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Saints and Sinners: A History of the Popes

3.74  ·  Rating Details ·  273 Ratings  ·  39 Reviews
This study encompasses the extraordinary history of the papacy, from its beginnings nearly 2000 years ago, to the reign of Pope John Paul II. In this edition, Eamon Duffy has revised and updated the final chapter on 20th-century popes and added a supplement on how the next pope will be elected.
Paperback, Second Edition, 480 pages
Published April 10th 2002 by Yale University Press (first published 1987)
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Feb 26, 2017 Rama rated it it was amazing
Crisis in Christendom: Vicars of the Christ through the years

Pope is the spiritual leader of 1.3 billion Catholics who form a major part of 2.2 billion Christians. The pontiff symbolizes the rule of God himself over hearts and minds of the faithful. Their words weigh in the halls of power, and in the bedrooms of the followers. The papacy is the oldest as well as the most influential of all human institutions. They determined the fate of yet to be discovered world between colonial powers in the n
Aug 18, 2012 Katie rated it really liked it
A really solid and enjoyable introduction to the history of the papacy. Eamon Duffy bravely covers the whole thing, stretching from the hints about Peter we can glean from the New Testament all the way to the election and early days of Benedict XVI. Since he only has about 400 pages this is inevitably going to lead to some simplification and a sometime unfortunate lack of surrounding context(especially in the pre-Reformation papacy), but overall I think he does a nice job of making the subject a ...more
Al Bità
Mar 06, 2010 Al Bità rated it liked it
Published in 1997 this work concludes during the pontificate of John Paul II. In general it is an excellent introduction to the popes, and provides good coverage of both the good and the bad among them. Overall, however, the author tends to take a conciliatory approach to the leaders of the Roman Catholic Church. While it provides pertinent insights into the politics of the times for each pope, 'bad' actions tend to be framed, usually, within the political shenanigans of their periods, and thus ...more
Chris Walker
Jun 02, 2009 Chris Walker rated it it was ok
If you are expecting scandalous gossip because of the title look elsewhere. This is a pretty dry history and it has taken me years to read. To be fair it is 2000 years of the Roman Catholic Church summarised in 300 pages and overall I think the author has done a reasonable job. The problem for those looking for inspiration from church leaders and their heroic beliefs and actions is that it largely isn't here. This is about politics, political alliances, holding ground, administrations and the ri ...more
Jul 11, 2012 Greta rated it liked it
I guess I expected this to be way more gossipy than it is. This is real history. That's good...right? Is it bad that I was hoping for a trashy history of the popes? Is it my fault it's titled like a pulp fiction novel from the 50s?

It seems very detailed, but considering how much history it covers, it goes pretty fast. It's just really, really hard to keep straight.
May 30, 2008 Laine rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: adults or teens that read very well
Recommended to Laine by: instructor
This book is a good short history of the Popes - read in conjunction with the Concise History of the Catholic Church by Thomas Bokenkotter and you have a good history of the Church.
It tells the good and the bada and for the most part very fair in its writing.
Edward C.
Mar 18, 2013 Edward C. rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: church-history
There are several good reviews of Duffy's book already on Goodreads, so I'll not beat the proverbially dead horse here. I will say, however, that Duffy's book--at least the first 380 or so pages of it, is a triumph of historical research and concise writing. I learned more in reading Duffy's book that I had in several other books combined. Is he absolutely perfect? No. But it is a 400 page book attempting to relate 2000 years of one city's episcopal history.

Duffy qua historian is brilliant. He d
Feb 06, 2013 Ian rated it liked it
It is a good historical overview of the papacy, but it lacks greatly in theological understanding of certain issues. His treatment of the more contemporary popes seems to be clouded by his own biases. It is a good book in that Duffy is able to synthesize 2,000 years of history into one volume. he also does a good job of highlighting some of the more significant papacies and the political influences throughout history. I would definitely recommend this book to anyone serious about looking in dept ...more
Sep 25, 2016 Nan rated it it was amazing
An excellent survey of the Popes through the ages. Duffy takes an unflinching look at the highs and lows, progress and regress, good and evil among the 261 (at the time of publication) Popes of the Roman Catholic Church.
Among the highlights from more recent history, are an examination of the character and diplomatic hesitancies of Pius XII that left him open to the long-debunked charges of not helping the Jews during WWII, despite massive documentation otherwise; and a section on John Paul II t
Dec 19, 2012 Sara rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: christianity
I'm only two chapters in but am already pleased that this history is readable and complete enough to fill in some HUGE gaps in my knowledge of early Church history. In art history classes I learned generalities about the conflict between western and eastern empires and about the Goths versus the Romans, but I had no idea of the political struggles within the early church and between these rulers. Duffy makes it comprehensible without inundating you with too much detail. I'm looking forward to th ...more
Michael Atkinson
Oct 05, 2015 Michael Atkinson rated it it was amazing
This was a fantastic and thorough overview of the history of the Papacy, and by extension a good bit of the history of Christianity. It's difficult to cover nearly two thousand years in one book, but I thought the author did an awfully good job at it. I thought he was fair as well; he discussed the good and bad points of the popes and the papal institution, and presented the constant dilemma that the popes faced, dealing with empires and kings, and the challenges of each new era. I also thought ...more
John Pedersen
Feb 22, 2009 John Pedersen rated it liked it
Shelves: history
I've had this book for years and years, but have never been able to get through it before. It is somewhat dense, and since it is covering 2000-ish years of history in 300 pages, it blazes through things quickly as well. For a period of time between 1000 and 1900, it seems like every other pope was named Pius, adding to the confusion. Still, it was fascinating to get an overview of the Papacy throughout its existence. I found the first 1800 years to be more interesting than recent history, since ...more
Steve Luxbacher
Mar 28, 2013 Steve Luxbacher rated it really liked it
I tend to have some eclectic taste in books and I don't recommend this unless you have a genuine interest in the subject. Duffy's book is well written and extremely informative about the papal history. Being a former Catholic, it was also interesting to see how the man shaped religious policy more than scripture. However, I will leave it to the scholars to debate papal infallibility. Interesting read if you are interested in the subject.
Nov 14, 2016 Zach rated it liked it
Shelves: history
A solid history of the papacy. I thought the author started out a bit partisan, but he was certainly willing to be critical of the popes for whom we have good historical information, and especially of the reactionary Piuses. There's a definite focus on modern (post-French Revolution) popes, and kind of a weird glossing over between the Council of Trent and the Revolution, but that's where my knowledge of the papacy was at its weakest so it wasn't a bad thing to me.
Nov 02, 2016 Stan rated it really liked it
Just what I was hoping for. He focused on the most influential popes, while trying to touch on them all, or at least the trend at the time. I thought it was a very level-headed discussion--not too scandalous and not too pious. Seemed to be very even-handed, with not a lot of commentary. Just mostly stating the facts.

