Roger Collinsí Keepers of the Keys of Heaven isnít some bland, pious rendition of the history of the papacy.
This is a history of the popes of the Roman Catholic Church, warts and all.
Rather than presenting a history or biography about each individual pope
- that would require several volumes - Collins mentions most of them but focuses on some of the more important popes - St. Peter, Innocent III, St. Gregory the Great, St. Gregory VII, Boniface VIII, Alexander VI, Julius II, Bl. Pius IX, and several others. The history of the papacy is intertwined with the history of Europe and the world as the pope and various leaders interacted with each other for good or ill. Collins does not shy from showing how human the papacy is - only through the work of the Holy Spirit has the Church been preserved from error, as Jesus promised the first pope, St. Peter.
Keepers of the Keys of Heaven is not a quick read
(nor is it meant to be, although it is certainly not a dry history book) that is highly recommended to those interested in a serious history of the Catholic Church, European and world history, and the papacy.
The book jacket features Jacopo Vignaliís painting of the baptism of Constantine the Great by Pope Sylvester. A centerfold of illustrations, a list of the popes, a bibliography, and an index are included, as are three maps in the front of the book.
Roger Collins is an honorary fellow at Edinburgh University and on the advisory board of The Journal of International History. He is the author of several books on medieval history.