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New Medieval Books: Rome and the Invention of the Papacy

Rome and the Invention of the Papacy: The Liber Pontificalis

By Rosamond McKitterick

Cambridge University Press
ISBN: 9781108871440

A look at how the Papacy in Rome developed in the Early Middle Ages through the Liber pontificalis, a series of biographies of popes. This medieval text is crucial to understanding how the Papacy came to dominate the Christian religion in Western Europe.


I offer a new analysis of the content, context, and transmission of this text, its remarkable combination of historical reconstruction, deliberate selection and political use of fiction, and of the complex relationship between the reality, representation, and reception of authority. I examine the text’s construction of the Christian past of Rome as a holy city of Christian saints and martyrs, its representation of the way the bishops of Rome established their visible power within the city with the construction and embellishment of many churches and holy places, endeavoured in many respects to emulate the Roman emperors as rulers of the city, and defined their spiritual and ministerial role.


Who is this book for?

If you are interested in ecclesiastical affairs, or the history of Christianity in medieval Europe, you should familiarize yourself with the Liber pontificalis and this book might be the best way to do so. First published in 2020, and put out in paperback in 2023, the book is a must-read to understand the Papacy in the Middle Ages.

“With this new study, Rosamond McKitterick provides a thorough introduction to this text with an emphasis on its ideological agenda and the features that made it a formidable tool of papal self-fashioning in early medieval Europe. In contrast to previous studies that have treated the Liber pontificalis as repositories of information about individual popes, McKitterick’s book unpacks and explains the argument for papal power expressed by the text as a whole.” – review from Journal of Late Antiquity.


“McKitterick illustrates the complex development of the papacy through the pages of the Liber pontificalis in a way that makes that complexity comprehensible and illustrates how that development depends on much more than theological reflection or ecclesial politics.” – review from PrayTellBlog 

The author:

Rosamond McKitterick is the Keeper of Manuscripts and Archives and Emeritus Fellow at the University of Cambridge, and is widely considered to be a leading historian of the Early Middle Ages. Click here to see her Wikipedia page.

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