History Of The Catholic Church
First Christian Pentecost; descent of the Holy Spirit upon the disciples;
preaching of St. Peter in Jerusalem; conversion, baptism and aggregation of some
3,000 persons to the first Christian community.
St. Stephen, deacon,
was stoned to death at Jerusalem; he is venerated as the first Christian martyr.
St. Paul, formerly Saul the persecutor of Christians, was converted and
baptized. After three years of solitude in the desert, he joined the college of
the apostles; he made three major missionary journeys and became known as the
Apostle to the Gentiles; he was imprisoned twice in Rome and was beheaded there
between 64 and 67.
Cornelius (the Gentile) and his family were baptized by St. Peter; a significant
event signaling the mission of the Church to all peoples.
Christians in Palestine broke out during the rule of Herod Agrippa; St. James
the Greater, the first apostle to die, was beheaded in 44; St. Peter was
imprisoned for a short time; many Christians fled to Antioch, marking the
beginning of the dispersion of Christians beyond the confines of Palestine. At
Antioch, the followers of Christ were called Christians for the first time.
Christians at Rome,
considered members of a Jewish sect, were adversely affected by a decree of
Claudius which forbade Jewish worship there.
The Council of Jerusalem, in which all the apostles participated under the
presidency of St. Peter, decreed that circumcision, dietary regulations, and
various other prescriptions of Mosaic Law were not obligatory for Gentile
converts to the Christian community. The crucial decree was issued in opposition
to Judaizers who contended that observance of the Mosaic Law in its entirety was
necessary for salvation.
Persecution broke out at Rome under Nero, the emperor said to have accused
Christians of starting the fire which destroyed half of Rome.
64 or 67:
Martyrdom of St. Peter at Rome during the Neronian persecution. He established
his see and spent his last years there after preaching in and around Jerusalem,
establishing a see at Antioch, and presiding at the Council of Jerusalem.
Destruction of Jerusalem by Titus.
Pontificate of St. Clement I, third successor of St. Peter as bishop of Rome,
one of the Apostolic Fathers. The First Epistle of Clement to the Corinthians,
with which he has been identified, was addressed by the Church of Rome to the
Church at Corinth, the scene of irregularities and divisions in the Christian
Christians, principally at Rome.
Death of St. John, apostle and evangelist, marking the end of the Age of the
Apostles and the first generation of the Church.
By the end of the
century, Antioch, Alexandria and Ephesus in the East and Rome in the West were
established centers of Christian population and influence.
St. Ignatius of Antioch was martyred at Rome. He was the first writer to use the
expression, “the Catholic Church.”
Emperor Trajan, in a
rescript to Pliny the Younger, governor of Bithynia, instructed him not to
search out Christians but to punish them if they were publicly denounced and
refused to do homage to the Roman gods. This rescript set a pattern for Roman
magistrates in dealing with Christians.
Persecution under Hadrian. Many Acts of Martyrs date from this period.
Spread of Gnosticism, a combination of elements of Platonic philosophy and
Eastern mystery religions. Its adherents claimed that its secret-knowledge
principle provided a deeper insight into Christian doctrine than divine
revelation and faith. One gnostic thesis denied the divinity of Christ; others
denied the reality of his humanity, calling it mere appearance (Docetism,
Excommunication of Marcion, bishop and heretic, who claimed that there was total
opposition and no connection at all between the Old Testament and the New
Testament, between the God of the Jews and the God of the Christians; and that
the Canon (list of inspired writings) of the Bible consisted only of parts of
St. Luke’s Gospel and 10 letters of St. Paul. Marcionism was checked at Rome by
200 and was condemned by a council held there about 260, but the heresy
persisted for several centuries in the East and had some adherents as late as
the Middle Ages.
St. Polycarp, bishop of Smyrna and disciple of St. John the Evangelist, was
Beginning of Montanism, a form of religious extremism. Its principal tenets were
the imminent second coming of Christ, denial of the divine nature of the Church
and its power to forgive sin, and excessively rigorous morality. The heresy,
preached by Montanus of Phrygia and others, was condemned by Pope St. Zephyrinus
Reign of Marcus Aurelius. His persecution, launched in the wake of natural
disasters, was more violent than those of his predecessors.
St. Justin, an important early Christian writer, was martyred at Rome.
St. Irenaeus, bishop of Lyons and one of the great early theologians, wrote
Adversus Haereses. He stated that the teaching and tradition of the Roman
See was the standard for belief.
Controversy, concerning the day of celebration — a Sunday, according to practice
in the West, or the 14th of the month of Nisan (in the Hebrew calendar), no
matter what day of the week, according to practice in the East. The controversy
was not resolved at this time.
whose extant form dates from the second century, is an important record of
Christian belief, practice and governance in the first century.
Latin was introduced
as a liturgical language in the West. Other liturgical languages were Aramaic
School of Alexandria, founded about the middle of the century, gained increasing
influence on doctrinal study and instruction, and interpretation of the Bible.
under Septimius Severus, who wanted to establish a simple common religion in the
a convert since 197 and the first great ecclesiastical writer in Latin, joined
the heretical Montanists; he died in 230.
of Clement of Alexandria, teacher of Origen and a founding father of the School
St. Hippolytus, the first antipope; he was reconciled to the Church while in
prison during persecution in 235.
Origen established the School of Caesarea after being deposed in 231 as head of
the School of Alexandria; he died in 254. A scholar and voluminous writer, he
was one of the founders of systematic theology and exerted wide influence for
Manichaeism originated in Persia: a combination of errors based on the
assumption that two supreme principles (good and evil) are operative in creation
and life, and that the supreme objective of human endeavor is liberation from
evil (matter). The heresy denied the humanity of Christ, the sacramental system,
the authority of the Church (and state), and endorsed a moral code which
threatened the fabric of society. In the 12th and 13th centuries, it took on the
features of Albigensianism and Catharism.
Persecution under Decius. Many of those who denied the faith (lapsi)
sought readmission to the Church at the end of the persecution in 251. Pope St.
