Apostle Paul | ©Rembrandt Harmenszoon van Rijn

Apostolic Age

31 Jan 2
, Rome

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 has been debated and its coverage is partial, focusing especially from Acts 15 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 a sect of apocalyptic Jewish Christians within the realm of Second Temple Judaism. The early Christian groups were strictly Jewish, such as the Ebionites, and the early Christian community in Jerusalem, led by James the Just, brother of Jesus. According to Acts 9, they described themselves as "disciples of the Lord" and "of the Way", and according to Acts 11, a settled community of disciples at Antioch were the first to be called "Christians". Some of the early Christian communities attracted God-fearers, i.e. Greco-Roman sympathizers which made an allegiance to Judaism but refused to convert and therefore retained their Gentile (non-Jewish) status, 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, sending the message that faith in Christ is sufficient for salvation. Because of this inclusion of Gentiles, early Christianity changed its character and gradually grew apart from Judaism and Jewish Christianity during the first two centuries of the Christian Era. The fourth-century church fathers Eusebius and Epiphanius of Salamis cite a tradition that before the destruction of Jerusalem in AD 70 the Jerusalem Christians had been miraculously warned to flee to Pella in the region of the Decapolis across the Jordan River.

The Gospels and New Testament epistles contain early creeds and hymns, as well as accounts of the Passion, the empty tomb, and Resurrection appearances. Early Christianity 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, into the Parthian Empire and the later Sasanian Empire, including Mesopotamia, which was dominated at different times and to varying extent by these empires.

Christ Jesus, the Good Shepherd, third century

Ante-Nicene period

100 Jan 1
, Jerusalem

Christianity in the ante-Nicene period was the time in Christian history up to the First Council of Nicaea. The second and third centuries saw a sharp divorce of Christianity from its early roots. There was an explicit rejection of then-modern Judaism and Jewish culture by the end of the second century, with a growing body of adversus Judaeos literature. Fourth- and fifth-century Christianity experienced pressure from the government of the Roman Empire and developed strong episcopal and unifying structure. The ante-Nicene period was without such authority and was more diverse.

The Ante-Nicene period saw the rise of a great number of Christian sects, cults, and movements with strong unifying characteristics which were lacking in the apostolic period. They had different interpretations of the Bible, particularly regarding theological doctrines such as the divinity of Jesus and the nature of the Trinity. One variation was proto-orthodoxy which became the international Great Church and in this period was defended by the Apostolic Fathers. This was the tradition of Pauline Christianity, which placed importance on the death of Jesus as saving humanity, and described Jesus as God come to Earth. Another major school of thought was Gnostic Christianity, which placed importance on the wisdom of Jesus saving humanity, and described Jesus as a human who became divine through knowledge.

The Pauline epistles were circulating in collected form by the end of the 1st century. By the early 3rd century, there existed a set of Christian writings similar to the current New Testament, though there were still disputes over the canonicity of Hebrews, James, I Peter, I and II John, and Revelation.

There was no empire-wide persecution of Christians until the reign of Decius in the 3rd century. The Kingdom of Armenia became the first country in the world to establish Christianity as its state religion when, in an event traditionally dated to the year 301, Gregory the Illuminator convinced Tiridates III, the King of Armenia, to convert to Christianity.

Debate between Catholics (left) and Oriental Christians (right).

East and West tension

300 Jan 1
, Rome

Tensions in Christian unity 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.

Another issue developed into a major irritant to Eastern Christendom, the gradual introduction into the Nicene Creed in the West of the Filioque clause – meaning "and the Son" – as in "the Holy Spirit ... 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, ... 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. In addition to this ecclesiological issue, the Eastern Church also considered the Filioque clause unacceptable on dogmatic grounds.

Arian Controversy


300 Jan 1
, Alexandria

An increasingly popular Nontrinitarian Christological doctrine that spread throughout the Roman Empire from the 4th century onwards was Arianism, founded by the Christian presbyter Arius from Alexandria, Egypt, which taught that Jesus Christ is a creature distinct from and subordinate to God the Father. Arian theology holds that Jesus Christ is the Son of God, who was begotten by God the Father with the difference that the Son of God did not always exist but was begotten within time by God the Father, therefore Jesus was not co-eternal with God the Father.

