History of Christianity

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The history of Christianity concerns the Christian religion, Christendom, and the Church with its various denominations, from the 1st century to the present.


Christianity originated with the ministry of Jesus in the 1st century Roman province of Judea. According to the Gospels, Jesus was a Jewish teacher and healer who proclaimed the imminent Kingdom of God, and was crucified at c.30–33 AD. His followers believed that he was then raised from the dead and exalted by God, and would return soon at the inception of God's Kingdom.

The earliest followers of Jesus were apocalyptic Jewish Christians. Due to the inclusion of gentiles, the developing early Christian Church gradually grew apart from Judaism and Jewish Christianity during the first two centuries of the Christian Era.

In 313, Emperor Constantine I issued the Edict of Milan, officially legalizing Christian worship. In 380, with the Edict of Thessalonica put forth under Theodosius I, the Roman Empire officially adopted Trinitarian Christianity as its state religion, and Christianity established itself as a predominantly gentile religion in the state church of the Roman Empire.

Christological debates about the human and divine nature of Jesus consumed the Christian Church for a couple of centuries, and seven eucumenical councils took place to resolve these debates. Arianism was condemned at the Council of Nicea (325), which supported the Trinitarian doctrine as expounded in the Nicene Creed.

In the early Middle Ages, missionary activities spread Christianity towards the west among German peoples. During the High Middle Ages, eastern and western Christianity grew apart, leading to the East-West Schism of 1054. Growing criticism of the Roman Catholic ecclesiological structure and its behaviour, led to the Protestant movement of the 16th century and the split of western Christianity.

Since the Renaissance era, with western colonialism, Christianity has expanded throughout the world. [1] Today there are more than two billion Christians worldwide, and Christianity has become the world's largest religion. [2] Within the last century, as the influence of Christianity has waned in the West, it has also rapidly grown in the East and the Global South, notably in China, South Korea and much of sub-Saharan Africa. There has been notable recent growth of Christianity in Iran.


Jewish-Hellenistic background

The religious climate of 1st century Judea was quite diverse, with numerous variations of Judaic doctrine. The ancient historian Josephus noted four prominent groups in the Judaism of the time: Pharisees, Sadducees, Essenes and Zealots. This led to further unrest, and the 1st century BC and 1st century AD saw a number of charismatic religious leaders, contributing to what would become the Mishnah of rabbinic Judaism, including Yohanan ben Zakkai and Hanina ben Dosa.

Jewish messianism, and the Jewish messiah concept, has its roots in the apocalyptic literature of the 2nd century BC to 1st century BC, promising a future "anointed" leader or messiah or king from the Davidic line to resurrect the Israelite "Kingdom of God", in place of the foreign rulers of the time.

Ministry of Jesus

The main sources of information regarding Jesus' life and teachings are the four canonical gospels, and to a lesser extent the Acts of the Apostles and the Pauline epistles. According to the Gospels, Jesus was a Jewish teacher and healer who was crucified at c.30–33 AD. His followers believed that He was raised from death and exaltated by God due to his faithfulness.

Early Christianity (c. 31/33–324)

Funerary stele of Licinia Amias on marble. One of the earliest Christian inscriptions found, it comes from the early 3rd-century Vatican necropolis area in Rome. Stele Licinia Amias Terme 67646.jpg
Funerary stele of Licinia Amias on marble. One of the earliest Christian inscriptions found, it comes from the early 3rd-century Vatican necropolis area in Rome.

Early Christianity may be divided into two distinct phases: the apostolic period (1st century), when the first apostles were alive and led the Church, and the Ante-Nicene Period, (c.100–325) when an early episcopal structure developed.

Apostolic Age

The eastern Mediterranean region in the time of Paul the Apostle Broad overview of geography relevant to paul of tarsus.png
The eastern Mediterranean region in the time of Paul the Apostle

The Apostolic Age is named after the Apostles and their missionary activities. It holds special significance in Christian tradition as the age of the direct apostles of Jesus. A primary source for the Apostolic Age is the Acts of the Apostles, but its historical accuracy is questionable and its coverage is partial, focusing especially from Acts 15:36 onwards on the ministry of Paul, and ending around 62 AD with Paul preaching in Rome under house arrest.

The earliest followers of Jesus were apocalyptic Jewish Christians. The Early Christian groups were strictly Jewish, such as the Ebionites and the early Christian community in Jerusalem, led by James, the brother of Jesus. According to Acts 9:1–2, they described themselves as 'disciples of the Lord' and [followers] 'of the Way', and according to Acts 11:26 a settled community of disciples at Antioch were the first to be called 'Christians'.

Some of the early Christian communities also attracted gentile God-fearers, who already visited Jewish synagogues. The inclusion of gentiles posed a problem, as they could not fully observe the Halakha. Saul of Tarsus, commonly known as Paul the Apostle, persecuted the early Jewish Christians, then converted and started his mission among the gentiles. The main concern of Paul's letters is the inclusion of gentiles into God's New Covenant, deeming faith in Christ sufficient for righteousness. Due to this inclusion of gentiles, early Christianity changed of character, and gradually grew apart from Judaism and Jewish Christianity during the first two centuries of the Christian Era; eventually Christianity established itself as a predominantly gentile religion in the Roman Empire.

Christ Jesus, the Good Shepherd, 3rd century. Good shepherd 02b close.jpg
Christ Jesus, the Good Shepherd, 3rd century.

The Gospels and New Testament epistles contain early creeds and hymns, as well as accounts of the Passion, the empty tomb, and Resurrection appearances. [4] Early Christianity slowly spread to pockets of believers among Aramaic-speaking peoples along the Mediterranean coast and also to the inland parts of the Roman Empire and beyond that into the Parthian Empire and the later Sasanian Empire, including Mesopotamia, which was dominated at different times and to varying extents by these empires. [5]

Ante-Nicene period

St. Lawrence (martyred 258) before Emperor Valerianus by Fra Angelico Lawrence-before-Valerianus.jpg
St. Lawrence (martyred 258) before Emperor Valerianus by Fra Angelico

The Ante-Nicene period (literally meaning "before Nicaea") of the history of early Christianity was the period following the Apostolic Age down to the First Council of Nicaea in 325. This period of Christian history had a significant impact on the unity of doctrine across all Christendom and the spreading of Christianity to a greater area of the world. By the beginning of the Nicene period, the Christian faith had spread throughout Western Europe and the Mediterranean Basin, and to North Africa and the East. Several trends emerged simultaneously. One unifying trend was an increasingly harsh rejection of Judaism, of Jewish practices, and an acceptance of what some scholars have called religious anti-semitism, however, many modern day Christian theologians reject this accusation. [6]

Diversity and proto-orthodoxy

The number of Christians grew by approximately 40% a decade during the first and second centuries. [7] This growth rate forced Christian communities to evolve in order to adapt to their changes in the nature of their communities as well as their relationship with their political and socioeconomic environment. Classical writers mistook early congregations for burial or fraternal societies which had similar characteristics like divine worship, common meals, regular meetings, initiation, rules for conduct, and their own burial grounds. [8]

Variant Christianities

The Ante-Nicene period saw the rise of a great number of Christian sects, cults and movements with strong unifying characteristics lacking in the apostolic period.[ citation needed ] They had different interpretations of Scripture, particularly the divinity of Jesus and the nature of the Trinity.[ citation needed ] Prominent alternatives included Docetism which denied the Incarnation (God becoming human). Arianism held that Jesus had lesser status than the Father. [9] [ failed verification ] Trinitarianism held that the Father, Son, and the Holy Spirit were all one being with three hypostases or persons. Many groups, such as the Gnostics, held dualistic beliefs, seeing reality as having two radically opposing parts: matter, seen as evil, and spirit, seen as good. Such views sometimes led to heresies. Most scholars agree that the Bible teaches that both the material and the spiritual worlds were created by God and were therefore both good. [10]

Proto-orthodox Christianity

The development of doctrine, the position of orthodoxy, and the relationship between the various opinions is a matter of continuing academic debate. Since most Christians today subscribe to the doctrines established by the Nicene Creed, modern Christian theologians tend to regard the early debates as a unified orthodox position against a minority of heretics. Other scholars, drawing upon distinctions between Jewish Christians, Pauline Christianity, and other groups such as Marcionites and Montanists, argue that early Christianity was always fragmented, with contemporaneous competing beliefs. [11]

Church structure and the episcopacy

In the post-Apostolic church, bishops emerged as overseers of urban Christian populations, and a hierarchy of clergy gradually took on the form of episkopos (overseers, inspectors; and the origin of the term bishop) and presbyters (elders; and the origin of the term priest), and then deacons (servants). But this emerged slowly and at different times in different locations. Clement, a 1st-century bishop of Rome, refers to the leaders of the Corinthian church in his epistle to Corinthians as bishops and presbyters interchangeably. The New Testament writers also use the terms overseer and elders interchangeably and as synonyms. [12]

Post-apostolic bishops of importance include Polycarp of Smyrna, Clement of Rome, and Ignatius of Antioch. These men reportedly knew and studied under the apostles personally and are therefore called Apostolic Fathers. Each Christian community also had presbyters, as was the case with Jewish communities, who were also ordained and assisted the bishop. As Christianity spread, especially in rural areas, the presbyters exercised more responsibilities and took distinctive shape as priests. Lastly, deacons also performed certain duties, such as tending to the poor and sick. In the 2nd century, an episcopal structure becomes more visible, and in that century this structure was supported by teaching on apostolic succession, where a bishop becomes the spiritual successor of the previous bishop in a line tracing back to the apostles themselves.

The diversity of early Christianity can be documented from the New Testament record itself. The Book of Acts admits conflicts between Hebrews and Hellenists, and Jewish Christians and Gentile Christians, and Aramaic speakers and Greek speakers. The letters of Paul, Peter, John, and Jude all testify to intra-Church conflicts over both leadership and theology. In a response to the Gnostic teaching, Irenaeus created the first document describing what is now called apostolic succession. [13]

Development of the Biblical canon

A folio from P46, an early-3rd-century collection of Pauline epistles. P46.jpg
A folio from P46, an early-3rd-century collection of Pauline epistles.