Cornelius agreed with St. Cyprian that lapsi were to be readmitted to the
Church after satisfying the requirements of appropriate penance. Antipope
Novatian, on the other hand, contended that persons who fell away from the
Church under persecution and/or those guilty of serious sin after baptism could
not be absolved and readmitted to communion with the Church. The heresy was
condemned by a Roman synod in 251.
Neo-Platonism of Plotinus and Porphyry gained followers.
an antipope, was condemned at Rome.
St. Stephen I upheld the validity of baptism properly administered by heretics,
in the Rebaptism Controversy.
under Valerian, who attempted to destroy the Church as a social structure.
Cyprian, bishop of Carthage, was martyred.
St. Lucian founded the School of Antioch, a center of influence on biblical
Pope St. Dionysius
condemned Sabellianism, a form of modalism (like Monarchianism and
Patripassianism). The heresy contended that the Father, Son and Holy Spirit are
not distinct divine persons but are only three different modes of being and
self-manifestations of the one God.
St. Paul of Thebes
became a hermit.
Gallienus issued an
edict of toleration which ended general persecution for nearly 40 years.
Diocletian divided the Roman Empire into East and West. The division emphasized
political, cultural and other differences between the two parts of the Empire
and influenced different developments in the Church in the East and West. The
prestige of Rome began to decline.
broke out under Diocletian; it was particularly violent in 304.
Anthony of Heracles established a foundation for hermits near the Red Sea in
The first local legislation on clerical celibacy was enacted by a council held
at Elvira, Spain; bishops, priests, deacons and other ministers were forbidden
to have wives.
edict of toleration issued by Galerius at the urging of Constantine the Great
and Licinius officially ended persecution in the West; some persecution
continued in the East.
Edict of Milan issued by Constantine and Licinius recognized Christianity as a
lawful religion in the Roman Empire.
council of Arles condemned Donatism, declaring that baptism properly
administered by heretics is valid, in view of the principle that sacraments have
their efficacy from Christ, not from the spiritual condition of their human
ministers. The heresy was condemned again by a council of Carthage in 411.
Pachomius established the first foundation of the cenobitic (common) life, as
compared with the solitary life of hermits in Upper Egypt.
Council of Nicaea (I). Its principal action was the condemnation of Arianism,
the most devastating of the early heresies, which denied the divinity of Christ.
The heresy was authored by Arius of Alexandria, a priest. Arians and several
kinds of Semi-Arians propagandized their tenets widely, established their own
hierarchies and churches, and raised havoc in the Church for several centuries.
The council contributed to formulation of the Nicene Creed (Creed of
Nicaea-Constantinople); fixed the date for the observance of Easter; passed
regulations concerning clerical discipline; adopted the civil divisions of the
Empire as the model for the jurisdictional organization of the Church.
the support of St. Helena, the True Cross on which Christ was crucified was
and death of Constantine.
Beginning of a 40-year persecution in Persia.
A council of Sardica reaffirmed doctrine formulated by Nicaea I and declared
also that bishops had the right of appeal to the pope as the highest authority
in the Church.
Emperor Julian the Apostate waged an unsuccessful campaign against the Church in
an attempt to restore paganism as the religion of the Empire.
Persecution of orthodox Christians under Emperor Valens in the East.
Beginning of the barbarian invasion in the West.
of St. Basil, the Father of Monasticism in the East. His writings contributed
greatly to the development of rules for the life of Religious.
Council of Constantinople (I). It condemned various brands of Arianism as well
as Macedonianism, which denied the divinity of the Holy Spirit; contributed to
formulation of the Nicene Creed; approved a canon acknowledging Constantinople
as the second see after Rome in honor and dignity.
Canon of Sacred Scripture, the official list of the inspired books of the Bible,
was contained in the Decree of Pope St. Damasus and published by a regional
council of Carthage in 397; the Canon was formally defined by the Council of
Trent in the 16th century.
St. Jerome translated the Old and New Testaments into Latin; his work is called
the Vulgate version of the Bible.
Augustine became bishop of Hippo in North Africa.
under Alaric sacked Rome and the last Roman legions departed Britain. The
decline of imperial Rome dates approximately from this time.
Augustine, bishop of Hippo for 35 years, died. He was a strong defender of
orthodox doctrine against Manichaeism, Donatism and Pelagianism. The depth and
range of his writings made him a dominant influence in Christian thought for
Council of Ephesus. It condemned Nestorianism, which denied the unity of the
divine and human natures in the Person of Christ; defined Theotokos (Bearer of
God) as the title of Mary, Mother of the Son of God made Man; condemned
Pelagianism. The heresy of Pelagianism, proceeding from the assumption that Adam
had a natural right to supernatural life, held that man could attain salvation
through the efforts of his natural powers and free will; it involved errors
concerning the nature of original sin, the meaning of grace and other matters.
Related Semi-Pelagianism was condemned by a council of Orange in 529.
Patrick arrived in Ireland. By the time of his death in 461 most of the country
had been converted, monasteries founded and the hierarchy established.
Theodosian Code, a compilation of decrees for the Empire, was issued by
Theodosius II; it had great influence on subsequent civil and ecclesiastical
Council of Chalcedon. Its principal action was the condemnation of Mono-physitism
(also called Eutychianism), which denied the humanity of Christ by holding that
he had only one, the divine, nature.
St. Leo the Great persuaded Attila the Hun to spare Rome.
455: Vandals under Geiseric sacked Rome.
Acacius of Constantinople was excommunicated for signing the Henoticon, a
document which capitulated to the Monophysite heresy. The excommunication
triggered the Acacian Schism which lasted for 35 years.
St. Gelasius I declared in a letter to Emperor Anastasius that the pope had
power and authority over the emperor in spiritual matters.
King of the Franks, was converted and became the defender of Christianity in the
West. The Franks became a Catholic people.
monasteries flourished as centers for spiritual life, missionary training, and
Second Council of Orange condemned Semi-Pelagianism.
St. Benedict founded the Monte Cassino Abbey. Some years before his death in 543
he wrote a monastic rule which exercised tremendous influence on the form and
style of religious life. He is called the Father of Monasticism in the West.
II became the first pope to change his name. The practice did not become general
until the time of Sergius IV (1009).