Although the Arian doctrine was condemned as heresy and eventually eliminated by the State church of the Roman Empire, it remained popular underground for some time. In the late 4th century, Ulfilas, a Roman Arian bishop, was appointed as the first Christian missionary to the Goths, the Germanic peoples in much of Europe at the borders of and within the Roman Empire. Ulfilas spread Arian Christianity among the Goths, firmly establishing the faith among many of the Germanic tribes, thus helping to keep them culturally and religiously distinct from Chalcedonian Christians.

The Christian Martyrs' Last Prayer | ©Jean-Léon Gérôme

Persecution of Christians

303 Jan 1 - 311
, Rome

There was no empire-wide persecution of Christians until the reign of Decius in the 3rd century. The last and most severe persecution organised by the imperial Roman authorities was the Diocletianic Persecution, 303–311.

The Edict of Serdica was issued in 311 by the Roman Emperor Galerius, officially ending the persecution Christians in the East.

Edict of Milan | ©Angus McBride

Edict of Milan

313 Feb 1
, Milano

The Edict of Milan was the February 313 AD agreement to treat Christians benevolently within the Roman Empire. Western Roman Emperor Constantine I and Emperor Licinius, who controlled the Balkans, met in Mediolanum (modern-day Milan) and, among other things, agreed to change policies towards Christians following the edict of toleration issued by Emperor Galerius two years earlier in Serdica. The Edict of Milan gave Christianity legal status and a reprieve from persecution but did not make it the state church of the Roman Empire. That occurred in AD 380 with the Edict of Thessalonica.

Before Pachomius, hermits would live in solitary cells in the desert. Pachomius gathered them in a community where they held all things in common and prayed together.


318 Jan 1
, Nag Hammadi

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 Christian 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 inspired by the organisation of the Apostolic community as recorded in Acts 2:42–47.

Paul the Great is born. He is considered the be the very first Christian eremitic ascetic. He lived very reclusively and was only discovered by Anthony towards the end of his life. Eremitic 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. Central figures in the development of monasticism were Basil the Great in the East and, in the West, Benedict, who created the Rule of Saint Benedict, which would become the most common rule throughout the Middle Ages and the starting point for other monastic rules.

The First Ecumenical Councils

First ecumenical councils

325 Jan 1
, İznik

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

Icon depicting Constantine I, accompanied by the bishops of the First Council of Nicaea (325), holding the Niceno-Constantinopolitan Creed of 381

Nicene Creed

325 Jan 2
, İznik

The original Nicene Creed (; Greek: Σύμβολον τῆς Νικαίας; Latin: Symbolum Nicaenum) was first adopted at the First Council of Nicaea in 325. In 381, it was amended at the First Council of Constantinople. The amended form is also referred to as the Nicene Creed, or the Niceno-Constantinopolitan Creed for disambiguation.

The Nicene Creed is the defining statement of belief of Nicene or mainstream Christianity and in those Christian denominations that adhere to it. The Nicene Creed is part of the profession of faith required of those undertaking important functions within the Catholic Church.

Nicene Christianity regards Jesus as divine and co-eternal with God the Father. Various non-Nicene doctrines, beliefs, and creeds have been formed since the fourth century, all of which are considered heresies by adherents of Nicene Christianity.

Christianity as Roman state religion

Christianity as Roman state religion

380 Feb 27
, Thessalonica

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 and Valens 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 government territorial divisions. The bishops, who were located in major urban centres as in 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, and in 385, this resulted in the first case of the state, not Church, infliction of capital punishment on a heretic, namely Priscillian.

Nestorius: Archbishop of Constantinople

Nestorian schism

431 Jan 1
, Persia

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 council 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 Sasanian 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 Greco-Roman Paganism 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. 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. Though efforts were made at reconciliation in the next few centuries, the schism remained permanent, resulting in what is today known as Oriental Orthodoxy.

Christianity in the Middle Ages

Christianity in the Middle Ages

476 Jan 1
, İstanbul

The transition into the Early 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.

