Donation of Pepin
In 751, the Lombards under their king Aistulf had conquered the Exarchate of Ravenna, the main seat of Byzantine government in Italy, whose Patriarch held territorial power as the representative of the Eastern Roman Emperor, independent of the Pope of Rome. Pepin wanted to become King, so asked Abbot of Saint Denis to go to the Pope for support. The Pope granted him kingship, and then asked Pepin for help to defeat the Lombards. The Lombard Duke of Spoleto and the Lombard kings posed a threat to Roman territory, and Aistulf demanded tribute from Pope Zachary, an able diplomat. Eventual successor, Pope Stephen II, went to meet Pepin the Short (who had been crowned at Soissons with Zachary's blessing) at Quiercy-sur-Loire in 753, marking the first time a Pope had crossed the Alps.
On July 28, 754 Pope Stephen anointed Pepin, as well as his two sons Charles and Carloman, at Saint-Denis in a memorable ceremony that was recalled in coronation rites of French kings until the end of the ancien regime in the French Revolution of 1789-1799.
In return, in 756, Pepin and his Frankish army forced the last Lombard king to surrender his conquests, and Pepin officially conferred upon the pope the territories belonging to Ravenna, even cities such as Forlì with their hinterlands, laying the Donation of Pepin upon the tomb of Saint Peter, according to traditional later accounts. The gift included Lombard conquests in the Romagna and in the Duchy of Spoleto and Benevento, and the Pentapolis in the Marche (the "five cities" of Rimini, Pesaro, Fano, Senigallia and Ancona). The Donations allowed the Pope to reign for the first time as a temporal ruler. This strip of territory extended diagonally across Italy from the Tyrrhenian to the Adriatic. Over these extensive and mountainous territories the medieval Popes were unable to exercise effective sovereignty, given the pressures of the times, and the new Papal States preserved the old Lombard heritage of many small counties and marquisates, each centered upon a fortified rocca.
Pepin confirmed his Donations in Rome in 756, and in 774 his son Charlemagne again confirmed and reasserted the Donation.
- Catholic Encyclopedia: Papal States, section 3: Collapse of the Byzantine Power in Central Italy
- Medieval Sourcebook: Annals of Lorsch