Emperor Justinian promulgated the Corpus Iuris Civilis for the Roman
world; like the Theodosian Code, it influenced subsequent civil and
Death of Dionysius
Exiguus who was the first to date history from the birth of Christ, a practice
which resulted in use of the B.C. and A.D. abbreviations. His calculations were
at least four years late.
Council of Constantinople (II). It condemned the Three Chapters,
Nestorian-tainted writings of Theodore of Mopsuestia, Theodoret of Cyrus and
Ibas of Edessa.
Columban founded an influential monastic school at Luxeuil.
most important of several councils of Toledo was held. The Visigoths renounced
Arianism, and St. Leander began the organization of the Church in Spain.
Pontificate of Pope St. Gregory I the Great. He set the form and style of the
papacy which prevailed throughout the Middle Ages; exerted great influence on
doctrine and liturgy; was strong in support of monastic discipline and clerical
celibacy; authored writings on many subjects. Gregorian Chant is named in his
St. Gregory I sent St. Augustine of Canterbury and 40 monks to do missionary
work in England.
Columba died. He founded an important monastery at Iona, established schools and
did notable missionary work in Scotland. By the end of the century, monasteries
of nuns were common; Western monasticism was flourishing; monasticism in the
East, under the influence of Monophysitism and other factors, was losing its
Columban established the influential monastery of Bobbio in northern Italy; he
died there in 615.
Hegira (flight) of Mohammed from Mecca to Medina signalled the beginning
of Islam which, by the end of the century, claimed almost all of the southern
Eastern Emperor, recovered the True Cross from the Persians.
Lateran council condemned two erroneous formulas (Ecthesis and Type) issued by
emperors Heraclius and Constans II as means of reconciling Monophysites with the
of the Synod of Whitby advanced the adoption of Roman usages in England,
especially regarding the date for the observance of Easter. (See Easter
Ecumenical Council of Constantinople (III). It condemned Monothelitism, which
held that Christ had only one will, the divine; censured Pope Honorius I for a
letter to Sergius, bishop of Constantinople, in which he made an ambiguous but
not infallible statement about the unity of will and/or operation in Christ.
Trullan Synod. Eastern-Church discipline on clerical celibacy was settled,
permitting marriage before ordination to the diaconate and continuation in
marriage afterwards, but prohibiting marriage following the death of the wife
thereafter. Anti-Roman canons contributed to East-West alienation.
During the century,
the monastic influence of Ireland and England increased in Western Europe;
schools and learning declined; regulations regarding clerical celibacy became
more strict in the East.
began the conquest of Spain.
Leo III, the Isaurian, launched a campaign against the veneration of sacred
images and relics; called Iconoclasm (image-breaking), it caused turmoil in the
East until about 843.
Gregory III and a synod at Rome condemned Iconoclasm, with a declaration that
the veneration of sacred images was in accord with Catholic tradition.
Venerable Bede issued
his Ecclesiastical History of the English People.
Martel defeated the Muslims at Poitiers, halting their advance in the West.
Monastery of Fulda was established by St. Sturmi, a disciple of St. Boniface; it
was influential in the evangelization of Germany.
council of more than 300 Byzantine bishops endorsed Iconoclast errors. This
council and its actions were condemned by the Lateran synod of 769.
Stephen II (III)
crowned Pepin ruler of the Franks. Pepin twice invaded Italy, in 754 and 756, to
defend the pope against the Lombards. His land grants to the papacy, called the
Donation of Pepin, were later extended by Charlemagne (773) and formed part of
the States of the Church.
St. Boniface (Winfrid) was martyred. He was called the Apostle of Germany for
his missionary work and organization of the hierarchy there.
was chosen by Charlemagne to organize a palace school, which became a center of
Council of Nicaea (II). It condemned Iconoclasm, which held that the use of
images was idolatry, and Adoptionism, which claimed that Christ was not the Son
of God by nature but only by adoption. This was the last council regarded as
ecumenical by Orthodox Churches.
council at Ratisbon condemned Adoptionism.
The famous Book of
Kells (“The Great Gospel of Columcille”) dates from the early eighth or late
was crowned Emperor by Pope Leo III on Christmas Day.
Egbert became king of
West Saxons; he unified England and strengthened the See of Canterbury.
Leo V, the Armenian, revived Iconoclasm, which persisted until about 843.
Treaty of Verdun split the Frankish kingdom among Charlemagne’s three grandsons.
Eucharistic controversy involving the writings of St. Paschasius Radbertus,
Ratramnus and Rabanus Maurus occasioned the development of terminology regarding
the doctrine of the Real Presence.
invaded Italy and attacked Rome.
Period of composition of the False Decretals, a collection of forged documents
attributed to popes from St. Clement (88-97) to Gregory II (714-731). The
Decretals, which strongly supported the autonomy and rights of bishops, were
suspect for a long time before being repudiated entirely about 1628.
Council of Mainz condemned Gottschalk for heretical teaching regarding
predestination. He was also condemned by the Council of Quierzy in 853.
displaced Ignatius as patriarch of Constantinople. This marked the beginning of
the Photian Schism, a confused state of East-West relations which has not yet
been cleared up by historical research. Photius, a man of exceptional ability,
died in 891.
Ansgar, apostle of Scandinavia, died.
Cyril died and his brother, St. Methodius (d. 885), was ordained a bishop. The
Apostles of the Slavs devised an alphabet and translated the Gospels and liturgy
into the Slavonic language.
Ecumenical Council of Constantinople (IV). It issued a second condemnation of
Iconoclasm, condemned and deposed Photius as patriarch of Constantinople and
restored Ignatius to the patriarchate. This was the last ecumenical council held
in the East. It was first called ecumenical by canonists toward the end of the
Reign of Alfred the Great, the only English king ever anointed by a pope at
William, duke of
Aquitaine, founded the Benedictine Abbey of Cluny, which became a center of
monastic and ecclesiastical reform, especially in France.
John X played a leading role in the expulsion of Saracens from central and
Olga, of the Russian royal family, was baptized.
