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The Popes: A History [Kindle Edition]

John Julius Norwich
4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (68 customer reviews)

Print List Price: £12.99
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Book Description

John Julius Norwich examines the oldest continuing institution in the world, tracing the papal line down the centuries from St Peter (traditionally - but by no means historically - the first Pope) to the present. Of the 280-odd holders of the supreme office, some have unquestionably been saints; others have wallowed in unspeakable iniquity.

One was said to have been a woman, her sex being revealed only when she improvidently gave birth to a baby during a papal procession. Almost as shocking was Formosus whose murdered corpse was exhumed, clothed in pontifical vestments, propped up on a throne and subjected to trial.

From the glories of Byzantium to the decay of Rome, from the Albigensian Heresy to controversy within the Church today, The Popes is superbly written, witty and revealing.

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Product Description


"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 Spectator)

Book Description

An irresistible account of some of history's most illustrious - and iniquitous - figures, from one of our best-loved historians.

Product details

  • Format: Kindle Edition
  • File Size: 3720 KB
  • Print Length: 528 pages
  • Publisher: Vintage Digital (31 May 2011)
  • Sold by: Amazon Media EU S.à r.l.
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B004VS7D5W
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Word Wise: Enabled
  • Enhanced Typesetting: Enabled
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (68 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #43,120 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
13 of 13 people found the following review helpful
I'd been looking for a book that would give me a gentle introduction to the Papacy and the Popes that have occupied the highest seat in the Vatican and found this gem. It is a beautifully written account of the history of the Papacy and a brief introduction to the Popes. The writer has created a beautifully written narrative that is well informed, and in places humourous, to provide the reader with a fascinating, succinct account of this most fascinating institution.

What I liked about this book was that it was not a turgid read, it was quite easy going, thoroughly readable and gave enough information about most of the occupants of the seat of St Peter to whet you're appetite. The other thing I liked about it was that you did not need to have a religious background to engage with the book. the author is clear in the introduction that he has not written in detail about each and every Pope, that would be a heavy going read, but that he has selected information of interest about the more remarkable Popes; some were enlightened thinkers who took the Papacy forward in great leaps, others were narrow of mind and paralysed the Papacy. The author delights in telling the stories of the good, the bad and the ugly and some of the stories will certainly cause an eyebrow or two to be raised.

I thoroughly enjoyed this book and learnt a tremendous amount from it. I would heartily recommend this book, and hope you will enjoy it as much as I did.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars a history of Europe through the Papacy 23 Aug. 2012
By markr TOP 500 REVIEWER
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
This is almost as much a history of the last 2000 years, particularly of Europe, as it is a history of the Papacy. John Julius Norwich has taken a chronological approach to this work, starting with St Peter, and proceeding through each Pope, and anti - pope, to the present day papacy of Benedict XVI. Whilst enjoyable and informative reading, this book made it rather clear to me how much of European history is vague or unknown to me, and has definitely prompted further reading for the future. Inevitably in a book of just over 450 pages, each Pope and each period only receives a few pages at the most. For example the period of the French Revolution, and the advent of Napoleon, both with enormous implications for Catholicism and for the Popes of the time, is covered in just 10 pages.

There were of course, all kinds of Popes - over 280 to date - and they are nearly all described in these pages - some were concerned primarily with the spiritual, some were much more interested in temporal power and diplomacy. Some were treated abominably, or as puppets, by the Kings, Emperors and Princess of the day, some were held in reverence and awe. Norwich does not have a particular axe to grind and from my limited knowledge of European history it appears that he is being fair throughout - generally sympathetic to Catholisism, and admiring of many individual popes, whilst not failing to criticise those whose actions weakened the Roman Catholic Church's moral or political standing.

This is a an interesting book, which for me at least, will open up further lines of study - just ordered a book on the italian Renaissance as a result.
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95 of 103 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Not just about religion 18 Mar. 2011
This book would be best described as a short history of the position of Pope and some of the personalities who have held it. If you compare it to a book about the Roman Emperors say, or the British Royal Family, then you'll get some idea of the vastness of the subject matter and the difficulty of distilling it into 500 odd pages then becomes obvious. So it is not exhaustive, it is not particularly detailed but it is very, very readable and engages one's interest throughout. The author is apparently a well known agnostic and so has given, at least to my non-catholic mind, a reasoned and fair assessment of the various, disparate men who have held the post. There are one or two jarring moments however that pass without further reference or source quoted because although there is a bibliography there are few footnotes and no endnotes with specific reference to many of the statements made.

Some of the author's own comments such as, "A strong vein of anti-Semitism had always run through catholic thinking" when discussing the Vatican's response to the Holocaust while being backed up by a list of organisations that apparently professed such views, will no doubt be questioned by some.

Obviously some popes get more attention than others, especially if there has been some scandal attached, but all in all this serves as a decent introduction to the office of Pope and will ignite interest in seeking out some more detailed works.

I do hope that potential readers will not let their religion (or lack of same) prevent them reading this book as this would be like not reading a book about American Presidents because you are not from the USA.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Fantastic 17 Jun. 2011
By Calum
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
This is a great book full of information, This book taught me so much about the Popes and religion in general. The book is well researched and contains all the information needed. John provides great insight into every Pope, however the main chapters focus on the most influential Popes and those that have really provided some historical importance. The book overall is great and has inspired me to look into more books by John Julius Norwich who seems to be a great author and has some great historical books.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
Very intriguing
Published 12 days ago by Paul Taylor
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
Very good
Published 2 months ago by josephine doherty
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent read
An excellent, well written summary of a fascinating institution. I learned a lot and enjoyed the process! Recommended.
Published 3 months ago by APH
3.0 out of 5 stars Three Stars
No titillating smut. What a let down.
Published 5 months ago by Ricky
1.0 out of 5 stars One Star
this book is rubhish
Published 5 months ago by recai
4.0 out of 5 stars Four Stars
MOst interesting book
Published 5 months ago by Mr. John Harmsen
1.0 out of 5 stars Gave up on it
I have a rule when reading books - if I don't get into it by the third chapter, I give up. Unfortunately this was the case with The Popes. Read more
Published 6 months ago by Daphnie's Mum
4.0 out of 5 stars A great history of the Vatican and the Papacy.
I highly recommend this book to everyone who likes history and also especially to religious people for them to better understand the dark history of the Vatican and the church. Read more
Published 7 months ago by Runar G.
4.0 out of 5 stars Four Stars
given away
Published 8 months ago by andrew
5.0 out of 5 stars This is an excellent book about the life and times of the people ...
This is an excellent book about the life and times of the people who, through the ages, have been elected as Vicar of Christ on Earth (a term first used in the reign of Innocent... Read more
Published 9 months ago by Neil Camp
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