The Pope Who Would Be King: The Exile of Pius IX and the Emergence of Modern Europe

David I. Kertzer. Random House, $35 (512p) ISBN 978-0-8129-8991-5
Kertzer, who won the Pulitzer Prize for his biography of Pope Pius XI (The Pope and Mussolini), expertly captures the tension of a deeply devout population, loyal to their church but receptive to the stirrings of both liberalism and nationalism. When Giovanni Mastai Meretti was unexpectedly elected pope in 1846, throngs of adoring Romans heralded his rise, convinced that the humble and fair-minded archbishop of Spoleto would loosen the screws of theocracy in the Papal States and usher in a golden era for Italy. The first months of Pius IX’s rule seemed to bear out this vision, but before long political upheaval forced him to flee—and after his return, chastened and mistrustful of democracy, “[t]he pope’s embrace of a medieval vision of society could not have been clearer.” At the end of his papacy, Pius IX presided over “the death throes of the popes’ thousand-year kingdom... the death of a doctrine of faith that had a huge impact on the course of Western civilization.” From the arch-conservative secretary of state of the Papal States, Giacomo Antonelli (who oversaw daily affairs), to the avatar of Italian independence, Giuseppe Mazzini (a leading dissident fighting against clerical rule and for a united Italy), Kertzer brings to life a cast of characters whose divergent voices arose from a new Europe. A consummate storyteller, Kertzer blends academic rigor with fluid, energetic prose, and the result will satisfy specialists while entertaining those who might otherwise expect to be bored stiff by a volume of church history. (Apr.)
Reviewed on: 02/26/2018
Release date: 04/24/2018
Genre: Nonfiction
Paperback - 512 pages - 978-0-8129-8993-9
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Audio book sample courtesy of Penguin Random House Audio
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