John Julius Norwich examines the oldest continuing institution in the world, tracing the papal line down the centuries from St Peter (traditionally - but by no means historically - the first Pope) to the present. Of the 280-odd holders of the supreme office, some have unquestionably been saints; others have wallowed in unspeakable iniquity.
One was said to have been a woman, her sex being revealed only when she improvidently gave birth to a baby during a papal procession. Almost as shocking was Formosus whose murdered corpse was exhumed, clothed in pontifical vestments, propped up on a throne and subjected to trial.
From the glories of Byzantium to the decay of Rome, from the Albigensian Heresy to controversy within the Church today, The Popes is superbly written, witty and revealing.
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The stories are glorious...stuffed with monsters, absurdities, wonders and politics... the parade is endlessly interesting - Scotsman
Norwich certainly has an eye for the tiny detail that illuminates a whole character - Mail on Sunday
A highly readable book - Sunday Times
One of the most bizarre and enjoyable history books I've ever read - Daily Express
[John Julius Norwich] approaches his vast canvas with broad brush strokes, dashing off profile after profile with aplomb, flashes of wit and a formidable accumulation of detail - Financial Times
To keep such a light touch, without sacrificing academic seriousness, is a distinct achievement - Independent
Entertaining - Sunday Telegraph
Stylish and enjoyably opinionated - Observer
A rollicking narrative - New York Times
Light spring reading for the serious-minded - Spectator
There is a relentless, bouncing, irrepressible pace to Norwich that can stun the senses as well as occasionally delight - Herald
John Julius Norwich is a writer of formidable talent, master of graceful style and vivid turn of phrase - Times Literary Supplement
Rattlingly stylish - Tribune Magazine
While this is a big book on a complex topic, it is a manageable one, displaying urbane literary skill - Tablet
Charming and learned...The prose is elegant, the witticisms are plentiful, and the volume's enthusiasm is addictive. - BBC History Magazine
Effortlessly readable - Country Life
This a remarkable book...Lord Norwich writes with precision and wit and the text is highly entertaining - Scottish Catholic Observer
An elegantly written page-turner - The Oldie
A rollicking narrative. He keeps things moving at a nearly beach-read pace...by adopting the tone of an enthusiastic tour guide, expert but less than reverent - New York Times
Who would imagine that such a scintillating book hides behind the austere title? Every page teems with startling detail about the bizarre lineage of 280 popes - Independent
This highly readable book is the sort of unabashedly old-fashioned history that Norwich does well - Sunday Times
By this author
About the Author
John Julius Norwich is the author of histories of Norman Sicily, the Republic of Venice, the Byzantine Empire and, most recently, The Middle Sea: A History of the Mediterranean. He has also written on architecture, music and the history plays of Shakespeare, and has presented some thirty historical documentaries on BBC Television.