I, the Great, crowned by Pope John XII, revived Charlemagne’s kingdom, which
became the Holy Roman Empire.
first of a royal line in Poland, was baptized; he brought Latin Christianity to
and baptism of St. Vladimir and the people of Kiev which subsequently became
part of Russia.
XV was the first pope to decree the official canonization of a saint — Bishop
Ulrich (Uldaric) of Augsburg — for the universal Church.
Stephen became ruler of Hungary. He assisted in organizing the hierarchy and
establishing Latin Christianity in that country.
999-1003: Pontificate of Sylvester II (Gerbert of Aquitaine), a Benedictine monk and the first French pope.
Beginning of lasting
East-West Schism in the Church, marked by dropping of the name of Pope Sergius
IV from the Byzantine diptychs (the listing of persons prayed for during the
liturgy). The deletion was made by Patriarch Sergius II of Constantinople.
St. Romuald founded the Camaldolese Hermits.
The Council of Arras,
and other councils later, condemned the Cathari (Neo-Manichaeans, Albigenses).
The Council of Elne
proclaimed the Truce of God as a means of stemming violence; it involved
armistice periods of varying length, which were later extended.
St. John Gualbert founded the Vallombrosians.
Constantinople patriarchate of Michael Cerularius, the key figure in a
controversy concerning the primacy of the papacy. His and the Byzantine synod’s
refusal to acknowledge this primacy in 1054 widened and hardened the East-West
Schism in the Church.
Pope Clement II died; he
was the only pope ever buried in Germany.
Pontificate of St. Leo IX, who inaugurated a movement of papal, diocesan,
monastic and clerical reform.
Start of the Great Schism between the Eastern and Western Churches; it marked
the separation of Orthodox Churches from unity with the pope.
Condemnation of the
Eucharistic doctrine of Berengarius.
A Lateran council issued
new legislation regarding papal elections; voting power was entrusted to the
Death of St. Edward the Confessor, king of England from 1042 and restorer of
Defeat, at Hastings, of
Harold by William, Duke of Normandy (later William I), who subsequently exerted
strong influence on the life-style of the Church in England.
Pontificate of St. Gregory VII (Hildebrand). A strong pope, he carried forward
programs of clerical and general ecclesiastical reform and struggled against
German King Henry IV and other rulers to end the evils of lay investiture. He
introduced the Latin liturgy in Spain and set definite dates for the observance
of ember days.
Henry IV, excommunicated
and suspended from the exercise of imperial powers by Gregory VII, sought
absolution from the pope at Canossa. Henry later repudiated this action and in
1084 forced Gregory to leave Rome.
The Council of Rome condemned Eucharistic errors (denial of the Real Presence of
Christ under the appearances of bread and wine) of Berengarius, who retracted.
St. Bruno founded the
The first of several Crusades undertaken between this time and 1265. Recovery of
the Holy Places and gaining free access to them for Christians were the original
purposes, but these were diverted to less worthy objectives in various ways.
Results included: a Latin Kingdom of Jerusalem, 1099-1187; a military and
political misadventure in the form of a Latin Empire of Constantinople,
1204-1261; acquisition, by treaties, of visiting rights for Christians in the
Holy Land. East-West economic and cultural relationships increased during the
period. In the religious sphere, actions of the Crusaders had the effect of
increasing the alienation of the East from the West.
St. Robert founded the
Beginnings of the
influential Abbey and School of St. Victor in France.
St. Bernard established the Abbey of Clairvaux and inaugurated the Cistercian
Christian forces captured Saragossa, Spain; the beginning of the Muslim decline
in that country.
St. Norbert established
the original monastery of the Praemonstratensians near Laon, France.
The Concordat of Worms (Pactum
Callixtinum) was formulated and approved by Pope Callistus II and Emperor
Henry V to settle controversy concerning the investiture of prelates. The
concordat provided that the emperor could invest prelates with symbols of
temporal authority but had no right to invest them with spiritual authority,
which came from the Church alone, and that the emperor was not to interfere in
papal elections. This was the first concordat in history.
Ecumenical Council of
the Lateran (I), the first of its kind in the West. It endorsed provisions of
the Concordat of Worms concerning the investiture of prelates and approved
reform measures in 25 canons.
Ecumenical Council of
the Lateran (II). It adopted measures against a schism organized by antipope
Anacletus and approved 30 canons related to discipline and other matters; one of
the canons stated that holy orders is an invalidating impediment to marriage.
St. Bernard met Abelard in debate at the Council of Sens. Abelard, whose
rationalism in theology was condemned for the first time in 1121, died in 1142
The Synod of Rheims
enacted strict disciplinary decrees for communities of women Religious.
The Synod of Kells
reorganized the Church in Ireland.
Decretum became a basic text of canon law, died.
Peter Lombard, compiler
of the Four Books of Sentences, a standard theology text for nearly 200 years,
St. Thomas Becket, archbishop of Canterbury, who clashed with Henry II over
church-state relations, was murdered in his cathedral.
Pope Alexander III
reserved the process of canonization of saints to the Holy See.
Ecumenical Council of the Lateran (III). It enacted measures against
Waldensianism and Albigensianism (see year 242 regarding Manichaeism), approved
reform decrees in 27 canons, provided that popes be elected by a two-thirds vote
of the cardinals.
Waldenses and other heretics were excommunicated by Pope Lucius III.
Pontificate of Innocent III, during which the papacy reached its medieval peak
of authority, influence and prestige in the Church and in relations with civil
Innocent III called for
a crusade, the first in Christendom itself, against the Albigensians; their
beliefs and practices threatened the fabric of society in southern France and
Verbal approval was
given by Innocent III to a rule of life for the Order of Friars Minor, started
by St. Francis of Assisi.
The Second Order of
Franciscans, the Poor Clares, was founded.
Ecumenical Council of
the Lateran (IV). It ordered annual reception of the sacraments of penance and
the Eucharist; defined and made the first official use of the term
transubstantiation to explain the change of bread and wine into the body and
blood of Christ; adopted additional measures to counteract teachings and
practices of the Albigensians and Cathari; approved 70 canons.
Formal papal approval
was given to a rule of life for the Order of Preachers, started by St. Dominic.
