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Keepers of the Keys of Heaven: A History of the Papacy

3.42 of 5 stars 3.42  ·  rating details  ·  48 ratings  ·  8 reviews
One of the most enduring and influential of all human institutions, the papacy has also been amongst the most controversial. No one who seeks to make sense of modern issues within Christendom—or, indeed, world history—can neglect the vital shaping role of the popes.In Keepers of the Keys of Heaven, eminent religion scholar Roger Collins offers a masterful account of the en ...more
Hardcover, 576 pages
Published February 24th 2009 by Basic Books (first published January 1st 2009)
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I found this an informative overview of 2000 years in 600 pages, so obviously some popes get a lot more ink than others. And surely some deserve a lot more, while some could do with very much less.

I suspect that anyone who reads this or is interested in the papacy, will bring their own preconceptions of the papacy to the reading. I certainly did. As a convert to the Catholic Church from a Lutheran tradition, I'm sure I still have some left over views of Medieval and Renaissance popes.

This book
Roger Collins is a name I've known for many years through his Early Medieval Europe 300–1000, so when I realized that a book I was considering getting was by him, it became an instant first choice.

Covering nearly 2000 years of history in about 500 pages, even if restricted to a single institution (the papacy), is no mean feat, but Collins does it quite well here. There are places where names and titles go by at a dizzying pace, but mostly he picks an issue or a pope, and does a subchapter on it.
Nov 06, 2013 Kiri rated it 3 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: art history students
This was a very good overview of the papacy; however it reads like a textbook so it is a bit weighty to get through. It also assumes that you have a thorough foundation in European History from about 300 AD through the 20th century. As such, it can be difficult to follow at times and I found myself having to resort to Wikipedia often to gain a better understanding of the discussion. It also includes a thorough chrolonlogical listing of all the popes and anti-popes and the selected bibilography i ...more
A dizzying, but fair, history of the papacy. The author tried to cover about 100 years per chapter. In the 11th-13th centuries, each chapter was chock full of Popes and controversies and was sometimes hard to keep going. I finally understood (I think) the Investiture Controversy and the suppression of the Jesuits, and the book contained many amusing anecdotes; for example, the tradition of looting the possessions of the newly-elected Pope.
Excellent books and it really does focus on the institution of the Papacy, not just the characters of the individual Bishops of Rome. My reading of it was broken up by travel so it took longer to finish that it should have. Very well written with much good information and analysis.
not able to finish, i was disappointed in the dry writing.
Informative and long
Thought it would be a bit more informative, especially about the times right after the death of Christ and the apostles but found it to be quite vague. However, I understand the intent of the author and purpose of the book and therefore give it a higher rating. I must say I don't particularly like the title of the book as I fundamentally believe all authority was lost and not passed down as the Catholic Church believes. Other than that it is a very well researched and well written book!
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Roger J. H. Collins (born 1949) is an English medievalist, currently an honorary fellow in history at the University of Edinburgh.
More about Roger Collins...
Early Medieval Europe, 300-1000, Second Edition (History of Europe (St. Martins)) The Arab Conquest of Spain: 710-797 Visigothic Spain 409-711 Early Medieval Spain The Basques

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