- Hardcover: 368 pages
- Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt (November 15, 2004)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0618224424
- ISBN-13: 978-0618224425
- Product Dimensions: 6 x 0.6 x 9 inches
- Shipping Weight: 1.6 pounds
- Average Customer Review: 17 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #344,457 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Prisoner of the Vatican: The Popes' Secret Plot to Capture Rome from the New Italian State Hardcover – November 15, 2004
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From Publishers Weekly
"Modern Italy was founded... over the dead body of Pope Pius IX," writes Kertzer, author of the National Jewish Book Award–winning The Kidnapping of Edgardo Mortara (also a National Book Award finalist), in this riveting and fast-paced chronicle of the rise of the Italian state and the Vatican's forgotten battle against the nationalists to retain power over Rome. In 1870, Victor Emmanuel II, king of a newly united Italy, sought an agreement with Pius IX in which the pope would rule the Tiber's right bank while the king would govern the left bank. When the pope rejected this arrangement, Italian troops seized power in Rome and Pius IX sought refuge in the Vatican palaces, declaring himself a prisoner. Led by Garibaldi and aided by Catholic France, the nationalists gained control in 1878, and so angered were nationalists at Pius IX that in 1881 protesters almost succeeded in dumping his corpse into the Tiber. The animosity between the pope and the state continued until 1929, when Mussolini and the Vatican signed a concordat in which the Vatican recognized the legitimacy of the Italian state and the Vatican was granted the rights of a sovereign state. Kertzer, given access to newly opened Vatican archives, tells a first-rate tale of the political intrigues and corrupt characters of a newly emerging nation, offers history writing at its best, and provides insight into a little-known chapter in religious and political history. 16 pages of b&w photos, 5 maps.
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Another illuminating papal chronicle from the author of The Popes against the Jews (2001).When the Papal States were conquered and Italy was first unified as a nation in 1861, the pope, and consequently the Roman Catholic Church, lost land, influence, and power. Basing his research on recently recovered Vatican documents, Kertzer recounts how both Pope Pius IX and his successor, Pope Leo XIII, colluded with other members of the clergy and with rival European powers in an unsuccessful effort to dismantle the new Italian State and seize Rome. Proclaiming himself a "prisoner of the Vatican" in 1870, Pius IX undertook what would become for himself and subsequent pontiffs a 59-year exile within the confines of the Vatican. Populated with a colorful cast of authentic historical figures, this fascinating slice of papal and Italian history will intrigue and enlighten both scholars and the merely curious. Margaret Flanagan
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved
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But this book is not just another in a long list of Catholic bashers. It is the direct result of the honesty and foresight of John Paul II who flung open the doors to the Vatican library allowing historical researchers access to huge hordes of information hitherto only available to Church academics.
The author, Professor D. I. Kertzer is the provost of Brown University where he holds a distinguished chair in Social Sciences. He is one of the best English speaking authorities on Italian studies today. His initial renowned sprang from his book "The Kidnapping of Edguardo Mortara." Edguardo Mortara was the Elian Gonzales his day and the kidnapping of this 7 year old boy from his Jewish parents by officials of the Papal States in 1858 sparked an international incident, turned many against pope Pius IX and helped embolden the forces for Italian unity. This incident is mentioned only briefly in "Prisoner of the Vatican" but this latter book is obviously an ambitious extension of the former.
The book begins in the 1850s with what I think is far too little explanation of the political ferment that lead to Italian political and territorial unity, but perhaps such social analysis is beyond its scope. It then describes the intersticine conflict of pope Pius IX's Vatican Council (Vatican I) over papal infallibility, King Victor Immanuel's conquest of the Papal States following his unification of the rest of Italy, mostly through popular uprising, and then the military conquest of Rome itself in that year of war, 1870. It describes in great detail how Pius IX then holed-up in the Vatican and portrayed himself to the world as a prisoner despite sincere assurances of safety from Victor Immanuel. The book describes in detail the complex political dance of the major powers of Europe, particularly Austria, France and Germany, around the papal isolation. These powers cared little to liberate the pope from the center of this dance but cared greatly to advance their own position. The result 44 years later was World War I.
Much of the book is long quotes from letters, notes, newspaper articles and decrees of the time; it is very well researched and chronologically organized. Knowing the sensitivity of the subject, Professor Kertzer appears to have kept his interpretation intentionally sparse, allowing the people actually involved to tell the story. This makes the book a bit dry; it is a work for those few eager for doer, date, and detail. The style is straightforward with understated drama, little flourish and a freshman vocabulary. The ending is sudden and somewhat unsatisfying but the story had to stop somewhen.
One cannot understand the second half of the 19th century, the unification of Italy and Germany, pre-World War I France or the evolution of socialist and anarchist movements in Europe without understanding the significance of the pope's unsuccessful attempt to maintain temporal power in Europe. It would be difficult to find a better starting point for inquiry into this complex and until now obscure story than "Prisoner of the Vatican."