"The Deaths of the Popes: Comprehensive Accounts, Including Funerals, Burial Places, and Epitaphs"

Current Reviews for Academic Libraries

The following review appeared in the May 2005 issue of CHOICE.
The Deaths of the Popes: Comprehensive Accounts Including Funerals, Burial Places, and Epitaphs. (McFarland, 2004). ISBN 0786415274, $65

Beginning with St. Peter?s upside-down crucifixion (c. 67 CE), papal history abounds with stories of strange and often horrible deaths. Martyrdom, murder, and the mundane stand alongside mystery, ceremony, faith, and politics. Reardon admirably chronicles the salient facts and legends drawn from a plethora of sources to highlight these fascinating crises and transitions in the life of the Catholic Church. Her preface states that she hopes to appeal to both scholars and general readers. She accomplishes this by maintaining a casual, often whimsical tone while presenting meticulous, well-documented information, sometimes humorous or unique (she includes the recipe for the pickled eels that choked Pope Martin IV). She adds surprising nuggets such as Dante?s placement of a given pope in heaven or hell. But the best gift to scholars is the inclusion of papal epitaphs, many translated into English for the first time. The introduction and appendixes provide useful context and related information. Summing up: Highly recommended. All Collections. ?J.D. Potter, Eastern Washington University

This book, by writer, scholar, and historian Wendy Reardon, is the complete story of papal deaths from St. Peter to John Paul I, and includes all the anti-popes as well. In it you will find:

  • Illustrations of papal tombs before they were destroyed
  • Rare photos and illustrations of all existing papal tombs
  • Every single papal epitaph in both Latin and English
  • Deathbed scenes, last words, papal funeral practices
  • Customs and rituals from the beginning of the papacy to today
  • Papal funeral mishaps and accidents
  • Alleged and factual causes of death
  • Rare seventeenth century exhumation reports of popes written during the destruction of St. Peter's, translated into English for the very first time

It also includes a Quick Reference Death, Burial, and Reburial Chart, an Existing Papal Tomb Chart, an Alphabetical and Chronological list of all popes and antipopes, a rare map of old St. Peter s showing where every papal tomb was originally placed (and a key to this map), a section detailing separate organ burial in the Church of Saints Vincenzo e Anastasio, a section dedicated to the death of the mythical Pope Joan, plus the Universii Domini Gregis--which details the modern ritual for papal burial as written by the current Pope John Paul II. An extensive bibliography of rare papal books and articles, and an author index, are also included.

Ms. Reardon is available for television, print, and radio interviews regarding the succession of the next pope, the conclave, the front-runners, what happens to Benedict now, and papal ceremonial procedure.

The advantage to having Ms. Reardon as your papal analyst is that she is young, lively, enthusiastic, and can keep your audience captivated with little-known and unbelievable anecdotes about the succession of popes throughout history, including, but not limited to:

  • Cardinals being locked in conclave for days until they elected a pope
  • The Roman mob ripping off the ceiling of the conclave
  • The entire tenth century-how a powerful woman put popes in and took popes out--until SHE was taken out!
  • The Cadaver Synod of 897
  • The Great Schisms, when there was more than one pope--and what happened to the popes that didn't win
  • How one losing pope of a schism really 'stuck it to' the winning pope for all eternity
  • Extremely old Popes elected because they were about to die--a popular stalling technique so the Cardinals can take more time choosing who they really want as pope
  • The 'joke election' of the mountain hermit Peter of Morone-and how "God" told him to abdicate (this is a great story-you can't make this stuff up!)

An experienced interviewer, Ms. Reardon has been featured in the following media:


  • WHDH-TV-NBC Affiliate Boston- Exclusive Analyst on the death and funeral of John Paul II
  • NECN-Newsnight with Jim Braude (New England Cable News)
  • Fox 25 Morning News-Boston
  • Chronicle (Boston Magazine TV Show)
  • Fox News Connecticut


  • Kiss 108 FM (3x in studio-Matty in the Morning)
  • Jamn' 94.5 FM
  • WFNX Morning Show the Sandbox
  • Claprood and Whitley- WRKO Boston's Talk Radio
  • The Howie Carr Show- WRKO Boston's Talk Radio

Print Media

  • Boston Herald-2x
  • Boston Globe-3x
  • Patriot Ledger-3x
  • The NewYork Times
  • The Washington Post
  • The Washington Post -- Online Q&A on the deaths of popes
  • Miami Herald
  • Ottowa Citizen
  • Kenyan Times
  • Countless College and University Newspapers

Jorge Mario Bergoglio of Argentina
Pope Francis I
May God Bless Pope Francis I!

Please feel free to contact Ms. Reardon directly via email at WJReardon@gmail.com, or by phone at 617.824.0349.

Click HERE for a Boston Globe interview with Wendy!

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