The History of the Popes: An Eight-Part Course with Dr. Thomas Madden

The History of the Popes: An Eight-Part Course with Dr. Thomas Madden


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The papacy is the oldest institution in the world today. Founded by St. Peter in the first century, the bishops of Rome have not only governed the Catholic Church but helped to shape the modern world. Across the centuries a wide variety of men have occupied the throne of St. Peter, from craven politicians to selfless saints. Their story is as long and complex as it is fascinating and rich. Persecuted by empires, the popes outlasted them all, remaining today an important voice in an ever-changing world.
In this course participants will explore the history of the popes from the days of Roman persecution to the pontificate of Francis I. Along the way, participants will experience the ways in which popes navigated world-shaking events like the fall of the Roman Empire, the rise of medieval kings, the Protestant Reformation, the French Revolution, and the crushing might of Fascism and Communism.

Lecture 1: The See of Peter
According to tradition, the Apostle Peter traveled to Rome and became the first bishop of that city. This lecture will describe the crisis in Rome after Peter’s death as well as the state persecutions. Participants will also learn of the transformation of the papacy in the fourth century and the Roman Empire crumbled.
Lecture 2: In a Landscape of Decay
By the sixth century the western world seemed to be in advanced old age. The glories of Rome were replaced with a landscape of chaos, brutality, and poverty. The lecture will describe how the popes stepped into the vacuum left by the old empire in an attempt to mitigate suffering and create some level of order. Often the popes failed, especially in the tenth century, which brought the institution to its low point.
Lecture 3: Reform and Conflict in the Middle Ages
In 950 the papacy was dominated by ruthless Roman families interested only in power. By 1100 the institution had been completely transformed. This lecture will follow the reformers who wrested control of the papacy from the secular rulers and set it as the moral and political leader of Europe. It will also examine the struggles between secular and ecclesiastical leaders that followed the popes’ meteoric rise.
Lecture 4: The Rise and Fall of Papal Authority in Medieval Europe
In 1300 Pope Boniface VIII declared the first Jubilee Year. Many thousands of Europeans flocked to Rome to visit the great churches, venerate the holy relics, and pray. This lecture will examine the rapid decline of papal authority after the Jubilee and the rise of royal power. It will also explore the Avignon papacy and the attempts to return the popes to Rome.
Lecture 5: The Great Schism and the Renaissance Popes
In 1400 Europe had two popes. In 1410 there were three. The scandal known as the Great Schism tore Europe apart as different areas accepted different popes. This lecture will describe how the schism was born and how reformers and pragmatists managed to finally end it. This lecture will also describe the wealthy popes, like those of the Medici family, who bankrolled the Renaissance.
Lecture 6: The Popes and Reformation
With the rise of Protestantism, the religious unity of western Europe was shattered. This lecture will follow the reform popes who guided the Church during this difficult period, salvaging what unity could be saved, and leading the way forward into a new age. It will also describe the rise of national churches as well as the popes’ role in the evangelization of people worldwide.
Lecture 7: Confronting the Modern World
Born in the ancient world and coming of age in the medieval, the papacy as an institution had deep suspicions of the modern world dawning in the seventeenth century. The feeling was mutual. This lecture will describe how the popes dealt with two centuries of revolutions that sought to damage or entirely eradicate the papacy and the Catholic Church. This lecture will also discuss the pope’s response to the First World War.
Lecture 8: Engaging with the Modern World
The twentieth century brought fresh challenges to the popes. The rise of Fascism, the Second World War, and the spread of Communism threatened the popes even as they demanded a response. This lecture will examine how popes like Pius XII, Paul VI, and John Paul II actively engaged in these times of unprecedented change. This lecture will also describe the recent pontificates of Benedict XVI and Francis I.

Thomas F Madden is Professor of History and Director of the Center for Medieval and Renaissance Studies at Saint Louis University. As an author and historical consultant, he has appeared in such venues as The New York Times, Washington Post, Wall Street Journal, CNN, and The History Channel. He is a Fellow of the John Simon Guggenheim Foundation, the American Council of Learned Societies, the Medieval Academy of America, and he is a National Endowment for the Humanities Public Scholar.

