Papal States
‎Status Ecclesiasticus (Latin)
Stato Pontificio (Italian)
Timeline: Merveilles du Monde (Map Game)
History: 754 - Present
Flag of the Papal States (pre 1808).svg CoA Pontifical States 02.svg
Coat of arms
(and largest city)
Official languages Latin
Common language Italian
Ethnic groups  Italian
Religion Roman Catholic
Demonym Papal
Government Absolute elective theocracy
 -  Pope Sixtus IV
Legislature College of Cardinals
 -  Established 754 
 -  Treaty of Venice 1177 
The Papal States (Italian: Stato Pontificio), officially the State of the Church (Italian: Stato della Chiesa; Latin: Status Ecclesiasticus; also 'Dicio Pontificia'), is a series of territories in the Italian Peninsula under the direct sovereign rule of the Pope. It is considered the center of the Roman Catholic denomination of Christianity and as such is a major force in current European geopolitics. For much of Christianity's history the city has been considered the center of the faith and the Bishop of Rome, typically referred to as the Pope, as its leader. After the fall of Rome and the departure of Eastern Roman forces, the Pope managed to consolidate his power and began to exert his authority, first as an agent of the new Holy Roman Empire and eventually on its own.

For much of the Medieval Era the Papacy commanded considerable respect and influence, as faith was the guiding principle that united much of Europe at this time. The Pope regularly flexed its influence when able and willing, although the changing of keys did lead to considerable policy changes at times. Despite this, the Pope gradually won the battle for primacy against the Holy Roman Emperor, concluding that while the Emperor was the greater earthly authority, the Pope was the representative of God on Earth and therefore was greater.

At other times, the Pope would listen to the appeal of other states and excommunicate those it felt had strayed from the divine path. Other times the Pope would declare a crusade against heretics and heathens who threatened the direct integrity of the faith or the safety of its holy places, most notably in the Holy Land of the Levant.


Aragonese Schism

After the assassination of pope Callixtus III by French mercenaries, a Conclave was realized to elect a new pope. Cardinal Giovanni Minio da Morrovalle offered money to the cardinals Niccolò Alberti (Florence) and Riccardo Petroni (Siena) to vote for him, but the cardinal of Siena refused the bribery. After Morrovalle was elected as pope John XXI, a faction of cardinals leadered by Petroni held a second Conclave in Barcelona and elected Martín López de Azlor as antipope Callixtus IV, starting the Aragonese Schism.

Due to this Schism, the Christendom was divided between those supporting John XXI and those supporting Callixtus IV. The most faithful supporter of Callixtus were Aragon and Navarre, while the Archbishopric of Trier was the main supporter of John in the Holy Roman Empire. To try to find a solution for the Schism, the king of Sweden and the archbishop of Uppsala convened a Council in Stockholm with the participation of representatives and followers of both Popes. The Council come to the conclusion that both popes needed to resign to a new one be elected. However neither side wanted to do it.

Because of this impasse, the archbishop of Trier, Baldwin von Luxembourg convened a Ecumenical Council in Trier. The Council deposed both John and Callixtus and elected Baldwin as pope, with the name of Gregory XI. Meanwhile, John XXI imprisoned some workers of Trier that were helping repair the Lateran Palace which partially destroyed after a fire. The people of Rome revolted and imprisoned John in Castel Sant'Angelo, where he died. Taking advantage of the situation, Aragon and the supporters of Callixtus IV attacked the Papal States, planning to install the antipope in Rome.

The supporters of Gregory XI marched to the Papal States and clashed with Aragon and allies. The army fighting for Gregory became known as the "Gregorian Army" and was formed by volunteers leadered by the Republic of Milan. The war ended with the death of Callixtus IV that never was able to reach Rome. The forces of Aragon retreated and Gregory XI was enthroned in the Basilica of Saint John Lateran. Due to the support of the Holy Roman Emperor Henry IV of Luxembourg, brother of the pope, this situation was interpreted as Ghibelline victory.

The only two living cardinals which were obedients to Callixtus IV fled to Navarre, but one soon died leaving only Federico Goikoetxea alive. Goikoetxea proclaimed himself pope with the name of Leo X, the leader of the Western Church, which use the Basque language in the rites. This Church stayed as a schismatic until they returned to the Catholic Church as a sui iuris Church in 1317, ending definitely the Schism.