The Pauline epistles were circulating in collected form by the end of the 1st century AD, while Justin Martyr mentions the gospels as the "memoirs of the apostles" in the early 2nd century. [14]

By the early 3rd century, Origen of Alexandria may have been using the same 27 books as in the modern New Testament, though there were still disputes over the canonicity of Hebrews, James, II Peter, II and III John, and Revelation. [15] The Muratorian fragment shows that by 200 there existed a set of Christian writings similar to the current New Testament. [16] By the 4th century, there existed unanimity in the West concerning the New Testament canon, [17] and by the 5th century the East, with a few exceptions, had come to accept the Book of Revelation and thus had come into harmony on the matter of the canon. [18]

Early orthodox writings – Ante-Nicene Fathers

As Christianity spread, it acquired certain members from well-educated circles of the Hellenistic world; they sometimes became bishops, but not always. They produced two sorts of works: theological and "apologetic", the latter being works aimed at defending the faith by using reason to refute arguments against the veracity of Christianity. These authors are known as the Church Fathers, and study of them is called patristics. Notable early Fathers include Ignatius of Antioch, Polycarp, Justin Martyr, Irenaeus of Lyons, Tertullian, Clement of Alexandria, and Origen of Alexandria.

Early art

Virgin and Child. Wall painting from the early catacombs, Rome, 4th century. VirgenNino.jpg
Virgin and Child. Wall painting from the early catacombs, Rome, 4th century.

Christian art only emerged relatively late, and the first known Christian images emerge from about 200 AD, [19] though there is some literary evidence that small domestic images were used earlier. The oldest known Christian paintings are from the Roman Catacombs, dated to about AD 200, and the oldest Christian sculptures are from sarcophagi, dating to the beginning of the 3rd century. [20]

Although many Hellenised Jews seem, as at the Dura-Europos synagogue, to have had images of religious figures, the traditional Mosaic prohibition of "graven images" no doubt retained some effect, although never proclaimed by theologians. This early rejection of images, and the necessity to hide Christian practise from persecution, leaves us with few archaeological records regarding early Christianity and its evolution. [20]


According to the New Testament, Christians were subject to various persecutions from the beginning. According to Church tradition, it was under Nero's persecution that Peter and Paul were each martyred in Rome. [note 1] Early Christians were thought to bring misfortune by their refusal to honour the gods, [21] [22] but there was no empire-wide persecution of Christians until the reign of Decius in the third century. [23] The last and most severe persecution organised by the imperial authorities was the Diocletianic Persecution, 303–311. [24]

The Edict of Serdica was issued in 311 by the Roman emperor Galerius, officially ending the Diocletianic persecution of Christianity in the East. With the passage in 313 AD of the Edict of Milan, in which the Roman Emperors Constantine the Great and Licinius legalised the Christian religion, persecution of Christians by the Roman state ceased. [25] Constantine then called the First Council of Nicaea in AD 325, beginning the period of the first seven ecumenical councils.

Christianity during late antiquity (313–476)

Spread of Christianity to AD 325
Spread of Christianity to AD 600 Spread of Christianity to AD 600 (1).png
  Spread of Christianity to AD 325
  Spread of Christianity to AD 600


Icon depicting the Emperor Constantine (centre) and the bishops of the First Council of Nicaea (325) holding the Niceno-Constantinopolitan Creed of 381. Nicaea icon.jpg
Icon depicting the Emperor Constantine (centre) and the bishops of the First Council of Nicaea (325) holding the Niceno–Constantinopolitan Creed of 381.

Galerius, who had previously been one of the leading figures in persecution, in 311 issued an edict which ended the persecution. [26] Galerius reigned for another 2 years and was succeeded by an emperor with distinctively pro Christian leanings, Constantine the Great.

The Emperor Constantine I was exposed to Christianity by his mother, Helena. [27] At the Battle of the Milvian Bridge in 312, Constantine commanded his troops to adorn their shields with the Chi Rho in accordance with a vision that he had had the night before. Victory allowed him to claim the emperorship of the Western Roman Empire. [28] In 313, he and Emperor Licinius issued the Edict of Milan, officially legalizing Christian worship.

How much Christianity Constantine adopted at this point is difficult to discern. Roman coins minted up to eight years later still bore the images of Roman gods. [27] Nonetheless, his accession of was a turning point for the Christian Church. Constantine supported the Church financially, built various basilicas, granted privileges (e.g., exemption from certain taxes) to clergy, promoted Christians to some high offices, and returned confiscated property. [29]

Between 324 and 330, Constantine built, virtually from scratch, a new imperial capital that came to be named for him: Constantinople. It had overtly Christian architecture, contained churches within the city walls, and had no pagan temples. [30] In accordance with a prevailing custom, Constantine was baptised on his deathbed.[ citation needed ]

Constantine also played an active role in the leadership of the Church. In 316, he acted as a judge in a North African dispute concerning the Donatist controversy. More significantly, in 325 he summoned the Council of Nicaea, the first ecumenical council. Constantine thus established a precedent for the emperor as responsible to God for the spiritual health of their subjects, and thus with a duty to maintain orthodoxy. The emperor was to enforce doctrine, root out heresy, and uphold ecclesiastical unity. [31]

Constantine's son's successor, his nephew Julian, under the influence of his adviser Mardonius, renounced Christianity and embraced a Neo-platonic and mystical form of paganism shocking the Christian establishment. [32] He began reopening pagan temples, modifying them to resemble Christian traditions such as the episcopal structure and public charity (previously unknown in Roman paganism). Julian's short reign ended when he died while campaigning in the East.

Later Church Fathers wrote volumes of theological texts, including Augustine, Gregory Nazianzus, Cyril of Jerusalem, Ambrose of Milan, Jerome, and others. Some, such as John Chrysostom and Athanasius, suffered exile, persecution, or martyrdom from Arian Byzantine Emperors.

Arianism and the first ecumenical councils

Spread of Arianism in the Western Europe Christian states 495 AD (en).svg
Spread of Arianism in the Western Europe

A popular doctrine of the 4th century was Arianism, the denial of the divinity of Christ, as propounded by Arius. Although this doctrine was condemned as heresy and eventually eliminated by the Roman Church it remained popular underground for some time. In the late 4th century Ulfilas, a Roman bishop and an Arian, was appointed as the first bishop to the Goths, the Germanic peoples in much of Europe at the borders of and within the Empire. Ulfilas spread Arian Christianity among the Goths firmly establishing the faith among many of the Germanic tribes, thus helping to keep them culturally distinct. [33]

During this age, the first ecumenical councils were convened. They were mostly concerned with Christological disputes. The First Council of Nicaea (325) and the First Council of Constantinople (381) resulted in condemning Arian teachings as heresy and producing the Nicene Creed.

Christianity as Roman state religion (380)

An Eastern Roman mosaic showing a basilica with towers, mounted with Christian crosses, 5th century AD, Louvre Orient mediterraneen de l'Empire romain - Mosaique byzantine -2.JPG
An Eastern Roman mosaic showing a basilica with towers, mounted with Christian crosses, 5th century AD, Louvre

On 27 February 380, with the Edict of Thessalonica put forth under Theodosius I, Gratian, and Valentinian II, the Roman Empire officially adopted Trinitarian Christianity as its state religion. Prior to this date, Constantius II (337–361) and Valens (364–378) had personally favoured Arian or Semi-Arian forms of Christianity, but Valens' successor Theodosius I supported the Trinitarian doctrine as expounded in the Nicene Creed.

After its establishment, the Church adopted the same organisational boundaries as the Empire: geographical provinces, called dioceses, corresponding to imperial governmental territorial division. The bishops, who were located in major urban centres as per pre-legalisation tradition, thus oversaw each diocese. The bishop's location was his "seat", or "see". Among the sees, five came to hold special eminence: Rome, Constantinople, Jerusalem, Antioch, and Alexandria. The prestige of most of these sees depended in part on their apostolic founders, from whom the bishops were therefore the spiritual successors. Though the bishop of Rome was still held to be the First among equals, Constantinople was second in precedence as the new capital of the empire.

Theodosius I decreed that others not believing in the preserved "faithful tradition", such as the Trinity, were to be considered to be practitioners of illegal heresy, [34] and in 385, this resulted in the first case of capital punishment of a heretic, namely Priscillian. [35] [36]

Nestorianism and the Sasanian Empire

Largely extinct Church of the East and its largest extent during the Middle Ages. Church of the East in the Middle Ages.svg
Largely extinct Church of the East and its largest extent during the Middle Ages.

During the early 5th century the School of Edessa had taught a Christological perspective stating that Christ's divine and human nature were distinct persons. A particular consequence of this perspective was that Mary could not be properly called the mother of God, but could only be considered the mother of Christ. The most widely known proponent of this viewpoint was the Patriarch of Constantinople Nestorius. Since referring to Mary as the mother of God had become popular in many parts of the Church this became a divisive issue.

The Roman Emperor Theodosius II called for the Council of Ephesus (431), with the intention of settling the issue. The councils ultimately rejected Nestorius' view. Many churches who followed the Nestorian viewpoint broke away from the Roman Church, causing a major schism. The Nestorian churches were persecuted and many followers fled to the Sasanian Empire where they were accepted.

The Sasanian (Persian) Empire had many Christian converts early in its history tied closely to the Syriac branch of Christianity. The Empire was officially Zoroastrian and maintained a strict adherence to this faith in part to distinguish itself from the religion of the Roman Empire (originally the pagan Roman religion and then Christianity). Christianity became tolerated in the Sasanian Empire and as the Roman Empire increasingly exiled heretics during the 4th and 6th centuries, the Sasanian Christian community grew rapidly. [37] By the end of the 5th century the Persian Church was firmly established and had become independent of the Roman Church. This church evolved into what is today known as the Church of the East.


