Goodreads helps you keep track of books you want to read.
Start by marking “The Pope Who Quit: A True Medieval Tale of Mystery, Death, and Salvation” as Want to Read:
The Pope Who Quit: A True Medieval Tale of Mystery, Death, and Salvation
Enlarge cover
Rate this book
Clear rating
Open Preview

The Pope Who Quit: A True Medieval Tale of Mystery, Death, and Salvation

3.27  ·  Rating Details ·  464 Ratings  ·  97 Reviews

At the close of the tumultuous Middle Ages, there lived a man who seemed destined from birth to save the world. His name was Peter Morrone, a hermit, a founder of a religious order, and, depending on whom you talk to, a reformer, an instigator, a prophet, a coward, a saint, and possibly the victim of murder. A stroke of fate would, practically overnight, transform this hum

ebook, 1st edition, 288 pages
Published February 14th 2012 by Image
More Details... edit details

Friend Reviews

To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up.

Reader Q&A

To ask other readers questions about The Pope Who Quit, please sign up.

Be the first to ask a question about The Pope Who Quit

This book is not yet featured on Listopia. Add this book to your favorite list »

Community Reviews

(showing 1-30)
filter  |  sort: default (?)  |  Rating Details
Feb 05, 2012 Kris rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: first-reads, own
I thought that this book sounded very interesting. It is about Peter Morrone, the pope who quit. A hermit, a reformer, an instigator, a prophet, a cowerd, a saint, and possible murder victim... it all depends on who you talk to. That really made me interested in the book, which I received for free through Goodreads and was able to read before it hit stores 2/14/12.

After I got the book in the mail I realized that I might not be the ideal reviewer they are looking for thought because the book is b
Jan 31, 2012 Marcia rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: first-reads
This is a very readable book about Medieval Italy. Jon Sweeney,the author, has an easy, conversational style. The book relies heavily on Peter Morrone's own Autobiography for details. Sweeney shows a true mastery of the culture of Medieval times as he seeks to explain the unexplainable decision of Morrone to abdicate the papacy. Morrone was a true hermit and had no need of the world and its trappings. At first, he accepted the decision of the Cardinals but soon regretted it.
Joseph Adelizzi, Jr.
Mar 26, 2012 Joseph Adelizzi, Jr. rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favorites
I cannot get over the fact that throughout a sixteen year Catholic education I never once was taught the history of Celestine V, A.K.A. Peter Morrone, a spiritual hermit of the Abruzzi region of Italy who was elected Pope but served only from the end of August to mid-December 1294 before abdicating. That neglected history is handled superbly, with the right amount of historical and ecclesiastic context, by Jon M. Sweeney in his outstanding book “The Pope Who Quit.”

It would be so easy to give in
Apr 12, 2012 Matt rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Jon Sweeney shows himself to be a master story teller in this biographical account of Franciscan Peter Morrone, who became Pope Celestine V.

Inspired in part by recent references to this legendary Pope who resigned from office only months after taking on the job (most notably by Benedict XVI), Sweeney weaves a tale of inspiration and intrigue surrounding this man who entered the Papacy with a vision of purity of heart and purpose only to leave that vision behind months later and ultimately suffe
Jul 03, 2013 Alan rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Interesting medieval non-fiction story of Pope Celestine V, the only pontiff to ever voluntarily leave the position ... until earlier this year. A longer review can be found here:
Sep 24, 2013 Michel rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history, eleole
A well researched book on a fairly unimportant anecdote, it casts a harsh light on the papacy.
Interesting that it should be published by a Catholic publishing house.
Rich Stone
Picked this up on a whim and the library and it was an easy and enjoyable read.

