Stephen IV (V), Pope

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Pontificate: June 22, 816 to Jan. 24, 817. A member of a noble Roman family, Stephen IV served from his youth in the papal administration and was ordained deacon by his predecessor, Pope leo iii (795816). Not only because of the tumult marking the last days of Leo III's pontificate but also because Stephen was the first pope elected since the renewal of the Roman Empire in the West, the beginning of Stephen's pontificate was marked by uncertainty. Of crucial importance in clarifying the situation were the intentions of Emperor Louis the Pious, who had succeeded to Charlemagne only two years earlier and whose first measures as emperor left doubts about his willingness to follow his father's policy toward the papacy. One of Stephen's first acts was to exact an oath of obedience to the emperor from the Roman people. Then Stephen sent legates to Louis informing him of his election and announcing that he was coming to Francia, in the words of the papal biographer, "to reaffirm peace and the unity of the holy church of God."

Stephen and Louis met at Reims in October 816. Their negotiations led to highly important consequences. In a carefully staged public ceremony Stephen consecrated and anointed Louis, placing on his head a crown that the pope had brought from Rome and that allegedly once belonged to the Emperor Constantine the Great. By this act Stephen added a religious dimension to the title and the office that Louis had originally received from his father without the involvement of an ecclesiastical official. The religious sanction involved in the papal coronation and anointment was particularly important to Louis and his chief advisers, who were in the process of exalting the imperial office with its connotation of unity as the focal point of Louis's regime. This occasion also served as a precedent for future papal participation in legitimizing succession to the imperial office. No less important, Stephen and Louis worked out the details that led to a renewal of the friendship alliance between papacy and the Frankish ruling house, which dated back to 754. Their agreement, known as the Pactum Ludovicianum, marked an important step in clarifying the place of the Papal State in the Carolingian Empire. The territorial claims of the papacy as set forth in previous donations by Frankish rulers dating back to the agreement between Pope Stephen II and King pepin iii in 754 were restated in detail. Papal sovereignty in administrative and judicial functions in that territory was reaffirmed, except for the emperor's right to hear appeals in carefully defined cases. The emperor's pledged to protect the Papal State and to allow complete freedom of papal elections. In effect, the Pactum Ludovicianum drew the Papal State into the structure of the Carolingian Empire but gave to it and its ruler, the pope, a privileged place in the Empire.

Stephen died soon after returning to Rome from his meeting with Louis. The official ratification of the Pactum Ludovicianum was left to his successor, Pope pascal i. For his part in negotiating that agreement Stephen deserves credit for an important contribution to a clearer definition of the relationship of the Papal State and the papacy to the secular state and its ruler.

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[r. e. sullivan]

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Stephen IV (V), Pope

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