Tag Archives: errors in books about popes

Errors In ‘Behind Locked Doors, A History of Papal Elections’ By Frederic J. Baumgartner.

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‘Behind Locked Doors, A History of Papal Elections’
by Frederic J. Baumgartner

ISBN: 1-4039-6962-0, 2003


This was one of my favorite papal books. I liked it so much I have 3 copies so that one is always at hand. I have also had the honor of exchanging a few emails with Prof. Baumgartner. Of late I have become quite perturbed by the number of errors I have found in this book — many of them quite serious.

Page 7: 12th line from bottom. ‘In 401 Innocent I succeeded his father Anastasius I, …’

Not so. A historic misconception but by the 20th century it was known to have been a reference to a spiritual ‘father-son’ relationship, as opposed to a blood connection. Professor Baumgartner should not have propagated this.

< Kind of ironic. Way back, c. 2005, when I first started researching papal history I saw this claim and e-mailed Professor Baumgartner if he had any concrete proof of this. He told me that he was sure that he had, but couldn’t find it right away and that if he found it he would let me know. SMILE. It is OK! >

Page 22: The first sentence of the last paragraph that talks about Stephen III’s 769 decree …

This is a garbled, confused sentence at best. In the end it really falls down flat. Contrary to the claim, there is nothing similar, whatsoever, between the 769 and 1059 edicts. The statement about limiting candidates to the cardinal bishops … is, alack, wrong. Not limited.

Page 34: About 2/3 down. “… senior cardinal-deacon gave him his name, …”

Professor Baumgartner might have been having an off-day when he wrote this page (and I know how that goes). This statement about the protodeacon appears to be a ‘mind-warp’ — but I could be wrong. As we all know, the protodeacon still has the HONOR of announcing to the world, for the first time, who the new pope is and the name by which he wishes to be known. But, other than that … the protodeacon, nor anybody else for that matter, ever had the prerogative to tell a new pope as to what name he could assume. So, I can’t figure out this statement.

Page 34: Towards the very bottom. “… delegated them to choose Pope Honorius III, …”

Lets get the easy part out of the way. No, the committee of two was NOT delegated to choose ‘Honorius III’ as is stated! The committee of two was delegated to choose the next pope and they chose Cardinal Cencio Savelli who opted to be Honorius III. There is a difference. The description of this whole election in Perugia is jumbled and badly portrayed. Yes, there were only two cardinals in Perugia when Innocent III died. The book implies that the other cardinals, NOT in Perugia, delegated those two to choose the next pope. That does not appear to be
what really happened. Fifteen other cardinals were in Perugia two days later to begin the election. That is not adequately portrayed, thus creating the wrong impression.

Page 37: Middle of the first paragraph. “… eleven had been identified as favoring the emperor, …”

There was no emperor at that time! The Viterbo election/conclave being discussed happened during the 62 year interregnum following Emperor Frederick II’s death in 1250. At this point there wasn’t even a presumptive emperor, the last of Frederick’s line, from the Hohenstauffens dynasty having been recently killed — as stated earlier in that paragraph.

Page 40: 9th line. “… and after five days …”

NO! After eight days (on the ninth day of the conclave). Read Ubi periculum. Three days of standard fare. Then five days of one dish per meal. THEN the bread, water and a little wine diet. Three and five = eight. This is careless.

Page 41: 2nd line, 2nd full paragraph. “… found themselves confined in conclave.”

Nope. There was no conclave at this election, Ubi periculum having been suspended — as spelled out in the previous paragraph! Oops.

Page 42: 9th line down. “… who met in the palace of Santa Sabina, …”

Oops. A mix up with two elections hence. This one was in Viterbo, again. It was held at the Papal Palace. Not in Santa Sabina. Santa Sabina was never the site for a papal election or conclave, though the the professor thinks otherwise — twice. See page 43 below.

Page 42: 7 lines up in main para. “A month after his election …”

The Sicilian uprising (a.k.a Sicilian Vespers) took place in March 28, 1282. Martin IV was elected Feb. 22, 1281. That is ONE YEAR, ONE MONTH … not one month. That is two bloopers in one paragraph. 

Page 43: 1st line in 1st full para. “… took place again in Santa Sabina.”

 Wrong! Two errors in one sentence. Previous one was not held in Santa Sabina, nor was this one. In reality NO papal election (or conclave) has ever been held in Santa Sabina. In this case, the election was held in the deceased pope’s new palace, Corte Savella, which was NEAR Santa Sabina. Near … doesn’t mean ‘in.’ Not sure what the professor was thinking or doing.

Page 43: 2nd line, last para. “… appointed only one cardinal, Benedetto Caetani, …”

Wrong! Another ‘twofer’ — two errors in one sentence. The second ‘twofer’ on the page. Benedetto Caetani was created by Martin IV in April 1281. He took part in the election of Nicholas IV. Nicholas IV created six cardinals. Three lines later he talks about the two Colonna cardinals. Nicholas created one of them.

Page 60: 3rd line from bottom. “… the day after Urban’s death.”

