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

3.24 of 5 stars 3.24  ·  rating details  ·  387 ratings  ·  82 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
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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
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.
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
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
Mary Ann
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
Amy Nicolai
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
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:
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.
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
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
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
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
Stephanie McCown
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
Candace Lazzaro
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
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
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
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
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
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
David Szatkowski
This book is an interesting historical look at one of the least well known Popes of the Middle Ages - Pope. St. Celestine V, the first pope in history to resign. If you like history, particularly the history of the Middle Ages or the Church, this short book is an excellent read.
Kris Knutson
What I thought was a very interesting topic turned out to be a mediocre read due to this author's lack of writing skills. The characters are never developed, so this turns out to be more of a small history text book than a "medieval tale".
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
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
Interesting piece of history but one of the worst examples of historical writing I have ever seen. The author clearly did not have enough material to write an entire book so he takes us off into endless sidebars of information.
The actual events of the papacy in question are discussed only in passing. And the author MUST learn to not rely on conjecture to take the place of facts. I have never seen the word "perhaps" used so frequently in a book of history. Avoid this book! Read the wiki page ins
Zach Vaughn
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
It was very interesting. I was surprised to find out how dangerous it was to be a pope. I had started reading it just before the most recent pope decided to quit so it was very timely.
Jack Laschenski
Life was tough in 1284.

The Cardinals elected an 84 year old hermit and monk as Pope.

His papacy lasted 15 weeks.

His life ended 3 years later as prisoner of his successor.
John Grant
Not being Catholic, the whole Papacy is kind of foreign to me.
But the history was interesting.
Lots of chicanery going on back in the 13th century.
Unfortunately there just isn't enough in the historical record to support a book about Pope Celestine V. This would have been an interesting chapter in a book about the era or about medieval popes.
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Jon M. Sweeney is an independent scholar, culture critic, and popular speaker with 25 years of experience in spirituality trade publishing. He's the author of many books including The Pope Who Quit: A True Medieval Tale of Mystery, Death, and Salvation, recently optioned by HBO, Inc. Raised an evangelical Protestant, today Jon is a Catholic who prefers a monastic-style practice.
More about Jon M. Sweeney...
Inventing Hell: Dante, the Bible and Eternal Torment Cloister Talks: Learning from My Friends the Monks Mixed-Up Love: Relationships, Family, and Religious Identity in the 21st Century Francis of Assisi in His Own Words: The Essential Writings Born Again and Again: Surprising Gifts of a Fundamentalist Childhood

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