Friday, April 3, 2009

Roger Collins' "Keepers of the Keys of Heaven"

Roger Collins is Research Fellow of the School of History, Classics, and Archaeology at the University of Edinburgh. The author of numerous books and articles in the field of religious history, he lives in Edinburgh.

He applied the “Page 99 Test” to his latest book, Keepers of the Keys of Heaven: A History of the Papacy, and reported the following:
Page 99 of my book, Keepers of the Keys of Heaven: A History of the Papacy, has surprised me by being more of a proof of the value of 'The Test' than I ever imagined possible when I first heard about it. It is the second page of a chapter entitled 'Slave of the Slaves of God', which starts with the pontificate of Pope Gregory the Great (590-604), who invented this title, which was preserved by his successors - its better known form 'Servant of the Servants of God' lacks the sense of ownership and real servitude that exists in the Latin original, and makes him sound more like a superior kind of butler. Gregory, although pope for only fourteen years, is central to the book as he was perhaps the most influential of all holders of the office, to whom many of his successors looked back as a model and inspiration, and who typifies a style of papacy that was primarily pastoral and caring, if authoritarian, and contrasting with later periods in which it became primarily a money-making judicial and bureaucratic machine, that gave the impression of being mainly concerned to defend its rights and property at all costs. In this particular page I describe his political role, his literary works, and his friendships; one of which led to his 'close interest in Spain, where his memory and writings were thereafter especially revered', as would also happen in Anglo-Saxon England. In addition, as my wife wrote her doctoral thesis on Gregory, and as her role as 'the true inspirer, guide and constant companion of both this book and its author' made the whole lengthy project never less than exciting as well as challenging for me, it is particularly appropriate that it is 'her' pope who appears on page 99.
Learn more about Keepers of the Keys of Heaven at the publisher's website.

--Marshal Zeringue