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Popes and the Papacy: A History

Narrated by: Thomas F. X. Noble
Length: 12 hrs and 15 mins
5 out of 5 stars (12 ratings)
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Summary

More than a billion Roman Catholics throughout the world today look to the pope for guidance and leadership. Despite the papacy's enormous influence, how much do you really know about this ancient and powerful institution?

Catholics and non-Catholics alike will enjoy these 24 illuminating lectures about this remarkable institution. Professor Noble gives you priceless insights into the dramatic history of the papal office and the lives of the men who represented it.

You'll follow four critical strands of papal history over 2,000 years: the history of the "Petrine" idea; the history of an institution; the history of popes and antipopes; the history of Western civilization; and you'll look inside the Vatican's doors and discover fresh views on the institution's people, ideas, traditions, and routines, as well as the important roles played by organizations like the Curia and the Secretariat of State. You'll investigate the mechanisms by which the church not only ministers to its worldwide flock but also deals with the practical realities of its administration.

Filled with interesting stories and remarkable insights, this course promises to educate, enlighten, and entertain you.

PLEASE NOTE: When you purchase this title, the accompanying reference material will be available in your Library section along with the audio.

©2006 The Teaching Company, LLC (P)2006 The Great Courses

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Is what it is

Would you listen to Popes and the Papacy: A History again? Why?

Yeah, but it was really clear the first time around

What about Professor Thomas F. X. Noble’s performance did you like?

He's really knowledgeable and enthusiastic. If he has ideological biases, it doesn't bleed through. He touches on controversies (some centuries old), but he presents both sides fairly.

Any additional comments?

It's a perfect intermediate level history of the papacy. Each unit could probably also use a lecture series, but that's no the point of this. He also ties the papacy into concurrent events very well.

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  • David I. Williams
  • 12-05-15

Excellent Series

As always Dr. Noble presents an excellent series of lectures. In this series he covers a large period of history and navigates the interesting and sometimes convoluted world of the Papacy. He does it with his usual skill and humor. He is able to make difficult topics understandable for the average person. This series is highly recommended for anyone interested in one of the most important and interesting subjects in Western History.

8 of 8 people found this review helpful

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  • Areviewer
  • 24-08-14

Narrator of this book is Unbelievable

Would you recommend this audiobook to a friend? If so, why?

Yes

What was one of the most memorable moments of Popes and the Papacy: A History?

I think when he discussed the move to Avignon.

What about Professor Thomas F. X. Noble’s performance did you like?

His lecture skills are truly amazing. The way Dr. Noble was able to take a large amount of content and explain in a way that was educational, informative and very very interesting. I've listened and been at many lectures and he is easily the best I have ever heard.

Was there a moment in the book that particularly moved you?

I think the Henry VIII Fiasco with trying to legitimatize a male heir was very entertaining.

5 of 5 people found this review helpful

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  • Christina
  • 23-11-13

Informative, yet apologetic, study of papacy

First, the positive:
Professor Noble is an engaging lecturer and clear cares and knows a lot about his subject. I order this lecture hoping for a more biographical approach to the different popes. However, this series is more about the politics, structure, history and form of the papacy. Even the the subject is more more complicated than I expected, I continued through the series, carried on the professors enthusiasm. I learned quite a bit, and even though I was a novice to the subject, I didn't feel the subject was presented above my head.

For the less negative:
The main problem I had with the lecture was that the professor approaches his subject from a very apologetic point of view. He is sympathetic to the pope's point of view and will relate good intentions to popes throughout history without evidence. He also somewhat glosses over the more corrupt history of certain popes, though to his credit, he does not ignore them entirely.

I find the morally challenging aspects of history to be the most interesting, so in this way, I was disappointed. However, my main goal of listening to this lecture was to learn more about Catholic history, which I can say I did.

16 of 18 people found this review helpful

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  • Fr. Ed Jansen
  • 29-09-15

Engaging Professor - Easy listening

Would you recommend this audiobook to a friend? If so, why?

Yes. It offered a good history of the Papacy with an incredible amount of detail on many of the Popes. It also engaged the listener in areas of theology and church history.

Any additional comments?

A great presentation by an enthusiastic teacher. I was hoping for a neutral, scholarly perspective and was encouraged in the beginning when he raised the fact that there are questions of whether or not Peter was ever in Rome, let alone be its first bishop. But he seemed to become more and more of a "company man" as the teaching progressed. He kind of lost me when he tried to suggest that the Roman Catholic Church was not wealthy. He even suggested that the artwork was nothing the church would ever sell. I wanted to talk back to him and ask him one question: "What about all the real estate it owns around the world?" But don't let that deter you from listening to him. He does a great job even if his bias becomes very clear as time goes on in his teaching.

3 of 3 people found this review helpful

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  • khiddy
  • 23-12-14

An excellent, non-apologetical overview

If you could sum up Popes and the Papacy: A History in three words, what would they be?

Fascinating, engaging, impressive

Who was your favorite character and why?

Innocent III, because he represented the zenith of the papacy's influence on faith, politics, and culture.

What does Professor Thomas F. X. Noble bring to the story that you wouldn’t experience if you just read the book?

