Masters Thesis

An Uncertain Future: The Beginning of Papal Sovereignty, 476-510

The period between 472 A.D. and 510 A.D. was one of institutional uncertainty for the Catholic Church. The Western Roman Emperor was deposed and the position left vacant. The governing of Italy fell on Germanic warlords, both subordinate to and independent of the Emperor in Constantinople whose attentions were focused on political intrigue and wars, both civil and foreign. A schism in the Church further reduced his influence. This left a void of leadership for the people of Rome. The remaining Emperor was now far away, and the secular leadership of Italy in the hands of foreigners and not members of the Catholic Church. The bishops of Rome began to fill that void, though not without controversy and resistance. He was able to use his moral authority, and his important political position to form the beginnings of independent political authority. The temporal reality of this independence would vanish with the end of the Acacian Schism and the conquest of Rome by Emperor Justinian in 536AD. Only the rhetorical innovations, pushing for temporal authority remained, to be used in the ensuing centuries with the formation of the Papal States.


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