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    December 16, 1897

    “After the Creed was Made: How the Papacy Ruled and Ruined. After Papal Supremacy Was Established” The Present Truth 13, 50, pp. 791, 792.


    THE history of this phase of the Papacy is fully as interesting, though the details are not so important, as that which shows how her ecclesiastical supremacy was established. Here, however, will be noticed but the one point, how the Papacy assumed the supremacy over kings and emperors, and acquired the prerogative of dispensing kingdoms and empires.PTUK December 16, 1897, page 791.1

    The contest began even with Justinian, who had done so much to exalt the dignity and clear the way of the Papacy. Justinian soon became proud of his theological abilities, and presumed to dictate the faith of the papacy, rather than to submit, as formerly, to her guidance.PTUK December 16, 1897, page 791.2

    And from A.D. 542 to the end of his long reign in 565, there was almost constant war, with alternate advantage, between Justinian and the popes. But as emperors live and die, while the papacy only lives, the real victory remained with her.PTUK December 16, 1897, page 791.3


    In A.D. 568 the Lombards had invaded Italy, and for nearly twenty years wrought such devastation that even the pope thought the world was coming to an end. The imperial power of the East was so weak that the defense of Italy fell exclusively to the exarch of Ravenna and the pope. And owing to the weakness of the exarchate the pope alone became really the chief defender of Italy. In 594 Gregory I—the Great—became pope, and concluded a treaty of peace with the Lombards, and “the pope and the king of the Lombards became the real powers in the north and center of Italy.”PTUK December 16, 1897, page 791.4

    The wife of the king of the Lombards was a Catholic, and by the influence of Gregory, she “solemnly placed the Lombard nation under the patronage of St. John the Baptist. At Monza she built in his honor the first Lombard church, and the royal palace near it.” From this the Lombards soon became Catholic; but though this was so, they would not suffer the priesthood to have any part in the affairs of the kingdom. They “never admitted the bishops of Italy to a seat in their legislative councils.” (Gibbon.) And although under the Lombard dominion “the Italians enjoyed a milder and more equitable government than any of the other kingdoms which had been founded on the ruins of the empire,” this exclusion of the clergy from affairs of the state was as much against them now, though Catholic, as their Arianism had been against them before; and the popes ever anxiously hoped to have them driven entirely from Italy.PTUK December 16, 1897, page 791.5

    In 728 the edict of the Eastern emperor abolishing the worship of images, was published in Italy. “The pope defended the images, of course, and the Italians swore to live and die in defense of the pope and the holy images.” (Gibbon.) An alliance was formed between the Lombards and the Papacy for the defence of the images. The alliance, however, did not last long. Both powers being determined to possess as much of Italy as possible, there was constant irritation, which finally culminated in open hostilities, and the Lombards invaded the papal territory in A.D. 739.PTUK December 16, 1897, page 791.6

    Charles Martel, the mayor of the palace of the Frankish kingdom, had gained a world-wide glory by his late victory, 732, over the Mohammedans at Tours. Of all the barbarians, the Franks were the first who had become Catholic, and they had ever since been dutiful sons of the Church. The pope, Gregory III., now determined to appeal to Charles for help against the assertion of Lombard dominion.PTUK December 16, 1897, page 791.7


    He sent to Charles the keys of the “sepulchre of St. Peter;” some filings from the chains with which “Peter had been bound;” and, more important than all, as the legitimate inheritor of the authority of the ancient Roman republic, he presumed to bestow upon Charles Martel the title of Roman consul. “Throughout these transactions the pope appears actually, if not openly, an independent power, leaguing with the allies or the enemies of the empire, as might suit the exigencies of the time.” And now, “the pope, as an independent potentate, is forming an alliance with a transalpine sovereign for the liberation of Italy.” (Milman.)PTUK December 16, 1897, page 791.8

    The Lombards, too, sent to Charles with counter-negotiations. This the pope knew, and wrote to Charles that in Italy the Lombards were treating him with contempt, and were saying, “Let him come, this Charles, with his army of Franks; if he can, let him rescue you out of our hands;” and then Gregory laments, and pleads with Charles thus:—PTUK December 16, 1897, page 791.9

    O unspeakable grief, that such sons so insulted should make no effort to defend their holy mother, the church! Not that St. Peter is unable to protect his successors, and to exact vengeance upon their oppressors, but the apostle is putting the faith of his followers to trial.... Close not your ears against our supplication, lest St. Peter close against you the gates of heaven. I conjure you by the living and the true God, and by the keys of St. Peter, not to prefer the alliance of the Lombards to the love of the great apostle, but hasten, hasten to our succor that we may say with the prophet, “The Lord has heard us in the day of tribulation, the God of Jacob has protected us.”PTUK December 16, 1897, page 791.10

