Donation of Constantine

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Related to Donation of Constantine: Constitutum Constantini

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.


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

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.
..... Click the link for more information.
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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 It might be outdated or ideologically biased.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.
References in periodicals archive ?
In 1440, Lorenzo Valla proved the Donation of Constantine had been falsified.
(5) Lorenzo Valla, The Profession of the Religious and Selections from The Falsely Believed and Forged Donation of Constantine, translated with an Introduction and Notes by Olga Zorzi Pugliese, 2nd ed.
In January, 1054, the Roman delegation left Benevento, halting along the way at Monte Cassino, carrying with them the letters of Humbert written in the pope's name and the Donation of Constantine. Without doubt, they visited Argyros for confirmation of their mission before taking a ship to Dyrrachium, which arrived in Constantinople at the end of March or early April.
But Boorstin has room only for occasional highlights, notably Augustine of Hippo; and some eccentric low-lights that somehow tickled his fancy, notably the so-called "Donation of Constantine."
The Introduction notes the paucity of any direct reference to Wyclif's earlier doctrine of dominion; but does not relate it to Wyclif's later insistence upon the duty of kings and lay lords to disendow the Church of all its temporalities and jurisdiction as the path back to its original apostolic state of purity before it was corrupted by the Donation of Constantine. Together with the divinely ordained supremacy which Wyclif came to invest in the king's office, to which the Church and papacy must submit, he effectively nullified the subversive implications of the doctrine of dominion for lay rulers.
For Rhodes, Valla's exposure of the Donation of Constantine demonstrates the 'efficacy of the word'.
From the birth of the Carolingian Empire in the year 800 onwards the gifts of Pepin, the Donation of Constantine and the False Decretals were assiduously used by the pontiffs to consolidate their power.
Among churchmen who argued that the Church should be independent of imperial control, Bishop Macarius of Ancyra was astute enough to see that the Donation of Constantine was a forgery, while Patriarch Athanasius I declared that only the Church, not the empire, was an eternal and universal institution.
The Donation of Constantine has been called the "best-known forgery in history." (3) This is, perhaps, an overstatement.
It is not true that Sylvester baptized Constantine, nor that Sylvester was the recipient from the emperor of the famous land grant (and forgery) called the Donation of Constantine. The emperor did give the pope the Lateran Palace, which was the papal residence for almost a thousand years before the Vatican replaced it.
Fuhrmann offers a masterly summary on the Donation of Constantine. Schieffer is here on Hincmar (surprisingly without Wallace-Hadrill in his bibliography) and on Humbert of Silva Candida.
Allen further complains that Platina writes nothing about the Donation of Constantine and that he denies the emperor's miraculous curing of leprosy at baptism.