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Saints and Sinners: A History of the Popes, Second Edition 2nd Edition

4.5 out of 5 stars 20 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-0300091656
ISBN-10: 0300091656
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Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

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 --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Library Journal

With characteristic flair, the sour Latinist Tertullian called Rome "the happy church on which the Apostles poured forth all their teaching together with their blood." Such emotional extremes, axiomatic of Tertullian, apply equally to papal histories, often given to the heights and depths of spiritual excitement. Duffy (Magdalene Coll., Cambridge) offers this abundantly illustrated, amiably presented history to accompany a multinational television series for Britain, France, and Ireland. Such a pedigree often provokes disdain among bookish sorts, but Duffy's scholarship and enthusiasm overcome the book's populist roots. While not necessarily uncovering anything strikingly new and more akin to a handbook than a treatise, this work merits applause for providing a people's papal retrospective. Those wishing for heavier intellectual discourse should seek out Owen Chadwick's The Popes and European Revolution (1981) or practically anything by Peter Hebblethwaite.?Sandra Collins, Northern Tier Lib., Pittsburgh
Copyright 1997 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

Product Details

  • Series: Yale Nota Bene
  • Paperback: 480 pages
  • Publisher: Yale University Press; 2nd edition (April 1, 2002)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0300091656
  • ISBN-13: 978-0300091656
  • Product Dimensions: 1.2 x 5.2 x 7.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 13.6 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (20 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,111,527 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
As one who has long reveled in papal history (I have read all 40 volumes of Ludwig von Pastor's magnificent and magisterial History of the Popes and all 19 volumes of Horace K. Mann's very readable and informative work on the medieval popes)I found that this book, despite its provocative title, does a good job telling the history of the Popes in 317 pages. When I first saw the book I expected to merely browse thru it but it caught me up and I read it all. I am giving it five stars not because I agree with all the author's judgments but because it is so well-written that there is not a dull page in the book. He tilts some to the "liberal" side, but that is to be expected, and I liked the fact, e.g., that he spent more time on Nicholas V than on Alexander VI. Incidentally, I did not have any trouble knowing which Leo or Gregory was being discussed, since they are all pretty individual persons one is not likely to confuse. An attention-holding and eminently readable work.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Eamon Duffy's small tome - a contradiction in terms, admittedly, but such a contradiction aptly fits its subject matter - is probably about as detailed a history as one could have in slightly less than 400 pages. Duffy aims towards a fair, balanced view not only of the papacy's history, but of individual popes. The title of the book itself describes not only those that make up the history of the papacy, but the conflicting tendencies that existed within individual popes as well.
Part of the benefit of reading this book is that one not only learns the socio-historical elements of the papacy - and it should be remembered that the papacy is the most administrative and political element of the Roman Catholic church - but the development of the theology behind the papacy. The primacy of the bishop of Rome emerges as the most historically contentious issue. Duffy notes that the 2nd century Church Father Irenaeus gives the Church of Rome a place of primacy in his writings, but that the idea of the pope being successor of St. Peter the apostle is not documented until the 3rd century. The tensions between the bishop of Rome and the bishop of Constantinople begin to develop more after Constantine moves the center of the Roman Empire from Rome to Constantinople, wedding politics to religion in Constantinople in a new way.
Duffy writes that until Charlemagne, the Church of the East was not only the hotbed of the heresy, but also the hotbed of political dissidents; that such political-religious friction should exist in the capital of the Roman Empire, given the new union of religion to politics, is not surprising.
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Format: Paperback
A well researched, matter of fact history of the papacy. While not refraining from the good, the bad, or the appalling facts of papal history, this respected Roman Catholic historian does not present history in an unbalanced or tabloid manner, as someone with a denominational axe to grind perhaps would. In fact, relative to other histories I have read, he does not dwell as much on the negative details as one might expect, especially given the name of the book.
Beautiful full color photos support the text nicely and are placed appropriately and conveniently near the relevant body copy in the page layout.
I would give this five stars if not for two faults. One, the text would be more easily read if broken up into a two column format on each page. This book is too wide for one column of type and the eye has to work unnecessarily hard to follow that many text characters across the entire width of the page and then down to the next line. This was, unfortunately, a bad design decision.
The other problem is that the author has a tendency, after initially referring to the chosen name of a pope and his number, to not always subsequently include that number after the pope's name. One has to continually refer back to the paragraph where the pope's name and accompanying Roman numerals are originally mentioned, and then back again. This may be an overly harsh criticism, but with so many names being mentioned, one can easily become confused (which "Leo" or "Gregory" is being referred to again?). The literary taboos inhibiting redundancy should have been waived for the sakes of clarity and memory reinforcement.
The book also includes a useful glossary and chronological listing of the popes.
Despite my rather cosmetic criticisms, overall I am very pleased to own this book as an educational and reference resource.
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Format: Hardcover
Eamon Duffy manages somehow or other to fit two thousand years of papal history into less than 300 lavishly illustrated and very readable pages. He captures our attention with his opening description of the first century rather unpapal Roman church, and holds it as he paints with broad brush the great movements and epochs of the papacy and of western Christianity, adoring it throughout with wonderful stories illumining the all too human nature of the popes. He knows his subject, chooses well among the masses of available materials, and treats the popes - be they saint or sinner -- with fairness and understanding; he describes with even hand the enormous good and the lamentable damage this one institution has accomplished. Those who consider the papacy a monolith will be surprised by the variety of forms it has taken in the past and is capable of in years to come, by the many ways it has sought for greater power, and the many opposing forces that have held its excesses in check. It is an enjoyable, insightful and informative romp through history.
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