The subject of the book is Peter Morrone who became Pope Celestine V in August of 1294 at age 84 and resigned in December of the same year. Peter was best known for living a contemplative, hermit-like existence for well over half of his life which was unusual for Popes during that period who characteristically were far more involved with church and secular politics. It should be noted that very few sources exist that
While a well-researched and written biography of Celestine V (Peter of Morrone), I was expecting more of an investigation into the scandal surrounding Celestine's resignation. Not a bad book, by any means, but not quite what I wanted.

That said, Sweeney is meticulous in his research, and careful not to classify or imply as fact any questionable theories. I appreciate that in a biography.
Apr 29, 2013 Greg rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Peter Morrone, who in an unlikely twist was raised late in his life to the papacy as Celestine V, until the recent abdication of Benedict the XVI, was the only Pope to abdicate his office. The question of why is an interesting one, and it is a question that Sweeney sets out to answer.

There are many positives with this book. First, the story is a truly interesting one. Morrone was an influential spiritual ascetic. Following in the grand tradition of the desert fathers, he retreated to the foothil
Robin Sencenbach Ferguson
Written before Benedict XVI (in fact, the author, which I found rather amusing, firmly stated that despite the many rumors about Benedict's retirement that he would never do such a thing), stepped down, "The Pope Who Quit" is a historical study of Celestine V, the (previously) only pope to do the unthinkable--step down from this holy--and powerful--office. His legacy is a divisive one. On the one hand, Celestine became St. Celestine V in the years after his death and was celebrated as a man too ...more
Mark McTague
Dec 23, 2016 Mark McTague rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Having read laudatory and critical reviews online, I would say the truth of the book lies with both. It is a broad overview of the papacy and church politics of the late medieval period, and as such is interesting to readers unacquainted with the period (as I was). Sweeney describes with fair clarity not only some changes in the process of papal election but also church and lay persons involved, as well as the interests that were served. I found my own view of the modern Catholic church and its ...more
Feb 04, 2012 Kristen rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history, religious, hns
I reviewed this book for the Historical Novel Society's review magazine. They're a great organization if you love historical novels and history.

It's a good read, a history (non-fiction) about Benedictine Brother Peter Morrone (1210-1296), who took his last name from a mountain in the rough Italian Abruzzi. He lived there as a hermit—but not just any hermit. Morrone was a rock star hermit, attracting crowds of followers and fans. He even founded a strict but popular religious order, the Celestine
Candace Lazzaro
Apr 28, 2013 Candace Lazzaro rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history
I loved this book. I am a Christian but not a Catholic and had never heard of Celestine V. I found the book shortly after Benedict XVI "quit" being pope at a local book store. It was published in 2012 and mentions Benedict XVI a couple time, even "wondering" if he might be the next pope to "quit." I am not familiar with the different popes, except for a few. I read Dante's Divine Comedy in the 1980s and remember that he "put" several of the popes in Hell. The Pope who Quit gives good reasons why ...more
Stephanie McCown
Feb 11, 2013 Stephanie McCown rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I found this book to be an easy read, as the narrative moves along smoothly, the writing is engaging, and the subject matter is intriquing. Jon Sweeney does an excellent job of explaining the workings of the Church as it functioned in the time this story takes place. I am not Catholic and I do not understand a lot of the ceremonies and rituals that take place, but the author was able to explain the relevant points in such a way that I felt I had a good enough grasp of the material to gain a basi ...more
Chris Chase
Feb 13, 2017 Chris Chase rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This book was a little slow to get into. I found the history of the Middle Ages and the Catholic Church fascinating. The reformers, the schemers, the politicians and the need to understand where we "are"with God, Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit. Very interesting
Robert D. Cornwall
Jon Sweeeney tells the story of Celestine V, the first and only Pope to voluntarily walk away from the papacy. Called to the papal chair out of his life as a hermit and organizer of eremetic monastaries to lead a church needing reform. Though devoted to the spiritual life, he found himself not up to the administrative tasks demanded of him.