I found the first 80% of the book to be the most fascinating. Too much material for my taste on the last three popes.

All in all, this was just what I was hoping for,
Rebecca The Files of Mrs. E,
With Pope Benedict's resignation, I thought it was time to reread Saints and Sinners. As a wonderful history of all the popes, good and bad, it also is a concise history of the Catholic church. It is very readable since it doesn't just list popes or give a bio about each but moves more through history discussing popes sometimes in groups, sometimes individually. If you are looking to learn more about the Catholic religion, this is a great resource.
Justin Evans
Oct 16, 2010 Justin Evans rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history-etc
Pretty well written, really picks up steam the closer it gets to the present- although maybe that's just because I knew less about the more recent history. You won't pick up any ammunition for witch-hunts, but that's okay. Sometimes the best approach is to give everyone the benefit of the doubt until you've seen what everyone is doing, and then judging. Read this, you'll know what almost all the popes did, and you can judge them on your own- Duffy refrains.
Aug 24, 2011 Steve rated it really liked it
This is an informative, well-written book, full of thoughtful insights and judgements. As is probably inevitable, more than half the book is devoted to the most recent 500 or so years, but one finishes with an excellent education into the institution of the Papacy and the men who have filled the office.
Pat Dugan
Jan 26, 2009 Pat Dugan rated it it was amazing
WOW!!! What can I say about this book? This Irish Catholic boy learned so much about his church and the "Secrets" that were never told to me by my Parish Priests. My faith is firm, but this book shows the "Entire Picture" - Warts and All!!!
又是一本絕版書= =
Sep 28, 2008 Richard rated it it was amazing
Wonderfully readable short history of the Papacy. Useful reference, for those of us who don't have 2,000 years of Church history at our command instantly, when we need to recall, "Now who was . . . ?"
Nov 09, 2015 Rory rated it liked it
It is what it says on the tin. It's a history of the Popes. It starts at the start and goes to Pope Francis. The author *is* a Catholic, but it's not *too* religious. I was kinda hoping for a general history of the Catholic church, or Christiainty, but as I said, it does what it says on the tin.
Bobby Chastain
May 01, 2008 Bobby Chastain marked it as to-read
I just got this for my birthday from my father-in-law. I started reading it last night and am enjoying it thoroughly so far.
Alise (Read Write Repeat)
Read this for my History of the Papacy course. Pretty dry, but so much information. A good resource, but I wouldn't read it for fun.
Edward Lengel
Feb 16, 2009 Edward Lengel rated it it was ok
Shelves: history
Profoundly biased, and often inaccurate. Does not approach the quality of Duffy's brilliant "The Stripping of the Altars."
Jan 30, 2008 Bird rated it really liked it
I love reading about the popes, especially the bad ones, but also the later popes. This is a good book for understanding the papacy after the Reformation, 1500 or so on.
An overview of the Papacy from the second century to the present day. There's no overview quite like this, but it does gloss over some still-debated issues in the field of papal history.
Jan 21, 2008 Mikael rated it liked it
ive got a soft spot for debauched popes heres to you benedict ix!
Aug 11, 2008 Frankie rated it liked it
Good overall view of the Popes if you are interested in that sort of thing, including little known facts and court intrigues.
Ryan Patrick
Exactly what it promised to be.
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Eamon Duffy is Professor of the History of Christianity at the University of Cambridge, and former President of Magdalene College.

He describes himself as a "cradle Catholic" and specializes in 15th to 17th century religious history of Britain. His work has done much to overturn the popular image of late-medieval Catholicism in England as moribund, and instead presents it as a vibrant cultural forc
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