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3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 3.00 (637 ratings) (rate this audio book) Author: John Julius Norwich Narrator: Michael Pag Publisher: Tantor Format: Unabridged Audiobook Delivery: Instant Download Audio Length: Release Date:
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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.

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Listener Opinions

  • 2 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 5 by Katie | 2/17/2014

    " I didn't end up finishing this. It just wasn't what I was looking for in a history of the papacy; while it was concise, that also made it slightly confusing at times. Maybe one day I will come back to it and try harder. "

  • 1 out of 51 out of 51 out of 51 out of 51 out of 5 by Jani-Petri | 2/13/2014

    " In fact I didn't read this till the bitter end, but stopped early. I liked the books about Byzantinium by Norwich a lot and the ones about the Venice and Normans were OK as well. However, this book felt too much like a repetition of the rest with very little new material. The popes that are covered here have also been covered in the other books. In short, this book is of little interest to those who have read Norwich earlier. "

  • 2 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 5 by Meave | 1/25/2014

    " Well it's not awful, but it's terribly muddled and unfocused. Ugh. "

  • 2 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 5 by Mallory | 1/16/2014

    " This is definately not a book you would want to read as an audiobook. I originally checked it out because it was called "Absolute monarchs" and so I thought it would be about the kings and queens of Europe - you really need to read that subtitle carefully! I do find the history of Catholism very interesting, and so did enjoy learning more about the history of the papcy. "

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About the Author
Author John Julius Norwich

John Julius Norwich is one of Britain’s preeminent historians and travel writers. He has written the histories of Norman Sicily, Byzantium, Venice, and the Mediterranean. Other books have been on Shakespeare’s history plays, on music, and on architecture.