After five months of rule over the church, never reaching Rome, he abdicated. His successor, Boniface VIII tried to assert papal dominance over all of life, i
Margaret Sankey
This book mystified me--why write a popular papal history and not tie it to the abdication of a recent pope (well within the timeframe of the paperback)? Sweeney has a great subject, Peter Morrone, Italian mountain hermit and later, 85 year old pope for fifteen weeks, but he writes a paint by number biography from dated sources, ignores the huge number of studies of the fascinating 13th century context in favor of a handful of easy ones and spends way too much time backing up and explaining basi ...more
An ironically timely book now that Pope Benedict has stepped down, this book is a very interesting look into the only other pope who left the office, Pope Celestine V.

I enjoy histories of the Middle Ages to begin with, but this is an especially good one. Pope Celestine, born Peter Damian was a hermetic and deeply ascetic monk who was vociferously critical of the luxury and politics of Rome. He was elected by the cardinals in order to be a "tie breaker" of sorts between rival families. But it is
Aug 08, 2012 Shevaun rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Rambling off topic just to show that RESEARCH! WAS! DONE! Trying to disguise the fact that there isn't actually enough historical data on the topic by making up what MIGHT have been in letters that are no longer extant? Quoting random bible verses to show the mindset of someone and passing it off as fact. And then? In his ramblings about Abaqa Khan, he says that it "appears" as if, while at the Council of Lyons, he ordered several members of his delegation to convert to Christianity. Then he say ...more
Feb 21, 2013 Josiah rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: catholics
While this book came out last year, I suspect that a lot of people may picking it up now because of the announcement by Pope Benedict that he, too, will be resigning the papacy. And certainly the basic outlines of Celestine V's story (a holy hermit picked as pope, only to resign a few months later) sounds intriguing. Unfortunately, it seems that we don't know enough about what happened during Celestine's papacy to fill up a book. So instead the author spends most of his time either engaging in p ...more
A brief look at the life and rather mysterious times of Pope Celestine V, the first pope ever to abandon the office. Peter Morrone, a hermit, was chosen after an unlikely series of events to serve just a few months as pope; his unfamiliarity with the customs of Rome and his unwillingness to play politics eventually proved his undoing.

Interestingly, the narrative mentions more than once the seeming fascination of the then-sitting pope, Benedict XVI, with Celestine's story, before blithely conclud
Feb 11, 2013 Naum rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Eagerly downloaded this to my Kindle as the history nerd (and church and/or church history nerd) that I am, found it both topical and intriguing. A blogger referenced this as the "last pope who quit" but it is more like the 1st pope (yes, you can count on your hand the number of popes who quit throughout several millennia) who quit. It is indeed a fascinating tale, one worthy of a current cinema production.

That said, some quibbles with the book -- it is penned for a Fox News audience. Or better
Amy Nicolai
Apr 27, 2014 Amy Nicolai rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This review is for the unabridged audio version, read ably by the author. I didn't know much about the first "pope who quit" and this book was a comprehensive review of the life of Peter Morrone. If you are interested in the early popes this is worth a listen. Although it was published before Benedict retired, the last chapters do discuss some of the possible motives for his (at the time) potential retirement.

The book also provides a solid account of the life and politic surrounding the childho
May 08, 2015 Gary rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: library
As a history, Sweeney does a good job of laying things out about who Peter Morrone was. As a story, he lacks a necessary rhythm to keep the reader excited about the biography. There are places which Sweeney throws in some points which I do not think he supports particularly well.

But the conclusions he draws should be well taken. You have a contemplative person selected to be pope, who tries to infuse his spirituality into the politics of the 13th century Roman Catholic Church and gets chewed up
Br Joseph
Dec 30, 2013 Br Joseph rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: catholic
Well-written, engaging portrait of the fascinating figure of Pope St. Celestine V, but it is disappointing that a Catholic author, in writing the biography of a saint, would not do so in accord with the mind of the Church. While there was no outright heterodoxy, at times the editorializing felt like the work of a dissenter.

