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.”
“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.”
“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.”
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