The papacy is an institution that matters, whether or not one is a religious believer. The succession of the popes, all 262 of them, is the world’s most ancient dynasty. The Roman Empire was young when the popes first emerged on the stage of history, and the earliest references to them, in the late second century, already claim for the bishop of Rome a status greater than that of any other Christian leader. Eighteen centuries on, the popes exercise a quasi-monarchic rule over the world’s...
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Eamon Duffy is Reader in Church History in the University of Cambridge and Fellow of Magdalene College. He is the author of The Stripping of the Altars and Saints and Sinners, a history of the popes, both published by Yale University Press.