In 451 the Council of Chalcedon was held to further clarify the Christological issues surrounding Nestorianism. The council ultimately stated that Christ's divine and human nature were separate but both part of a single entity, a viewpoint rejected by many churches who called themselves miaphysites. The resulting schism created a communion of churches, including the Armenian, Syrian, and Egyptian churches. [38] Though efforts were made at reconciliation in the next few centuries the schism remained permanent resulting in what is today known as Oriental Orthodoxy.


Monasticism is a form of asceticism whereby one renounces worldly pursuits and goes off alone as a hermit or joins a tightly organized community. It began early in the Church as a family of similar traditions, modelled upon Scriptural examples and ideals, and with roots in certain strands of Judaism. John the Baptist is seen as an archetypical monk, and monasticism was also inspired by the organisation of the Apostolic community as recorded in Acts 2.

Eremetic monks, or hermits, live in solitude, whereas cenobitics live in communities, generally in a monastery, under a rule (or code of practice) and are governed by an abbot. Originally, all Christian monks were hermits, following the example of Anthony the Great. However, the need for some form of organised spiritual guidance lead Pachomius in 318 to organise his many followers in what was to become the first monastery. Soon, similar institutions were established throughout the Egyptian desert as well as the rest of the eastern half of the Roman Empire. Women were especially attracted to the movement. [39]

Central figures in the development of monasticism were Basil the Great in the East and, in the West, Benedict, who created the famous Rule of Saint Benedict, which would become the most common rule throughout the Middle Ages, and starting point for other monastic rules. [40]

Early Middle Ages (476–799)

A mosaic of Justinian I in the church of San Vitale, Ravenna, Italy. Meister von San Vitale in Ravenna 004.jpg
A mosaic of Justinian I in the church of San Vitale, Ravenna, Italy.

The transition into the Middle Ages was a gradual and localised process. Rural areas rose as power centres whilst urban areas declined. Although a greater number of Christians remained in the East (Greek areas), important developments were underway in the West (Latin areas) and each took on distinctive shapes.

The Bishops of Rome, the Popes, were forced to adapt to drastically changing circumstances. Maintaining only nominal allegiance to the Emperor, they were forced to negotiate balances with the "barbarian rulers" of the former Roman provinces. In the East the Church maintained its structure and character and evolved more slowly.

Western missionary expansion

The stepwise loss of Western Roman Empire dominance, replaced with foederati and Germanic kingdoms, coincided with early missionary efforts into areas not controlled by the collapsing empire. [41] Already as early as in the 5th century, missionary activities from Roman Britain into the Celtic areas (current Scotland, Ireland and Wales) produced competing early traditions of Celtic Christianity, that was later reintegrated under the Church in Rome.

Prominent missionaries were Saints Patrick, Columba and Columbanus. The Anglo-Saxon tribes that invaded southern Britain some time after the Roman abandonment, were initially pagan, but converted to Christianity by Augustine of Canterbury on the mission of Pope Gregory the Great. Soon becoming a missionary centre, missionaries such as Wilfrid, Willibrord, Lullus and Boniface would begin converting their Saxon relatives in Germania.

The largely Christian Gallo-Roman inhabitants of Gaul (modern France) were overrun by the Franks in the early 5th century. The native inhabitants were persecuted until the Frankish king Clovis I converted from paganism to Roman Catholicism in 496. Clovis insisted that his fellow nobles follow suit, strengthening his newly established kingdom by uniting the faith of the rulers with that of the ruled. [42]

After the rise of the Frankish Kingdom and the stabilizing political conditions, the Western part of the Church increased the missionary activities, supported by the Merovingian kingdom as a means to pacify troublesome neighbour peoples. After the foundation of a church in Utrecht by Willibrord, backlashes occurred when the pagan Frisian king Radbod destroyed many Christian centres between 716 and 719. In 717, the English missionary Boniface was sent to aid Willibrord, re-establishing churches in Frisia continuing missions in Germany. [42]

Byzantine iconoclasm

Andrei Rublev's Trinity. Andrej Rublev 001.jpg
Andrei Rublev's Trinity.

Following a series of heavy military reverses against the Muslims, the Iconoclasm emerged in the early 8th century. In the 720s the Byzantine Emperor Leo III the Isaurian banned the pictorial representation of Christ, saints, and biblical scenes. In the West, Pope Gregory III held two synods at Rome and condemned Leo's actions. The Byzantine Iconoclast Council, held at Hieria in 754, ruled that holy portraits were heretical. [43]

The movement destroyed much of the Christian church's early artistic history. The iconoclastic movement itself was later defined as heretical in 787 under the Second Council of Nicaea (the seventh ecumenical council), but enjoyed a brief resurgence between 815 and 842.

High Middle Ages (800–1299)

Carolingian Renaissance

The Carolingian Renaissance was a period of intellectual and cultural revival of literature, arts, and scriptural studies during the late 8th and 9th centuries, mostly during the reigns of Charlemagne and Louis the Pious, Frankish rulers. To address the problems of illiteracy among clergy and court scribes, Charlemagne founded schools and attracted the most learned men from all of Europe to his court.

Monastic reform

A view of the Abbey of Cluny. Clocher abbaye cluny 2.JPG
A view of the Abbey of Cluny.


From the 6th century onward most of the monasteries in the West were of the Benedictine Order. Owing to the stricter adherence to a reformed Benedictine rule, the abbey of Cluny became the acknowledged leader of western monasticism from the later 10th century. Cluny created a large, federated order in which the administrators of subsidiary houses served as deputies of the abbot of Cluny and answered to him. The Cluniac spirit was a revitalising influence on the Norman church, at its height from the second half of the 10th centuries through the early 12th.


The next wave of monastic reform came with the Cistercian Movement. The first Cistercian abbey was founded in 1098, at Cîteaux Abbey. The keynote of Cistercian life was a return to a literal observance of the Benedictine rule, rejecting the developments of the Benedictines. The most striking feature in the reform was the return to manual labour, and especially to field-work.

Inspired by Bernard of Clairvaux, the primary builder of the Cistercians, they became the main force of technological diffusion in medieval Europe. By the end of the 12th century the Cistercian houses numbered 500, and at its height in the 15th century the order claimed to have close to 750 houses. Most of these were built in wilderness areas, and played a major part in bringing such isolated parts of Europe into economic cultivation

Mendicant orders

A third level of monastic reform was provided by the establishment of the Mendicant orders. Commonly known as friars, mendicants live under a monastic rule with traditional vows of poverty, chastity, and obedience, but they emphasise preaching, missionary activity, and education, in a secluded monastery. Beginning in the 12th century, the Franciscan order was instituted by the followers of Francis of Assisi, and thereafter the Dominican order was begun by St. Dominic.

Investiture Controversy

Henry IV at the gate of Canossa, by August von Heyden. Canossa-gate.jpg
Henry IV at the gate of Canossa, by August von Heyden.

The Investiture Controversy, or Lay investiture controversy, was the most significant conflict between secular and religious powers in medieval Europe. It began as a dispute in the 11th century between the Holy Roman Emperor Henry IV, and Pope Gregory VII concerning who would appoint bishops (investiture). The end of lay investiture threatened to undercut the power of the Empire and the ambitions of noblemen.

Bishoprics being merely lifetime appointments, a king could better control their powers and revenues than those of hereditary noblemen. Even better, he could leave the post vacant and collect the revenues, theoretically in trust for the new bishop, or give a bishopric to pay a helpful noble. The Church wanted to end lay investiture to end this and other abuses, to reform the episcopate and provide better pastoral care.

Pope Gregory VII issued the Dictatus Papae , which declared that the pope alone could appoint bishops. Henry IV's rejection of the decree led to his excommunication and a ducal revolt. Eventually Henry received absolution after dramatic public penance (see Road to Canossa), though the Great Saxon Revolt and conflict of investiture continued.

A similar controversy occurred in England between King Henry I and St. Anselm, Archbishop of Canterbury, over investiture and episcopal vacancy. The English dispute was resolved by the Concordat of London, 1107, where the king renounced his claim to invest bishops but continued to require an oath of fealty.

This was a partial model for the Concordat of Worms (Pactum Calixtinum), which resolved the Imperial investiture controversy with a compromise that allowed secular authorities some measure of control but granted the selection of bishops to their cathedral canons. As a symbol of the compromise, both ecclesiastical and lay authorities invested bishops with respectively, the staff and the ring.

Medieval Inquisition

The Medieval Inquisition is a series of Inquisitions (Roman Catholic Church bodies charged with suppressing heresy) from around 1184, including the Episcopal Inquisition (1184–1230s) and later the Papal Inquisition (1230s). It was in response to movements within Europe considered apostate or heretical to Western Catholicism, in particular the Cathars and the Waldensians in southern France and northern Italy. These were the first inquisition movements of many that would follow. The inquisitions in combination with the Albigensian Crusade were fairly successful in ending heresy. Historian Thomas F. Madden has written about popular myths regarding the Inquisition. [44]

Conversion of the Scandinavians

Early evangelisation in Scandinavia was begun by Ansgar, Archbishop of Bremen, "Apostle of the North". Ansgar, a native of Amiens, was sent with a group of monks to Jutland Denmark in around 820 at the time of the pro-Christian Jutish king Harald Klak. The mission was only partially successful, and Ansgar returned two years later to Germany, after Harald had been driven out of his kingdom.

In 829 Ansgar went to Birka on Lake Mälaren, Sweden, with his aide friar Witmar, and a small congregation was formed in 831 which included the king's own steward Hergeir. Conversion was slow, however, and most Scandinavian lands were only completely Christianised at the time of rulers such as Saint Canute IV of Denmark and Olaf I of Norway in the years following AD 1000.

Conversion of the Slavs

The ruins of Korsun (Chersonesos) Crimea, a place where Russian historiography claims that East Slavic Christianity was born. Sevastopol Chersonesus Saint Vladimir Cathedral IMG 0723 1725.jpg
The ruins of Korsun (Chersonesos) Crimea, a place where Russian historiography claims that East Slavic Christianity was born.
St. Cyril and St. Methodius monument on Mt. Radhost. Cyril Metodej.jpg
St. Cyril and St. Methodius monument on Mt. Radhošť.

