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

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One of the most enduring and influential of all human institutions, the Papacy has also been among the most controversial. From the founding of the Christian Church in the first century AD to the collapse of Communism in Eastern Europe in the late twentieth century, the Popes have been central players in the history of Europe. In Keepers of the Keys of Heaven, eminent medieval and religious scholar Roger Collins presents the entire, grand arc of papal history in an objective, accessible single volume. From the separation of the Greek and Latin churches to the contemporary controversies that threaten the unity of the many-million-strong Catholic Church, Collins shows how no one seeking to make sense of the modern world can neglect the vital role of the popes.
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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher

Alexander McCall Smith
Keepers of the Keys of Heaven is an immensely readable treatment of one of the world’s most important institutions. Few historians write as engagingly and wittily as Roger Collins. There is not a dull word in this spectacular triumph of accessible scholarship.”

History Magazine
“Drawing on Vatican archives, accounts from papal ambassadors, spies and historians, the character and policies of the popes, from the obscure to the celebrated, are explained. Collins also addresses the crisis of the Reformation and current debates on the future of the Church, and presents an objective, revealing account of the impact and growth of the pope’s power.”

Theological Studies
“The book is a good read; its prose is vigorous and limpid. [Collins] has a good eye for some types of narrative detail, such as delightful factoids of papal history, the ins and outs of papal elections and the maneuverings of cardinals.”

Library Journal

Many histories of the papacy are either hagiographical or contentious. Collins's (history, Univ. of Edinburgh; Visigothic Spain 409-711; Early Medieval Europe 300-1000) book is concise, objective, and eminently readable-scholarly but accessible to lay readers. He includes the scoundrels as well as the saints but does a fine job of presenting the history without a lot of editorial commentary, deftly letting the events speak for themselves. He does not dwell on one period more than others, instead presenting a sweeping view of the succession of popes in their historical contexts. While not ignoring the pope's role as a religious leader, Collins is more concerned with showing the part that the various popes played in the wider civilization. Eamon Duffy's Saints and Sinners, another one-volume history of the papacy, is written from a critical Catholic perspective. Collins's work shows no denominational bias, so it might be a better choice for public libraries. Those seeking basic facts are still well served by the Oxford Dictionary of Popes. Recommended for academic and larger public libraries.
—Augustine J. Curley

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780465011957
  • Publisher: Basic Books
  • Publication date: 2/23/2009
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Pages: 576
  • Sales rank: 1,107,038
  • Product dimensions: 6.20 (w) x 9.30 (h) x 1.90 (d)

Meet the Author

Roger Collins is an Honorary Fellow at Edinburgh University. He has published widely on medieval Europe and is on the advisory board of The Journal of International History. His books include Early Medieval Spain¸ The Basques, The Arab Conquest of Spain, Early Medieval Europe, and Charlemagne. He lives in Edinburgh.
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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 3.5
( 6 )
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Sort by: Showing all of 3 Customer Reviews
  • Posted April 29, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    A Papal Page-Turner

    This is a page-turner book, providing an objective and thorough history of the papacy -- from its origin to modern times. I recommend it to anyone on a quest to discover the truth behind the institutionalization of religion.

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    Posted May 28, 2010

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    Posted February 12, 2010

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