The Papal States is an area in Italy that is held by the church. The Catholic Church has owned land since the fourth century, yet it had no governing powers over the land which it possessed. The popes began to gain temporal power during the Lombardic times. In 754, Pope Stephen II enlisted the help of the Franks to depose the Lombards who were encroaching on papal territory and succeeded in ousting the Lombards from northern Italy.
During the reign of the Frankish Emperor Charlemagne, the political power of the popes was still not extensive. In 962, Otto I, a Germanic leader ousted the Lombards and became the First Holy Roman Emperor. In the 11th century, the Normans came to control southern Italy, which had remained under Lombard and Byzantine control. The Popes had an opportunity to gain some political prestige during this state of chaos. For the next hundred years the papacy had strong political control. The amount of land which the Papal States had control over varied greatly over the course of time, yet it generally covers the areas of Rome, the Apennines, Umbria, Tuscany, and the Po Valley.
The Popes were mainly responsible for the spiritual well-being of the people. However, since the papacy was also a land owner heavy taxes were imposed upon the people, and the church lost popularity and prestige. There were numerous territorial disputes between the papacy and the noble families who were also major land holders, as well as between the papacy and the Holy Roman Empire as the two struggled for power. This tension reached a peak in 1127 when the emperor was forced to surrender the right to elect popes to the college of cardinals. While the papacy was gaining influence, city states were developing in northern Italy. These were another source of opposition to the continued rule of the Holy Roman emperors. They increased their power by creating an alliance of the city states, called the Lombard League, at the end of the 12th century and successfully crushed the power of the Hohenstaufens. The following centuries saw the rising dominance of the city states in northern Italy. An important member of the Marinoni family at this time was Artusio, of Milan, who was one of the two mayors sent by the Milanese people down to Lodi in 1251 to try to create peace between the nobles and the citizens who were in land disputes.
The 16th century saw even further territorial disputes and much of the Papal States were divided among the important ruling families of the Estensi and Farnese. The famous basilicas of St. Peter and St. Paul were reconstructed at this time. These two churches are probably among the most famous in the world and attract thousands of tourists per year. In 1929, the Lateran Treaty caused a restoration of power in the Vatican City State which remains unchanged today.
- ^ Swyrich, Archive materials
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