Although by 800 Western Europe was ruled entirely by Christian kings, East and Central Europe remained an area of missionary activity. For example, in the 9th century Cyril and Methodius had extensive missionary success in the region among the Slavic peoples, translating the Bible and liturgy into Slavonic. The Baptism of Kiev in 988 spread Christianity throughout Kievan Rus', establishing Christianity among Ukraine, Belarus and Russia.

In the 9th and 10th centuries, Christianity made great inroads into Eastern Europe, including Bulgaria and Kievan Rus'. The evangelisation, or Christianisation, of the Slavs was initiated by one of Byzantium's most learned churchmen—the Patriarch Photios I of Constantinople (Photius). The Byzantine emperor Michael III chose Cyril and Methodius in response to a request from Rastislav, the king of Moravia who wanted missionaries that could minister to the Moravians in their own language.

The two brothers spoke the local Slavonic vernacular and translated the Bible and many of the prayer books. [45] As the translations prepared by them were copied by speakers of other dialects, the hybrid literary language Old Church Slavonic was created. Methodius later went on to convert the Serbs. [46]

Bulgaria was officially recognised as a patriarchate by Constantinople in 927, Serbia in 1346, and Russia in 1589. All these nations, however, had been converted long before these dates.

Mission to Great Moravia

Church of St. Margaret of Antioch, Kopcany (Kopcany, Slovakia, 9th-10th century) - the only preserved building from the time of Great Moravia. Kopcany kostol - sever.JPG
Church of St. Margaret of Antioch, Kopčany (Kopčany, Slovakia, 9th–10th century) – the only preserved building from the time of Great Moravia.
Conversion of Moravia (under Ratislav) Central europe 9th century.png
Conversion of Moravia (under Ratislav)

Byzantine emperor Michael III chose two brothers, Cyril and Methodius to create the Glagolitic alphabet. They then translated the Scripture and the liturgy into Slavonic.

This Slavic dialect became the basis of Old Church Slavonic which later evolved into Church Slavonic which is the common liturgical language still used by the Russian Orthodox Church and other Slavic Orthodox Christians.

Conversion of Bulgaria

Bulgaria was a pagan country since its establishment in 681 until 864 when Boris I (852–889) converted to Christianity. The reasons for that decision were complex; the most important factors were that Bulgaria was situated between two powerful Christian empires, Byzantium and East Francia; Christian doctrine particularly favoured the position of the monarch as God's representative on Earth, while Boris also saw it as a way to overcome the differences between Bulgars and Slavs. [47] [48]

The Baptism of Vladimir. Vasnetsov Bapt Vladimir.jpg
The Baptism of Vladimir.

Controversy and Crusades dividing East and West

Growing tensions between East and West

Tensions in Christian unity which led to the East-West Schism started to become evident in the 4th century.

Two basic problems were involved: the nature of the primacy of the bishop of Rome and the theological implications of adding a clause to the Nicene Creed, known as the Filioque clause. These doctrinal issues were first openly discussed in Photius's patriarchate.

The Eastern churches viewed Rome's understanding of the nature of episcopal power as being in direct opposition to the Church's essentially conciliar structure and thus saw the two ecclesiologies as mutually antithetical. [49]

The other major irritant to Eastern Christendom was the Western use of the Filioque clause—meaning "and the Son"—in the Nicene Creed . This too developed gradually and entered the Creed over time. The issue was the addition by the West of the Latin clause Filioque to the Creed, as in "the Holy Spirit... who proceeds from the Father and the Son", where the original Creed, sanctioned by the councils and still used today by the Eastern Orthodox simply states "the Holy Spirit, the Lord and Giver of Life, who proceeds from the Father." The Eastern Church argued that the phrase had been added unilaterally, and therefore illegitimately, since the East had never been consulted. [50] In addition to this ecclesiological issue, the Eastern Church also considered the Filioque clause unacceptable on dogmatic grounds. [51]

Photian schism

In the 9th century AD, a controversy arose between Eastern (Byzantine, Greek Orthodox) and Western (Latin, Roman Catholic) Christianity that was precipitated by the opposition of the Roman Pope John VII to the appointment by the Byzantine emperor Michael III of Photios I to the position of patriarch of Constantinople. Photios was refused an apology by the pope for previous points of dispute between the East and West. Photios refused to accept the supremacy of the pope in Eastern matters or accept the Filioque clause. The Latin delegation at the council of his consecration pressed him to accept the clause in order to secure their support.

The controversy also involved Eastern and Western ecclesiastical jurisdictional rights in the Bulgarian church, as well as a doctrinal dispute over the Filioque ("and from the Son") clause. That had been added to the Nicene Creed by the Latin church, which was later the theological breaking point in the ultimate Great East-West Schism in the 11th century.

Photios did provide concession on the issue of jurisdictional rights concerning Bulgaria and the papal legates made do with his return of Bulgaria to Rome. This concession, however, was purely nominal, as Bulgaria's return to the Byzantine rite in 870 had already secured for it an autocephalous church. Without the consent of Boris I of Bulgaria, the papacy was unable to enforce any of its claims.

East-West Schism (1054)

The East-West Schism Great Schism 1054 with former borders.png
The East-West Schism


The Crusader states of Jerusalem Map Crusader states 1135-en.svg
The Crusader states of Jerusalem

Generally, the Crusades refer to the campaigns in the Holy Land against Muslim forces sponsored by the Papacy. There were other crusades against Islamic forces in southern Spain, southern Italy, and Sicily, as well as the campaigns of Teutonic Knights against pagan strongholds in North-eastern Europe (see Northern Crusades). A few crusades were waged within Christendom against groups that were considered heretical and schismatic (also see the Battle of the Ice and the Albigensian Crusade).

Krak des Chevaliers was built in the County of Tripoli by the Knights Hospitaller during the Crusades. Crac des chevaliers syria.jpeg
Krak des Chevaliers was built in the County of Tripoli by the Knights Hospitaller during the Crusades.

The Holy Land had been part of the Roman Empire, and thus Byzantine Empire, until the Islamic conquests of the 7th and 8th centuries. Thereafter, Christians had generally been permitted to visit the sacred places in the Holy Land until 1071, when the Seljuk Turks closed Christian pilgrimages and assailed the Byzantines, defeating them at the Battle of Manzikert.

Emperor Alexius I asked for aid from Pope Urban II (1088–1099) for help against Islamic aggression. He probably expected money from the pope for the hiring of mercenaries. Instead, Urban II called upon the knights of Christendom in a speech made at the Council of Clermont on 27 November 1095, combining the idea of pilgrimage to the Holy Land with that of waging a holy war against infidels.

The First Crusade captured Antioch in 1099 and then Jerusalem. The Second Crusade occurred in 1145 when Edessa was retaken by Islamic forces. Jerusalem would be held until 1187 and the Third Crusade, famous for the battles between Richard the Lionheart and Saladin.

The Fourth Crusade, begun by Innocent III in 1202, intended to retake the Holy Land but was soon subverted by Venetians who used the forces to sack the Christian city of Zara. [52] When the crusaders arrived in Constantinople, they sacked the city and other parts of Asia Minor and established the Latin Empire of Constantinople in Greece and Asia Minor. This was effectively the last crusade sponsored by the papacy, with later crusades being sponsored by individuals. [52]

Jerusalem was held by the crusaders for nearly a century, and other strongholds in the Near East would remain in Christian possession much longer. The crusades in the Holy Land ultimately failed to establish permanent Christian kingdoms. Islamic expansion into Europe would renew and remain a threat for centuries culminating in the campaigns of Suleiman the Magnificent in the 16th century. [52]

Crusades in southern Spain, southern Italy, and Sicily eventually lead to the demise of Islamic power in Europe. [52] Teutonic Knights expanded Christian domains in Eastern Europe, and the much less frequent crusades within Christendom, such as the Albigensian Crusade, achieved their goal of maintaining doctrinal unity. [52]

Hesychast Controversy

Gregory Palamas. Gregor Palamas.jpg
Gregory Palamas.

In 1337 Hesychasm—a mystical teaching at Mount Athos came under attack from Barlaam of Calabria, an abbot in Constantinople.

Gregory Palamas, afterwards Archbishop of Thessalonica, defended Hesychasm. [53]

Eastern Orthodox captivity (1453–1850)

Fall of Constantinople

In 1453, Constantinople fell to the Ottoman Empire.

Eastern Christians fleeing Constantinople, and the Greek manuscripts they carried with them, is one of the factors that prompted the literary renaissance in the West at about this time.

Religious rights under the Ottoman Empire

Mehmed the Conqueror receives Gennadius II Scholarius (Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople from 1454 to 1464) Gennadios.jpg
Mehmed the Conqueror receives Gennadius II Scholarius (Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople from 1454 to 1464)

The new Ottoman government that conquered the Byzantine Empire followed Islamic law when dealing with the conquered Christian population. Christians were officially tolerated as People of the Book. As such, the Church's canonical and hierarchical organisation were not significantly disrupted and its administration continued to function. One of the first things that Mehmet the Conqueror did was to allow the Church to elect a new patriarch, Gennadius Scholarius.

However, these rights and privileges, including freedom of worship and religious organisation, were often established in principle but seldom corresponded to reality. Christians were viewed as second-class citizens, and the legal protections they depended upon were subject to the whims of the Sultan and the Sublime Porte. [54] [55]

Under Ottoman occupation the Church could no longer bear witness to Christ. Christian missionary work among Muslims was illegal and dangerous, whereas conversion to Islam was entirely legal and permissible. The Hagia Sophia and the Parthenon, which had been Christian churches for nearly a millennium, were converted into mosques. Violent persecutions of Christians were common, and reached their climax in the Armenian, Assyrian, and Greek genocides.

Late Middle Ages and the early Renaissance (1300–1520)

Avignon Papacy (1309–1378)

The Avignon Papacy, sometimes referred to as the Babylonian Captivity, was a period from 1309 to 1378 during which seven Popes resided in Avignon, in modern-day France. [56] The period was one of conflict and controversy during which French Kings held considerable sway over the Papacy and rulers across Europe felt sidelined by the new French-centric papacy.[ citation needed ]

Troubles reached their peak in 1378 when, Gregory XI died while visiting Rome. A papal conclave met in Rome and elected Urban VI, an Italian. Urban soon alienated the French cardinals, and they held a second conclave electing Robert of Geneva to succeed Gregory XI, beginning the Western Schism.

