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Saints and Sinners: A History of the Popes; Third Edition (Yale Nota Bene) Paperback – August 9, 2006


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Editorial Reviews

Review

"A minor masterpiece which is everything good, popular history ought to be... The most comprehensive single-volume history of the popes in print." John Adamson, Sunday Telegraph "... will intrigue the faithful as well as the skeptical." Economist "Duffy enlivens the long march through church history with anecdotes that bring the different pontiffs to life... Saints and Sinners is a remarkable achievement." Piers Paul Read, The Times, London "Will fascinate anyone wishing to better understand the history of the Catholic Church and the forces that have shaped the role of the papacy." Gloria J. Tysl, Christian Century"

About the Author

Eamon Duffy, professor of the history of Christianity, and fellow of Magdalene College, Cambridge, is also the author of The Stripping of the Altars: Traditional Religion in England, 1400-1580 and The Voices of Morebath, both published by Yale University Press. 
 

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Product Details

  • Series: Yale Nota Bene
  • Paperback: 496 pages
  • Publisher: Yale University Press; 3 edition (August 9, 2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0300115970
  • ISBN-13: 978-0300115970
  • Product Dimensions: 7.8 x 5 x 1.3 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (24 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #433,881 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

48 of 55 people found the following review helpful By J. Skilton on December 5, 2007
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Not sure I liked this as much as I 'should have,' given the reviews, many by people I admire. The appendices are highly useful, but at under 400 pages the text could have easily been twice as long. The book focuses so intently on the papacy that too much of the wider world remains off stage. Persons of whom I have read, like Hildebrand or Urban II, this didn't add anything, and persons with whom I was unfamiliar, remain just names. The book doesn't really slow down and attempt to bring a pope to life until Pius IX (1846), and the last fourth of the text is the best. If, however, you are most interested in the middle ages, either bring a solid grasp of general history, or consider this a point of departure for further study.

The author's view here is fairly steely-eyed, and I wonder if he hasn't set the bar a bit high. At the end I am left wondering just what in the author's mind would constitute a 'good' pope. Paul VI, executor of Vatican II, appears to come close, affirming Duffy's 'liberal' credentials. To be fair, the author resists any urge to pile on Alexander VI and the renaissance popes, but then, the first 3/4 of the book concerns the papacy, not the popes. I found the section on John Paul II to be overly negative / contrarian / skeptical (take your pick). Neutral on the renaissance popes, Duffy is openly rooting for modernism here. It's always amusing when commentators seem surprised that the pope really is catholic.

For all this, the book is eminently readable, and some sections kept me up late into the night. It left me wanting more, just not all in a good way.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Lindsanator on April 27, 2013
Format: Paperback
Terrific book. The organization made the information extremely easy to comprehend. Loved the inclusion of the glossary of terms and the timeline papal order. Made the information easy to understand even if you're not of the faith this book makes the history of the church through the papal order completely relatable. Much recommended!
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Luis Eugenio Espinosa on August 25, 2013
Format: Paperback
Duffy summarizes brilliantly an incredible amount of information. Each section is balanced avoiding the temptation of sensationalism or the prudish view of the papacy

As a reference work I would say it is enjoyable!
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful By WJ on May 4, 2013
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i was looking for a concise, not overly academic summary - and this book is ideal, exactly what i was looking for. also, a plus from my perspective, it is relatively unbiased - rare to get an author who is "just the facts" without personal slants and prejudices. it is a quick read, and hits the proverbial high pionts, but paints an exciting picture. highly recommend this for those who want an armchair survey of the Papacy, but do not want a lightweight gloss over, nor an academic sleeper. again, this is a good book.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Margaret J. Lynne on January 12, 2014
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I is tough getting thru this book but this is because it is very thorough in its documentation. It calls out what facts are pretty well knows vs what is more speculation by the writers. Interesting as a history book.
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2 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Matthew Baumgartner on October 24, 2013
Format: Paperback
I recognise the awesome size of the task Professor Duffy has attempted to tackle with this work; that said, he fails to tackle it. His coverage of the medieval popes is mostly cursory and incomplete, and while most of his facts line up, he leaves out much of importance that could easily have been included in a volume of this size. Wikepedia has more and better information than this book does, and that is a sad commentary.
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By choosing to leave out a good deal of the juicy gossip, doing quite a bit of summarizing, and moving somewhat thematically rather than reign by reign, this book can be a bit difficult to follow at points, but the overview it gives is solid and useful, perhaps more for students and scholars than the ordinary reader. For something a good deal more fun, but probably less insightful, you might consider Absolute Monarchs: A History of the Papacy, by John Julius Norwich.
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2 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Tom H. on June 19, 2011
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An excellent overview of the Popes and their times, with heavy concentration on the politics of the times both inside and outside the Church realm. Highly recommended for anyone interested in the history of the Catholic Popes.
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