Donation of Constantine

(redirected from Constantine's donation)
Also found in: Dictionary.
Related to Constantine's donation: Constitutum Constantini

Constantine, Donation of

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 papacy. 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 Valla 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.


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

The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia™ Copyright © 2022, Columbia University Press. Licensed from Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.
The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.

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.

The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.
Full browser ?