Donation of Constantine and Constitutum Constantini: The Misinterpretation of a Fiction and Its Original Meaning (Walter de Gruyter: Berlin/New York, 2007). 201pp. $83.01 at Amazon.com.
This book is the most recent publication to make deeply significant and wide-ranging claims about the Pseudo-Isidorian forgeries, so we’ve got to deal with it. First, though, you might want to reacquaint yourself with the fabled Donation. I know we all had to memorize it in elementary school, but a reread never hurts. Old translation online here; Wikipedia article that Fried would disagree with here.
And here's a helpful thirteenth-century illustration:
|Constantine wants Sylvester to have the crown. Sylvester does not want to have the crown. A tussle ensues.|
But that's not all. Influenced by the readings of “canonistst and propagandists of the 11th, 12th and 13th centuries,” we have not only misunderstood the contents of this famous forgery; we are mistaken in our attempts to date it to later eighth-century Rome and attribute it to the papal chancery. Fried aims to show that the Constitutum was in fact forged by Franks in Francia, not in the late eighth century but in the ninth, and by the same circle of people responsible for the forgeries of Pseudo-Isidore. Fried suggests either the Abbot Hilduin of Saint-Denis or Wala of Corbie as the most likely perpetrators. All of that naturally makes Fried’s opus very relevant for this blog. If he’s right, I’ll have to add a
Unfortunately, though, and despite my considerable respect for much of Fried’s other work, I do not find his argument convincing. He’s right to question the connection between the Constitutum and the papal chancery of the later eighth century – the evidence on this front has always been weak. And his final chapter on the Pseudo-Isidorian forgeries is full of valuable insight and analysis; I have a forthcoming article on the decretals that cites this chapter repeatedly and that finds further evidence to support some of Fried's more tentative conclusions in these pages. I cannot, however, agree with his reading of the Constitutum or his attempt to assign the forgery to Pseudo-Isidore or Pseudo-Isidorian circles. Over the next several days, through several installments, I will explain why.
Forward to Part II or Part III.