A broad perspective that doesn't get bogged down in the too-fine details, but rather keeps an eye on the overall themes and trajectory of the papacy's influence and reaction to developing Western Civilization.

Was there a moment in the book that particularly moved you?

His even-handed description of the Second Vatican Council, which has had the most impact on the Catholic Church in the 20th and 21st centuries.

Any additional comments?

This was my first Great Courses presentation, and I will most certainly be going back for more!

3 of 3 people found this review helpful

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  • Runefell
  • 20-05-14

More on the political history then the individuals

Any additional comments?

This course is more about the papacy as an institution, and how it evolved and effected the world and political climate about it then it is about individual popes. It does mention specific individuals, of course, but when it does, it's usually just limited to how they affected the office and the church. As others have mentioned, it heavily leans towards the apologetic side, glossing over anything negative and quickly pointed out and emphasizing the positives of even the most corrupt popes.

It does ended with Pope Benedict, before he retired, and it is rather amusing to hear the professor attempt make several predictions about the directions the said Pope might take.

7 of 8 people found this review helpful

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  • James
  • 19-05-17

A lot of "what" without enough "why"

There is a lot of information in this book, but it was not what I was hoping it would be.

There is a lot of "this pope did this" and "then he did something else", but there wasn't much background as to why these things were happening. What was going on in the world that influenced these decisions. What were the repercussions on the community.

The author also essentially skips the darker times for the Catholic Church and the popes. I was really hoping to a better understanding of what was happing in those times and how they came about. Unfortunately all I got was a "these guys really weren't very good people" and skip ahead.

The last 3 hours had more detail about how the pope interacts with the rest of the church and the world than the proceeding content.

I had just hoped for more.

2 of 2 people found this review helpful

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  • Lea Davis
  • 29-04-14

Great Course

What did you love best about Popes and the Papacy: A History?

I found this an excellent survey of the papacy and helped in placing popes in their historical context

What about Professor Thomas F. X. Noble’s performance did you like?

He has an easy to listen to style.

2 of 3 people found this review helpful

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  • Tommy D'Angelo
  • 11-12-18

A Great History of the Papacy and the Popes

I have to admit this was a much better course than I could've imagined. I was turned off by Professor Noble's course "Foundations of Western Civilization" but my view of him was improved after I listened to his course "Late Antiquity" so I figured it was time to give this course a shot. It had been in my "possible" list for years...intriguing enough (primarily because of its lectures on the middle ages which always interested me) but not enough of the other lectures ever tipped me to the side of purchasing it.

I am glad I did.

I got much more than I anticipated. Alot of the lectures were very fascinating. A good amount of time was spent on the Popes' relations with secular rulers not just in antiquity and the middle ages but to the present. It was a captivating look at how the power of the Papacy ebbed and flowed throughout the centuries as it relates to secular influence.

This course provided great historical analysis covering:

- The evolution of the office of the Papacy from the origins seen in Peter to Pope Benedict in 2005

- Popes bumping heads with the Byzantine emperors in the early centuries of Christianity

- Alliance of the Popes and the Franks (highlighted by Charlemagne crowned as emperor)

- Relations between Popes and German leaders in the High Middle Ages (including the Investiture Controversy)

- Relations between Popes and the French kings (including the time Popes were stationed at Avignon and the “Great Schism” when there were three men claiming to be Pope)

- The papacy in the Renaissance

- The papacy in the Reformation and the Counter-Reformation

- The papacy of Pius IX (the longest reigning)

- Papal relations with the various world warring powers in the early 20th century

- In-depth study of the Popes of the twentieth and twenty-first centuries


Lecture 9 (Papal relations with German leaders in the High Middle Ages) was perhaps the most riveting and my favorite.

I can't say I found alot of fault in this course but I did find it slightly odd that certain topics weren't discussed in more depth:

- The interactions between the Popes and the early Franks were covered in detail but little discussion on later Frankish leaders followed; And while the German leaders were brought onto the stage in lecture 7, I was expecting more info on the relationship between the Franks and the Germans and of the Holy Roman Emperor title itself (were Popes involved with selecting successors? What was the nature of the relationship between these Emperors and the Popes?); Some of this was covered in future lectures but not completely

- Surprised to find little info on the Papal bulls involving the Crusades; They were mentioned in passing but considering how much airtime Pope Urban II's call for the first Crusade gets in other courses, you would've thought this was a very minor event indeed after listening to this course

- While the Second Vatican Council was covered in major detail, surprisingly the outreach of the Catholic church to Protestant churches and the Orthodox church that followed as a result of the Council wasn’t covered in much detail; Again, it was mentioned in passing vs. explaining what common ground was found and the sticking points which prevented further reconciliation

But these are minor flaws indeed. I can't quite give it five stars because it didn't blow me away like other courses I've rated as five stars but it was well worth my listening time, had me anxious to get to the next lecture and the next (a measure of a great course), and certainly one I'd recommend to anyone having even a passing interest in the Catholic Church or Christianity in general.

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    5 out of 5 stars
  • James M Dakis
  • 26-10-18

Excellent and Objective

Hearing the history of the Pope and the Papacy explained not by a religious leader or from a doctrinal standpoint made it better for me to fully understand and appreciate the work of the lecturer. He made his subject matter interesting and understandable.