Front Page Titles (by Subject) 44.: On the Power of the Papacy - Judgments on History and Historians
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44.: On the Power of the Papacy - Jacob Burckhardt, Judgments on History and Historians 
Judgments on History and Historians, ed. Alberto R. Coll (Indianapolis: Liberty Fund, 1999).
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On the Power of the Papacy
It lays claim to refereeship between disputing nations and potentates; it commands (even though usually in vain) peace in the West so that it may unite against Islam; we know, for example, the commandment of Boniface VIII vis-à-vis the quarreling kings (England and France, Anjou and Aragon).
After the Avignon period and the schism, the papacy at least reasserts this claim: Eugenius IV decides the dispute between Castile and Portugal over the possession of the Canary Islands, just as Alexander VI later draws the meridian through the Atlantic Ocean between both. Nicholas V, too, issues bulls relating to the Portuguese discoveries.
To be sure, when Rome as an Italian territorial power was entangled with affairs of the whole world, the papacy could no longer maintain this claim; and yet Alexander VI (between Charles VIII and Ferrante) and even Leo X may have tried to do all they could. But alongside this there is Leo’s naïveté when in 1513–1514 he desired Lower and Upper Italy for Giuliano and Lorenzo de Medici.
In addition, the papacy was the supreme resort in matters of faith and of ecclesiastical punishment and pardon.
Would the papacy have escaped the German Reformation even if it had behaved quite properly? Once the matter of payments to the pope really became a burning one?
A dangerous thing was the habituation to the spiritual weapons— excommunication, interdict, and so on. (Pius II included going around the alum pits of Tolfa among the deadly sins for which there was no indulgence!) Once conventional fear was overcome somewhere, it was not only at an end, but the adversaries hardened and fortified themselves through counter-curses, calling the pope anti-Christ, and the like.