Prisoner of the Vatican


Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
A Pulitzer Prize winner’s “fascinating” account of the political battles that led to the end of the Papal States (Entertainment Weekly).

From a National Book Award–nominated author, this absorbing history chronicles the birth of modern Italy and the clandestine politics behind the Vatican’s last stand in the battle between the church and the newly created Italian state.

When Italy’s armies seized the Holy City and claimed it for the Italian capital, Pope Pius IX, outraged, retreated to the Vatican and declared himself a prisoner, calling on foreign powers to force the Italians out of Rome. The action set in motion decades of political intrigue that hinged on such fascinating characters as Garibaldi, King Viktor Emmanuel, Napoleon III, and Chancellor Bismarck.

Drawing on a wealth of secret documents long buried in the Vatican archives, David I. Kertzer reveals a fascinating story of outrageous accusations, mutual denunciations, and secret dealings that will leave readers hard-pressed to ever think of Italy, or the Vatican, in the same way again.

“A rousing tale of clerical skullduggery and topsy-turvy politics, laced with plenty of cross-border intrigue.” —Kirkus Reviews, starred review

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