The Popes

The Popes

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Description

Well known for his histories of Norman Sicily, Venice, the Byzantine Empire and the Mediterranean, John Julius Norwich has now turned his attention to the oldest continuing institution in the world, tracing the papal line down the centuries from St Peter himself - traditionally (though by no means historically) the first pope - to the present Benedict XVI. Of the 280-odd holders of the supreme office, some have unques-tionably been saints; others have wallowed in unspeakable iniquity. One was said to have been a woman - and an English woman at that - her sex being revealed only when she improvidently gave birth to a baby during a papal procession. Pope Joan never existed (though the Church long believed she did) but many genuine pontiffs were almost as colourful: Formosus, for example, whose murdered corpse was exhumed, clothed in pontifical vestments, propped up on a throne and subjected to trial; or John XII of whom Gibbon wrote: 'his rapes of virgins and widows deterred female pilgrims from visiting the shrine of St Peter lest, in the devout act, they should be violated by his successor.' Others earned respect, including Leo the Great who protected Rome from the Huns and the Goths, and Gregory the Great who struggled manfully with the emperor for supremacy. After calamitous crusades, and 70-year exile in Avignon, came the larger-than-life pontiffs of the Renassiance - the Borgias and the Medicis ('God has given us the papacy; let us now enjoy it'). Pius VII had to contend with Napoleon, Pius IX to steer the papacy through the storm of the Risorgimento. John Julius Norwich brings the story up-to-date with lively investigations into the anti-semitism of Pius XII, the possible murder of John Paul I and the phenomenon of the Polish John Paul II. From here the glories of the Byznatium to the decay of Rome, from the Albigensian Heresy to sexual misbehaviour within the Church today, the pace never slackens. John Julius Norwich, an agnostic with no religious axe to grind, has a thrilling and important tale to tell - and in this rich, authoritative book he does it full justice.show more

Product details

  • Hardback | 528 pages
  • 160 x 238 x 48mm | 879.96g
  • Vintage Publishing
  • CHATTO & WINDUS
  • London, United Kingdom
  • English
  • 0701182903
  • 9780701182908
  • 77,486

About John Julius Norwich

John Julius Norwich is the author of histories of Norman Sicily, the Republic of Venice, the Byzantine Empire and, most recently, The Middle Sea: A History of the Mediterranean. He has also written on architecture, music and the history plays of Shakespeare, and has presented some thirty historical documentaries on BBC Television.show more

Review quote

"Norwich certainly has an eye for the tiny detail that illuminates a whole character" -- Craig Brown Mail on Sunday "Rattlingly stylish" -- Edward Pearce Tribune Magazine "While this is a big book on a complex topic, it is a manageable one, displaying urbane literary skill" -- Michael Walsh Tablet "A highly readable book" -- James McConnachie Sunday Times "Light spring reading for the serious-minded" -- Paul Johnson Spectatorshow more

Review Text

"A highly readable book"show more

Flap copy

Well known for his histories of Norman Sicily, Venice, the Byzantine Empire and the Mediterranean, John Julius Norwich has now turned his attention to the oldest continuing institution in the world, tracing the papal line down the centuries from St Peter himself - traditionally (though by no means historically) the first pope - to the present Benedict XVI. Of the 280-odd holders of the supreme office, some have unques­tionably been saints; others have wallowed in unspeakable iniquity.One, if the age-old legend is to be accepted, was a woman - and an Englishwoman at that - her sex being revealed only when she improvidently gave birth to a baby during a papal procession. Pope Joan never existed (though the Church long believed that she did) but many genuine pontiffs were almost as colourful:Formosus, for example, whose murdered corpse was exhumed, clothed in pontifical vestments, propped up on a throne and subjected to trial; or John XII, of whom Gibbon wrote 'his rapes of virgins and widows had deterred the female pilgrims from visiting the shrine of St Peter, lest they should be violated by his successor.' After the schism and seventy years at Avignon came the majestic pontiffs of the Renaissance: Alexander VI Borgia with his nightmare son Cesare; the warrior Julius II, builder of the new St Peter's and patron of Michelangelo;and the two Medici popes, first the homosexual Leo X, who had to cope with Martin Luther and then his cousin Clement VII, who refused Henry VII his divorce. Paul III and the Counter-Reformation, Pius VII and Napoleon, Pius IX and the Risorgimento, Pius XII and the Holocaust, John Paul I and suspicions of murder, and finally poor Benedict XVI, struggling to deal with appalling revelations of sexual misbehaviour within the Church - the pace never slackens. John Julius Norwich, an agnostic with no religious axe to grind, has a thrilling and important tale to tell - and in this rich, authoritative book he does it full justice.show more

Back cover copy

Praise for John Julius Norwich 'Exhilarating ... a landmark in popular history-telling.' Sunday Telegraph 'Lord Norwich's control of his vast and complex subject matter is masterly. And the subject matter itself is as colourful as history can get.' Economist 'As a historian Lord Norwich knows what matters. As a writer he has a taste for beauty, a love of language and an enchanting wit.' Spectator 'Tells a remarkable tale with boundless zest.' Daily Telegraph 'Norwich is always on the lookout for the small but revealing details ... all of this he recounts in a style that consistently entertains.' New York Times Book Reviewshow more

Rating details

1,896 ratings
3.64 out of 5 stars
5 19% (354)
4 38% (717)
3 34% (649)
2 8% (146)
1 2% (30)
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