A professor of the history of Christianity, the popular author and distinguished broadcaster/commentator Eamon Duffy has written this slim but fascinating history—based on a series on BBC—of  the ten pontiffs he deems the most influential. Many of the church's powerful spiritual leaders have played a major role not only throughout church history but the political history of Europe and, in fact, the wider world. The author profiles the following: St. Peter; Leo the Great; Gregory the Great; Gregory VII; Pius IX; Pius XII; John XXIII and John Paul II, the first non-Italian pope in 450 years.

"The papacy has endured and flourished," Duffy notes, "under emperors, kings and robber barons, under republican senates and colonial occupations, in confrontation or collaboration with demagogues and democrats…and survived them all." "The popes themselves," he adds, have never been in doubt about the coherence of papal history." The book is enlivened by dozens of black-and-white illustrations (engravings, photographs, sketches) depicting key events and places throughout pontifical history. These include, e.g., the granite Egyptian obelisk erected in 37 A.D.  and believed to be the last object seen by the dying St. Peter. Others feature St. Gregory at his writing desk; an engraving of the Council of Trent in full session; Angelo Giuseppi Roncalli (the future "good Pope John") as military chaplain and, later, as John XXIII with Queen Elizabeth II; and John Paul II with the Dalai Lama as well as praying at Jerusalem's Western Wall. At book's end Duffy provides a helpful bibliography of recommended readings for each of the 10 popes profiled.

We hope you pick up a copy of this intriguing book and enjoy Duffy's portraits of his favorite papal movers and shakers. 

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