Also, the author devoted an entire chapter to speculating that St. Celestine V was murdered by poison by his successor Boniface VIII, and that's all it is: speculation and con
This is more a story about the Catholic church than about Celestine V or even about the medieval age. As far as I can tell, all the sources about Celestine are religious, even hagiographic, and therefore suspect for any purpose other than religious teaching.

Sweeney seemed to participate actively in blurring the line between fact and fantasy, citing anecdotes about Celestine's visions as if they were literal truth. (I'm not arguing that Celestine's visions aren't important or shouldn't be discuss
Zach Vaughn
Feb 12, 2013 Zach Vaughn rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history, non-fiction
I bought this book on the theory that it would hold some relevance to the resignation of Benedict XVI; however, that was not the case. There is actually very little about Celestine and the details of his brief papal rule. Sweeney does provide some good contextual information regarding the period, but much of the information included in this work comes across as filler. Ultimately, my problem with this work is with some factually incorrect statements on pp 137 & 186. In both instances, Sweene ...more
Valkyrie Franco
Thought it would be interesting especially since Benedict became the second Pope who quit lol!

Incredibly easy to read and approachable. The story is well researched and told by also weaving larger historical events.

However, it's disjointed, jumping from point to point. Occasionally the author references earlier sections in the book i was supposed to recall to randomly become important for just that paragraph. It also diverges from the focal point of the book.

Despite this is still recommend this
Feb 14, 2015 Rachel rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
I'm not Catholic, but this was fascinating. I like to read random topics in medieval European history. I especially found it oddly prophetic because it was written and published just before Benedict XVI resigned. The author actually did not think Pope Benedict would resign, but he did make certain actions in relation to Celestine V which showed he felt some connection with the first pope who ever resigned the Chair of Saint Peter. History is weird and winding, and sometimes actions seem to doubl ...more
Christina Maria
3.5 stars

This book tried very hard to explain not only the story of Celestine V but the atmosphere of the Middle Ages itself to its modern audience, as the several references to popular culture and the then-current pope make clear. Fortunately, this lessened as the book went on.

While the generalizations, assumptions, and disputed points nagged at me a little, I was able to enjoy the telling overall. The book probably would have benefited from less characterization, and I suspect it will later b
« previous 1 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 next »
There are no discussion topics on this book yet. Be the first to start one »
  • Trent: What Happened at the Council
  • Crusade Against the Grail: The Struggle between the Cathars, the Templars, and the Church of Rome
  • Why Catholicism Matters: How Catholic Virtues Can Reshape Society in the Twenty-First Century
  • Evolution of the Word: The New Testament in the Order the Books Were Written
  • The Plantagenet Chronicles
  • When "Spiritual but Not Religious" Is Not Enough: Seeing God in Surprising Places, Even the Church
  • Millennium: A History of the Last Thousand Years
  • Saints and Sinners: A History of the Popes
  • Sea of Faith: Islam and Christianity in the Medieval Mediterranean World
  • Breakfast: A History
  • Beans: A History
  • The Future Church: How Ten Trends are Revolutionizing the Catholic Church
  • Lucifer: The Devil in the Middle Ages
  • Medieval People
  • The Yellow Cross: The Story of the Last Cathars' Rebellion Against the Inquisition, 1290-1329
  • Rebounders: How Winners Pivot from Setback to Success
  • I re taumaturghi
  • Holy War: How Vasco da Gama's Epic Voyages Turned the Tide in a Centuries-Old Clash of Civilizations
Jon M. Sweeney is an independent scholar and writer of popular history. He is married, the father of three, and lives in Montpelier, Vermont. He has worked in book publishing for 25 years: after co-founding SkyLight Paths Publishing, he was the editor in chief and publisher at Paraclete Press, and in August 2015 became editorial director at Franciscan Media Books.

He has written more than 20 books,
More about Jon M. Sweeney...

Share This Book