This volume attempts, and succeeds in, a fresh investigation of what have been the traditional areas of inquiry: the schism (Alexander faced three antipopes
supported by Frederick Barbarossa), the quarrel with Barbarossa, the Becket controversy, the efficacy of a papacy when the pope was almost never in Rome, and the decretals (over seven hundred of them
The last pope to resign, Gregory XII, did so nearly 600 years ago as part of complex negotiations to end a 40-year schism between popes at Rome and antipopes
Gregory XII agreed to resign the following year, succeeded by Pope Martin V (although some entities refused to recognize him and some antipopes
continued to reign).
The seductions of this power contributed to the rise of some 30 antipopes
, pretenders vying for the throne of St.
As Norwich says upfront, Absolute Monarchs is a political history more than anything, and with his unstuffy and sometimes witty writing style, he walks us through what could otherwise be a stifling couple of thousand years of popes, antipopes
, endless political power struggles, war, greed, torture, inquisitions, egomania, incest, fornication, bastard children and orgies.
In "The Nearly Men," we meet those cardinals who were almost popes, including some antipopes
For seventy years, the papacy remained there, and even after the return to Rome, those in defiance of the papacy such as the antipopes
, called Avignon their home.
It was only with the Council of Constance (1414-18) that some measure of closure was brought to this prolonged period of disunity, warring antipopes
and chronic institutional instability.
Permit one Sabbatarian to claim exemption from Saturday work, the analysis often suggests, and soon droves of layabouts will be joining the Adventist faith to avoid work, the idle and vicious of the Southeast will be moving to South Carolina, fraudulent antipopes
will be establishing new churches that ban work on any day of the week, and temple prostitution and human sacrifices will be slouching toward the Low Country to trouble the God-fearing people thereof.
While the fight for the throne will not rank with the kings and pretenders or the popes and antipopes
studied in the college's history classes, the battle between the college and the state-university system of which it is a part seems nearly as complicated.
And it was more or less standard practice throughout the Middle Ages to denounce suspect clergy and antipopes