Saints and Sinners

A History of the Popes
Duffy, Eamon
Date published: 
January 1997

This book encompasses the extraordinary history of the Papacy, from its beginnings nearly two thousand years ago to the reign of Pope John Paul II. It is an abundantly illustrated book that will fascinate 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 remarkable 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. Duffy begins by exploring the origins 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 supreme religious masterpieces, but whose worldly habits helped bring about the Reformation and the split of Western Christendom. Eamon Duffy is a fellow of Magdalene College, Cambridge. He is also the author of The Stripping of the Altars: Traditional Religion in England, 1400-1580 (see page 15).