WHITE ROBE, BLACK ROBE: A Dual Biography of Leo X and Martin Luther by

WHITE ROBE, BLACK ROBE: A Dual Biography of Leo X and Martin Luther

Email this review


As a dramatic vehicle for the religious and moral issues of the Reformation -- Mee's two-in-one biography of Leo X -- the sumptuous pleasure-loving Pope -- and Martin Luther the guilt-ridden German professor of theology -- is hard to beat. Leo, son of Lorenzo the Magnificent, was a Medici who inherited all the cunning, the love of ostentation, and the insatiable dynastic ambition of his family. No biography of him has appeared since 1908. Mee fleshes him out grandly, evoking the ""heady swirl of music and verse and good wine and Cicero"" which surrounded the consummate Renaissance despot who patronized Michelangelo and Raphael and freely assassinated his political enemies in and out of the College of Cardinals. Against the backdrop of warring Italian city-states Leo's inability to comprehend how the far off ""theological nit-picking"" of an obscure German monk could threaten his temporal power becomes almost poignant. Luther, of course, has been dealt with extensively and Mee doesn't really add much to what we already know. In fact he incorporates Erik Erikson's psychoanalysis of young man Luther wholesale, extending it only to point out that the revolt against the tyrannical father ultimately became an assault on the Pope -- il papa. Luther's scatology is inadequately dealt with as is the political situation in Germany on which the success of the Reformation ultimately depended. By juxtapositioning the two great adversaries Mee has broken no new scholarly ground but he has maximized the theatrical potential of the thunderous conflict between ""the archetypal establishmentarian and the archetypal revolutionary.

Pub Date: May 23rd, 1972
Publisher: Putnam