A sweeping chronicle
of one of the most significant—and controversial—institutions in history
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. Download and start listening now!