Lorenzo Valla Proves that the Donation of Constantine is a Forgery : History of Information
Later popes took its authenticity for granted (Innocent III, Sermo de sancto Silvestro, in P.L., CCXVII, 481 sqq.; Raynaldus, Annales, ad an. 1236, n. 24; Potthast, Regesta, no. 11,848), and ecclesiastical writers often adduced its evidence in favor of the papacy. The medieval adversaries of the popes, on the other hand, never denied the validity of this appeal to the pretended donation of Constantine, but endeavored to show that the legal deductions drawn from it were founded on false interpretations. It was known to the Greeks in the second half of the twelfth century, when it appears in the collection of Theodore Balsamon (1169 sqq.); later on another Greek canonist, Matthaeus Blastares , admitted it into his collection.
Wolfram Setz, a recent editor of Valla’s work, has affirmed that at the time of Valla’s refutation, Constantine’s alleged "donation" was no longer a matter of contemporary relevance in political theory and that it simply provided an opportunity for an exercise in legal rhetoric. In one study, an attempt was made at dating the forgery to the 9th century, and placing its composition at Corbie Abbey, in northern France. The Great Schism came about due to a complex mix of religious disagreements and political conflicts. One of the many religious disagreements between the western and eastern branches of the church had to do with whether or not it was acceptable to use unleavened bread for the sacrament of communion. Most importantly, Constantine gives the pope control of the imperial palace in Rome and all the regions of the Western Empire; this effectively conveys the notion that the pope has the right to appoint secular rulers in the West.
How did Valla prove the Donation of Constantine was a forgery?
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. The Donation of Constantine, also called the Constitutum Constantini, was a document used during the Middle Ages to support papal authority and land rights. Written about AD 750 to 800, it claims to be a record of Emperor Constantine’s conversion testimony and his interactions with Sylvester I, a bishop of Rome regarded as pope in the Catholic tradition.
Valla showed that the document could not possibly have been written in the historical era of Constantine I because its vernacular style dated conclusively to a later era . One of Valla’s reasons was that the document contained the word satrap which he believed Romans such as Constantine I would not have used. " were used. Also, the purported date of the document is inconsistent with the content of the document itself as it refers both to the fourth consulate of Constantine as well as the consulate of Gallicanus . More recently, an attempt has been made at dating the forgery to the 9th century and placing its composition at Corbie Abbey, in northern France. Constantine made Christianity the main religion of Rome, and created Constantinople, which became the most powerful city in the world. Emperor Constantine (ca A.D. 280– 337) reigned over a major transition in the Roman Empire—and much more.
The Donation of Constantine: Passing off a Forgery
And, holding the bridle of his horse, out of reverence for St. Peter, we performed for him the duty of groom; decreeing that all the pontiffs his successors, and they alone, may use that tiara in processions. Pepin was illiterate and would not have known what any document Stephen waved at him even said, much less whether it was authentic. No document from the meeting at Quierzy-sur-Oise survives, although later writers seem to quote from one now lost, but The Donation of Constantine – never mentioned in any records of any kind previously – seems to have made its first appearance at this point.
- Constantine made Christianity the main religion of Rome, and created Constantinople, which became the most powerful city in the world.
- He cited a large portion of the document, believing it genuine, furthering the debate that would ultimately lead to the East–West Schism.
- Important questions concerning the sources of the forgery, the place and time of its origin, the tendency of the forger, yet await their solution.
- It was not until the mid-15th century, with the revival of Classical scholarship and textual criticism, that humanists, and eventually the papal bureaucracy, began to realize that the document could not possibly be genuine.
But now, by virtue of this document, they claimed for the Byzantine clergy also the privileges and prerogatives granted to the pope and the Roman ecclesiastics. And though Baronius and later historians acknowledged it to be a forgery, they endeavored to marshal other authorities in defense of its content, especially as regards the imperial donations. In later times even this was abandoned, so that now the whole “Constitutum”, both in form and content, is rightly considered in all senses a forgery. Most of the recent writers on the subject assume the origin of the "Donatio" between 752 and 795. Among them, some decide for the pontificate of Stephen II ( ) on the hypothesis that the author of the forgery wished to substantiate thereby the claims of this pope in his negotiations with Pepin (Döllinger, Hauck, Friedrich, Böhmer).
As far as the evidence at hand permits us to judge, the forged "Constitutum" was first made known in the Frankish Empire. The oldest extant manuscript of it, certainly from the ninth century, was written in the Frankish Empire. In the second half of that century the document is expressly mentioned by three Frankish writers. The document obtained wider circulation by its incorporation with the False Decretals ( , or more specifically between 847 and 852; Hinschius, Decretales Pseudo-Isidorianæ, Leipzig, 1863, p. 249).