Western Schism (1378–1416)

Map showing support for Avignon (red) and Rome (blue) during the Western Schism; this breakdown is accurate until the Council of Pisa (1409), which created a third line of claimants. Western schism 1378-1417.svg
Map showing support for Avignon (red) and Rome (blue) during the Western Schism; this breakdown is accurate until the Council of Pisa (1409), which created a third line of claimants.

The Western Schism, or Papal Schism, was a prolonged crisis with two or more claimants to the See of Rome. The conflict was political rather than doctrinal.

In 1309, Pope Clement V moved to Avignon in southern France. Confusion and of political animosity waxed, as the prestige and influence of Rome waned without a resident pontiff.

In 1378 the conclave elected an Italian from Naples, Pope Urban VI. He soon alienated the French cardinals, who asserted that the previous election was invalid, and elected one of their own, Robert of Geneva.

John Wycliff and Jan Hus

Painting of Jan Hus in Council of Constance by Vaclav Brozik. Brozik, Vaclav - Hus pred koncilem 6. cervence 1415.jpg
Painting of Jan Hus in Council of Constance by Václav Brožík.

John Wycliffe (or Wyclif) (1330–1384) was an English scholar and alleged heretic best known for denouncing the corruptions of the Church, and his sponsoring the first translation of the Bible from Latin into English. He was a precursor of the Protestant Reformation. He emphasized the supremacy of the Bible, and called for a direct relationship between man and God, without interference by priests and bishops. His followers, called Lollards, faced persecution by the Church of England. They went underground for over a century and played a role in the English Reformation. [57] [58]

Jan Hus (or Huss) (1369?–1415) a Czech theologian in Prague, was influenced by Wycliffe and spoke out against the corruptions he saw in the Church; his continued defiance led to his excommunication and condemnation by the Council of Constance, which also condemned John Wycliff. Hus was executed in 1415, but his followers organized a peasants' war, 1419–1436, that was put down by the Empire with great brutality. Hus was a forerunner of the Protestant Reformation and his memory has become a powerful symbol of Czech culture in Bohemia. [59]

Italian Renaissance (c. 1375 – 1520)

Michelangelo's Pieta in St. Peter's Basilica, Vatican City Michelangelo's Pieta 5450 cut out black.jpg
Michelangelo's Pietà in St. Peter's Basilica, Vatican City

The Renaissance was a period of great cultural change and achievement, marked in Italy by a classical orientation and an increase of wealth through mercantile trade. The City of Rome, the Papacy, and the Papal States were all affected by the Renaissance. On the one hand, it was a time of great artistic patronage and architectural magnificence, where the Church patroned such artists as Michelangelo, Brunelleschi, Bramante, Raphael, Fra Angelico, Donatello, and da Vinci. On the other hand, wealthy Italian families often secured episcopal offices, including the papacy, for their own members, some of whom were known for immorality, such as Alexander VI and Sixtus IV.

In addition to being the head of the Church, the Pope became one of Italy's most important secular rulers, and pontiffs such as Julius II often waged campaigns to protect and expand their temporal domains. Furthermore, the popes, in a spirit of refined competition with other Italian lords, spent lavishly both on private luxuries but also on public works, repairing or building churches, bridges, and a magnificent system of aqueducts in Rome that still function today.

From 1505 to 1626, St. Peter's Basilica, perhaps the most recognised Christian church, was built on the site of the old Constantinian basilica. It was also a time of increased contact with Greek culture, opening up new avenues of learning, especially in the fields of philosophy, poetry, classics, rhetoric, and political science, fostering a spirit of humanism–all of which would influence the Church.

Reformation and Counter-Reformation

Protestant Reformation (1521–1610)

Approximate spread of Protestantism after the Reformation, and following the Counter-Reformation. Reformation.gif
Approximate spread of Protestantism after the Reformation, and following the Counter-Reformation.

the Reformation is usually considered to have started with the publication of the Ninety-five Theses by Martin Luther in 1517, there was no schism until the 1521 Edict of Worms. The edicts of the Diet condemned Luther and officially banned citizens of the Holy Roman Empire from defending or propagating his ideas. [60]

In the early 16th century, attempts were made by the theologians Martin Luther and Huldrych Zwingli along with many others who aimed to reform the Church. Along with some of the previous ones, they considered the root of corruptions to be doctrinal (rather than simply a matter of moral weakness or lack of ecclesiastical discipline) and thus advocated for monergism against voluntaristic notions that salvation could be earned by people. The word Protestant is derived from the Latin protestatio meaning declaration which refers to the letter of protestation by Lutheran princes against the decision of the Diet of Speyer in 1529, which reaffirmed the edict of the Diet of Worms ordering the seizure of all property owned by persons guilty of advocating Lutheranism. [61] Since that time, the term has been used in many different senses, but most often as a general term refers to Western Christianity that is not subject to papal authority. [61] The term "Protestant" was not originally used by Reformation era leaders; instead, they called themselves "evangelical", emphasising the "return to the true gospel (Greek: euangelion)." [62]

The beginning of the Protestant Reformation is generally identified with Martin Luther and the posting of the Ninety-five Theses on the door of the castle church in Wittenberg, Germany. Early protest was against corruptions such as simony, the holding of multiple church offices by one person at the same time, episcopal vacancies, and the sale of indulgences.

The Protestant position also included sola scriptura, sola fide, the priesthood of all believers, Law and Gospel, and the two kingdoms doctrine. The three most important traditions to emerge directly from the Protestant Reformation were the Lutheran, Reformed (Calvinist, Presbyterian, etc.), and Anglican traditions, though the latter group identifies as both "Reformed" and "Catholic", and some subgroups reject the classification as "Protestant."

The Protestant Reformation may be divided into two distinct but basically simultaneous movements, the Magisterial Reformation and the Radical Reformation. The Magisterial Reformation involved the alliance of certain theological teachers (Latin: magistri) such as Luther, Zwingli, Calvin, Cranmer, etc. with secular magistrates who cooperated in the reformation of Christendom. Radical Reformers, many who were Anabaptists, besides forming communities outside state sanction, often employed more extreme doctrinal change, with some rejecting tenants of the Councils of Nicaea and Chalcedon.

Churches with Reformation confessions of faith spread almost entirely within the confines of Northern Europe, but this was checked by the Catholic response to the Reformation. This is known as the Counter-Reformation. Although Protestants were excommunicated in an attempt to reduce their influence within the Catholic Church, at the same time they were also persecuted during the Counter-Reformation, prompting some to live as crypto-Protestants (also termed Nicodemites, against the urging of John Calvin who urged them to live their faith openly. [63] Crypto-Protestants were documented as late as the 19th century in Latin America. [64]

Martin Luther

Martin Luther, by Lucas Cranach the Elder Lucas Cranach d.A. - Martin Luther, 1528 (Veste Coburg).jpg
Martin Luther, by Lucas Cranach the Elder

Martin Luther was an Augustinian monk and later priest who was professor at the University of Wittenberg. In 1517, he nailed a list of Ninety-five Theses , or points to be debated on the door of the church in Wittenberg and also mailed a copy to his archbishop. These points concerned the illicitness of selling indulgences. They were translated from Latin into German and distributed.

In 1520, he was asked to issue a blanked recantation of his works for heresy and lesser offenses by the papal bull Exsurge Domine . Although the bull demanded Luther burn his own works, instead he burned the papal bull Wittenberg during an incident when others had gathered together books of canon law and were burning them. [65] In particular, Exsurge Domine drew out forty-one specific statements from Luther's Ninety-five Theses, his 1519 Leipzig Debate with John Eck, and other sources for censure.

Specifically targeted in the forty one condemned statements included Luther's support for conciliarism against papal primacy, his opposition to the burning of heretics, his partial support for the teaching of Jan Hus who was burned at the stake, his anti-war stance with respect to the Ottoman Turks, his rejection of indulgences, that original sin remains after baptism, his statements against a three-part formula of repentance, the possibility of knowing and enumerating each and every one of your mortal sins for purposes of confession, his support for communion under both kinds, his rejection of the treasury of merit and purgatory, his position on free will, and a statement he made about the role of money in corruption of the church. [66]

For most of his career, Luther tactically avoided complete identification with either Thomistic scholarship (sometimes termed the "schola antiqua" or "old school") [67] or the "schola moderna" or "new school," which especially relied on Scotist and Franciscan epistemology. Instead, when debating he tactically took positions allying himself with one camp or the other on issues as it suited his overall purpose during debates. It was especially his intention to guard against the threat he feared the voluntarism of the increasingly popular schola moderna posed to the doctrine of justification. Justification in the theological sense is the process by which one is "made right" (righteous) in the eyes of God.

Ulrich Zwingli

Ulrich Zwingli, wearing the scholar's cap. Ulrich Zwingli.jpg
Ulrich Zwingli, wearing the scholar's cap.

Ulrich Zwingli was a Swiss scholar and parish priest who was likewise influential in the beginnings of the Protestant Reformation. Zwingli claimed that his theology owed nothing to Luther, and that he had developed it in 1516, before Luther's famous protest, though his doctrine of justification was remarkably similar to that of the German priest. [68] In 1518, Zwingli was given a post at the wealthy collegiate church of the Grossmünster in Zürich, where he would remain until his death at a relatively young age. Soon he had risen to prominence in the city, and when political tension developed between most of Switzerland and the Catholic Habsburg Emperor Charles V. In this environment, Zwingli began preaching his version of reform, with certain points as the aforementioned doctrine of justification, but others (with which Luther vehemently disagreed) such as the position that veneration of icons was actually idolatry and thus a violation of the first commandment, and the denial of the real presence in the Eucharist. [69] Soon the city council had accepted Zwingli's doctrines and Zurich became a focal point of more radical reforming movements, and certain admirers and followers of Zwingli pushed his message and reforms far further than even he had intended, such as rejecting infant baptism. [70] This split between Luther and Zwingli formed the essence of the Protestant division between Lutheran and Reformed theology. Meanwhile, political tensions increased; Zwingli and the Zurich leadership imposed an economic blockade on the inner Catholic states of Switzerland, which led to a battle in which Zwingli, in full armor, was slain along with his troops.

