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By titleDark History of the Popes

Dark History of the Popes

The papacy may be the longest-lasting democratically elected position in history and supposedly a seat of great piety, but it has still seen times of greed, dirty deeds, sexual promiscuity, perversion, nepotism and the sanctioning of murder. From Rodrigo Borgia’s corruption, to the crusade against the Cathars, to the Inqusition’s imprisonment of Galileo and the controversial role of the pope during World War II, Dark History of the Popes is a lively and illustrated account of the most unpious moments in the 1700-year history of the papacy.

In the 10th century, being head of the Catholic Church didn’t stop Pope John XII from allegedly committing incest with his sisters, calling on pagan gods and goddesses, being an alcoholic and putting his mistress in charge of his brothel. Of course, being pope didn’t make popes popular either: in 896AD, Pope Formosus died, but that was no obstacle to Lambert of Spoleto, who bore something of a grudge, in exhuming the pontiff and putting him on trial. Formosus was found guilty of being unworthy of his papal office, had all his acts annulled and his body was thrown in the Tiber.

From corruption to nepotism, from crusade to witch-burning to Inquisition, from popes sanctioning murder to popes being murdered, Dark History of the Popes explores more than 1000 years of sinister deeds surrounding the papacy. Ranging from the 9th century AD to Pope Pius XII’s position during World War II, the book examines political, religious and social history through the skulduggery of popes and courtiers, the role the Borgias family played in the papacy, the persecution of Jews and the religious controversy over Galileo Galilei’s heretical views, among other topics.

Using diaries, letters, reports from foreign ambassadors to the Vatican and official registers of the ecclesiastical courts, a picture of both sinning and sinned-against popes is revealed. Packed with more than 200 colour and black-&-white photographs, paintings and artworks, Dark History of the Popes is an eye-opening account of the history of the papacy that pontiffs would rather not mention.

Format: 285 x 213mm (11¼ x 8½")
Extent: 256pp
Illustrations: 190 col and b/w photos, 16 col a/ws
Text: 60,000 words
ISBN 9781907446719

Also available as an ebook:
Ebook ISBN 9781908696328

Author details:

Brenda Ralph Lewis is a writer with more than 85 books to her name. In 1997-98 she wrote a complete partwork celebrating the life of Diana, Princess of Wales. Formerly royal correspondent for four British newspapers, she has contributed regular articles for Royalty magazine and appeared in TV documentaries about the monarchy.