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The Pope's Army (Hardback)

The Papacy in Diplomacy and War

Ancient History > Rome & the Roman Provinces Military

By John Carr
Imprint: Pen & Sword Military
Pages: 306
Illustrations: 20
ISBN: 9781526714893
Published: 10th June 2019



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For much of its 2,000-year history, the Roman Catholic Church was a formidable political and military power, in contrast to its pacifist origins and its present concentration on spiritual matters. The period of political and military activism can be dated to roughly between 410, when Pope Innocent I vainly tried to avert the sack of Rome by the Visigoths, and about 1870, when Pope Pius IX was abandoned by his protectors, the French Army, and forced to submit to the new Italian state by surrendering any political power the Vatican had left.

During those centuries, the popes employed every means at their disposal, including direct military action, to maintain their domains centred on Rome. Some pontiffs, such as Alexander VI, Julius II (15th century), plus the energetic Borgia popes later, built the Papal States into a power in their own right. In the following century and a half, Europe’s destructive religious wars almost always had a papal component, with the Lateran and later Vatican fielding their own armies. Climaxing the story are the little-known yet bitter late-nineteenth century battles between the papal volunteers from all over Europe and America, and the Italian nationalists who ultimately prevailed. John Carr narrates the story of Papal military clout with engaging verve.

"The book is worth it for the story of the romantic and anachronistic Ninth Crusade."

Edward James, Historical Novels Review

Carr writes smoothly and efficiently and has produced a speedily readable chronicle on a little understood subject.


Overall this is a very entertaining read, moving at an impressive pace through the lengthy history of the Papacy, looking at how the Popes coped with the ever changing European political scene, after losing its original protector with the fall of the Western Roman Empire.

Read the full review here

History of War

An impressively comprehensive account of a subject which is a lesser known part of the history of the Roman Church for many readers. The colourful Vatican’s Swiss Guards may be a familiar part of the impression left with visitors to Rome but the history behind them and their duties beyond the ceremonial is a fascinating story – Very Highly Recommended

Read the full review here



Catholic Herald, 23rd August 2019

Article: 'The great European game of thrones' as featured by

Catholic Herald, 16th August 2019 – words by Piers Paul Read

Article: 'The role of the papacy in conflict and diplomacy' as featured by

Scottish Catholic Observer (online), 16th August 2019 - words by Amanda Connelly

Listed in 'new titles just published'

Church Times, 19th July 2019

A very beautiful book, on a subject that is not much debated, and that will push the reader to know more about the Popes and their history.

Read the full Italian review here

Old Barbed Wire Blog

About John Carr

John Carr has enjoyed a career as a journalist, correspondent and broadcaster (The Times, Wall Street Journal Europe, Vatican Radio), mainly in the Mediterranean and particularly Greece, where he now resides. He is the author of On Spartan Wings: The Royal Hellenic Air Force in World War IISparta’s KingsThe Defence and Fall of Greece 1940-41RHNS AverofFighting Emperors of ByzantiumThe Knights HospitallerThe Komnene Dynasty; and Mussolini’s Defeat at Hill 731; he is also the co-author of Philip, Prince of Greece (with Constantinos Lagos) and the translator of Who Really Won the Battle of Marathon? by Fotis Karyanos and Constantinos Lagos, all published by Pen & Sword.

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