From dust jacket notes: "Take heed, take heed, give us a Roman Pope or we will turn your heads redder than your hats!" So cried the Roman mob storming through the Vatican as the embattled Cardinals sought to elect a new Pope - successor to Gregory XI who had held his court in Avignon and imprudently returned to Rome to die. Out of this tumultuous Conclave of 1378, when the Cardinals in terror created two simultaneous Popes and then a third - old Tibaldeschi (who refused), Urban (who promised to abdicate), and finally (when Urban proved intractable) Clement VII - came the Great Schism of the West. Forty disastrous years of rival Popes, rival Christian Kings and Colleges of Cardinals, rival armies on the march - years of moral chaos as the Church was split asunder, perhaps forever. Marzieh Gail recreates that turbulent age with the help of contemporary letters, memoirs and documents, superbly evoking the drama and texture of a world irrevocably divided between Urbanists, Clementines, and followers of John of Pisa. She uncovers the intricate web of intrigue running through all the courts of Europe, even to Islam. Above all, she brings to life the extraordinary men and women - saints, peasants, Kings, and the Popes themselves - who were the prime movers. We see Catherine of Siena, that 'strong Virgin' who flogged the world's rulers to Urban's obedience, and magnificent Orleans, his fortunes (and those of Avignon) tied to his brother's madness. We see Joanna of Naples - by one Pope awarded the Golden Rose, by another excommunicated - and the infamous pirate who became the first Pope John XXIII. We see Wycliffe, and Jan Huss, killed for his beliefs; Sigismund, Holy Roman Emperor, and all the great figures of the medieval world drawn to the Council of Constance to put an end to Schism - only to make the Reformation inevitable...."