Indulgence was granted by the Holy See at the request of St. Francis of Assisi.
Rule of the Third Order
Secular of St. Francis (Secular Franciscan Order) approved verbally by Honorius
Death of St. Francis of
Pope Gregory IX
authorized establishment of the Papal Inquisition for dealing with heretics. It
was a creature of its time, when crimes against faith and heretical doctrines of
extremists like the Cathari and Albigenses threatened the good of the Christian
community, the welfare of the state and the very fabric of society. The
institution, which was responsible for excesses in punishment, was most active
in the second half of the century in southern France, Italy and Germany.
Ecumenical Council of
Lyons (I). It confirmed the deposition of Emperor Frederick II and approved 22
Preliminary approval was
given by the Holy See to a Carmelite rule of life.
St. Louis IX, king of France, died.
Beginning of papal
Ecumenical Council of
Lyons (II). It accomplished a temporary reunion of separated Eastern Churches
with the Roman Church; issued regulations concerning conclaves for papal
elections; approved 31 canons.
Death of St. Thomas
Aquinas, Doctor of the Church, of lasting influence.
Pope Nicholas III, who
made the Breviary the official prayer book for clergy of the Roman Church, died.
The excommunication of Michael Palaeologus by Pope Martin IV ruptured the union
effected with the Eastern Church in 1274.
Pope Boniface VIII
issued the bull Unam Sanctam, concerning the unity of the Church and the
temporal power of princes, against the background of a struggle with Philip IV
of France; it was the most famous medieval document on the subject.
For a period of approximately 70 years, seven popes resided at Avignon because
of unsettled conditions in Rome and other reasons; see separate entry.
Ecumenical Council of Vienne. It suppressed the Knights Templar and enacted a
number of reform decrees.
Dante Alighieri died a
year after completing the Divine Comedy.
Marsilius of Padua
completed Defensor Pacis, a work condemned by Pope John XXII as heretical
because of its denial of papal primacy and the hierarchical structure of the
Church, and for other reasons. It was a charter for conciliarism (an ecumenical
council is superior to the pope in authority).
Period of the Hundred Years’ War, a dynastic struggle between France and
Four years after the
death of Pope John XXII, who had opposed Louis IV of Bavaria in a years-long
controversy, electoral princes declared at the Diet of Rhense that the emperor
did not need papal confirmation of his title and right to rule. Charles IV later
(1356) said the same thing in a Golden Bull, eliminating papal rights in
the election of emperors.
The Black Death swept across Europe, killing perhaps one-fourth to one-third of
the total population; an estimated 40 per cent of the clergy succumbed.
Petrarch, poet and
Return of the papacy
from Avignon to Rome.
Beginning of the Western Schism
The Council of Pisa,
without canonical authority, tried to end the Western Schism but succeeded only
in complicating it by electing a third claimant to the papacy; see Western
Ecumenical Council of Constance. It took successful action to end the Western
Schism involving rival claimants to the papacy; rejected the teachings of
Wycliff; condemned Hus as a heretic. One decree — passed in the earlier stages
of the council but later rejected — asserted the superiority of an ecumenical
council over the pope (conciliarism).
St. Joan of Arc was
burned at the stake.
Ecumenical Council of Florence (also called Basle-Ferrara-Florence). It affirmed
the primacy of the pope against the claims of conciliarists that an ecumenical
council is superior to the pope. It also formulated and approved decrees of
union with several separated Eastern Churches — Greek, Armenian, Jacobite —
which failed to gain general or lasting acceptance.
The Pragmatic Sanction
of Bourges was enacted by Charles VII and the French Parliament to curtail papal
authority over the Church in France, in the spirit of conciliarism. It found
expression in Gallicanism and had effects lasting at least until the French
The fall of
Constantinople to the Muslims.
Gutenberg issued the first edition of the Bible printed from movable type, at
Pope Sixtus IV approved
observance of the feast of the Immaculate Conception on Dec. 8 throughout the
Pope Sixtus IV, at the
urging of King Ferdinand of Spain, approved establishment of the Spanish
Inquisition for dealing with Jewish and Moorish converts accused of heresy. The
institution, which was peculiar to Spain and its colonies in America, acquired
jurisdiction over other cases as well and fell into disrepute because of its
procedures, cruelty and the manner in which it served the Spanish crown, rather
than the accused and the good of the Church. Protests by the Holy See failed to
curb excesses of the Inquisition, which lingered in Spanish history until early
in the 19th century.
Columbus discovered the
Pope Alexander VI issued
a Bull of Demarcation which determined spheres of influence for the Spanish and
Portuguese in the Americas.
The Renaissance, a
humanistic movement which originated in Italy in the 14th century, spread to
France, Germany, the Low Countries and England. A transitional period between
the medieval world and the modern secular world, it introduced profound changes
which affected literature and the other arts, general culture, politics and
Ecumenical Council of the Lateran (V). It stated the relation and position of
the pope with respect to an ecumenical council; acted to counteract the
Pragmatic Sanction of Bourges and exaggerated claims of liberty by the Church in
France; condemned erroneous teachings concerning the nature of the human soul;
stated doctrine concerning indulgences. The council reflected concern for abuses
in the Church and the need for reforms but failed to take decisive action in the
years immediately preceding the Reformation.
Martin Luther signaled
the beginning of the Reformation by posting 95 theses at Wittenberg.
Subsequently, he broke completely from doctrinal orthodoxy in discourses and
three published works (1519 and 1520); was excommunicated on more than 40
charges of heresy (1521); remained the dominant figure in the Reformation in
Germany until his death in 1546.
Zwingli triggered the Reformation in Zurich and became its leading proponent
there until his death in combat in 1531.
of German princes in putting down the two-year Peasants’ Revolt gained political
support for his cause.
The Order of Friars
Minor Capuchin was approved as an autonomous division of the Franciscan Order;
like the Jesuits, the Capuchins became leaders in the Counter-Reformation.
The Augsburg Confession
of Lutheran faith was issued; it was later supplemented by the Smalkaldic
Articles, approved in 1537.
