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Palgrave Macmillan

Behind Locked Doors

A History of the Papal Elections

ISBN 9781403969620
Publication Date April 2005
Formats Paperback 
Publisher Palgrave Macmillan

Since 1600, whenever a Pope dies, the Cardinals of the Roman Catholic Church convene in Rome to elect a successor. The Papal Conclave is an event like no other. Highly secret and conducted behind the locked doors of the Sistine Chapel, it happens about eight times every century. It is an event that has evolved over the centuries and is always filled with high drama: cardinals meeting en masse in their scarlet robes, throngs of the faithful standing watch in St. Peter's Square, the black or white smoke billowing from the chimney signalling the election of a new Pontiff Since secrecy was not heavily invoked until the twentieth century, there is a vast store of rich material to work from and Fred Baumgartner uses it to its utmost detailing the bickering and blatant politicking that goes on behind the locked doors of the Sistine Chapel in this important and timely book.

FREDERIC J. BAUMGARTNER is Professor of History at Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University, Blacksburg. He is the author of many books including Louis XII, France in the Sixteenth Century and Longing for the End.

From Apostle to Pope
Election by the College of Cardinals
The Creation of the Conclave
Conclaves during The Great Schism
Conclaves in the Renaissance
Conclaves in the Reformation Era
Conclaves in the Baroque Era
Conclaves in the Age of Absolutism
Conclaves in the Nineteenth Century
Conclaves in the Twentieth Century
And On Into The Third Millennium


'Frederic Baumgartner's book is well balanced, both in its wide sweep of centuries and in fairness to individuals, be they popes, cardinals or monarchs...this history will give us an understanding of the evolution of the world's oldest elected institution. It should be made required reading for the college of cardinals, and perhaps presented to a new Eminence with his red hat.' - Richard Mullen, Catholic Herald
'There is something irresistibly exciting about a papal election - but reading this fascinating and scholarly account of elections over 200 years, it seems the forthcoming conclave will be one of the dullest in history...The use of white smoke, along with the strict secrecy, Baumgartner shows, is an innovation scarcely more than 100 years old. But the process is still a fascinating one, as this readable, very well researched and interesting book proves.' - David McLaurin, Church Times
'It's surely no surprise that a history of papal elections is largely a history of bad behaviour: self aggrandisement, corruption, bribery, nepotism, greed and cynical manipulation.' - Barney Zwartz, The Age
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