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Tuesday, 28 October 2014

The Donation of Constantine

The Donation of Constantine claimed that on his baptism by Pope Sylvester in 324 the Emperor Constantine presented the pope with Rome, Italy and other Roman provinces. Some doubted the validity of this document as Constantine was in fact baptized by the Arian bishop, Eusebius of Nicomedia, in 337.

In 860 Pope Nicholas 1 used the document to buttress the papal claims to supremacy in the church and over secular authority by predating the civil power of the papacy before it was actually granted by Pepin the Short and Charlemagne.

After this the Papacy used the Donation of Constantine to strengthen their claim for sovereign rule in Italy. In 1493 on Columbus' homeward voyage from his first journey, bad weather forced him to dock at Lisbon enabling King John II of Portugal to hear of the Italian explorer's discoveries before the King of Spain. The Portuguese immediately assumed rights of all land west of Africa. The Spanish applied to the Spanish-born Pope Alexander VI to intervene.

Even though it had been known for over fifty years the Donation of Constantine was a forgery, the Papacy still had great influence in such matters. The corrupt pope gave the Spanish dominion of all land 300 miles west of the Azores-  in other words all of America. The Portuguese threatened war, so the Spanish agreed to modify the position giving Portugal the very east of America, what was to become Brazil

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