To Kidnap a Pope Napoleon and Pius VII Ambrogio A. Caiani

Publication date:
13 Apr 2021
Yale University Press
376 pages: 235 x 156mm
16 color illus.
Sales territories:

Buy this eBook

You can purchase this title from a number of online retailers:

A groundbreaking account of Napoleon Bonaparte, Pope Pius VII, and the kidnapping that would forever divide church and state

In the wake of the French Revolution, Napoleon Bonaparte, First Consul of France, and Pope Pius VII shared a common goal: to reconcile the church with the state. But while they were able to work together initially, formalizing an agreement in 1801, relations between them rapidly deteriorated. In 1809, Napoleon ordered the Pope’s arrest.

Ambrogio Caiani provides a pioneering account of the tempestuous relationship between the emperor and his most unyielding opponent. Drawing on original findings in the Vatican and other European archives, Caiani uncovers the nature of Catholic resistance against Napoleon’s empire; charts Napoleon’s approach to Papal power; and reveals how the Emperor attempted to subjugate the church to his vision of modernity. Gripping and vivid, this book shows the struggle for supremacy between two great individuals—and sheds new light on the conflict that would shape relations between the Catholic church and the modern state for centuries to come.

Ambrogio A. Caiani is senior lecturer in modern European history at the University of Kent. He is the author of Louis XVI and the French Revolution 1789-1792.

“We can now see clearly that industrialisation, secularism and the emergent nation-state spelt not the end of religious faith, but rather its transformation into a political force in its own right...But it was the Catholic church and its response to the French Revolution that paved the way. To Kidnap a Pope tells the story of this epic struggle.”—Mark Mazower, Financial Times

“Caiani relates this dramatic story in telling detail but never loses sight of the broader picture, and uses his archival discoveries to excellent effect. The result is both an exciting narrative and a fine work of scholarship, shedding new light on Napoleonic history and that of the modern Catholic Church.”—Munro Price, Literary Review

“Caiani uses newfound research from the Vatican Archives and isn’t afraid to provide readers with the unusual conclusion that neither Napoleon nor Pope Pius emerge as the victor of the decade-long confrontation.”—Eleanor Longman-Rood, Reaction


"Ambrogio Caiani gives us a bold, provocative new assessment of the French Emperor and his relationship with the Catholic Church. In gripping, vivid prose, Caiani brings to life the struggle for power that would shape modern Europe. It all makes for a historical read which is both original and enjoyable."—Antonia Fraser, author of Marie Antoinette

‘The decade-long struggle between Napoleon and Pope Pius VII is one of the great dramas of the revolutionary era, but remains little-known. Now, and for the first time in English, Ambrogio Caiani recounts this riveting story in full – and offers insight into one of the great conflicts that has shaped, and continues to shape, the modern world, the rivalry between religion and the state.’—Munro Price, author of Napoleon: The End of Glory

‘A riveting and compelling account of how the soft power of the Pope proved more durable than the military might of Napoleon.’—Tim Blanning, author of The Pursuit of Glory

‘An outstanding milestone. The relations between Napoleon and Pope Pius VII have never been examined in such detail before. Ambrogio Caiani takes Napoleon away from the battlefield to show him grappling with the Catholic Church, in what he admitted was the most difficult problem he ever faced. This beautifully written book will now be the essential guide to understanding why and how the greatest soldier of modern times failed to subdue a pope.’—William Doyle, author of The Oxford History of the French Revolution