    The ambassadors and the letters of the pope “were received by Charles with decent reverence; but the greatness of his occupations and the shortness of his life, prevented his interference in the affairs of Italy, except by friendly and ineffectual mediation.” (Gibbon.) But affairs soon took such a turn in France that the long-cherished desire of the papacy was rewarded with abundant fruition. Charles Martel was simply duke or mayor of the palace, under the sluggard kings of France. He died October 21, 741. Gregory III. died November 27, of the same year, and was succeeded by Zacharias. No immediate help coming from France, Zacharias made overtures to the Lombards, and a treaty of peace for twenty years was concluded between the kingdom of Lombardy and “the dukedom of Rome.”PTUK December 16, 1897, page 791.11


    Charles Martel left two sons, Carloman and Pepin. Carloman being the elder was his successor in office; but he had been in place but a little while, before he resigned it to his brother, and became a monk, A.D. 747. The late events in Italy, and the prestige which the pope had gained by them, exerted a powerful influence in France; and as the pope had already desired a league with Charles Martel, who, although not possessing the title, held all the authority, of a king, Pepin, his successor, conceived the idea that perhaps he could secure the papal sanction to his assuming the title of king with the authority which he already possessed.PTUK December 16, 1897, page 792.1

    Pepin therefore sent two ecclesiastics to consult the pope as to whether he might not be king of France, and Zacharias returned answer “that the nation might lawfully unite, in the same person, the title and authority of king; and that the unfortunate Childeric, a victim of the public safety, should be degraded, shaved, and confined in a monastery for the remainder of his days. An answer so agreeable to their wishes was accepted by the Franks as the opinion of a casuist, the sentence of a judge, or the oracle of a prophet; ... and Pepin was exalted on a buckler by the suffrage of a free people, accustomed to obey his laws, and to march under his standard;” and March 7, 752, was proclaimed king of the Franks. (Gibbon.)PTUK December 16, 1897, page 792.2

    Zacharias died March 14, the same year, and was succeeded by Stephen II., who died the fourth day afterward, and before his consecration, and Stephen III. became pope, March 26. Astolph was now king of the Lombards. He had openly declared himself the enemy of the pope; and was determined to make not only the territories of the exarchate, but those of the pope, his own. “In terms of contumely and menace he demanded the instant submission of Rome, and the payment of a heavy personal tribute, a poll-tax on each citizen.” The pope again sent ambassadors; but they were treated with contempt, and Astolph approached Rome to enforce his demand. “The pope appealed to heaven, by tying a copy of the treaty, violated by Astolph, to the holy cross.” (Milman.)PTUK December 16, 1897, page 792.3


    He wrote to Pepin, but got no answer. In his distress he wrote even to Constantinople, but much less from there was there an answer. Then he determined to go personally to Pepin, and ask his help. There was present at the court of the pope an ambassador from the court of France, under whose protection Stephen placed himself, and traveled openly through the dominions of Astolph. November 15, 752, he entered the French dominions. He was met on the frontier by one of the clergy and a nobleman, with orders to conduct him to the court of the king. A hundred miles from the palace he was met by Prince Charles, afterward the mighty Charlemagne, with other nobles who escorted him on his way.PTUK December 16, 1897, page 792.4

    Three miles from the palace, the king himself, with his wife and family, and an array of nobles, met Stephen. “As the pope approached, the king dismounted from his horse, and prostrated himself on the ground before him. He then walked by the side of the pope’s palfrey. The pope and the ecclesiastics broke out at once into hymns of thanksgiving, and so chanting as they went, reached the royal residence. Stephen lost no time in adverting to the object of his visit. He implored the immediate interposition of Pepin to enforce the restoration of St. Peter.... Pepin swore at once to fulfill all the requests of the pope.... Pepin swore at once to fulfil all the requests of the pope, but, as the winter rendered all military operations impracticable, Pepin invited the pope to Paris, where he took up his residence in the Abbey of St. Denys. (Milman.)PTUK December 16, 1897, page 792.5

    Pepin had already been anointed by a bishop in France, but this was not enough; the pope must anoint him too, and then upon this claim that the king of the Franks held his kingdom by the grace of the bishop of Rome. In the monastery of St. Denys, Stephen III. placed the diadem on the head of Pepin, anointed him with the holy oil, confirmed the sovereignty in his house forever, and pronounced an eternal curse upon all who should attempt to name a king of France from any other than the race of Pepin. The pope was attacked with a dangerous sickness which kept him at the capital of France until the middle of 753.PTUK December 16, 1897, page 792.6

    At some point in this series of transactions, we know not exactly where, the pope as the head of the restored republic of Rome, renewed to Pepin the Roman title and dignity of “patrician,” which, as well as that of consul, had been conferred upon Charles Martel. The insignia of the new office were the keys of the shrine of St. Peter, “as a pledge and symbol of sovereignty;” and a “holy” banner which it was their “right and duty to unfurl” in defence of the church and city of Rome.PTUK December 16, 1897, page 792.7

    A. T. JONES.

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