NOTE From The M+G+R Foundation: We do not necessarily believe nor wish to imply that any Pope who utilized the power fraudulently secured through the forged Donation of Constantine, was aware that it was not a legitimate document.
This Forgery concocted by the Vatican insiders of the time, as well as the circumstances surrounding it, bring to mind the scandal which befell the Roman Church when Josemaría Escrivá was canonized. The Popes of centuries ago may have been misled about the Donation of Constantine just as John Paul II was obviously misled about the "holiness" of Escrivá and the "holiness" of the founder of the Legionnaires of Christ - Marcial Maciel
Article from the archive
December 1995 Sergio Caggia/Paul Gwynne
On the 31st of December, 335, Silvester died after 21 years as Pope, having shared the stage of history with the great Emperor Constantine. The truth about Pope Silvester, however, is very different from the legend. Let's see how...
Although he lived in a critical period for the church, Silvestrus was actually a minor figure in the panorama of events. Constantine understood the power of Christianity over pagan culture, and recognised Christianity as the official religion and even substituted his pagan statesmen with Christians. He dominated the period in which he lived, his personality modelled historical events, completely obscuring and sometimes substituting the weaker Silvester in the process.
It must be said that Constantine operated only in the interests of saving the Roman Empire and probably didn't understand the intimate meaning of the Christian message. The weakness of Silvester was embarrassing for the powerful Church in later times, which obviously wanted the first pope of the officially recognised religion to be of equal stature to the Emperor or, if possible, greater. Thus began the legend-spinning policy of the 5th century...
These legends depict the emperor Constantine as a persecutor of Christians, a persecution which forced Pope Silvester into hiding on Mount Soracte. Later, Constantine was struck down by the plague and begged his pagan priests to cure him. They suggested that he wash in the warm blood of Bhristian children, but Constantine was persuaded to seek other help by the Christian priests accompanying the wailing mothers. In a dream he saw Peter and Paul and decided to send three messengers to ask Silvester for his help. He returned to Rome riding a mule which reached its destination in three bounds (believe that and you'll believe anything!!) and baptised Constantine who subsequently recovered from the plague. In return, Constantine granted Christians freedom of worship and built many churches.
This legend not only succeeded in portraying Silvester as a powerful figure and excellent mule-rider, it also furnished the foundations for one of the most well known documents of the Middle Ages, the Constitutum Constantini (the so-called Donation), a forgery written in Rome c. 753 with which the Church claimed both spiritual and temporal authority throughout the lands of the Empire. In order to consecrate the legend in 1248, Pope Innocent IV ordered the fresco cycle in a chapel of the church of the Quattro Coronati on the Celio hill which illustrates this legend and promotes Church supremacy over the State. In the final scene, Constantine kneels before the Pope offering him the papal crown symbolizing his supreme power. To enter this chapel, ring the bell of the convent in the second courtyard and ask the nun for the key (a small donation is still required).
31 December is Silvester's feast day, a mass is celebrated in the church of San Silvestro in Capite. In the evening, in the church of Gesu, the Pope assists at the solemn singing of the TE DEUM.