In Christianity's ancient Pentarchy, five patriarchies held special eminence: the sees of Rome, Constantinople, Jerusalem, Antioch, and Alexandria. The prestige of most of these sees depended in part on their apostolic founders, or in the case of Byzantium/Constantinople, that it was the new seat of the continuing Eastern Roman, or Byzantine Empire. These bishops considered themselves the successors of those apostles. In addition, all five cities were early centres of Christianity, they lost their importance after the Levant was conquered by the Sunni Caliphate.

Augustine Preaching Before King Ethelbert

Christianization of Europe

496 Jan 1
, Europe

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. As early as in the 5th century, missionary activities from Roman Britain into the Celtic areas (Scotland, Ireland, and Wales) produced competing early traditions of Celtic Christianity, that was later reintegrated under the Church in Rome. Prominent missionaries in Northwestern Europe of the time were the Christian saints Patrick, Columba, and Columbanus. The Anglo-Saxon tribes that invaded Southern Britain some time after the Roman abandonment were initially Pagans but were 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 converted their Saxon relatives in Germania.

The largely Christian Gallo-Roman inhabitants of Gaul (modern France and Belgium) 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. 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 dynasty 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 and continuing missions in Germany. During the late 8th century, Charlemagne used mass killings in order to subjugate the Pagan Saxons and forcibly compel them to accept Christianity.

The Baptism of Kievans | ©Klavdiy Lebedev

Christianization of the Slavs

500 Jan 1 - 1097
, Balkans

The Slavs were Christianized in waves from the 7th to 12th century, though the process of replacing old Slavic religious practices began as early as the 6th century. Generally speaking, the monarchs of the South Slavs adopted Christianity in the 9th century, the East Slavs in the 10th, and the West Slavs between the 9th and 12th century. Saints Cyril and Methodius (fl. 860–885) are attributed as "Apostles to the Slavs", having introduced the Byzantine-Slavic rite (Old Slavonic liturgy) and Glagolitic alphabet, the oldest known Slavic alphabet and basis for the Early Cyrillic alphabet.

The simultaneous missionary efforts to convert the Slavs by what would later become known as the Catholic Church of Rome and the Eastern Orthodox Church of Constantinople led to a 'second point of contention between Rome and Constantinople', especially in Bulgaria (9th–10th century). This was one of many events that preceded the East–West Schism of 1054 and led to the eventual split between the Greek East and Latin West. The Slavs thus became divided between Eastern Orthodoxy and Roman Catholicism. Closely connected to the competing missionary efforts of the Roman Church and the Byzantine Church] was the spread of the Latin and Cyrillic scripts in Eastern Europe. The majority of Orthodox Slavs adopted Cyrillic, while most Catholic Slavs introduced the Latin, but there were many exceptions to this general rule. In areas where both Churches were proselytising to pagan Europeans, such as the Grand Duchy of Lithuania, the Croatian Duchy and the Principality of Serbia, mixtures of languages, scripts and alphabets emerged, and the lines between Latin Catholic (Latinitas) and Cyrillic Orthodox literacy (Slavia Orthodoxa) were blurred.

Early Christianity in China

Early Christianity in China

635 Jan 1
, China

Christianity may have existed earlier in China, but the first documented introduction was during the Tang Dynasty (618–907) A Christian mission under the leadership of the priest Alopen (described variously as Persian, Syriac, or Nestorian) was known to have arrived in 635, where he and his followers received an Imperial Edict allowing for the establishment of a church. In China, the religion was known as Dàqín Jǐngjiào (大秦景教), or the Luminous Religion of the Romans. 大秦 Dàqín designates Rome and the Near East, though from the Western view, Nestorian Christianity was considered heretical by the Latin Christians.

Opposition arose to the Christians in 698-699 from the Buddhists, and then from the Daoists in 713, but Christianity continued to thrive, and in 781, a stone stele (the Nestorian Stele) was erected at the Tang capital of Chang-an, which recorded 150 years of Emperor-supported Christian history in China. The text of the stele describes flourishing communities of Christians throughout China, but beyond this and few other fragmentary records, relatively little is known of their history. In later years, other emperors were not as religiously tolerant. In 845, the Chinese authorities implemented an interdiction of foreign cults, and Christianity diminished in China until the time of the Mongol Empire in the 13th century.

Haakon Jarl was given missionaries by the king of Denmark, but before departure, Haakon sent the missionaries back.

