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The Pope Who Quit
A True Medieval Tale of Mystery, Death, and Salvation
Jon M. Sweeney

2012 /ISBN: 0385531893
Non-fiction /History

Reviewed by Carmen Ferreiro

In The Pope Who Quit, Jon M. Sweeney tells the story of how Peter Morrone, a humble and uncultivated Italian hermit, became Pope in 1294 at the ripe age of 84. In Mr. Sweeney's hands, this historical event makes for a fascinating tale that illuminates the politics of the time and gives us a window into the Middle Ages.

Being Pope in the XIII century, Jon M. Sweeney shows us, was a highly political position. One that was supposed to end only by death. The death had not always been natural. In fact, the list of Popes murdered or supposedly murdered before Peter Morrone became Pope is quite alarming. But Peter was the only Pope who ever quit.

He was elected Pope in a surprising turn of events. The cardinals have been electing the pope for many months and the Church without direction was not doing so well. So Peter wrote a letter asking them to put their differences aside and choose a pope already. That the cardinals would elect him was never his plan and, at first, he refused. Eventually he accepted and took the name of Celestine V.

But the position, he soon found out, required qualities like diplomacy and clerical abilities he lacked. As cardinals, the big Italian Houses, and the King of Naples battled to steer him in their favor, Celestine V found himself unable to cope with the situation and less than four months after his election, he quit his position.

His voluntary retirement caused quite a stir in Vatican politics and started a chain of events that ended with his death, whether by natural causes or foul play we'll probably never know.

Celestine V was canonized and is considered a saint by some, a coward by others, Dante among them.

Regardless of your beliefs, the story of The Pope Who Quit is an absorbing story you won't want to miss.

Reviewer Carmen Ferreiro-Esteban is the author of a YA fantasy Two Moon Princess and four nonfiction titles.
Reviewed 2012
© 2012