Eras and Their Highlights

The Middle Ages

What was a papal state?

A papal state was a manor or fief where the lord was a member of the clergy. In 754 Carolingian king Pepin the Short (c. 714–768) granted extensive lands to the pope. These territories, which included much of what is now the Mediterranean coast of France as well as most of central Italy, were organized by the Roman Catholic Church into states. These states played an important role in medieval life. Like the fiefs, the papal states collected taxes and maintained courts of law. Also, like their secular counterparts, they were prone to war and invasion. Thus members of the Roman Catholic Church were temporal as well as spiritual leaders during the Middle Ages (500–1350). The last of the territories held by the church was in central Italy and included Rome. After 1871 these lands were claimed by Italy. The resulting land dispute (sometimes referred to as the Roman Question) was settled by the Lateran Treaty (1929), which created the sovereign state known as Vatican City.


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