Academic journal article The Catholic Historical Review

Bonifaz VIII. (1294-1303). Erster Halbband: Benedikt Caetani

Academic journal article The Catholic Historical Review

Bonifaz VIII. (1294-1303). Erster Halbband: Benedikt Caetani

Article excerpt

Bonifaz VIII. (1294-1303). Erster Halbband: Benedikt Caetani. By Peter Herde. [Päpste und Papsttum, Band 43,1.] (Stuttgart: Anton Hiersermann Verlag. 2015. Pp. x, 295. euro158,00. ISBN 978-3-7772-1508-2.)

The book is the first part of a two-volume planned biography of Pope Boniface VIII. This volume is dedicated to the life of Benedetto Caetani up to his coronation as pope on January 23, 1295, and to his first public acts as such. The biography as a whole finds its place in a series (Päpste und Papsttum) that since its beginning in 1970 has been expressly conceived to collect the popes' lives and studies about the papacy as an institution. In fact, this work was announced already in 1980 by its author, Peter Herde, who as a prominent connoisseur of papal history was also one of the editors of the series itself. The work is therefore the result of thirty-five years of research.

The theme in itself is huge, many-sided, and difficult. Also recently it does not cease to be object of historiographical attention, spawning many essays, while the last monograph on Boniface VIII was published by Agostino Paravicini Bagliani in 2003.

This first volume, based on a rich documentation, provides a wide and complete look on Benedetto's days before his pontificate. Firstly, it surveys his life and career stage by stage and in great detail, trying to point out the very moments in which the most relevant issues of his later experience arose for the first time. In this sense, since Benedetto's experiences are read in the light of his pontificate and this does seem to be the touchstone by which everything is evaluated, Boniface's pontificate ends up as a sort of key to an understanding of the whole work. Secondly, Herde puts Benedetto's life in a broad political and ecclesiastical context. Thirdly, and most meaningfully, through a critical use of contemporary sources the author carries out a steady (and besides essential) confrontation with the many distortions of Boniface's image spread by tradition and proposes a careful revision of them. …

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