Church and State in Italy during the middle ages! Church has always played a major part in Italian History. As Europe gradually emerged from the destruction of the Roman Empire, the church became one of the mainstays of civilisation. The disorganisation of the Holy Roman Empire, its ongoing dispute with the papacy over the extent of Church authority in secular government and absentee foreign overlords left Italians largely self-governing within their communes.
At the start of the fourteenth century, Italy was a patchwork of independent towns and small principalities whose borders were drawn and redrawn by battles, diplomatic negotiations and marriage alliances. During the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries, many of these petty principalities consolidated into five major political units that precariously balanced power on the Italian peninsula; the kingdoms of Naples and Sicily, the Papal States and the three major city-states of Florence, Venice and Milan .
The other minor city-states which co-existed with these larger powers made political stability in Italy even more tenuous as their loyalties shifted from one main force to another. The Catholic Church was the major unifying cultural influence, preserving its selection from Latin learning, maintaining the art of writing, and a centralised administration through its network of bishops. In 380 AD, Christianity became the state religion of the Roman Empire by the decree of the Emperor, which would persist until the fall of the Western Empire, and later, with the Eastern Roman Empire, until the Fall of Constantinople .
During this time (the period of the Seven Ecumenical Councils) there were considered five primary sees according to Eusebius: Rome, Constantinople, Antioch, Jerusalem and Alexandria, known as the Pentarchy . After the destruction of the western Roman Empire, the church in the West was a major factor in the preservation of classical civilisation, establishing monasteries, and sending missionaries to convert the peoples of northern Europe, even travelling as far as Ireland in the north.
In the East, the Byzantine Empire preserved Orthodoxy, well after the massive invasions of Islam in the mid-seventh century . The invasions of Islam devastated three of the five Patriarchal sees, capturing Jerusalem first, then Alexandria, and then finally in the mid-eighth century, Antioch. The whole period of the next five centuries was dominated by the struggle between Christianity and Islam throughout the Mediterranean Basin.
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