This is a sweeping chronicle of one of the most significant and controversial
institutions in history... the papacy.
With the papacy embattled in recent years, it is essential to have the
perspective of one of the world.s most accomplished historians. In Absolute
Monarchs, John Julius Norwich captures nearly two thousand years of inspiration
and devotion, intrigue and scandal.
The men (and maybe one woman) who have held this position of infallible power
over millions have ranged from heroes to rogues, admirably wise to utterly
decadent. Norwich, who knew two popes and had private audiences with two others,
recounts in riveting detail the histories of the most significant popes and what
they meant politically, culturally, and socially to Rome and to the world.
Norwich presents such brave popes as Innocent I, who in the fifth century
successfully negotiated with Alaric the Goth, an invader civil authorities could
not defeat, and Leo I, who two decades later tamed (and perhaps paid off) Attila
the Hun. Here, too, are the scandalous figures: Pope Joan, the mythic woman said
(without any substantiation) to have been elected in 855, and the infamous
.pornocracy,. the five libertines who were descendants or lovers of Marozia,
debauched daughter of one of Rome.s most powerful families.
Absolute Monarchs brilliantly portrays reformers such as Pope Paul III,
.the greatest pontiff of the sixteenth century,. who reinterpreted the Church.s
teaching and discipline, and John XXIII, who in five short years starting in 1958
.opened up the church to the twentieth century,. instituting reforms that led to
Vatican II. Norwich brings the story to the present day with Benedict XVI, who
is coping with a global priest sex scandal.
Epic and compelling, Absolute Monarchs is the astonishing story of some of
history.s most revered and reviled figures, men who still cast light and shadows
on the Vatican and the world today.
John Julius Cooper, 2nd Viscount Norwich CVO (born 15 September 1929), known
as John Julius Norwich, is an English historian, travel writer and television
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