Donation of Constantine
(Latin: Donatio Constantini)
"Donation of Constantine," which, consisting as it does of only a few pages, has probably had more influence on the course of human history than anything else of human invention.
It is a document where Constantine transferred authority over Rome and the western part of the Roman Empire to the Pope, Pope Sylvester I (reigned 314–335)
It had great influence on political and religious affairs in medieval Europe until it was clearly demonstrated to be a forgery by Lorenzo Valla in the 15th century.
The Donation was based on the Legenda S. Silvestri (Latin: “The Legend of St. Sylvester”), a 5th-century account of the relationship betwen Pope Sylvester I and the emperor Constantine. It begins with the tale of the conversion of Constantine to Christianity after Sylvester I miraculously cured him of leprosy. Constantine then declares the importance of Rome to the church because it is the city of the apostles Peter and Paul.
The second section of the forgery contains the actual donation: Constantine, in preparing to depart to his new capital of Constantinople, bestows upon the pope supremacy over the sees of Antioch, Alexandria, Constantinople, and Jerusalem and all the world’s churches. He next grants administrative rights to Sylvester and his successors over estates granted to churches throughout the empire. Most importantly, Constantine gives the pope control of the imperial palace in Rome and all the regions of the Western Empire; this effectively conveys the notion that the pope has the right to appoint secular rulers in the West.
What profit has not that fable of Christ brought us!
POPE LEO X
(As attributed by John Bale, Bishop of Ossory, in The Pageant of Popes, p. 179, 1574)