John Calvin

John Calvin was a French cleric and doctor of law turned Protestant reformer. He belonged to the second generation of the Reformation, publishing his theological tome, the Institutes of the Christian Religion , in 1536 (later revised), and establishing himself as a leader of the Reformed church in Geneva, which became a center of Reformed Christianity in the second half of the 16th century. He exerted a remarkable amount of authority in the city and over the city council, such that he has (rather ignominiously) been called a "Protestant pope." Calvin established an eldership together with a "consistory", where pastors and the elders established matters of religious discipline for the Genevan population. [71] Calvin's theology is best known for his doctrine of (double) predestination, which held that God had, from all eternity, providentially foreordained who would be saved (the elect) and likewise who would be damned (the reprobate), although predestination was not the dominant idea in Calvin's works. [72]

English Reformation

Statue of Richard Hooker, whose emphases on reason, tolerance and inclusiveness influenced Anglicanism. Hooker-Statue.jpeg
Statue of Richard Hooker, whose emphases on reason, tolerance and inclusiveness influenced Anglicanism.

Unlike other reform movements, the English Reformation began by royal influence. Henry VIII considered himself a thoroughly Catholic King, and in 1521 he defended the papacy against Luther in a book he commissioned entitled, The Defence of the Seven Sacraments , for which Pope Leo X awarded him the title Fidei Defensor (Defender of the Faith). However, the king came into conflict with the papacy when he wished to annul his marriage with Catherine of Aragon, for which he needed papal sanction. Catherine, among many other noble relations, was the aunt of Emperor Charles V, the papacy's most significant secular supporter. The ensuing dispute eventually lead to a break from Rome and the declaration of the King of England as head of the English Church. England would later experience periods of reform and also Counter-Reformation. Monarchs such as Edward VI, Lady Jane Grey, Mary I, Elizabeth I, and Archbishops of Canterbury such as Thomas Cranmer and William Laud pushed the Church of England in different directions over the course of only a few generations. What emerged was the Elizabethan Religious Settlement and a state church that considered itself both "Reformed" and "Catholic" but not "Roman" (and hesitated from the title "Protestant"), and other "unofficial" more radical movements such as the Puritans. In terms of politics, the English Reformation included heresy trials, the exiling of Catholic populations to Spain and other Catholic lands, censorship and prohibition of books, etc. [73]

Counter-Reformation (1545–1837)

The Counter-Reformation was the response of the Catholic Church to the Protestant Reformation. In terms of meetings and documents, it consisted of the Confutatio Augustana , the Council of Trent, the Roman Catechism , and the Defensio Tridentinæ fidei . In terms of politics, the Counter-Reformation included heresy trials, the exiling of Protestant populations from Catholic lands, the seizure of children from their Protestant parents for institutionalized Catholic upbringing, a series of wars, the Index Librorum Prohibitorum (the list of prohibited books), and the Spanish Inquisition.

The Counter-Reformation also included the Catholic Reformation, which aimed at improving the Church from within.

The Council of Trent

The Council in Santa Maria Maggiore church; Museo Diocesiano Tridentino, Trento Council of Trent.JPG
The Council in Santa Maria Maggiore church; Museo Diocesiano Tridentino, Trento

The Council of Trent (1545–1563), initiated by Pope Paul III (1534–1549) addressed issues of certain ecclesiastical corruptions such as simony, absenteeism, nepotism, the holding of multiple church offices by one person, and other abuses, as well as the reassertion of traditional practices and the dogmatic articulation of the traditional doctrines of the Church, such as the episcopal structure, clerical celibacy, the seven Sacraments, transubstantiation (the belief that during mass the consecrated bread and wine truly become the body and blood of Christ), the veneration of relics, icons, and saints (especially the Blessed Virgin Mary), the necessity of both faith and good works for salvation, the existence of purgatory and the issuance (but not the sale) of indulgences, etc. In other words, all Protestant doctrinal objections and changes were uncompromisingly rejected. The Council also fostered an interest in education for parish priests to increase pastoral care. Milan's Archbishop Saint Charles Borromeo (1538–1584) set an example by visiting the remotest parishes and instilling high standards.

Catholic Reformation

Also part of this general effort, the simultaneous Catholic Reformation consisted of improvements in art and culture, anti-corruption measures, the founding of the Jesuits, the establishment of seminaries, a reassertion of traditional doctrines and the emergence of new religious orders aimed at both moral reform and new missionary activity. Also part of this was the development of new yet orthodox forms of spirituality, such as that of the Spanish mystics and the French school of spirituality.

The Papacy of St. Pius V (1566–1572) was known not only for its focus on halting heresy and worldly abuses within the Church, but also for its focus on improving popular piety in a determined effort to stem the appeal of Protestantism. Pius began his pontificate by giving large alms to the poor, charity, and hospitals, and the pontiff was known for consoling the poor and sick, and supporting missionaries. The activities of these pontiffs coincided with a rediscovery of the ancient Christian catacombs in Rome. As Diarmaid MacCulloch stated, "Just as these ancient martyrs were revealed once more, Catholics were beginning to be martyred afresh, both in mission fields overseas and in the struggle to win back Protestant northern Europe: the catacombs proved to be an inspiration for many to action and to heroism." [74]

Catholic missions were carried to new places beginning with the new Age of Discovery, and the Roman Catholic Church established a number of Missions in the Americas.

Church and the Enlightenment (1610–1800)

Trial of Galileo

Galileo before the Holy Office, a 19th-century painting by Joseph-Nicolas Robert-Fleury Galileo before the Holy Office.jpg
Galileo before the Holy Office, a 19th-century painting by Joseph-Nicolas Robert-Fleury

The Galileo affair, in which Galileo Galilei came into conflict with the Roman Catholic Church over his support of Copernican astronomy, is often considered a defining moment in the history of the relationship between religion and science.

In 1610, Galileo published his Sidereus Nuncius (Starry Messenger), describing the surprising observations that he had made with the new telescope. These and other discoveries exposed major difficulties with the understanding of the Heavens that had been held since antiquity, and raised new interest in radical teachings such as the heliocentric theory of Copernicus.

In reaction, many scholars maintained that the motion of the Earth and immobility of the Sun were heretical, as they contradicted some accounts given in the Bible as understood at that time. Galileo's part in the controversies over theology, astronomy and philosophy culminated in his trial and sentencing in 1633, on a grave suspicion of heresy.

Puritans in North America

The most famous colonisation by Protestants in the New World was that of English Puritans in North America. Unlike the Spanish or French, the English colonists made surprisingly little effort to evangelise the native peoples. [75] The Puritans, or Pilgrims, left England so that they could live in an area with Puritanism established as the exclusive civic religion. Though they had left England because of the suppression of their religious practice, most Puritans had thereafter originally settled in the Low Countries but found the licentiousness there, where the state hesitated from enforcing religious practice, as unacceptable, and thus they set out for the New World and the hopes of a Puritan utopia.

Early Modern era

This is the period from the Industrial revolution and the French Revolution until the mid 19th century. See the French Republican Calendar and anti-clerical measures. See also the Holy League, the Battle of Vienna, Cardinal Richelieu, and Louis XIV of France.

Revivalism (1720–1906)

Revivalism refers to the Calvinist and Wesleyan revival, called the Great Awakening, in North America which saw the development of evangelical Congregationalist, Presbyterian, Baptist, and new Methodist churches.

Great Awakenings

Philipp Spener the founder of Pietism Philipp Jakob Spener.jpg
Philipp Spener the founder of Pietism

The First Great Awakening was a wave of religious enthusiasm among Protestants in the American colonies c. 1730–1740, emphasising the traditional Reformed virtues of Godly preaching, rudimentary liturgy, and a deep sense of personal guilt and redemption by Christ Jesus. Historian Sydney E. Ahlstrom saw it as part of a "great international Protestant upheaval" that also created Pietism in Germany, the Evangelical Revival, and Methodism in England. [76] It centred on reviving the spirituality of established congregations, and mostly affected Congregational, Presbyterian, Dutch Reformed, German Reformed, Baptist, and Methodist churches, while also spreading within the slave population. The Second Great Awakening (1800–1830s), unlike the first, focused on the unchurched and sought to instil in them a deep sense of personal salvation as experienced in revival meetings. It also sparked the beginnings of groups such as the Mormons, the Restoration Movement and the Holiness movement. The Third Great Awakening began from 1857 and was most notable for taking the movement throughout the world, especially in English speaking countries. The final group to emerge from the "great awakenings" in North America was Pentecostalism, which had its roots in the Methodist, Wesleyan, and Holiness movements, and began in 1906 on Azusa Street, in Los Angeles. Pentecostalism would later lead to the Charismatic movement.


Restorationism refers to the belief that a purer form of Christianity should be restored using the early church as a model. [77] :635 [78] :217 In many cases, restorationist groups believed that contemporary Christianity, in all its forms, had deviated from the true, original Christianity, which they then attempted to "Reconstruct", often using the Book of Acts as a "guidebook" of sorts. Restorationists do not usually describe themselves as "reforming" a Christian church continuously existing from the time of Jesus, but as restoring the Church that they believe was lost at some point. "Restorationism" is often used to describe the Stone-Campbell Restoration Movement.

Jehovah's Witnesses

The term "Restorationist" is also used to describe the Jehovah's Witness Movement, founded in the late 1870s by Charles Taze Russell

Latter Day Saint movement

The term "Restorationist" is also used to describe the Latter Day Saint movement, including The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS Church), the Community of Christ and numerous other Latter Day Saints sects. Latter Day Saints, also known as Mormons, believe that Joseph Smith was chosen to restore the original organization established by Jesus, now "in its fullness", rather than to reform the church. [79] [80]

Late Modern era

The history of the Church from the mid 19th century around period of the revolutions of 1848 to today.

