Papal States


The civil territory subject to the popes as temporal rulers from 754 to 1870. They had their origin in the two donations made in 754 and 756 by Pepin, King of the Franks, to Pope Stephen II, of the Duchy of Rome, the Exarchate of Ravenna, and the Marches of Ancona, which had been recovered for the Holy See by Pepin from Aistulf the Lombard invader. This territory was enlarged by subsequent acquisitions, e.g., the grants of Charlemagne in 787, and of Countess Mathilda of Tuscany, at her death in 1115. The possession of these states gave the popes a position of sovereign independence, which guaranteed the free exercise of their spiritual authority. But they also became the occasion of much evil for the popes and the Church. Factions within, at different times, tried to usurp the papal power; emperors and kings attempted, and sometimes succeeded, in annexing them to their own dominions; yet, in spite of centuries of strife and the consequent varying fortunes of the Papal States, they remained, at the beginning of the French Revolution, substantially the same in extent as in the time of Charlemagne. In the 19th century the movement to unite the various principalities of Italy into one nation was successful. The years 1859 and 1860 saw most of the papal territory annexed to the new kingdom; Rome as the capital was yet to be obtained. The withdrawal of the French troops at the outbreak of the Franco-Prussian War in 1870 made this possible. On 20 September 1870 the Italian troops attacked the city, and within a few hours were in possession of it. This ended the actual possession by the popes of the papal states, but the right to them endured until Pope Pius XI, in the Treaty of the Lateran, 11 February 1929, ceded all but a small portion to the Kingdom of Italy.

Additional Information

MLA Citation

  • “Papal States“. Gazetteer of the Faith. CatholicSaints.Info. 3 January 2020. Web. 27 February 2021. <>