Country in southern Europe. Christianity was introduced in Rome by Saint Peter the Apostle and Saint Paul the Apostle a few years after the Crucifixion, and was soon extended to all parts of Italy, with converts from all ranks of society, so that it was strongly established before the time of Constantine the Great. Milan, Aquileia, and Ravenna gained ecclesiastical importance, and synods were frequent during the 4th and 5th centuries, especially in Rome. Unity with Constantinople was broken by the Acacian schism (484 to 519) which foreshadowed the great Eastern Schism. After a period of occupation by the Goths, Italy again became part of the Roman Empire, subject to the Caesaro-papism and later the culpable neglect of the Byzantine rulers, until Pepin and Charlemagne were summoned by the popes to save Rome from the Lombards. Through the gifts of the German rulers, the generosity of the people, and the need of self defense, the States of the Church were established in Italy. In the second half of the 11th century arose the long conflict between the papacy and the German empire which had made use of the episcopal sees in northern and central Italy to maintain its claim to dominion over the peninsula. With the support of the Lombard League of Cities and the Normans in the south, the papacy was victorious in the first phase of the struggle. The second phase, arising from the union of the imperial crown with the royal crown of Sicily, resulted in the ruin of the Hohenstaufens. In the 13th century, religious life was strengthened by the foundation of the mendicant orders and the rise of the great universities, as Bologna and Padua, under the patronage of the papacy which reached the height of its temporal power. In the following century, with removal of the papal residence to Avignon, France, Italy became the prey of despots who dominated for selfish ends the prevailing anarchy. Not until the Western Schism ended in 1417 did the Papal States recognize papal dominion, under Pope Martin V.

The rise of pagan humanism and moral laxity among clergy and laity alike in the 15th century was offset by the development of extraordinary sanctity (Saint Bernardine of Siena, Saint John Capistran, Saint Antoninus of Florence, Saint Frances of Rome). Protestantism gained no strong hold in Italy because of vigorous civil and ecclesiastical opposition, the antipathy of the people, and the union of religious, ecclesiastical, and theological activities in the Counter-Reformation. During the 17th and 18th centuries there were continuous conflicts between Catholic states in Italy and the Holy See, supplemented by the political disturbances occasioned by Jansenism, Gallicanism, and the resistance against the power of Islam. Italy became the instrument of Spanish and Austrian policy alternately, and suffered from the anti-ecclesiastical measures of Emperor Joseph II. Religious life continued to flourish in the foundation of the Redemptorists by Saint Alphonsus Liguori in 1732 and the Passionists by Saint Paul of the Cross in 1741. At the beginning of the 19th century, Italy was divided among four powers – Austria, Sardinia, the papacy, and the Bourbons of Naples, Sicily, and Parma. Revolt against Austrian rule gathered momentum toward the middle of the century, and in 1859 Piedmont (now Sardinia) was victorious in the war for independence. It was then joined by Lombardy, Modena, Parma, Tuscany and the Romagna, the Marches and Umbria, Naples, and Sicily, and in 1861 the Kingdom of Italy was proclaimed at Turin. Venice was annexed in 1866, Rome taken by force of arms in 1870 and declared the capital of the kingdom in 1871. In the same year, Pope Blessed Pius IX refused to accept the Law of Guarantees which accorded temporal allegiance to the civil government of Italy. In 1929 the government signed a pact with the Vatican recognizing the pope‘s rightful claim to sovereignty, thus settling the Italian question which had been the cause of incessant hostility between Church and State.

Additional Information

MLA Citation

  • “Italy“. Gazetteer of the Faith. CatholicSaints.Info. 7 February 2021. Web. 2 March 2021. <>