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Absolute Monarchs: A History of the Papacy by John Julius Norwich

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A rollicking, fast paced, less-than-reverent but scrupulously researched romp through two millenniums of popes. The cast is vast: 265 men (a very entertaining chapter explores the dubious possibility of a ninth century female Pope Joan) not to mention various antipopes. A few popes bring marvelous diplomatic and ecclesiastical skills to the task. Leo I keeps the Huns at bay and saves Rome from destruction. Scholarly Benedict XIV delicately keeps the 18th century peace and reforms the Holy See. But this travelogue really soars when Norwich addresses the vast majority of immoral, debauched, cruel, petty and incompetent occupiers of the throne. In a chapter titled "Nicholas I and the Pornocracy" Norwich wades through a swamp of ninth century ecclesiastical sexual misconduct. It's a truism that sinners are much more entertaining than saints and there are plenty of the former in this tale. Who says history can't be fun! Check Our Catalog

© 2011 Thomas Crane Public Library

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