Henry VIII divorced
Catherine of Aragon, married Anne Boleyn, was excommunicated. In 1534 he decreed
the Act of Supremacy, making the sovereign the head of the Church in England,
under which Sts. John Fisher and Thomas More were executed in 1535. Despite his
rejection of papal primacy and actions against monastic life in England, he
generally maintained doctrinal orthodoxy until his death in 1547.
John Calvin, leader of
the Reformation in Switzerland until his death in 1564, issued the first edition
of Institutes of the Christian Religion, which became the classical text of
Reformed (non-Lutheran) theology.
The constitutions of the
Society of Jesus (Jesuits), founded by St. Ignatius of Loyola, were approved.
Start of the 11-year
career of St. Francis Xavier as a missionary to the East Indies and Japan.
Ecumenical Council of Trent. It issued a great number of decrees concerning
doctrinal matters opposed by the Reformers, and mobilized the
Counter-Reformation. Definitions covered the Canon of the Bible, the rule of
faith, the nature of justification, grace, faith, original sin and its effects,
the seven sacraments, the sacrificial nature of the Mass, the veneration of
saints, use of sacred images, belief in purgatory, the doctrine of indulgences,
the jurisdiction of the pope over the whole Church. It initiated many reforms
for renewal in the liturgy and general discipline in the Church, the promotion
of religious instruction, the education of the clergy through the foundation of
seminaries, etc. Trent ranks with Vatican II as the greatest ecumenical council
held in the West.
The first Anglican Book
of Common Prayer was issued by Edward VI. Revised editions were published in
1552, 1559 and 1662 and later.
Start of the five-year
reign of Mary Tudor who tried to counteract actions of Henry VIII against the
Enactment of the Peace
of Augsburg, an arrangement of religious territorialism rather than toleration,
which recognized the existence of Catholicism and Lutheranism in the German
Empire and provided that citizens should adopt the religion of their respective
Beginning of the reign
(to 1603) of Queen Elizabeth I of England and Ireland, during which the Church
of England took on its definitive form.
Establishment of the
hierarchy of the Church of England, with the consecration of Matthew Parker as
archbishop of Canterbury.
The first text of the 39
Articles of the Church of England was issued. Also enacted were a new Act of
Supremacy and Oath of Succession to the English throne.
Elizabeth I was
excommunicated. Penal measures against Catholics subsequently became more
Defeat of the Turkish armada at Lepanto staved off the invasion of Eastern
The Formula of Concord,
the classical statement of Lutheran faith, was issued; it was, generally, a
Lutheran counterpart of the canons of the Council of Trent. In 1580, along with
other formulas of doctrine, it was included in the Book of Concord.
The Gregorian Calendar,
named for Pope Gregory XIII, was put into effect and was eventually adopted in
most countries: England delayed adoption until 1752.
The Gunpowder Plot, an
attempt by Catholic fanatics to blow up James I of England and the houses of
Parliament, resulted in an anti-Catholic Oath of Allegiance.
Death of Matteo Ricci,
outstanding Jesuit missionary to China, pioneer in cultural relations between
China and Europe.
Founding of the first
community of Visitation Nuns by Sts. Francis de Sales and Jane de Chantal.
Founding of the
Catholics were banned
Founding of the
Congregation of the Mission (Vincentians) by St. Vincent de Paul. He founded the
Sisters of Charity in 1633.
Death of Galileo,
scientist, who was censured by the Congregation of the Holy Office for
supporting the Copernican theory of the sun-centered planetary system. The case
against him was closed in his favor in 1992.
Founding of the
Sulpicians by Jacques Olier.
Start of publication of
the Bollandist Acta Sanctorum, a critical work on lives of the saints.
Provisions in the Peace
of Westphalia, ending the Thirty Years’ War, extended terms of the Peace of
Augsburg (1555) to Calvinists and gave equality to Catholics and Protestants in
the 300 states of the Holy Roman Empire.
Oliver Cromwell invaded
Ireland and began a severe persecution of the Church there.
Pope Innocent X
condemned five propositions of Jansenism, a complex theory which distorted
doctrine concerning the relations between divine grace and human freedom.
Jansenism was also a rigoristic movement which seriously disturbed the Church in
France, the Low Countries and Italy in this and the 18th century.
The Test Act in England
barred from public office Catholics who would not deny the doctrine of
transubstantiation and receive Communion in the Church of England.
Many English Catholics
suffered death as a consequence of the Popish Plot, a false allegation by Titus
Oates that Catholics planned to assassinate Charles II, land a French army in
the country, burn London, and turn over the government to the Jesuits.
The four Gallican articles, drawn up by Bossuet, asserted political and
ecclesiastical immunities of France from papal control. The articles, which
rejected the primacy of the pope, were declared null and void by Pope Alexander
VIII in 1690.
The Toleration Act
granted a measure of freedom of worship to other English dissenters but not to
Chinese Rites —
involving the Christian adaptation of elements of Confucianism, veneration of
ancestors and Chinese terminology in religion — were condemned by Clement XI.
The Passionists were
founded by St. Paul of the Cross.
Persecution in China.
The Redemptorists were
founded by St. Alphonsus Liguori.
condemned by Clement XII and Catholics were forbidden to join, under penalty of
excommunication; the prohibition was repeated by Benedict XIV in 1751 and by
theory and system of state control of the Church, was initiated in Austria; it
remained in force until about 1850.
unorthodox theory and practice regarding the constitution of the Church and
relations between Church and state, was condemned for the first of several
times. Proposed by an auxiliary bishop of Trier using the pseudonym Justinus
Febronius, it had the effects of minimizing the office of the pope and
supporting national churches under state control.
Clement XIV issued a
brief of suppression against the Jesuits, following their expulsion from
Portugal in 1759, from France in 1764 and from Spain in 1767. Political intrigue
and unsubstantiated accusations were principal factors in these developments.
The ban, which crippled the society, contained no condemnation of the Jesuit
constitutions, particular Jesuits or Jesuit teaching. The society was restored
Catholics in England
were relieved of some civil disabilities dating back to the time of Henry VIII,
by an act which permitted them to acquire, own and inherit property. Additional
liberties were restored by the Roman Catholic Relief Act of 1791 and subsequent
enactments of Parliament.
