History of the Popes  

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Kunstformen der Natur (1904) by Ernst Haeckel
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History of the Popes by Pastor, Vol 1, False Renaissance

History of the Popes is a multi-volume book by Ludwig von Pastor.

Janssen had made him aware of Leopold von Ranke's History of the Popes. This determined the field he would take for his own, becoming in a sense a Catholic anti-Ranke. His approach was that the apparent shortcomings of the Papacy have reflected flaws of their times. At his first trip to Italy his seriousness ensured the patronage of Pope Leo XIII, who opened the contents of the Vatican Library to him. Ludwig Pastor consulted archives throughout Catholic Europe and, in 1881, convinced Pope Leo XIII to open the Vatican archives, which had been held unavailable to scholars.

The result of his research was his Geschichte der P├Ąpste seit dem Ausgang des Mittelalters in sixteen volumes. The opus magnum was subsequently translated into English and published as History of the Popes From the Close of the Middle Ages.

Pastor decided to begin his work with the papacy of Pope Clement V (1305-1314) and the onset of the Avignon Papacy, so that he could concentrate his research on surviving documents. His dispassionate and frank papal history concentrated on individual popes rather than on the developments of papal institutions. Pastor's tomes span the pontificates of 56 popes, from Clement V to Pius VI.

He combined the Roman Catholic sympathies necessary for dealing with such a life's work with painstaking scholarship and erudition. He was granted privileged access to the Secret Vatican Archives, and his history, largely based on hitherto unavailable original documents, superseded all previous histories of the popes in the period he covered, which runs from the Avignon Papacy of 1305 to Napoleon's entrance in Rome, 1799.

Pastor began his work in 1886 and wrote throughout the pontificates of Leo XIII, Pius X, Benedict XV and Pius XI, publishing fifteen volumes. The 16th and final volume was published posthumously in 1930.

The work remains a standard in academia.




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