The Donation of Constantine

The Donation of Constantine


Who’s in charge in Western Christendom? We can see this tension in a number of different
ways. We’ve already talked about coronation of Charlemagne
in the year 800 on Christmas Day. I always say to students, you should be very
thankful to Charlemagne that he got crowned in the year relatively easy to remember, the
year 800. And he was crowned by the Pope. He wasn’t very happy about being crowned by
the Pope because he didn’t want to leave the impression that he had received the empire
from the hands of the Pope. But that was exactly the impression that the
Pope wanted to give. The pope was already operating on the basis
of the document, known to history as “The Donation of Constantine.” The Donation of Constantine, a document supposedly
prepared by the Emperor Constantine in the early 4th century in which Constantine said
“I have this vast empire that the Lord has given to me and it’s difficult to rule this
whole empire and therefore I give the western half of my empire to the Pope.” What a guy that Constantine was. What a generous fellow. Now it’s still a little bit awkward from the
Pope’s point of view because even with that document, the pope had to grant that he had
received this authority in the West from the Emperor. But it was all right because it seemed to
legitimate the Pope’s claimed that he could rule over Western Europe. And the truth is of course that that was not
a document written by Constantine himself but a document that was forged in Constantine’s
name around 750. So just at the time that the Pope comes to
crown Charlemagne, his action is supported by this apparent document giving him control
of the west and from that time on, there would be recurring tensions over this.

4 thoughts on “The Donation of Constantine

  1. Thank you, I really enjoy these in-depth studies. So many other Channels just rush through a topic that you never get a good understanding of it.

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