Religious freedom in the
United States was guaranteed under the First Amendment to the Constitution.
Beginning of the French
Revolution which resulted in: the secularization of church property and the
Civil Constitution of the Clergy in 1790; the persecution of priests, religious
and lay persons loyal to papal authority; invasion of the Papal States by
Napoleon in 1796; renewal of persecution from 1797-1799; attempts to
dechristianize France and establish a new religion; the occupation of Rome by
French troops and the forced removal of Pius VI to France in 1798.
This century is called
the age of Enlightenment or Reason because of the predominating rational and
scientific approach of its leading philosophers, scientists and writers with
respect to religion, ethics and natural law. This approach downgraded the fact
and significance of revealed religion. Also characteristic of the Enlightenment
were subjectivism, secularism and optimism regarding human perfectibility.
Napoleon and Pope Pius VII is signed. It is soon violated by the Organic
Articles issued by Napoleon in 1802.
Napoleon crowns himself
Emperor of the French with Pope Pius in attendance.
1809: Pope Pius VII was made a captive by Napoleon and deported to France where he remained in exile until 1814. During this time he refused to cooperate with Napoleon who sought to bring the Church in France under his own control, and other leading cardinals were imprisoned.
The turbulence in
church-state relations in France at the beginning of the century recurred in
connection with the Bourbon Restoration, the July Revolution, the second and
third Republics, the Second Empire and the Dreyfus case.
The Society of Jesus, suppressed since 1773, was restored.
Reestablishment of the
Congregation for the Propagation of the Faith (Propaganda) by Pius VII was an
important factor in increasing missionary activity during the century.
during which thousands died for the faith, ended in China. Thereafter,
communication with the West remained cut off until about 1834. Vigorous
missionary work got under way in 1842.
The Pontifical Society for the Propagation of the Faith, inaugurated in France
by Pauline Jaricot for the support of missionary activity, was established.
Emancipation Act relieved Catholics in England and Ireland of most of the civil
disabilities to which they had been subject from the time of Henry VIII.
Gregory XVI, in the encyclical Mirari vos, condemned indifferentism, one
of the many ideologies at odds with Christian doctrine which were proposed
during the century.
Start of the Oxford
Movement which affected the Church of England and resulted in some notable
conversions, including that of John Henry Newman in 1845, to the Catholic
Bl. Frederic Ozanam
founded the Society of St. Vincent de Paul in France. The society’s objectives
are works of charity.
The Communist Manifesto, a revolutionary document symptomatic of
socio-economic crisis, was issued.
The hierarchy was
reestablished in England and Nicholas Wiseman made the first archbishop of
Westminster. He was succeeded in 1865 by Henry Manning, an Oxford convert and
proponent of the rights of labor.
The Catholic hierarchy
was reestablished in Holland.
Pius IX proclaimed the
dogma of the Immaculate Conception in the bull Ineffabilis Deus.
The Blessed Virgin Mary
appeared to St. Bernadette at Lourdes, France.
Pius IX issued the
encyclical Quanta cura and the Syllabus of Errors in condemnation
of some 80 propositions derived from the scientific mentality and rationalism of
the century. The subjects in question had deep ramifications in many areas of
thought and human endeavor; in religion, they explicitly and/or implicitly
rejected divine revelation and the supernatural order.
The first volume of
Das Kapital was published. Together with the Communist First International,
formed in the same year, it had great influence on the subsequent development of
communism and socialism.
The Anglican Church was
disestablished in Ireland.
Ecumenical Council of the Vatican (I). It defined papal primacy and
infallibility in a dogmatic constitution on the Church; covered natural
religion, revelation, faith, and the relations between faith and reason in a
dogmatic constitution on the Catholic faith.
Victor Emmanuel II of Sardinia, crowned king of Italy after defeating Austrian
and papal forces, marched into Rome in 1870 and expropriated the Papal States
after a plebiscite in which Catholics, at the order of Pius IX, did not vote. In
1871, Pius IX refused to accept a Law of Guarantees. Confiscation of church
property and hindrance of ecclesiastical administration by the regime followed.
The German Empire, a confederation of 26 states, was formed. Government policy
launched a Kulturkampf whose May Laws of 1873 were designed to annul
papal jurisdiction in Prussia and other states and to place the Church under
imperial control. Resistance to the enactments and the persecution they
legalized forced the government to modify its anti-Church policy by 1887.
Beginning of the
pontificate of Leo XIII, who was pope until his death in 1903. Leo is best known
for the encyclical Rerum novarum, which greatly influenced the course of
Christian social thought and the labor movement. His other accomplishments
included promotion of Scholastic philosophy and the impetus he gave to
The first International
Eucharistic Congress was held in Lille, France.
Alexander II of Russia
was assassinated. His policies of Russification — as well as those of his two
predecessors and a successor during the century — caused great suffering to
Catholics, Jews and Protestants in Poland, Lithuania, the Ukraine and Bessarabia.
Charles Darwin died. His
theory of evolution by natural selection, one of several scientific highlights
of the century, had extensive repercussions in the faith-and-science
The Catholic University
of America was founded in Washington, D.C.
The U.S. apostolic
delegation was set up in Washington, D.C.
Restrictive measures in France forced the Jesuits, Benedictines, Carmelites and
other religious orders to leave the country. Subsequently, 14,000 schools were
suppressed; religious orders and congregations were expelled; the concordat was
renounced in 1905; church property was confiscated in 1906. For some years the
Holy See, refusing to comply with government demands for the control of bishops’
appointments, left some ecclesiastical offices vacant.
Pontificate of St. Pius X. He initiated the codification of canon law, 1904;
removed the ban against participation by Catholics in Italian national
elections, 1905; issued decrees calling upon the faithful to receive Holy
Communion frequently and daily, and stating that children should begin receiving
the Eucharist at the age of seven, 1905 and 1910, respectively; ordered the
establishment of the Confraternity of Christian Doctrine in all parishes
throughout the world, 1905; condemned Modernism in the decree Lamentabili
and the encyclical Pascendi, 1907.
