Although cardinals have been a highly visible part of the Vatican for thirteen centuries, surprisingly little has been written about these "papal princes" of the Roman Catholic Church. They are the "nearly men" of Catholicism, who might have become pope, but in most cases didn't, and instead wielded their power behind the papal throne.
In this informative and entertaining history, Catholic insider Michael Walsh traces the origins and growth of the cardinal office and tells the stories of more than sixty of the most notable men to wear the red cap. Here are kingmakers, scholars, pastors, soldiers, and statesmen; venial rogues and bona fide saints; brothers, sons, even husbands and fathers -- and those remembered simply for their faithful care of the souls entrusted to them.
Read more about the book in a blog post by Walsh on EerdWord
"Walsh, author of many books on the Catholic Church, now supplies readers with two- to three-page biographies of over 60 men who have held the office of cardinal. His introduction provides a brief but thorough and well-sourced history of the office and its origins. But the biographies are the centerpiece, including men from the 11th through the 20th century. However, rather than in chronological order, the biographies are arranged thematically, grouping together cardinals who have had similar experiences or shared particular characteristics, with Walsh briefly explaining the reasoning behind these groupings, such as cardinals who were also soldiers, cardinals who almost became popes, and cardinals who were scholars.
Walsh's work provides an excellent overview of the office of cardinal and an informative account of the men who have thus served the pope. Recommended especially for students of the ecclesiastical history of the Church."
James Martin, S.J.
— author of The Jesuit Guide to (Almost) Everything
"With his trademark gifts of beautiful prose, vast learning, and a decided flair for storytelling, Walsh leads us through the lives of the redoubtable clerics who won their 'red hats,' and in the process became at times saints, and at times quite the opposite. The Cardinals is that rare book that helps you to see church history in a surprising new light."
J. Robert Wright
— Historiographer of the Episcopal Church
"It is no understatement to say that this book makes for an interesting read that is also factually reliable, highly informative, and often surprising."
— Acton Institute
"Variously scandalous, edifying, and informative, The Cardinals is more than a series of intriguing biographies; it is a seminar in the history of Christianity."