Academic journal article The Catholic Historical Review

Die Papste: Von Petrus Zu Johannes Paulus II

Academic journal article The Catholic Historical Review

Die Papste: Von Petrus Zu Johannes Paulus II

Article excerpt

Die Papste: Ion Petrus zu Johannes Paulus I. By Horst Fuhrmann. (Munich: Verlag C. H. Beck. 1998. Pp. 305,191 black and white plates. DM48,-.)

This book has a long publishing history. In 1980, in connection with a papal visit to Germany, Horst Fuhrmann delivered a series of radio addresses which were revised for publication and equipped with many excellently captioned pictures. In 1984 a substantially expanded edition appeared. When that edition went out of print the publisher sought a new one. Although not called either a third or a revised edition, this one has the basic text of the second edition with an expanded treatment of the current pontificate, some new pictures, and an interesting and valuable essay on the history of papal histories. Fuhrmann was formerly president of the Monumenta Germaniae Historica. He is one of the world's top medievalists, a leading authority on the history of canon law, and the foremost expert on medieval forgeries. He is also, as he frankly admits, a Protestant but one without a compelling confessional point of view. His interest in the history of the papacy goes back to lectures he delivered in the University of Tibingen in the 1960's.

This is a good, readable, engagingly written book. It has no single thesis and no polemical objective or outlook. It would probably sell well in an English translation. Still, it is a little hard to see what audience the book would attract.

Fuhrmann divides his book into two parts. The first, about a third of the whole, treats the papacy (Das Papsttum) as an institution. Its comments on papal elections are valuable but no other aspect of papal government is treated in equal, or, really, adequate scope. The longer portion of the book treats the popes (Die Papste). This section is anecdotal in the extreme and, betraying its origins in individual radio addresses, is episodic. Antique popes are generally overlooked. Leo I and Gregory I-the two "Greats"-are treated in more detail. …

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