Pope Paul III and the Cultural Politics of Reform
Pope Paul III and the Cultural Politics of Reform
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Chapter 1 Humanism and Honour in the Making of Alessandro Farnese
Chapter 2 Pathways to Honour
Chapter 3 Tradition and Reform
Chapter 4 The Consilium and Reform Constrained
Chapter 5 Pax et Concordia - Politics and Reform
Chapter 6 The Ottoman Threat
Chapter 7 The Council of Trent
Chapter 8 Reform in the Twilight Years

Reviews and Features

"Cussen’s tome provides a much-needed biography of Paul III by examining the extant sources related to his life and pontificate. [...] Cussen has done the field a service by providing an assessable account of Paul III’s pontificate."
- John M. Hunt, Renaissance and Reformation, 43.4 (Fall 2021)

"[...] building on familiar terrain, Cussen has given us a stimulating work that seeks to reframe how we interpret Paul III and church reform at the end of the Renaissance. It should stimulate much discussion and debate among scholars and students of the Renaissance papacy and Catholic Reform."
- Paul Flemer, Renaissance Quarterly, Vol. 75, Iss. 3

Bryan Cussen

Pope Paul III and the Cultural Politics of Reform


When Paul III was elected in 1534, hopes arose across Christendom that this pope would at last reform and reunite the Church. During his fifteen-year reign, though, Paul's engagement with reform was complex and contentious. A work of cultural history, this book explores how cultural narratives of honour and tradition, including how honour played out in politics, significantly constrained Pope Paul and his chosen reformers in framing strategies for change. Indeed, the reformers' programme would have undermined the culture of honour and weakened Rome's capacity to ward off current threats of invasion. The study makes a provocative case that Paul called the Council of Trent to contain reform rather than promote it. Nevertheless, Paul and the Council did sow seeds of reform that eventually became central to the Counter-Reformation. This book thus sheds new light on a pope whose relationship to reform has long been regarded as an enigma.
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Bryan Cussen

Bryan Cussen is a Research Associate in the Centre for Medieval and Renaissance Studies at Monash University.