Top positive review
A superbly written book that contains far more than the title suggests.
19 October 2018
This book is an absolute delight. Written in a clear, accessible but elegant style John Julius Norwich manages to write a straightforward history of the papacy that manages to entertain as well as inform. Obviously a single volume covering over 2000 years of an institution has to be selective and take a broad brush approach to his subject to avoid it becoming a tedious list, but the author does this deftly. (There is a complete list of all the Popes and a useful bibliography included, along with some necessary maps.)
What I loved was being given enough of the surrounding political, martial and cultural events to understand the context of what was going on without it ever becoming wearisome. It conveys the Papacy and its place within the history of the time and allows the reader to see and comprehend the bigger picture easily. The author not only has a lovely way with words but also has a great eye for the details that illuminate the characters and a clear awareness that history is far, far stranger than fiction.
If, like me, you only had a peripheral interest in the Papacy - I was baffled by how all the Pope and Anti-Pope struggles occurred- you may have not considered buying this book. Do change your mind. This is a great read that gives a huge insight into the evolution of Europe. It is an illuminating, entertaining canter through history that frequently had me laughing out loud and contains far more than the title suggests.