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Saints and Sinners: A History of the Popes

Duffy, Eamon

292 ratings by Goodreads
ISBN 10: 0300073321 / ISBN 13: 9780300073324
Published by Yale University Press 1997-10-20, US, 1997
Condition: Very Good Hardcover
From Monroe Street Books (Middlebury, VT, U.S.A.)

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About this Item

326 pages, illustrated throughout in color and b&w. Light shelf-wear to dust jacket, else a clean, tight copy. Record # 463612. Bookseller Inventory # 463612

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Bibliographic Details

Title: Saints and Sinners: A History of the Popes

Publisher: Yale University Press 1997-10-20, US

Publication Date: 1997

Binding: Hardcover

Book Condition:Very Good

Dust Jacket Condition: Very Good

Edition: 1st Edition

About this title


This text encompasses the history of the papacy, from its beginnings nearly 2000 years ago to the reign of Pope John Paul II. It is a book that should interest anyone wishing to understand the history of the Catholic church, as well as anyone with an interest in the ideological, political, and cultural forces that have shaped the modern world. Eamon Duffy traces the process by which Peter, the humble fisherman of Galilee, became the figurehead and basis for an institution that outlived not only the Roman and Byzantine empires but also those of Carolingian Gaul, medieval Germany, Spain, Britain, the Third Reich of Hitler and most recently the Soviet Union. Today, 700 million people look to the Pope for spiritual leadership and the Papacy has become the oldest and perhaps most influential of human institutions. Duffy begins by exploring the origin of the Papacy and the development of papal authority in the centuries after Roman Emperor Nero's execution of the Apostle Peter. He describes the role of the Papacy in political as well as religious spheres after the collapse of the Roman Empire; the contradictory period of the Middle Ages, when popes launched the Crusades and established the Inquisition even as they adopted exalted spiritual reforms; and the notorious popes of renaissance Rome whose support of Leonardo, Raphael and Michelangelo yielded religious masterpieces, but whose worldly habits helped bring about the Reformation and the split of western christendom. The author shows how popes have faced the multiple challenges of the modern world since the French Revolution and how they continue to influence such contemporary issues as the morality of the death penalty, of abortion, of capitalism and of nuclear war.


Saints and Sinners: A History of the Popes, by Eamon Duffy, is a wonder of comprehensive compression--a sumptuously illustrated, one-volume history of one of the most influential human institutions in world history. Duffy's lively portraits of the 261 scholars, scoundrels, and spiritual guides who have led the Roman Catholic Church are embedded in six historical essays that proceed chronologically from St. Peter to John Paul II. Duffy, a reader in church history and fellow at Cambridge, writes in the mannered yet affable tone of an avuncular English don. His narrative and arguments convey his own Catholic conviction that "the story of the popes is a crucial dimension of the providential care of God for humankind throughout history." Yet he also offers candid assessments of papal moral failings, including spectacular failures such as the orchestration of the Spanish Inquisition and the willed ignorance of Germany's Third Reich. Duffy's glossary of theological terms ensures that no secular reader will be lost in Christian arcana, and his excellent bibliographical essay will help motivated students zero in on the best resources for learning more about any period of Catholic history. For readers primarily concerned with current events, his analysis of John Paul II's papacy is extraordinarily useful and refreshingly free of cant. "To many people Pope John Paul seems a backward-looking figure, a man attempting to force a champagne cork back into the bottle," Duffy writes. "To others, he points the way towards a recovery of balance, a restoration of order and true faith in the flux of time. Only time, and the next conclave, will reveal which of these directions in their long walk through history the heirs of St. Peter will take." --Michael Joseph Gross

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