The donation of Pepin
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Iconoclasm, i.e. the conflict about the icons, (726-843 A.D.) had devastating consequences for Byzantium: the prestige of the emperor was damaged, the state was weakened, the art suffered, the iconography got standardized through strict rules which excluded spontaneity and new styles and its relation with the West deteriorated.
In the meantime, the Arabs import spices from the Far East to the Mediterranean markets and they, for the first time, cultivate rice, saffron and sugar cane in Spain.
In 739 A.D. Pope Gregory III asks the help of Charles Martel against the Lombards, the Arabs and the Byzantines who were threatening the independence of the Holy See.
In 754 A.D. Pepin III the Short, son of Charles Martel, overcomes the Lombards, and in 756 A.D. he donates the land he conquered to the Pope (Stephen II).
That gesture of the Frankish king is of particular importance, because from that time on the Pope obtains a “state”, i.e. there are since that time lands belonging to the jurisdiction of the Holy See.
That was necessary under the historical conditions of the time.
We must not forget that the Byzantine emperors had, since the 4th century, abandoned both Rome and her Bishop and many among them repeatedly attempted to curtail the independence of the Church of Rome and to make her serve their political ambitions.
In the 8th century Byzantium was at odds with peter’s Successor, because of the Iconoclastic emperors. Obtaining her own land, the Holy See gets more security- the Franks protect the borders, and she is in a better economical position for in that time the economy was mainly based on agriculture.
With the passing of time the state of the Holy See will lose the majority of its lands (it originally extended from the eastern coast of Italy to the western), but her spiritual authority and radiance not only will remain intact, but they will be strengthened and will spread to the ends of the earth!
Interaction between Faith and Human Environment
It must not surprise us, as we study the history of the people of God, i.e. the Church, the interaction between Faith and the Human Environment, especially the forms the expression of Faith may take under certain conditions in a given society.
During the 8th century there coexist, for example, among others, the Catholic Faith present in the whole of the Mediterranean basin and beyond with Rome as its centre, and the threat of the heretic Lombards, Ostrogoth, Visigoths and others, who put pressure from the north and whose threat is not only religious in nature but, also, military and geographical.
The Frank,s who had accepted the Catholic Faith, through their victory over the other barbaric tribes not only protected the Pope and the Church, but they certainly reinforced their own political influence and leadership.
The multi-faceted consequences of Pepin’s generous donation will be evident right away in the following years, especially with the appearance on the scene of the son of Charles Martel, Carolus Magnus or Charlemagne.
Not Blind Destiny
Human history does not evolve according to the promptings of a blind destiny. As a result of God’s will, it is submitted, from the beginning, to the attraction of the purpose towards which it moves.
This purpose, set before all ages, has two essential aspects: the “salvation in Christ” and the salvation of all men and women. This interaction of human history with God’s plan for salvation we call Divine Economy.
Hidden for many centuries, this purpose is outlined in the Old Testament; it is made clear only in the person of Jesus Christ in the New Testament.
it is the Lord Jesus who holds everything together and gives meaning and clarity to Sacred History and the Scriptures. Through His coming God’s loving plan is expressed in all its fullness whereas at the same time its purpose is being fulfilled within human history.
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