Donation of Pippin

   Traditional name of the oral or written promise made by the Carolingian king Pippin the Short to Pope Stephen II (r. 752-757). The Donation of Pippin was an important step in the establishment of the papal states and in the solidification of the alliance between the pope and the Carolingian kings. Later held to have confirmed the forged document in which Constantine supposedly granted great power to the papacy, Pippin's donation was a grant of land in central Italy, to which the king had no legal claim, to the pope. The promise was made in the context of the papacy's struggle with the Lombard king Aistulf, during which the pope declined support from the Byzantine Empire, and the elevation to the royal throne of the Carolingians. It appeared, therefore, at a critical time in the history of the early Middle Ages and had a significant impact on the history of the papal states.
   The Donation of Pippin came into being in the context of the creation of the blossoming papal-Carolingian alliance and in the wake of the coronation of Pippin as king of the Franks. In the face of mounting pressure from the Lombard king Aistulf, Stephen was forced to find a new protector. Technically still a subject of the Byzantine Empire, the pope received little support from the emperor, who could do little even to protect Ravenna, the imperial capital in Italy. With the fall of Ravenna to Aistulf, the imperial presence in Italy was ended, as was any semblance of imperial protection for Rome. Aistulf's aggression led Stephen to seek aid from Pippin, whose elevation to the kingship owed something to Stephen's predecessor Pope Zachary. The Lombard king's reluctance to yield to Frankish and papal requests to return some of his conquests to Rome forced Stephen to take more drastic action. In January 754, therefore, the pope arrived at the royal palace at Ponthion in the Frankish kingdom, where he was warmly received by Pippin, and remained in the Frankish kingdom until the summer of that year.
   In April, Stephen met Pippin at Quierzy (near Soissons, France) and received promises from the king for the restoration of lands in central Italy. This promise, which according to papal accounts included the Exarchate, imperial territory including Ravenna and the surrounding region, and Roman duchy, papal territory in central Italy, is often identified as the Donation of Pippin, but it does not exist in written form and may have been delivered only orally. Whatever the case may be, an alliance formed between the king and pope, which was strengthened in July of that year when Stephen anointed Pippin and his sons Charlemagne and Carloman and declared them the true kings of the Franks.
   Although the promise at Quierzy is often seen as the Donation of Pippin, it has been suggested that a later document is the actual donation. This document, the Confession of St. Peter, is a list of cities that submitted to the pope; it was compiled by Pippin's representative following the king's campaigns in Italy. The Confession was made necessary by Aistulf's continued aggression in central Italy and Pippin's invasions in defense of the pope in 755 and 756. After defeating Aistulf a second time in 756 and imposing a peace on him, Pippin sent his supporter, the important abbot of St. Denis Fulrad, to collect the keys of the cities and territories in central Italy. The keys and the list of the cities were then placed on the altar of St. Peter in Rome and thus may constitute the true donation.
   The donation, whether the promise of 754 or the document of 756, marked an important moment in the papal-Carolingian alliance and growth of the papal states. It confirmed the pact between Stephen and Pippin and either precipitated or concluded the king's forays into Italy. It was confirmed by Charlemagne in 778 and by Louis the Pious in 817, both of whom sought to strengthen their ties with the pope. The donation also, it should be noted, involved territories that were technically not Pippin's to give. The lands Pippin restored to the pope were imperial territories, and the empire's inability to control them further demonstrated the end of the imperial presence in central Italy. Clearly, the empire's loss benefited both the papacy and the Carolingian dynasty.
   See also
   Bibliography
 ♦ Davis, Raymond, trans. The Lives of the Eighth-Century Popes (Liber Pontificalis): The Ancient Biographies of Nine Popes from a.d. 715 to a.d. 817. Liverpool, UK: Liverpool University Press, 1992.
 ♦ McKitterick, Rosamond. The Frankish Kingdoms under the Carolingians, 751-987. London: Longman, 1983.
 ♦ Noble, Thomas F. X. The Republic of St. Peter: The Birth of the Papal State, 680-825. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 1984.
 ♦ Riché, Pierre. The Carolingians: A Family Who Forged Europe. Trans Michael Idomir Allen. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 1993.
 ♦ Scholz, Bernhard Walter, trans. Carolingian Chronicles: Royal Frankish Annals and Nithard's History. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 1972.

Encyclopedia of Barbarian Europe. 2014.

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