OF ECCLESIASTICAL PRINCIPALITIES
It now remains to us only to speak of ecclesiastical principalities, with regard to which the difficulties lie wholly before they are possessed. They are acquired either by ability or by fortune; but are maintained without either, for they are sustained by the ancient religious customs, which are so powerful and of such quality, that they keep their princes in power in whatever manner they proceed and live. These alone have a state without defending it, have subjects without governing them, and the states, not being defended, are not taken from them; the subjects not being governed do not disturb themselves, and neither think of nor are capable of alienating themselves from them. Only these principalities, therefore, are secure and happy. But as they are upheld by higher causes, which the human mind cannot attain to, I will abstain from speaking of them; for being exalted and maintained by God, it would be the work of a presumptuous and foolish man to discuss them.
However, I might be asked how it has come about that the Church has reached such great temporal power, when, previous to Alexander VI. , the Italian potentates, and not merely the really powerful ones, but every lord or baron, however insignificant,
held it in slight esteem as regards temporal power;