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12 of 12 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A glorious canter through 2000 years of the Papacy
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,...
Published on 22 Jun. 2012 by Mrs. TK Ellis

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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars A light, popular read of the Papacy
I found this to be an interesting, enjoyable read. Norwich condenses two-thousand years of the Papacy into in one shortish book. Such a subject could easily have taken up two or three volumes. As such, this a fairly quick, light-hearted glimpse at the popes and their place in (mainly) European history and the rise and spread of Christianity, with little or no room for...
Published 16 months ago by Matthew Turner


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2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Fascinating History, 24 May 2011
By 
Seeker (London, UK) - See all my reviews
This review is from: The Popes: A History (Hardcover)
John Julius Norwich presents us with a thoroughly readable, well-concived and fascinating history of the papacy and its occupants including their influence on both religion, the arts and the general history of Western Europe.

Of course, its a very long tale and he can only deal with the subject in over-view. However, considering that constraint, it really does extraordinarily well.

A thoroughly good read and very thought-provoking!

DRB
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2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Superb!, 29 July 2011
This review is from: The Popes: A History (Hardcover)
Highly entertaining, Norwich's writing was a delight. He managed to include enough detail of individuals to bring them alive with a concise and clear account of the wider political and religious setting. It maintained my interest throughout and compares very favourably with Collins' 'Keepers of the keys of heaven'.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Essential reading, 22 Dec. 2013
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This review is from: The Popes: A History (Hardcover)
To anybody with an interest in european history this will come as a delight. It is well written, entertaining and tells many fascinating stories
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5.0 out of 5 stars informative, 8 Feb. 2014
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This review is from: The Popes: A History (Paperback)
Its a subject I know little about and so far the book has been a complete surprise.
I am sure I will read it more than once.
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2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars What Popes?, 22 May 2011
This review is from: The Popes: A History (Hardcover)
Lives up to review I read in the paper. Interesting items on the origination of popes, how they started to wield power from Rome after some time. Still immersed in it a lot to read!
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4.0 out of 5 stars Worth a read, 6 Aug. 2014
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More a history of the development of Catholicism, I found the book very interesting and I enjoyed it much
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12 of 19 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars The Danger of 'History'., 15 May 2011
By 
R. C. Ross (Birmingham) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: The Popes: A History (Hardcover)
A pacey piece of story telling this may be but as a worthwhile history of the Popes the book is a monumental disappointment, despite the occasionally attractive witticism. I guess, however, that, like the office of Pope itself, the attempt to write such a history is an almost impossible task.

The author writes from the perspective of a secular historian; indeed one who, even on that score, is not an altogether reliable guide. The tenor of the book falls flatly into the author's earlier territory and assumes the form of a brief, generally competent (but all-too-often tedious) history of Europe. In that category it may win a measured admiration. However, given that the author is theologically illiterate, he is hardly qualified to write a dependable history of the Popes.

The Papacy is consistently presented as having had virtually no interest in anything beyond the territorial and mundane. Even within that context little is revealed of the personalities or characteristics of the vast majority of individual Popes.

The central section of the book is dominated by brief accounts of the exploits of kings and emperors, their generals and their battles. Comment on the spiritual significance or theological contributions of the Popes is almost entirely relegated to the author's short concluding remarks on this or that Pope, which remarks are too frequently reminiscent of those a weary student might add to a burdensome essay. For instance, in concluding the book, and his woefully inadequate (mid-term) summary of the Pontificate of the present Pope, the author writes: `All that can be said is that Pope Benedict will prove better than many of his predecessors, worse than others...'. I mean to say!
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1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars the popes, 8 Nov. 2012
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Well researched and an entertaining and easy read which I much enjoyed. I must read some more of his books What more can I say?
Noel Richardson
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2 of 4 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars History or ?, 21 Mar. 2013
This review is from: The Popes: A History (Paperback)
In this effort, I was surprised the author did not draw a line between history and theology. He speaks of the early popes as if they had really lived.

In the explosive biography The Vatican Murders: The Life and Death of John Paul I the 33-Day Pope in his days as a seminary instructor tells his students:

"Until the third century there was no organized church in Rome... just a few Christians scattered in the catacombs. Christianity had been organized in the Mideast as early as the 2nd century and centered in Antioch by the middle of the 3rd century. The first `bishop of Rome' was Dionysius appointed by the Council of Antioch in 259AD which also declared the theological figures `Peter' and `Linus' to be the 1st and 2nd bishops of Rome... Yet, it is both a biblical and historical fact Peter was never in Rome. In 328AD the members of the Council of Nicea filled in the vacancies between Dionysus back to Linus with thirty or so `bishops of Rome' of which only seven are known to have ever lived... these seven had been martyrs in the coliseum and are known to have never reigned as 'bishop of Rome.' All of the 'popes' from Dionysus back to Peter were declared saints by the Nicene Council and it is this progression of saints - not saints as we know them today - a Catholic makes his/her pledge in the Nicene (Apostles) Creed:'...I believe in the communion of saints...' Thus a Catholic believes a pope traces his appointment back to Peter..."

There is a school that holds according to the great weight of the gospels--discounting one-liners--James was intended by Jesus to be the first pope. Yet, even here one must be careful not to confuse theology with history. Seminaries teach theology; they do not teach history.

Unlike Jesus, Peter, Linus and James who were theological figures the evangelists wrote about long after they were said to have lived; Paul is a historical figure--we know he lived. It is also a biblical and historical fact Paul was in Rome. What's more, history knows Paul was the first historical figure to preach the gospels. If one considers the facts, Paul--not Peter nor James--was the first pope.

It was disappointing the author did not separate fact from fiction in this work.
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2 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars And Another Bites The Dust, 22 Jun. 2012
This is an excellent read, both for those of you who are just interested in history for its own sake, or those who are keen on increasing (or updating) their knowledge of ecclesiastical events.

While there is no doubt that J.J. Norwich does an excellent job of turning the story of the (supposed) 265 popes that come to occupy the papacy since Jesus (supposedly) gave the role to Peter, the sheer number of names during the course of the 2 thousand years does prove a little hard to follow.

Further, Norwich, which he admits in the book, is not a theologian, so there is virtually no analysis of the theological underpinnings of the various popes. Norwich takes much-accepted history (even though much of it is questionable) and makes it into an engrossing narrative.

Having said that, he does make one interesting point. When Jesus (supposedly) gave the papacy to Peter in Matthew 16:18, "On this rock [Peter] I will build my church.", there is no evidence that Jesus WANTED to start a church. Jesus was a JEWISH messiah.

Further, he had already told his disciples not not even go to the villages of the Gentiles or the Samaritans, but to go to the lost sheep of Israel (Matthew 10:5-6). Even more interesting is the fact that main authority of the "church", after Jesus' death, became James, Jesus' brother and the leader of the Jerusalem group, not Peter! In Galatians 2:12 Peter became afraid of those sent by James.

Why?

ALL THE DISCIPLES had heard that Jesus had made Peter the head of "church" just a few months before his own death? Wasn't HE the leader of the "church"? Then why was he so afraid of James (or at least his representatives)?

Could it be that the "authority" of the Roman Catholic Church is based on a rather convenient amendment (or at least a misreading) added many centuries later. Could it be that the Roman Catholic Church has no authority at all?

Decide for yourself!
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The Popes: A History
The Popes: A History by Viscount John Julius Norwich (Hardcover - 10 Mar. 2011)
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