Description - Women of the Vatican: Female Power in a Male World by Lynda Telford
In this readable and sometimes controversial book, Lynda Halliday explores the lives of women who have had personal and unofficial influence at the Vatican over the centuries. The book reveals how they may have coerced or otherwise influenced various Popes into making decisions which may have affected the outcome of Papal rule. Against the background of the history of the papacy, where popes were expected to not only be infallible but also celibate, the author identifies those popes whose love and admiration for women led to giving them a voice, not only in their domestic arrangements but also in matters concerning the Church. The women discussed in this book include Marozia, said to have been the mistress of Pope Sergius III, who appears to have had a violent path to power; and Vanozza dei Catanei, who was the mistress of Alexander VI (Rodrigo Borgia) and bore him four children. Rodrigo was thought to have obtained the title of Pope through simony and, although possessed of many engaging qualities, there was no denying his worldliness and determination to ignore the Church's rules on celibacy and chastity. The book reveals how he then took on a mistress, Giulia Farnese, who was able to use her influence to promote the cause of her brother, Alessandro Farnese, who would later become Pope Paul III. The book follows a number of notable and influential women through the 16th, 17th and 18th centuries, including Felice della Rovere, Catherine de Medici and Olimpia Pamfilii. The list also includes queens, such as Christina of Sweden, who abdicated her throne and moved to Rome, Empress Maria Teresa of Austria and Empress Catherine of Russia. Although the scandals abated in the nineteenth century, the story picks up again with a nun known as Mother Pasqualina, whose close relationship with Pope Pius XII caused a great deal of talk. Engaging, controversial and sometimes illuminating, this book is ultimately an exploration of the Catholic Church's sometimes fraught relationship with women.
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