Modern Eastern Orthodoxy

Russian Orthodox Church in the Russian Empire

Churches of the Moscow Kremlin, as seen from the Balchug 2003-04-18 Moscow Kremlin.jpg
Churches of the Moscow Kremlin, as seen from the Balchug

The Russian Orthodox Church held a privileged position in the Russian Empire, expressed in the motto of the late Empire from 1833: Orthodoxy, Autocracy, and Populism. Nevertheless, the Church reform of Peter I in the early 18th century had placed the Orthodox authorities under the control of the Tsar. An Ober-Procurator appointed by the Tsar himself ran the committee which governed the Church between 1721 and 1918: the Most Holy Synod.

The Church became involved in the various campaigns of russification, [81] and was accused of involvement in Russian anti-semitism. [82] despite the lack of an official position on Judaism as such. [83]

The Bolsheviks and other Russian revolutionaries saw the Church, like the Tsarist state, as an enemy of the people.

Russian Orthodox Church in the Soviet Union

Criticism of atheism was strictly forbidden and sometimes lead to imprisonment. [84] [85] [86]

Some actions against Orthodox priests and believers along with execution included torture being sent to prison camps, labour camps or mental hospitals. [87] [88] In the first five years after the Bolshevik revolution, 28 bishops and 1,200 priests were executed. [89] This included people like the Grand Duchess Elizabeth Fyodorovna who was at this point a monastic. Along with her murder was Grand Duke Sergei Mikhailovich Romanov; the Princes Ioann Konstantinovich, Konstantin Konstantinovich, Igor Konstantinovich and Vladimir Pavlovich Paley; Grand Duke Sergei's secretary, Fyodor Remez; and Varvara Yakovleva, a sister from the Grand Duchess Elizabeth's convent.

Christ the Saviour Cathedral Moscow after reconstruction Russia-Moscow-Cathedral of Christ the Saviour-3.jpg
Christ the Saviour Cathedral Moscow after reconstruction

Modernism and liberal Christianity

Liberal Christianity, sometimes called liberal theology, is an umbrella term covering diverse, philosophically informed religious movements and moods within late 18th, 19th and 20th-century Christianity. The word "liberal" in liberal Christianity does not refer to a leftist political agenda or set of beliefs, but rather to the freedom of dialectic process associated with continental philosophy and other philosophical and religious paradigms developed during the Age of Enlightenment.


Fundamentalist Christianity, is a movement that arose mainly within British and American Protestantism in the late 19th century and early 20th century in reaction to modernism and certain liberal Protestant groups that denied doctrines considered fundamental to Christianity yet still called themselves "Christian." Thus, fundamentalism sought to re-establish tenets that could not be denied without relinquishing a Christian identity, the "fundamentals": inerrancy of the Bible, Sola Scriptura, the Virgin Birth of Jesus, the doctrine of substitutionary atonement, the bodily Resurrection of Jesus, and the imminent return of Jesus Christ.

Under/During Nazism

Pope Pius XI Papst Pius XI. 1JS.jpg
Pope Pius XI

The position of Christians affected by Nazism is highly complex. Regarding the matter, historian Derek Holmes wrote, "There is no doubt that the Catholic districts, resisted the lure of National Socialism [Nazism] far better than the Protestant ones." [90] Pope Pius XI declared – Mit brennender Sorge – that Fascist governments had hidden "pagan intentions" and expressed the irreconcilability of the Catholic position and Totalitarian Fascist State Worship, which placed the nation above God, fundamental human rights and dignity. His declaration that "Spiritually, [Christians] are all Semites" prompted the Nazis to give him the title "Chief Rabbi of the Christian World." [91]

Catholic priests were executed in concentration camps alongside Jews; for example, 2,600 Catholic Priests were imprisoned in Dachau, and 2,000 of them were executed. A further 2,700 Polish priests were executed (a quarter of all Polish priests), and 5,350 Polish nuns were either displaced, imprisoned, or executed. [92] Many Catholic laymen and clergy played notable roles in sheltering Jews during the Holocaust, including Pope Pius XII (1876–1958). The head rabbi of Rome became a Catholic in 1945 and, in honour of the actions the Pope undertook to save Jewish lives, he took the name Eugenio (the pope's first name). [93] A former Israeli consul in Italy claimed: "The Catholic Church saved more Jewish lives during the war than all the other churches, religious institutions, and rescue organisations put together." [94]

The relationship between Nazism and Protestantism, especially the German Lutheran Church, was complex. Though many [95] Protestant church leaders in Germany supported the Nazis' growing anti-Jewish activities, some, such as Dietrich Bonhoeffer (a Lutheran pastor) were strongly opposed to the Nazis. Bonhoeffer was later found guilty in the conspiracy to assassinate Hitler and executed.

Second Vatican Council

On 11 October 1962, Pope John XXIII opened the Second Vatican Council, the 21st ecumenical council of the Catholic Church. The council was "pastoral" in nature, emphasising and clarifying already defined dogma, revising liturgical practices, and providing guidance for articulating traditional Church teachings in contemporary times. The council is perhaps best known for its instructions that the Mass may be celebrated in the vernacular as well as in Latin.


Ecumenism broadly refers to movements between Christian groups to establish a degree of unity through dialogue. "Ecumenism" is derived from Greek οἰκουμένη (oikoumene), which means "the inhabited world", but more figuratively something like "universal oneness." The movement can be distinguished into Catholic and Protestant movements, with the latter characterised by a redefined ecclesiology of "denominationalism" (which the Catholic Church, among others, rejects).

Catholic ecumenism

Over the last century, a number of moves have been made to reconcile the schism between the Catholic Church and the Eastern Orthodox churches. Although progress has been made, concerns over papal primacy and the independence of the smaller Orthodox churches has blocked a final resolution of the schism.

On 30 November 1894, Pope Leo XIII published Orientalium Dignitas. On 7 December 1965, a Joint Catholic-Orthodox Declaration of Pope Paul VI and the Ecumenical Patriarch Athenagoras I was issued lifting the mutual excommunications of 1054.

Some of the most difficult questions in relations with the ancient Eastern Churches concern some doctrine (i.e. Filioque, Scholasticism, functional purposes of asceticism, the essence of God, Hesychasm, Fourth Crusade, establishment of the Latin Empire, Uniatism to note but a few) as well as practical matters such as the concrete exercise of the claim to papal primacy and how to ensure that ecclesiastical union would not mean mere absorption of the smaller Churches by the Latin component of the much larger Catholic Church (the most numerous single religious denomination in the world), and the stifling or abandonment of their own rich theological, liturgical and cultural heritage.

With respect to Catholic relations with Protestant communities, certain commissions were established to foster dialogue and documents have been produced aimed at identifying points of doctrinal unity, such as the Joint Declaration on the Doctrine of Justification produced with the Lutheran World Federation in 1999.

Pentecostal movement

Countries by percentage of Protestants 1938.svg
Countries by percentage of Protestants (2010).svg
Countries by percentage of Protestants in 1938 and 2010. Pentecostal and Evangelical Protestant denominations fueled much of the growth in Africa and Latin America.

In reaction to these developments, Christian fundamentalism was a movement to reject the radical influences of philosophical humanism, as this was affecting the Christian religion. Especially targeting critical approaches to the interpretation of the Bible, and trying to blockade the inroads made into their churches by atheistic scientific assumptions, the fundamentalists began to appear in various denominations as numerous independent movements of resistance to the drift away from historic Christianity. Over time, the Fundamentalist Evangelical movement has divided into two main wings, with the label Fundamentalist following one branch, while Evangelical has become the preferred banner of the more moderate movement. Although both movements primarily originated in the English-speaking world, the majority of Evangelicals now live elsewhere in the world.

Ecumenism within Protestantism

Ecumenical movements within Protestantism have focused on determining a list of doctrines and practices essential to being Christian and thus extending to all groups which fulfil these basic criteria a (more or less) co-equal status, with perhaps one's own group still retaining a "first among equal" standing. This process involved a redefinition of the idea of "the Church" from traditional theology. This ecclesiology, known as denominationalism, contends that each group (which fulfils the essential criteria of "being Christian") is a sub-group of a greater "Christian Church", itself a purely abstract concept with no direct representation, i.e., no group, or "denomination", claims to be "the Church." This ecclesiology is at variance with other groups that indeed consider themselves to be "the Church." The "essential criteria" generally consist of belief in the Trinity, belief that Jesus Christ is the only way to have forgiveness and eternal life, and that He died and rose again bodily.

See also

Christian history
BC 1st 2nd 3rd 4th 5th 6th 7th 8th 9th 10th
11th 12th 13th 14th 15th 16th 17th 18th 19th 20th 21st


  1. In the year 64, as reported by the Roman historian Tacitus, the Emperor Nero blamed them for that year's Great Fire of Rome.

Related Research Articles

Western Christianity Religious category composed of the Latin Church, Protestantism, and their derivatives

Western Christianity is one of two sub-divisions of Christianity, composed of the Latin Church and Protestantism, together with their offshoots such as Independent Catholicism and Restorationism. The large majority of the world's 2.3 billion Christians are Western Christians. The original and still major component, the Latin Church, developed under the bishop of Rome in the former Western Roman Empire in Antiquity. Out of the Latin Church emerged a wide variety of independent Protestant denominations, including Lutheranism and Anglicanism, starting from the Protestant Reformation in the 16th century, as did Independent Catholicism in the 19th century. Thus, the term "Western Christianity" does not describe a single communion or religious denomination, but is applied to distinguish all these denominations collectively from Eastern Christianity.

Chalcedonian Christianity refers to the Christian denominations adhering to the christological definitions and ecclesiological resolutions of the Council of Chalcedon, the Fourth Ecumenical Council held in 451. Chalcedonian Christians follow the Definition of Chalcedon, a religious doctrine concerning the divine and human natures of Jesus Christ. The great majority of Christian communions and confessions in the 21st century are Chalcedonian, but from the 5th to the 8th centuries the ascendancy of Chalcedonian Christology was not always certain.

