin’s son Charlemagne was both devout and a fearsome warrior; as he expanded his empire he made fresh donations to the papacy, to be rewarded with coronation as Holy Roman Emperor (800).

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