Here is the colorful, panoramic story of seven men who ruled the Church of Rome at seven critical periods in the 600 years leading into the Reformation. It was an age of grandeur and corruption, of magnificent architecture and petty human foibles, of ecclesiastical heresy and moral degradation. Popes led armies, made love and war, conspired for power, and armed themselves with the techniques of assassination and seduction while clothed with the authority of the Church. Against the background of this turbulent era, E. R. Chamberlin explores the lives, both private and public, of John XII, the dissolute Roman prince, Benedict IX, who subjected the Papacy to its greatest indignity; Boniface VIII, who carried the temporal claims of popes to supreme heights and was destroyed by them; Urban VI, the wild man from Naples, whose grotesque savageries widened and maintained the scandalous gap of the Great Schism; Alexander VI, who brought to the See of Peter the intrigues of the Borgia; Leo X, civilized, urbane, indifferent to the pleas of the Augustinian preacher from the North, Martin Luther; and Clement VII, the unskillful fox, who fell, tricked by the Holy Roman Emperor, bringing down Rome itself. Profusely illustrated with architectural photographs and contemporary art from both Catholic and Protestant sources, The Bad Popes is a vital and important book that vividly depicts the ecclesiastical corruptions which led to the Reformation.