Urban VI died October 15, 1389. His successor Boniface IX was installed November 2, 1389. If the conclave started October 16, per the author, this would have been a 18 day conclave. Most agree that it was not that long. Others, going by Dr. Francis A. Burkle-Young’s “Passing the Keys,” put the start date for this conclave at October 25 … i.e., consistent with the ten day lead time mandated by Ubi periculum. That makes it a 8 day conclave. That makes more sense.

Page 71: Middle of page. “Ten days later, on April 4, 1454 …”

April 4, 1455. This is a typo. My heart bleeds. I do this all the time. But, nonetheless, it is wrong.

Page 71: Middle of page. “… serve as the site for all but six conclaves to the present.”

Talking as of ‘1454’ which is mentioned at the start of this sentence. But from ALL that I can see, there have only been FIVE (5) conclaves outside of the Vatican as of 1454 — not six, viz. 1799-1800 Venice and four at the Quirinal, 1823 to 1846. Note, that this is another TWOFER. There was no conclave in 1454. 1455.

Page 140: 13th line from bottom. “… took the name Leo XI to honor Leo X, his great-uncle.”

WRONG. Maternal uncle, not great-uncle. This error got carried over to MY “Pope Names” book!

Page 210: 6th line from bottom. “… became a priest under Pius X.”

NO he didn’t. He became a priest 20 years prior to Pius X! This erroneous statement screwed up some of my work. Now that I realize how inaccurate this book is, regret ever reading it — which is a shame because it was a good read.

Page 218: last sentence of the 2nd paragraph that starts: “They were an international group …”

The claim that this consistory [i.e., December 15, 1958] created the first cardinals from Mexico, the Philippines and Japan is WRONG. The first from Japan and the Philippines came two consistories later in March 1960. Same is true for the first native African cardinal. So three of the four claims made in that sentence are wrong.

Page 224: 5th line of the 1st paragraph that says: “… camerlengo, the first non-Italian to hold the office …”

From the book. Click to ENLARGE and read.

Not so! Way back, c. 1155, we had an English camerlengoBoso Breakspear who is believed to have been related to the pope of the same last name, Hadrian IV  (#170, 1154-1159).

Here is the entry in the 1917 Catholic Encyclopedia for Boso that clearly states he was camerlengo. So this is another major faux pas.

There are others. They can wait. I just don’t have the time to document
them all in one go. SORRY.

Errors In ‘The Next Pope’ by Peter Hebblethwaite.

by Anura Guruge


<<  <<  Transferring over from my “Popes and Papacy” Website  >> >>


‘The Next Pope’ by Peter Hebblethwaite

(revised and edited by Margaret Hebblethwaite)
 ISBN: 0-06-063777-3, 2000



Page 4: “Moreover, conclaves did not happen in the Sistine Chapel until after the collapse of the Papal States in 1870.”

Ah! I have tried to parse that statements all which ways until Christmas to see if I was missing something here. But, I am sure it says what it says!

Yes, the 1846, 1831, 1829 & 1823 conclaves were held at the Quirinal Palace and the 1800 conclave in Venice.  But the prior 38 conclaves, going back to 1484, were centered around the Sistine. During the first twelve of these, 1484 to 1559, all the cardinals were even billeted inside the Sistine. Thus, in my opinion, that statement is dead wrong.


Page 27: “In the first millennium, popes did not emerge from the college of cardinals, since the cardinals in the modern sense did not exist.”

Ah! Well YOU could play games with the caveat ‘modern sense,’ and say that the ‘College’ didn’t come to be until 1148-1150. But even with that, the spirit of this sentence is SO WRONG. Let us just refer to the 769 Roman Synod convened by Stephen III (IV) and its stipulation that popes must be elected from among cardinal priests and cardinal deacons.


Page 165: “… William Wakefield Baum …, he is the only U.S. cardinal to have ever voted in a conclave — in fact two — having become a cardinal in 1976.”

That ‘ever’ in front of ‘voted’ makes this statement false as it stands. If the caveat ‘living’ is added after the ‘only’ this would work (given that this book was published in 2000). The way it reads is misleading and wrong. James Gibbons voted in the 1903 conclave. John Murphy Farley voted in the 1914 conclave etc. Eight US cardinals participated in the August 1978 conclave and nine in the October 1978 conclave. This should have been caught by an editor. But maybe this book was not edited. That would explain all these fundamental errors.


Page 139: “And after all, the pope lives in Italy …”

This is is post-1929. The pope lives in the sovereign city-state of Vatican City — with even Castel Gandolfo falling within the extraterritorial bounds of the Vatican City. This was obviously meant to be a ‘cute’ statement, but it is inappropriate, misleading and worst of all, wrong.


Page 57: Talking about the voting process says “… the whole process is repeated …”

Not so. The second ballot of each morning and afternoon session is different from the first. For a start there is no need to elect new Scrutineers, Infirmarii and Revisers, or to take a new oath.


Page 32: There is a poem here by the Polish poet Juliusz Slowacki, prefaced by a claim that it forecasts that there would be a Slavic pope [i.e., John Paul II] in the 20th century.

I think it is more than a stretch to make that claim. It sure says, in the first line “… will not — Italian-like — take fright.” Yes, the poet was Polish. But that doesn’t mean that any non-Italian has to be Slavic. This one is not as grave as the prior two, but it still gave me pause. 


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by Anura Guruge