Pope Innocent III: To Root Up and to Plant
By John C. Moore
Published in 2003
Thibault’s Score: 4/5
Pope Innocent III is one of the most important popes of the Middle Ages. Many of the major ecclesiastical reforms that would shape modern Catholicism originate from his pen. Perhaps more importantly for his contemporaries, Pope Innocent III greatly expanded the political power of the papacy.
It is very hard for moderns to imagine the role of medieval popes. Many of our conceptions of the papacy during this period come from stereotypes established by the early protestants. As a result, it is easy to project the papacy of the 1400s backwards and imagine that it always was so throughout the middle ages.
The papacy of popes like Gregory the Great - who was the leader of a small “post-apocalyptic” community dwelling in the ruins of Italy - looks nothing like this post-protestant image. Pope Innocent III is so significant because he completes the process of modernizing the papacy into an institution still recognizable today.
Prior to reading this book, I had only heard of Pope Innocent III in passing when studying the fourth crusade. Now, I understand his true pivotal significance in European history.
This book is probably not going to be very interesting for casual observers of the Middle Ages. Understanding it requires spending a significant amount of time studying the period. However, if you already know a lot about the period, then this book will help fill in many important knowledge gaps. I recommend it to anyone who already knows a lot about the medieval period but wants to learn more.
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