PEPIN THE SHORT STRENGTHENS THE PAPAL POWER
Mann, Horace K.
By Horace K. Mann
That the Pope should write in the person of St. Peter is not in the least extraordinary, when it is considered, on the one hand, that Pepin had always before his mind that the Pope did occupy the place of St. Peter, for he ever spoke of helping "St. Peter" and giving thee xarchate to "St. Peter"; and on the other, that the Pope himself believed, as most Christians have at all times believed, that he was the successor of St. Peter; was, as such, the Rock on which the Church of Christ was founded, and consequently had a supreme right to speak in St. Peter's name. Nor is there, in the domain of fact, the least reason for believing that either Pepin or the Pope regarded this impersonation of St. Peter as anything more than a specially earnestand solemn mode of writing. To such as look at this letter with the eyes neither of Pepin nor the Pope, but with non-Catholic and nineteenth century ideas, not modified by a few grains of commonsense, it may doubtless appear sufficiently awful.
The superscription of the letter is as follows: "Peter, called to apostleship by Jesus Christ , the Son of the living God, ... and through me, the whole Catholic and Apostolic Roman Church of God, ...and Stephen the head of that same Church ... to the most excellent men Pepin, Charles and Carlomann, and to all the clergy and people of the Franks."
The letter of the Pope must have had a prompt effect on Pepin. For,as we are told by the Liber Pontificalis that the siege of Rome lasted three months, and that Astolphus broke it up to resist Pepin in the north, we may conclude that the Frankish monarch forced the passes of the Alps for a second time about the month of April, 756. While Pepin was thus engaged, an embassy reached him from the Emperor at Constantinople. Offering him presents from the Emperor, and promising him more, the imperial secretary implored Pepin to hand over thee xarchate again into his master's hands. In vain. Pepin declared stoutly that he would not on any account alienate it from the power of Blessed Peter and the jurisdiction of the Roman Church and the Apostolic See. Then on his oath he added: "It is not to please man that I have so often engaged in battle. It is only for love of Blessed Peter, and to obtain pardon for my sins. No amount of treasure can move me to take back what I have once offered to Blessed Peter."
Pepin then pushed on to Pavia, and began the siege of it at once. In the autumn Astolphus was again at Pepin's feet. This time he did not escape so easily. He had to pay a war indemnity, become tributary to the Frankish king, acknowledging his dependence by an annual payment, and to fulfil with regard to the Pope what he had promised in the former treaty; and, as a further punishment for his perfidy, he had to surrender to the Pope the city of Comiaclum (Comacchio) in addition.
As what follows is of considerable importance in connection with the temporal power of the Holy See, we will give it almost "verbatim" in the words of the Liber Pontificalis: "He (Astolphus) drew up in writing a donation of all the cities (which he had to surrender) to be kept for ever by Blessed Peter, the Holy Roman Church and the Pontiffs of the Apostolic See, which deed is still preserved in the archives of our Holy Church. To take possession of the said cities, the most Christian king of the Franks sent his counsellor, the venerable abbot and priest, Fulrad, and himself returned to France. In company with envoys from Astolphus, Fulrad went through the Pentapolis and Aemilia, took formal possession of the various cities, and with the keys and hostages from each place, he reached Rome. There, on the confession of St. Peter, he de posited the keys of Ravenna and the other cities of the exarchate, along with Astolphus' donation. And to the same apostle and his vicar, and all his successors to be for ever possessed and ordered by them, he handed over the following cities. ..."
The Pope was thus made undisputed sovereign not only of the "duchy of Rome," over which he had ruled with rapidly increasing power from the Iconoclast disturbances in the times of Gregory II, but also of the"exarchate." The authority, which the voluntary action of its inhabitants, in the first days of the "image-breaking" troubles, had given to the Pope in the exarchate, and which supplies us with the reason why all the deeds and histories of this period speak of the"donations" of Pepin and Astolphus as "restitutions," had now, by the valour and generosity of Pepin, and the "indifference of New Rome, "developed into full sovereignty.
Stephen at once took possession of the exarchate. Sergius, the archbishop of Ravenna, was naturally named the Pope's representative in the exarchate, as the most important and powerful resident in that locality. But the inferior officers, or at least many of them, were sent out from Rome. There cannot, therefore, be any doubt that henceforth the Pope is the real lord of the exarchate.
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