The United States and
England, long under the jurisdiction of the Congregation for the Propagation of
the Faith as mission territories, were removed from its control and placed under
the common law of the Church.
Laws of separation were enacted in Portugal, marking a point of departure in
The Catholic Foreign Mission Society of America — Maryknoll, the first
U.S.-founded society of its type — was established.
Start of World War I,
which lasted until 1918.
Pontificate of Benedict XV. Much of his pontificate was devoted to seeking ways
and means of minimizing the material and spiritual havoc of World War I. In 1917
he offered his services as a mediator to the belligerent nations, but his pleas
for settlement of the conflict went unheeded.
The Blessed Virgin Mary
appeared to three children at Fatima, Portugal.
A new constitution,
embodying repressive laws against the Church, was enacted in Mexico. Its
implementation resulted in persecution in the 1920s and 1930s.
Bolsheviks seized power
in Russia and set up a communist dictatorship. The event marked the rise of
communism in Russian and world affairs. One of its immediate, and lasting,
results was persecution of the Church, Jews and other segments of the
The Code of Canon Law,
in preparation for more than 10 years, went into effect in the Western Church.
Benedict XV stimulated
missionary work through the decree Maximum Illud, in which he urged the
recruiting and training of native clergy in places where the Church was not
Ireland was partitioned by two enactments of the British government which (1)
made the six counties of Northern Ireland part of the United Kingdom in 1920 and
(2) gave dominion status to the Irish Free State in 1922. The Irish Free State
became an independent republic in 1949.
Pontificate of Pius XI. He subscribed to the Lateran Treaty, 1929, which settled
the Roman Question created by the confiscation of the Papal States in 1871;
issued the encyclical Casti connubii, 1930, an authoritative statement on
Christian marriage; resisted the efforts of Benito Mussolini to control Catholic
Action and the Church, in the encyclical Non abbiamo bisogno, 1931;
opposed various fascist policies; issued the encyclicals Quadragesimo anno,
1931, developing the social doctrine of Leo XIII’s Rerum novarum, and
Divini Redemptoris, 1937, calling for social justice and condemning
atheistic communism; condemned anti-Semitism, 1937.
The Catholic Relief Act
repealed virtually all legal disabilities of Catholics in England.
Spain a republic and proceeded to disestablish the Church, confiscate church
property, deny salaries to the clergy, expel the Jesuits and ban teaching of the
Catholic faith. These actions were preludes to the civil war of 1936-1939.
Emergence of Adolf
Hitler to power in Germany. By 1935 two of his aims were clear, the elimination
of the Jews and control of a single national church. Six million Jews were
killed in the Holocaust. The Church was subject to repressive measures, which
Pius XI protested futilely in the encyclical Mit brennender sorge in
Civil war in Spain between the leftist Loyalist and the forces of rightist
leader Francisco Franco The Loyalists were defeated and one-man, one-party rule
was established. Many priests, religious and lay persons fell victim to Loyalist
persecution and atrocities.
World War II.
Pontificate of Pius XII. He condemned communism, proclaimed the dogma of the
Assumption of Mary in 1950, in various documents and other enactments provided
ideological background for many of the accomplishments of the Second Vatican
Council. (See Twentieth Century Popes.)
Start of a decade of
communist conquest in more than 13 countries, resulting in conditions of
persecution for a minimum of 60 million Catholics as well as members of other
in Mexico because of non-enforcement of anti-religious laws still on record.
Pius XII proclaimed the
dogma of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary.
The communist regime of
China established the Patriotic Association of Chinese Catholics in opposition
to the Church in union with the pope.
Pontificate of John XXIII. His principal accomplishment was the convocation of
the Second Vatican Council, the twenty-first ecumenical council in the history
of the Church. (See Twentieth Century Popes.)
Ecumenical Council of the Vatican (II). It formulated and promulgated 16
documents — two dogmatic and two pastoral constitutions, nine decrees and three
declarations — reflecting pastoral orientation toward renewal and reform in the
Church, and making explicit dimensions of doctrine and Christian life requiring
emphasis for the full development of the Church and the better accomplishment of
its mission in the contemporary world.
Pontificate of Paul VI. His main purpose and effort was to give direction and
provide guidance for the authentic trends of church renewal set in motion by the
Second Vatican Council. (See Twentieth Century Popes.)
1978: The thirty-four-day pontificate of John Paul I.
Start of the pontificate
of John Paul II; see Index.
The revised Code of
Canon Law, embodying reforms enacted by the Second Vatican Council, went into
effect in the Church of Roman Rite.
Formal ratification of a Vatican-Italy concordat replacing the Lateran Treaty of
Decline and fall of communist influence and control in Middle and Eastern Europe
and the Soviet Union.
The Code of Canon Law for Eastern Churches went into effect.
The Gulf War was waged
to eject Saddam Hussein from Kuwait.
Approval of the new
Catechism of the Catholic Church.
The Vatican closed
officially the case against Galileo Galilei.
celebration preparations of the start of the third Christian millennium in the
Pope John Paul II issued an apology for any anti-Semitism by Catholics; a
conference on anti-Semitism was also held in Rome and a number of Catholic
leaders in Europe issued apologies for historical anti-Semitism.
Pope John Paul II visited Cuba and secured the release of over 300 political
The Vatican issued a
white paper on Anti-Semitism, titled: We Remember: A Reflection on the Shoah.
Twentieth anniversary of
the pontificate of Pope John Paul II; he became the longest reigning pontiff
elected in the 20th century.
2000: The Catholic Church celebrated the Holy Year 2000 and the Jubilee; commencement of the third Christian millennium. Pope John Paul II issued apology for the sinful actions of the Church’s members in the past. Pope John Paul II traveled to the Holy Land.
2001: Pope John Paul II traveled to Greece and Syria. He also named 44 new members to the College of Cardinals in an unprecedented consistory.On September 11, the World Trade Center was destroyed and the Pentagon attacked by Islamic terrorists who hijacked several planes and used them as weapons of mass destruction. The attacks launched a global war on terror.
2003: Pope John Paul II appealed for a peaceful resolution to the Iraq War. A coalition headed by the U.S. removed Saddam Hussein.