Prisoner of the Vatican: The Popes, the Kings, and Garibaldi's Rebels in the Struggle to Rule Modern Italy

Front Cover
Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2006 - History - 357 pages
3 Reviews
Praise for David Kertzer and Prisoner of the Vatican:

"Kertzer once again proves himself a truly compelling historian." -- Andr Aciman

"Prisoner of the Vatican reads like exciting fiction. And it has astounding contemporary relevance." -- Alfred Uhry

"Kertzer's careful scholarship and lucid writing make the human character of this religious institution quite clear." -- James Carroll

"Fascinating." -- Entertainment Weekly

"Lively . . . filled with telling anecdotes and colorful descriptions of the various characters involved in the struggle." -- America, the National Catholic Weekly

"Riveting and fast-paced . . . history writing at its best." -- Publishers Weekly, starred review

"[A] rousing tale . . . from a masterful, controversial scholar." -- Kirkus Reviews, starred review

"A chilling and timely warning of what happens when religious power becomes synonymous with political power. If you love Italy, if you love Rome, this book is essential reading." -- John Guare

"As magically spellbinding as it is enlightening, replete with colorful characters and complex international and ecclesiastical politics and intrigue. Kertzer is a national treasure and his latest book another masterpiece." -- Kevin Madigan, associate professor, Harvard Divinity School

"This book is a gift to everyone who welcomes the emergence of buried history, and a boon to anyone who has ever wondered about the origins of the wonderful, tenuously unified place called modern Italy." -- Tracy Kidder

David Kertzer's absorbing history presents an astonishing account of the birth of modern Italy and the clandestine politics behind the Vatican's last stand in the battle between church and the newly created Italian state. Drawing on a wealth of secret documents long buried in the Vatican archives, Kertzer reveals a fascinating story of outrageous accusations, mutual denunciations, raucous demonstrations, and secret dealings.

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 intrigues that hinged on such fascinating characters as Garibaldi, King Viktor Emmanuel, Napoleon III, and Chancellor Bismarck. No one who reads this eye-opening book will ever think of Italy, or the Vatican, in quite the same way again.

"A gripping account of this little-known story." -- Washington Post

"A suspenseful and even captivating read . . . Kertzer illuminates one of history's darker corners." -- Providence Journal

"Extraordinary . . . Kertzer describes intrigue, spying, disinformation, and public relations campaigns worthy of any contemporary spy novel." -- Seattle Times

David I. Kertzer is author of several illuminating works of history, including The Popes Against the Jews and The Kidnapping of Edgardo Mortara, a National Book Award finalist. A professor of anthropology and Italian studies at Brown University, he lives in Providence, Rhode Island.

What people are saying - Write a review

LibraryThing Review

User Review  - jcbrunner - LibraryThing

Prisoner of the Vatican is the story of the conquest of the Papal state by the Italian government and the creation of the Vatican. Pope Pius IX was a piece of work and an opponent of everything modern ... Read full review

LibraryThing Review

User Review  - bke - LibraryThing

Fascinating historical of politics and intrigue by a noted historian. Fills the gap in Italian history between the Romans and its unification in the 19th century. A rather large gap of which I had read little. Read full review


Destroying the Papal States
The Pope Becomes Infallible
The Last Days of Papal Rome
Conquering the Holy City
The Leonine City
The Reluctant King
Pius IX in Exile Again?
The Papal Martyr
Preparing for Exile
Hopes Dashed
The Bishops Lament
Fears of a European War
Giordano Brunos Revenge
The Popes Secret Plan
Italy and the Pope

Anticlericalism in Rome
Two Deaths
Picking a New Pope
Keeping the Bishops in Line
The Popes Body
Rumors of a French Conspiracy

Other editions - View all

Common terms and phrases

References to this book

All Book Search results »

About the author (2006)

David I. Kertzer is the author of, among other books, Prisoner of the Vatican, The Popes Against the Jews, and The Kidnapping of Edgardo Mortara, winner of the National Jewish Book Award and a finalist for the National Book Award. He is provost of Brown University and professor of anthropology and Italian studies.

Bibliographic information