Like the finest medieval tapestry, this narrative history masterfully weaves together the sweeping events surrounding what has become known as the "Babylonian captivity" of the popes into the broader story of 14th-century Europe--one of the most turbulent times in the continent's history. It was a time of fear, ferocity, and religious agony, which saw the suppression of the Knights Templar and the Cathars. This century also marked the first onslaught of the plague, the beginning of the Hundred Years' War and produced great writers and artists in the western tradition, including Giotto, Boccaccio, Petrarch, and Chaucer. Central to this period was the movement of the papal seat from Rome to Avignon in the south of France, where seven successive popes held power from 1309 to 1377. The drama, intrigue, and tumult associated with the papacy in exile forms the perfect lens through which to clearly see a Europe making the transition from the Middle Ages to the Renaissance.