Great Apostasy Theory in some Christian churches

The Great Apostasy is a concept within Christianity, identifiable at least from the time of Martin Luther's Protestant Reformation, to describe a perception that the early apostolic Church has fallen away from the original faith founded by Jesus and promulgated through his twelve Apostles. Protestants used the term to describe the perceived fallen state of traditional Christianity, especially the Roman Catholic Church, because they claim it changed the doctrines of the early church and allowed traditional Greco-Roman culture into the church on its own perception of authority. Because it made these changes using claims of tradition and not from scripture, the Church -- in the opinion of those adhering to this concept -- has fallen into apostasy. A major thread of this perception is the suggestion that, to attract and convert people to Christianity, the church in Rome incorporated pagan beliefs and practices within the Christian religion, mostly Graeco-Roman rituals, mysteries, and festivals. For example, Easter has been described as a pagan substitute for the Jewish Passover, although neither Jesus nor his Apostles enjoined the keeping of this or any other festival.

Christian Church Term used to refer to the whole group of people belonging to the Christian religious tradition.

The Christian Church is a term for a unique collective encompassing Christians across the world, defined differently by different Christian denominations. In Protestantism, the Church is a body composed of all believers, with "body" and "believer" defined in various ways. For most denominations which pre-date the Protestant reformation, "the Church" is connected to a particular human institution associated with that denomination, such as the (Roman) Catholic Church or the Eastern Orthodox Church; this distinguishes the one true church from groups considered schismatic or heretical. Anglican branch theory holds that Catholicism, Orthodoxy, and Anglicanism are branches of the Christian Church. The souls of dead Christians as members of the Church is part of the mainly Protestant idea of the church invisible, and the mainly Catholic idea of the Churches Militant, Penitent, and Triumphant. Ecclesiology is the subdiscipline within Christian theology which studies the nature of the Christian Church.

A Christian denomination is a distinct religious body within Christianity, identified by traits such as a name, organization, leadership and doctrine. The Roman Catholic Church, Eastern Orthodox Church, and Oriental Orthodoxy, meaning the large majority, all self-describe as churches, whereas many Protestant denominations self-describe as congregations or fellowships. Divisions between one group and another are defined by authority and doctrine; issues such as the nature of Jesus, the authority of apostolic succession, ecclesiology, eschatology, and papal primacy may separate one denomination from another. Groups of denominations—often sharing broadly similar beliefs, practices, and historical ties—are sometimes known as "branches of Christianity". These branches differ in many ways, especially through differences in practices and belief.

In Christian theology, ecclesiology is the study of the Christian Church, the origins of Christianity, its relationship to Jesus, its role in salvation, its polity, its discipline, its destiny, and its leadership.

Papal primacy, also known as the primacy of the Bishop of Rome, is an ecclesiastical doctrine concerning the respect and authority that is due to the Pope from other bishops and their Episcopal sees.

Protestantism originated from the Protestation at Speyer in 1529, where the nobility protested against enforcement of the Edict of Worms which subjected advocates of Lutheranism to forfeiture of all of their property. However, the theological underpinnings go back much further, as Protestant theologians of the time cited both Church Fathers and the Apostles to justify their choices and formulations. The earliest origin of Protestantism is controversial; with some Protestants today claiming origin back to groups in the early church deemed heretical such as the Montanists.

Papal supremacy is the doctrine of the Catholic Church that the Pope, by reason of his office as Vicar of Christ and as the visible foundation and source of unity, and as pastor of the entire Catholic Church, has full, supreme, and universal power over the whole Church, a power which he can always exercise unhindered: that, in brief, "the Pope enjoys, by divine institution, supreme, full, immediate, and universal power in the care of souls."

Heresy in Christianity Formal denial or doubt of a core doctrine of the Christian faith[

Heresy in Christianity denotes the formal denial or doubt of a core doctrine of the Christian faith as defined by one or more of the Christian churches.

History of Christian theology

The doctrine of the Trinity, considered the core of Christian theology by Trinitarians, is the result of continuous exploration by the church of the biblical data, thrashed out in debate and treatises, eventually formulated at the First Council of Nicaea in AD 325 in a way they believe is consistent with the biblical witness, and further refined in later councils and writings. The most widely recognized Biblical foundations for the doctrine's formulation are in the Gospel of John.

According to the Catholic tradition, the history of the Catholic Church begins with Jesus Christ and his teachings and the Catholic Church is a continuation of the early Christian community established by the Disciples of Jesus. The Church considers its bishops to be the successors to Jesus's apostles and the Church's leader, the Bishop of Rome to be the sole successor to Saint Peter, who ministered in Rome in the first century AD, after his appointment by Jesus as head of the church. By the end of the 2nd century, bishops began congregating in regional synods to resolve doctrinal and policy issues. By the 3rd century, the bishop of Rome began to act as a court of appeals for problems that other bishops could not resolve.

The doctrines of Petrine primacy and papal primacy are perhaps the most contentiously disputed in the history of Christianity. Theologians regard the doctrine of papal primacy as having developed gradually in the West due to the convergence of a number of factors, e.g., the dignity of Rome as the only apostolic see in the West; the tradition that both Peter and Paul had been martyred there; Rome's long history as a capital of the Roman Empire; and its continuing position as the chief center of commerce and communication.

The doctrine of the primacy of the Roman Bishops, like other Catholic Church teachings and instructions, has gone through a development. Thus the establishment of the Primacy recorded in the Gospels has been gradually more clearly recognized and its implications developed. Clear recognition of the consciousness of the Primacy of the Roman Bishops, and of the recognition of the Primacy by the other churches appear at the end of the 1st century…St. Ignatius elevated the Roman community over all the communities using in his epistle a solemn form of address. Twice he says of it that it is the presiding community, which expresses a relationship of superiority and inferiority.

Christianity in the 15th century Christianity-related events during the 15th century

The 15th century is part of the High Middle Ages, the period from the coronation of Charlemagne in 800 to the close of the 15th century, which saw the fall of Constantinople (1453), the end of the Hundred Years War (1453), the discovery of the New World (1492), and thereafter the Protestant Reformation (1515). It also marked the later years of scholasticism

Christianity in the 16th century Christianity-related events during the 16th century

In 16th-century Christianity, Protestantism came to the forefront and marked a significant change in the Christian world.

Outline of Christianity Overview of and topical guide to Christianity

The following outline is provided as an overview of and topical guide to Christianity:

Christianity in the modern era

The history of modern Christianity concerns the Christian religion from the end of the early modern period to the present day. The Early Modern history of Christianity is usually taken to begin with the Protestant Reformation c. 1517–1525 and ending in the late 18th century with the onset of the Industrial Revolution and the events leading up to the French Revolution of 1789. This article only covers 1720 to the current date. For the early modern period, see the articles on the Protestant Reformation, the Counter-Reformation and the Catholic Church and the Age of Discovery.

Christianity in late antiquity

Christianity in late antiquity traces Christianity during the Christian Roman Empire – the period from the rise of Christianity under Emperor Constantine, until the fall of the Western Roman Empire. The end-date of this period varies because the transition to the sub-Roman period occurred gradually and at different times in different areas. One may generally date late ancient Christianity as lasting to the late 6th century and the re-conquests under Justinian of the Byzantine Empire, though a more traditional end-date is 476, the year in which Odoacer deposed Romulus Augustus, traditionally considered the last western emperor.

Reformation Papacy

The papacy underwent important changes from 1517 to 1585 during the Protestant Reformation and Counter-Reformation.

The following outline is provided as an overview of and topical guide to the Catholic Church:


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  3. "The figure (…) is an allegory of Christ as the shepherd" André Grabar, Christian iconography, a study of its origins, ISBN   0-691-01830-8
  4. On the Creeds, see Oscar Cullmann, The Earliest Christian Confessions, trans. J. K. S. Reid (London: Lutterworth, 1949)
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  10. R. Gerberding and J. H. Moran Cruz, Medieval Worlds (New York: Houghton Mifflin Company, 2004) p. 58
  11. e.g., Bauer, Walter (1971). Orthodoxy and Heresy in Earliest Christianity. ISBN   0-8006-1363-5.; Pagels, Elaine (1979). The Gnostic Gospels. ISBN   0-679-72453-2.; Ehrman, Bart D. (2003). Lost Christianities: The Battles for Scripture and the Faiths We Never Knew. New York: Oxford. ISBN   0-19-514183-0.
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  20. 1 2 Andre Grabar, p. 7
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  27. 1 2 R. Gerberding and J. H. Moran Cruz, Medieval Worlds (New York: Houghton Mifflin Company, 2004) p. 55
  28. R. Gerberding and J. H. Moran Cruz, Medieval Worlds (New York: Houghton Mifflin Company, 2004) p. 55; cf. Eusebius, Life of Constantine
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  30. R. Gerberding and J. H. Moran Cruz, Medieval Worlds (New York: Houghton Mifflin Company, 2004) p. 56
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  33. Padberg 1998, 26
  34. It is our desire that all the various nations... should continue to profess that religion which... has been preserved by faithful tradition, and which is now professed by the Pontiff Damasus and by Peter, Bishop of Alexandria, a man of apostolic holiness. According to the apostolic teaching... let us believe in the one deity of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit, in equal majesty and in a holy Trinity. ...others... shall be branded... heretics, and shall not presume to give to their conventicles the name of churches. —Henry Bettenson, ed., Documents of the Christian Church, (London: Oxford University Press, 1943), p. 31
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  90. Derek Holmes, History of the Papacy, p. 102.
  91. Derek Holmes, History of the Papacy, p. 116.
  92. John Vidmar, The Catholic Church Through the Ages: A History (New York: Paulist Press, 2005), p. 332 & n. 37.
  93. John Vidmar, The Catholic Church Through the Ages: A History (New York: Paulist Press, 2008), p. 332.
  94. Derek Holmes, History of the Papacy, p. 158.
  95. http://www.catholicarrogance.org/Catholic/Hitlersfaith-1.html

Further reading