Donation of Constantine

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Related to Constantine's donation: Constitutum Constantini

Donation of Constantine:

see Constantine, Donation ofConstantine, Donation of,
Lat. Constitutum Constantini, forged document, probably drafted in the 8th cent. It purported to be a grant by Roman Emperor Constantine I of great temporal power in Italy and the West to the papacy.
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.

Constantine, Donation of,

Lat. Constitutum Constantini, forged document, probably drafted in the 8th cent. It purported to be a grant by Roman Emperor Constantine I of great temporal power in Italy and the West to the papacypapacy
, office of the pope, head of the Roman Catholic Church. He is pope by reason of being bishop of Rome and thus, according to Roman Catholic belief, successor in the see of Rome (the Holy See) to its first bishop, St. Peter.
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. Its purpose was apparently to enhance papal territorial claims in Italy by giving them greater antiquity. The document also recognized the spiritual authority of the popes, but this statement had no weight, since at no time was it argued in the Roman Catholic Church that spiritual authority could emanate from the emperor. It was not, as a matter of fact, ever of great practical value, nor was it, as is sometimes asserted, universally accepted in the Middle Ages. It owes its great fame to the fact that the scholar Lorenzo VallaValla, Lorenzo
, c.1407–57, Italian humanist. Valla knew Greek and Latin well and was chosen by Pope Nicholas V to translate Herodotus and Thucydides into Latin. From his earliest works, he was an ardent spokesman for the new humanist learning that sought to reform
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 demonstrated the falsity of the document by critical methods that became the model for later textual criticism and are said by some to be the beginning of modern textual criticism.

Bibliography

See L. Valla, Treatise on the Donation of Constantine (tr. by C. B. Coleman, 1922; repr. 1971).

Donation of Constantine

 

a forged document drawn up in the papal chambers evidently in the mid-eighth century to substantiate the pope’s claim to secular power.

According to the Donation of Constantine, in fourth-century Rome the Emperor Constantine allegedly transferred control of the western part of the Roman Empire, including Italy, to Pope Silvester I. The 15th-century Italian humanist L. Valla proved the document to be a forgery.

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