The Pope Who Quit: A True Medieval Tale of Mystery, Death, and Salvation
Benedictine Brother Peter Morrone (1210-1296) took his last name from a mountain in the rough Italian Abruzzi. He lived there as a hermit — but not just any hermit. Morrone was a rock star hermit, attracting crowds of followers and fans. He even founded a strict but popular religious order, the Celestines. When the pope died in 1292, the College of Cardinals spent two years bickering over who would be the next pope. Peter sent them a message to hurry it up. To his horror, they immediately chose him. He was consecrated Pope Celestine V in August 1294 and resigned, the only pope ever to have done so, five months later. His successor imprisoned him and he soon died, a suspicious hole in his skull. That’s the bare outline of a story that’s rife with self-flagellation, hermitic visions of naked seductress demons, murdered and murderous popes — even the Franciscans are divided and torturing one another. It turns out St. Thomas Aquinas’s death, en route to the Second Council of Lyon in 1274, was also suspicious.
I didn’t find much mystery (as the title promised) surrounding the elderly Celestine’s abdication. The book is, all the same, an enjoyable albeit blood-curdling read, filled with marvelous details.