City of Echoes: A New History of Rome, Its Popes, and Its People
From a bold new historian comes a vibrant history of Rome as seen through its most influential persona throughout the centuries: the pope.
Rome is a city of echoes, where the voice of the people has chimed and clashed with the words of princes, emperors, and insurgents across the centuries. In this authoritative new history, Jessica Wärnberg tells the story of Rome’s longest standing figurehead and interlocutor—the pope—revealing how his presence over the centuries has transformed the fate of the city of Rome.
Emerging as the anonymous leader of a marginal cult in the humblest quarters of the city, the pope began as the pastor of a maligned and largely foreign flock. Less than 300 years later, he sat enthroned in a lofty, heavily gilt basilica, a religious leader endorsed (and financed) by the emperor himself. Eventually, the Roman pontiff would supplant even the emperors as de facto ruler of Rome and pre-eminent leader of the Christian world. By the nineteenth century, it would take an army to wrest the city from the pontiff’s grip.
As the first-ever account of how the popes’ presence has shaped the history of Rome, City of Echoes not only illuminates the lives of the remarkable (and unremarkable) men who have sat on the throne of Saint Peter, but also reveals the bold and curious actions of the men, women, and children who have shaped the city with them, from antiquity to today. In doing so, the book tells the history of Rome as it has never been told before.
During the course of this fascinating story, City of Echoes also answers a compelling question: how did a man—and institution—whose authority rested on the blood and bones of martyrs defeat emperors, revolutionaries, and fascists to give Rome its most enduring identity?
Praise for City of Echoes: A New History of Rome, Its Popes, and Its People
Praise for Jessica Wärnberg's City of Echoes:
"Historian Wärnberg debuts with an insightful study of the papacy and its influence over the city of Rome. Throughout this accessible and scrupulous account, Wärnberg demonstrates how the legacy of the papacy has become inextricably linked with the city of Rome. The result is a valuable contribution to the history of both Rome and Catholicism."
— Publisher's Weekly
"The book’s strength is its range, from St. Peter in the first century all the way to Pope Francis today. Wärnberg is especially good on the early years, when Christianity and the papacy emerged under the shadow of a hostile imperial Rome. The story of how popes became leading actors is well told."
— The Economist
“Wärnberg provides a worthwhile account examining the many “layers of legend” about this ancient city. Wärnberg is at her best during the Renaissance period, when “the papacy and the Church had become a state-like institution: organized, largely self-sufficient, and recognized by political powers.” Wärnberg’s mildly upbeat conclusion affirms that both Rome and the papacy remain inextricably entwined despite their diminished roles and that recent popes have exerted a positive influence. A useful resource for students of Christian history and papal aficionados.”
— Kirkus Reviews
"Telling the history of Rome over nearly 2,000 years through the deeds (and misdeeds) of the Popes of the Roman Catholic Church is more than just a beautiful conceit. Jessica Wärnberg has written a deeply informative book that never fails to entertain, unearthing facts that make The Da Vinci Code read like children’s lit."
— Air Mail
"This marvellous and original study offers us Rome in all its beauty, depravity and resilience. The history of papal power is never better explained, as successive Popes struggled with temporal power, contested ecclesiastical authority and the looming shadow of the legacy of ancient Rome. An excellent read that will reshape our perceptions of how the modern Vatican state came to be.”
— Andrew Pettegree, author of The Library: A Fragile History
"Wärnberg is brilliant."
— Dan Snow, historian and podcast host
“A tremendous, engrossing, and illuminating history of papal Rome. City of Echoes is a must-read for everyone with an interest in the Eternal City.”
— Angus Robertson, author of Crossroads of Civilization: A History of Vienna
"Serious, exactingly-researched history, with all the gripping intensity of a rattling good yarn. Filled with intriguing and unexpected facts, City of Echoes conjures up some superb images. Jessica Wärnberg shows us how the truth can be be even more exciting than any Dan Brown yarn.”
— Paul Strathern, author of The Borgias, The Medici, and The Other Renaissance
"City of Echoes is a sweeping journey through the intertwined history of the city of Rome and the popes from the earliest Christian times till today. It's wonderfully readable and thoroughly enjoyable.”
— Philip Freeman, author of Hannibal, Alexander the Great, and Julius Caesar