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Pope Vigilius Question QUESTION from Nick Yarberough August 14, 2000 Hi, I have quick Church history question for you. In 554-555a.d., Emperor Justinian gave Pope Vigilius temporal power in Italy through Pragmatic Sanction. Even though he died soon after, what where the specific areas of authority that Vigilius was to receive and what was to be the extent of his power in Italy through the Sanction. Any insight would be extremely helpful. In Christ, Nick Yarberough
ANSWER by Mrs. Suzanne Fortin, B.A. on August 19, 2000 Dear Mr. Yarberough
In 552 A.D. Italy became a province of the Byzantine Empire after almost two decades of war against the Ostrogoths. These Gothic wars left Italy in social, economic and political ruin. It was the period when the classical Roman world, the one we are familiar with from Antiquity, ceased to exist. For the next two centuries, Italy was subject to various barbarian invasions, and its former glory and splendor evaporated.
Justinian issued his Pragmatic sanction in 554 AD in order to help re-build Italy. It increased the pope's power in order to stabilize the country and give more political structure. The pope essentially became protector of the Romans and assured the smooth running of the city. The Empire did have a representative in Italy, the Exarch of Ravenna. However, these exarchs were frequently changed and did not intervene to defend Rome against the invasions of the Lombards. There was also a Byzantine bureaucracy, but its posts were not filled by native-born Romans but by Greeks. The local population came to see the Byzantine Empire as foreign conquerors. This made the pope a figure around which the faithful would rally whenever they encountered danger or oppression of any kind.
This accretion of temporal power laid the foundation for the creation of Papal States. Although the popes had not been without temporal authority before, the relative weakness of the Byzantine Empire allowed them a greater measure of autonomy. In fact, papal intervention in temporal affairs was an absolute necessity given the circumstances. This is not to say that the Empire had no influence or power whatsoever. Future emperors would attempt to impose their will on popes through intimidation and arrest.
Thank you for your question.
God Bless, Suzanne
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