How does it work?
This is an eight-part series held weekly and hosted on Zoom. Please check the schedule for the specific dates and times for each lecture. The link to enter the zoom room will be emailed to you thirty minutes before each session begins. 
Is there a reading list in advance?
Though the course is open to participants with no background on this topic, there are suggested readings for further investigation. You will receive this soon after course registration.
How long are the lectures?
Each lecture is 90 minutes long with time for Q&A.
How much is the course?
The course is $280 for eight lectures.
Is a recording available?
Yes. All registered participants will be sent a recording within 24 hours of each session's conclusion. The recordings are available to re-watch for seven days thereafter.

Are there additional seminars, courses, and in-person experiences being led by Dr. Madden?
Yes!  Dr. Madden will be leading several popular Context courses in 2022. Details are available here.

Additionally, Dr. Madden will be leading two Context Journeys, to both Venice and Istanbul in 2022. Context Journeys are multi-day, small group tours in cultural capitals all over the world. Expertly crafted to take learners to the heart of a destination, our Journeys take logistics and planning off of your plate as you uncover the history, art, and culture of your chosen destination. For additional details, please click here.

This conversation is suitable for all ages.

90 minutes, including a 30 minute Q&A.

Customer Reviews

Based on 22 reviews
82%
(18)
14%
(3)
0%
(0)
5%
(1)
0%
(0)
A
AC (Sydney, AU)
Absolutely Wonderful

An outstanding series on the Popes, their influences, their contributions and their various historical contexts.

N
Namcy (Kingwood, US)

Guest did not leave comment

R
Ron Porter (Rahway, US)
Excellent

This was an excellent overview course. It was very comprehensive with the right amount of detail. Very thorough.

I took this course because I loved Tom Madden's book on Istanbul--Tom did not disappoint. He is a great teacher. Good mix of insightful scholarship & practical storytelling. Very knowledgeable and could easily related topic to the general history surrounding the popes. Kept my interest throughout the 8 weeks. Engaging. Highly recommended. Best compliment I can give is that I am taking his two courses beginning in September.

R
Richard Yoast (Sturgeon Bay, US)
Engrossing panoramic view of the papacy

Covering a huge amount of information and over 1,000 years, this course provides a clear view of the papacy, how it evolved over time and key issues the popes had to address. The details were fascinating and corrected numerous misconceptions about the papacy. I learned a tremendous amount and highly recommend this course for anyone interested in the topic

L
Laurel (Edmonton, CA)
Vast amount of information

Dr. Madden does an amazing job by covering almost two thousand years of history in this accessible and interesting course. The amount of information is vast but he capably highlights what his audience needs to know. It's impossible not to learn something.

Customer Reviews

Based on 22 reviews
82%
(18)
14%
(3)
0%
(0)
5%
(1)
0%
(0)
A
AC (Sydney, AU)
Absolutely Wonderful

An outstanding series on the Popes, their influences, their contributions and their various historical contexts.

N
Namcy (Kingwood, US)

Guest did not leave comment

R
Ron Porter (Rahway, US)
Excellent

This was an excellent overview course. It was very comprehensive with the right amount of detail. Very thorough.

I took this course because I loved Tom Madden's book on Istanbul--Tom did not disappoint. He is a great teacher. Good mix of insightful scholarship & practical storytelling. Very knowledgeable and could easily related topic to the general history surrounding the popes. Kept my interest throughout the 8 weeks. Engaging. Highly recommended. Best compliment I can give is that I am taking his two courses beginning in September.

R
Richard Yoast (Sturgeon Bay, US)
Engrossing panoramic view of the papacy

Covering a huge amount of information and over 1,000 years, this course provides a clear view of the papacy, how it evolved over time and key issues the popes had to address. The details were fascinating and corrected numerous misconceptions about the papacy. I learned a tremendous amount and highly recommend this course for anyone interested in the topic

L
Laurel (Edmonton, CA)
Vast amount of information

Dr. Madden does an amazing job by covering almost two thousand years of history in this accessible and interesting course. The amount of information is vast but he capably highlights what his audience needs to know. It's impossible not to learn something.