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Extended Audio Sample Absolute Monarchs: A History of the Papacy Audiobook, by John Julius Norwich Click for printable size audiobook cover
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 Page Publisher: Tantor Format: Unabridged Audiobook Delivery: Instant Download Audio Length: Release Date: September 2011 ISBN: 9781452674223
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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) Atilla 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 such reformers 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 the church to the 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!

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Quotes & Awards

  • Norwich doesn't skirt controversies, ancient and present, in this broad, clear-eyed assessment. Kirkus

Listener Opinions

  • 2 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 5 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 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 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 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. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Dee | 1/14/2014

    " extremely informative book. Quite an overview of the authority of the catholic church and it's role throughout history. I highly recommend this book to everyone, catholic and non-catholic. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Raimo Wirkkala | 1/14/2014

    " This is a whirlwind tour through almost 2000 years of history. The Vatican, almost surely, will not be pleased by this airing of it's dirty laundry but, for the rest of us, it is an important service. It is a sad commentary that one can only find a handful of popes who were good men, much less men of God and even much more less Christ's Vicar on Earth. The author has cut to the chase in most cases and the result is an informative and entertaining read. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Pati Rock | 1/5/2014

    " This is a fascinating record of the papacy. gives a parallel account of European and Eastern history and historical figures. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 David Ochs | 12/27/2013

    " It's a pretty tall task to write about every pope since St. Peter, and many of the anti-popes as well. I thought Norwhich did an admirable job. I found the book pretty interesting throughout, though I had trouble following some of the geography, some maps would have helped. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Georgiana | 12/11/2013

    " Alternately hilarious and sad. Great for someone who knows next to nothing about continental European history. I did find myself wishing for a less hurried pace through the more recent pontificates; on the other hand, it's plenty long enough as is. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Luke Reisdorf | 8/12/2013

    " A good read, frequently leading the reader wanting more details. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 David Eppenstein | 7/4/2013

    " A book that traces the papacy's route from religious leadership to temporal dictatorship. "

  • 2 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 5 Vicki Mullen | 3/3/2013

    " I would have given this book a 3 if I hadn't noticed one glaring mistake in his writings. It made me wonder what other facts he had incorrect. "

  • 2 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 5 Doug | 2/3/2013

    " A little of this book goes a long way; difficult to stay with due to the level of detail. The author seems to have positioned himself well as a fine, unbiased reporter. Interest in the subject should spike due to the unexpected papal resignation which occurred while I was reading it. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Christopher | 1/15/2013

    " Good read...Norwich sustains an entertaining and elegant tone throughout this history of the highs (as well as the low, low lows) of the papacy... "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Taylor Kniphfer | 12/2/2012

    " An excellent account of the ups and downs of the Vatican in its 2,000 year history. Very readable and very entertaining. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Mark Fuller | 11/26/2012

    " I read this after hearing the news that the current Pope is to step down. You cannot fault the research in this book or the ambition, but I had to force myself to complete the whole book. "

  • 1 out of 51 out of 51 out of 51 out of 51 out of 5 Jan Smith | 11/24/2012

    " Very disappointed -- this is too much of a slog through each pope, with not enough insight about what any of it means. I learned much more from Christianity: The First Three Thousand Years by Dairmaid MacCulloch. It covered the same ground but provided more context and a richer story. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Liverpooljack | 11/15/2012

    " re-reading this brilliant book - very entertaining the first time around... Pornocracies and monsters and female Popes giving birth in public - waiting for something new, but nothing seems to be tickling my fancy so... hit it Pontifex Maximus- "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Chris | 6/13/2012

    " Excellent and gossipy breezy history of the papacy. The only confusing part is all the popes who had similar names ... After a while you can't keep all the Pius's straight "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Osama Abusitta | 5/31/2012

    " Not as good as his other books (ex: History of Venice).But is has some interesting details especially for in the early decades. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Maria | 11/13/2011

    " Rather long. Took me several weeks to get through but well worth it. Compelling and entertaining. It isn't simply an account of the Catholic Church but a fascinating journey through the evolution of Europe, its history and cultures. I enjoyed this very much. "

  • 2 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 5 Melisende | 10/31/2011

    " Cursory read for me as I prefer my papal bios to be separate from general narrative. Bit disappointed as Norwich is a favourite of mine. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Doug | 9/4/2011

    " OMG - when they said this was a history of the Popes, they weren't kidding! This is actually quite a good history, dense but popetastic nonetheless. Well-researched and, for the most part, interesting. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Steve | 8/24/2011

    " As the author emphasizes in the Introduction, this is not a heavy, scholarly tome. It is, however, a well-written, easily readable, popular history of the Papacy with much interesting information but no startling conclusions. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Scott | 8/14/2011

    " the good, the bad and the worse. thorough and entertaining. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Tracy | 8/13/2011

    " I thing this book is quite good. It is not, however, for those with little or no knowledge of the papacy and the history. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Dee | 7/20/2011

    " extremely informative book. Quite an overview of the authority of the catholic church and it's role throughout history. I highly recommend this book to everyone, catholic and non-catholic. "

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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.

About the Narrator

Michael Page has been recording audiobooks since 1984 and has over two hundred titles to his credit. He has won ten AudioFile Earphones Awards and in 2012 was a winner of the prestigious Audie Award for best narration. As a professional actor, he has performed regularly since 1998 with the Peterborough Players in Peterborough, New Hampshire. He is a professor of theater at Calvin College in Grand Rapids, Michigan.