The Oxford Dictionary of Popes

By J. N. D. Kelly | Go to book overview

PREFACE

This book has been written to fill a gap of which I have been increasingly conscious for a great many years. My interest in the papacy came alive in the mid-thirties when, as part of my first piece of academic research, I began exploring the obscure emergence of one-man episcopacy at Rome. It steadily grew as the years went by, reaching a personal high point in March 1966, when I accompanied the archbishop of Canterbury ( Michael Ramsey) on his historic visit to Pope Paul VI. Throughout this whole span I have been disconcerted by the fact that, while there are full-dress biographies of a number of popes (fewer in fact than one would expect) and massive surveys of the papacy at particular epochs, it is almost impossible to come across a one-volume handbook in English containing systematic, concise accounts of all those who have been, or claimed to be, popes. There seems to be a real need for such a papal Who's Who, not least in view of the extraordinary popular attention the papacy has increasingly attracted since at any rate the election of Pope John XXIII; and I therefore decided, perhaps rashly, to attempt to supply one.

My aim has been to provide summary biographies not only of the officially recognized popes but also (a novel feature, I believe) of those who have been classified, rightly or wrongly, as antipopes. The list of pontiffs and, with minor discrepancies, the dating of their reigns are in general agreement with the 1984 edition of Annuario Pontificio. I have endeavoured, where information is available, to include details of each pope's family background and pre-papal career as well as of his activities in office. Each entry is furnished with a bibliography which, while necessarily cut to the minimum, normally includes references to primary sources as well as to specialized and more general studies. My original plan was to arrange the popes, as is the habit of dictionary-makers, alphabetically, but the arguments of friends persuaded me that a chronological order would be more helpful, enabling readers to view each pope in his historical context; at the same time, the alphabetical list of popes and antipopes at the beginning makes quick reference to an individual just as easy.

I should like to think that the work, despite the high degree of compression inevitable, may prove useful to scholars as well as general readers. Covering such a vast field, it cannot lay claim to much originality, although I hope I have thrown fresh light on a few popes and presented some others in perhaps novel perspectives; my consistent object has been to portray them all with cool but not unsympathetic detachment. My reading over the past few years has been voluminous, multifarious, and exhilarating; while I could not mention all the scholars to whom I have been indebted, I must make an exception of Franz

-vii-

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The Oxford Dictionary of Popes
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Preface vii
  • Contents ix
  • Abbreviations x
  • Note to the Reader xiv
  • Alphabetical LIst of Popes and Antipopes 1
  • The Popes 5
  • Appendix Pope Joan 331
  • Index 333
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