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How to explain the Medieval Papacy
Lecture by David D’Avray
Given at the University of Birmingham on April 27, 2019
The 2019 Medium Ævum Annual Lecture: I think the the question needs to be asked and I’m not sure that it really has been asked enough. People kind of take the medieval papacy for granted as though was self-explanatory that you have this in effect world government overlaid on secular governments.
I suppose some Catholic historians might have simply assumed that this was the natural order of things. Protestant historians too in a way … wrote about Latin Christianity really very scholarly, but really all designed to present the Latin Church as a system of clerical oppression but um even he didn’t really attempt to explain how the papacy would come to be in a position to oppress people – because in this respect Stalin was absolutely right that at any of the periods that we are considering as now the papacy does not have many battalions and nowadays it has the Swiss Guard. In the Middle Ages it had small armies which were regularly defeated whenever it attempted to do anything more than pacify in certain territories and often then too. How on earth did it come to wield the enormous amount of power that it did in the 13th century?
David D’Avray is professor of History at University College London. .