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Ante-Nicene Fathers, Vol VIII:
The Decretals.: Part II

Early Church Fathers  Index     


(Donation of Constantine, p. 607.)

On this stupendous fraud I quote from Dupin, as follows:—

“Among the number of Constantine’s edicts I do not place the Donation which goes under his name.  Some have attributed this false monument to the author of the collection (Decretals) ascribed to Isidore, he being a notorious forger of such kind of writings; and this conjecture is more probable than some others.

“By this Donation, Constantine is supposed to give to the Bishops of Rome the sovereignty of the city, and of the provinces of the Western Empire.  I note some of the reasons which clearly prove this instrument to be a forgery:—

“(1)  Not one of the ancients mentions this pretended liberality of the emperor.  How could Eusebius, and all the other historians who wrote about Constantine, have passed over in silence, had it been a reality, the gift of a Western Empire to the Bishop of Rome?

“(2)  Not one of the Bishops of Rome ever refers to such a donation, though it would have been much to their advantage so to do.

“(3)  It is dated falsely, and under consuls who flourished when Constantine was unbaptized; yet his baptism is referred to in this instrument.  Again, the city of Constantinople is mentioned in it, although it was called Byzantium for ten years subsequent to its date.

“(4)  Not only is the style very different from the genuine edicts of the emperor, but it is full of terms and phrases that came into use much after the time of Constantine.

“(5)  How comes it that he should have given one-half of his empire to the Bishop of Rome, including the city of Rome itself, without any one ever hearing of it for hundreds of years after?

“(6)  The falsities and absurdities of this edict demonstrate that it was composed by an ignorant impostor.  Thus by it, for example, the Pope is permitted to wear a crown of gold, and a fabulous history is given of the emperor’s baptism by Sylvester:  also, it contains a history of the emperor’s miraculous cure of leprosy by Sylvester, all which do plainly prove the forgery.  It is certain that the city of Rome was governed by the emperor, and that the Bishops of Rome were subject to him, and obeyed him, as all his other subjects.

“All that we have said plainly shows that the edict of Donation that bears the name of Constantine is wholly supposititious; but it is not so easy to find out who was the author.  However it be, this document has neither any use nor authority.” 2887



Dupin, ut supra, p. 17.  See also Bryce’s Holy Roman Empire, pp. 43 and 100.  He pronounces “the Donation of Constantine” to be “the most stupendous of all the mediæval forgeries.  The Decretals certainly surpass it in their nature and their effects; but Mr. Bryce’s reference to these is very feeble and unsatisfactory, after Dupin.  See p. 156 of his work, ed. Macmillan, 1880.

Next: Memoirs of Edessa And Other Ancient Syriac Documents.

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