Great Famine 1315-1317

Just like the rest of Europe, the Papal States suffered with the Great Famine. When the Famine started, Pope Saint Gregory XI did as much as he could to feed the poor. The pontiff ordered the removal of the jewels of the mitres and ecclesial vests. These jewels and three papal tiaras were pawned and the money was used to help feed the poor. His actions were inspired by the efforts to feed the poor done by the Twin Saints Matthias and Catharina von Schwanthaler, founders of the Order of Divine Mercy. Gregory XI actions during the famine made him be remembered as a hero by the population of the Papal States.

Conflict with Louis IV of Germany

In 1318, Holy Roman Emperor Louis IV started to antagonize the Archduchy of Lotharingia. He announced that a strong hand should be used for maintaining order in the Lowlands, to prevent a hegemony of either the French or the House of Luxembourg. This was in defiance of the action of Pope Gregory XI, who was also of the House of Luxembourg. The pontiff recognized the title of Archduchy in 1317, this made Louis believe that there was plot of the House of Luxembourg to steal his position. Even with Archduke John II of Lotharingia swearing loyalty to the Emperor, Louis IV continued to antagonize Lotharingia.

Discontent with the Emperor's growing paranoia resulted with Pope Gregory XI deposing Louis IV in 1323, which caused a civil war in the Holy Roman Empire. Was during this period that the Royal Family of Navarre and many Basque refugees arrived at the Papal States after their nation was conquered by Hispania. With them also comes the Western Patriarch Loren Velásquez that replaced Patriarch Saint Federico Goikoetxea, which died during the fall of Tudela. The ex-king of Navarre, Louis Capet and his family received a estate at Ostia, where they lived.

In 1324, Pope Gregory XI excommunicated Louis IV and placed an interdict over Bavaria. Soon after this, Louis started to lose allies and he was finally defeated in 1326. He was brought before the pope to be judged. Gregory XI removed his excommunication and sentenced him to live as a monk at the Mercedine Monastery of Saint Symeon of Trier in Rome. Frederick the Fair was crowned as the new Holy Roman Emperor by the pontiff.

Foreign Relations

Positive Relations

Neutral Relations


Pope Gregory XI started to a series of political reforms in the Papal States. He created the position of Cardinal Secretary to help manage the administration of the Holy See. The first Cardinal Secretary was Alessandro Guidi, the future pope Sixtus IV. Gregory died before he was able to implement his other reforms, but his succesor Sixtus IV continued with his work.

Sixtus created the function of Lawyer of the Holy See, to defend the rights of the Church. Pierre Betrand was appointed as the first. He also divided the Papal States in five provinces: Spoleto, Ancona, Romagna, Patrimony of Saint Peter and the Campagne and Maritime Province. Each is governed by a Papal Vicar appointed by the pope and each Vicar will choose seven people to form his Regional Council. The actions of the Vicar and of the Council are monitored for any sign of corruption.

The political division of the Papal States was finally formalized in 1357 with the creation of the Constitutiones Sanctæ Matris Ecclesiæ by Cardinal General Comissary Gil Álvarez Carrillo de Albornoz. The document, which was approved by Pope Innocent VI, confirms the divison of the Papal States into seven provinces: the Duchy of Spoleto, March of Ancona, Romagna, Patrimony of Saint Peter, the Campagne and Maritime Province, Benevento and Comtat Venaissin. Each province is under the direction of a Papal Vicar appointed personally by the pope. Each Papal Vicar is charged with the selection of a council of seven counselors for his province. The purpose of the council is to counter corruption and each counselor needs to belong to a different province then the one to which they are appointed. The Vicars will meet in the end of each month with the pope to discuss about their administration. The document also creates a armed force that will make the security of the province. The Papal Vicar have the power to name the chief of the armed forces, but is barred from bestowing the office on one of his relatives.



Papal Vicars


1301 Changes: Abruzzo and Benevento ceded from Naples.

The position of Papal Vicar was first introduced by Pope Sixtus IV, with Louis I of Navarre, which was living in exile in the Papal States after the conquest of Navarre by Aragon, was the first Papal Vicar of the Province of the Patrimony of Saint Peter. However this position only was de facto officialized after the approvation of the Constitutiones Sanctæ Matris Ecclesiæ.

Papal Vicars and their provinces:

Name Province Notes
Guidobaldo da Montefeltro Spoleto d.1508
Ercole d'Este Ancona d.1505
Alfons Malatesta y Borja Romagna b.1467
Maximilian of Habsburg Patrimony of Saint Peter b.1428
John of Aragon Campagne and Maritme b.1425
Cardinal Lorenzo Cibo de' Mari Benevento d.1502
Cardinal Francesco Maria Scelloni Comtat Venaissin d.1494
Otaviano da Polenta Ravenna b.1430
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