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Summary

A dramatic account of some of the most notorious figures of medieval and Renaissance history who ruled from the Eternal City. It is sure to grip fans of John Julius Norwich, Tom Holland, and Peter Ackroyd.

The papal tiara has been worn by a number of infamous men through the course of its history. 

Some have been accused of murder, many have had mistresses, while others sold positions in the church to their followers or gave land and wealth to their illegitimate children. 

E. R. Chamberlin examines the lives of eight of the most controversial popes to have ruled over the Holy See, from the reign of Pope Stephen VI, who had his predecessor exhumed, put on trial and thrown in the Tiber, in the ninth century, through to Pope Clement VII, the second Medici pope, whose failed international policy led to the Sack of Rome in 1527. 

The Bad Popes explains how during these six centuries the papal monarchy rose to its greatest heights, as popes attempted to assert not only their spiritual authority but also their temporal power, only for it to come crashing down.

©1969 The Estate of E.R. Chamberlin (P)2020 Tantor

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Serious stuff, not too many laughs! Great book.

Having read John Julius, it is instructive to get the political and cultural background in depth, although I had expected more of the venalities it was edifying to realise how ultimately unnecessary they seemed in context. I had hoped for a bit of fun but actually come away perhaps a little wiser. Great book, well read.

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  • George
  • 16-07-21

Complete trash.

The author constantly confuses Hun vs Hungarians. Hungarians are actually called Magyars a completely different set of people who settled in Hungary. This is are huge mistakes. Huns arrived terrorized Europe in the 5th century the Magyars did the same in the 10th century. This would be ok if they were only mentioned here or there, but the author focuses a chapter on the effect of the "huns" in the 10 century. I can't see how you could make a mistake like this if you researched the topic since the sources clearly say Magyars. Would you trust an author about Roman history, if they stated that the Germans sacked Rome in 410 vs the Visigoths? How can I trust the rest of this book?

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  • Christian Zimmerman
  • 28-12-20

Very good, if somewhat outdated.

This is a very engaging history of the medieval papacy, however, it is presented as being a recent work of scholarship, rather than a book that was written in the late 1960s. Thus, you have to take all the details with a grain of salt, knowing that there has been an additional fifty years of scholarship since its publication. That said, Chamberlin’s broad point that the Papacy’s temporal authority undermined its spiritual authority still rings true today.

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  • Anonymous User
  • 02-08-21

A Lurid Delight

The author himself points out how difficult it is to be objective about the papacy. He rejects much nonsense but seems alert to genuine scandals. Not exactly a study guide but an interesting and informed read.