Christianization of Scandinavia

700 Jan 1
, Scandinavia

The Christianization of Scandinavia, as well as other Nordic countries and the Baltic countries, took place between the 8th and the 12th centuries. The realms of Denmark, Norway and Sweden established their own Archdioceses, responsible directly to the Pope, in 1104, 1154 and 1164, respectively. The conversion to Christianity of the Scandinavian people required more time, since it took additional efforts to establish a network of churches. The Sami remained unconverted until the 18th century. Newer archaeological research suggests there were Christians in Götaland already during the 9th century; it is further believed Christianity came from the southwest and moved towards the north.

Denmark was also the first of the Scandinavian countries which was Christianized, as Harald Bluetooth declared this around AD 975, and raised the larger of the two Jelling Stones. Although the Scandinavians became nominally Christian, it took considerably longer for actual Christian beliefs to establish themselves among the people in some regions, while the people were Christianized before the king in other regions. The old indigenous traditions that had provided security and structure were challenged by ideas that were unfamiliar, such as original sin, the Incarnation, and the Trinity. Archaeological excavations of burial sites on the island of Lovön near modern-day Stockholm have shown that the actual Christianization of the people was very slow and took at least 150 to 200 years, and this was a very central location in the Swedish kingdom. Thirteenth-century runic inscriptions from the merchant town of Bergen in Norway show little Christian influence, and one of them appeals to a Valkyrie.

Byzantine Iconoclasm, Chludov Psalter, 9th century.

Byzantine Iconoclasm

726 Jan 1
, İstanbul

Following a series of heavy military reverses against the Muslims, Iconoclasm emerged within the provinces of the Byzantine Empire in the early 8th century. The First Iconoclasm, as it is sometimes called, occurred between about 726 and 787, while the Second Iconoclasm occurred between 814 and 842. According to the traditional view, Byzantine Iconoclasm was started by a ban on religious images promulgated by the Byzantine Emperor Leo III the Isaurian, and continued under his successors. It was accompanied by widespread destruction of religious images and persecution of supporters of the veneration of images. The iconoclastic movement destroyed much of the Christian Church's early artistic history.

The Papacy remained firmly in support of the use of religious images throughout the period, and the whole episode widened the growing divergence between the Byzantine and Carolingian traditions in what was still a unified European Church, as well as facilitating the reduction or removal of Byzantine political control over parts of the Italian Peninsula. In the Latin West, Pope Gregory III held two synods at Rome and condemned Leo's actions. The Byzantine Iconoclast Council, held at Hieria in 754 AD, ruled that holy portraits were heretical. The iconoclastic movement was later defined as heretical in 787 AD under the Second Council of Nicaea (the seventh ecumenical council) but had a brief resurgence between 815 and 842 AD.

Photios I

Photian schism

863 Jan 1
, Bulgaria

In the 9th century, 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. 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.

Monastic reform

Monastic reform

900 Jan 1
, Europe

From the 6th century onward, most of the monasteries in the Catholic West belonged to the Benedictine Order. Owing to the stricter adherence to a reformed Benedictine rule, the Abbey of Cluny became the acknowledged leading centre 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 century through the early 12th century.

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 advancement and 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.

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.

The Great Schism | ©Jehan Georges Vibert

East–West Schism

1054 Jan 1
, Europe

The East–West Schism, also known as the "Great Schism", separated the Church into Western (Latin) and Eastern (Greek) branches, i.e., Western Catholicism and Eastern Orthodoxy. It was the first major division since certain groups in the East rejected the decrees of the Council of Chalcedon (see Oriental Orthodoxy) and was far more significant. Though normally dated to 1054, the East–West Schism was actually the result of an extended period of estrangement between Latin and Greek Christendom over the nature of papal primacy and certain doctrinal matters regarding the Filioque, but intensified from cultural, geographical, geopolitical, and linguistic differences.

Investiture Controversy

Investiture Controversy

1076 Jan 1
, Worms

The Investiture Controversy, also called Investiture Contest (German: Investiturstreit), was a conflict between the church and the state in medieval Europe over the ability to choose and install bishops (investiture) and abbots of monasteries and the pope himself. A series of popes in the 11th and 12th centuries undercut the power of the Holy Roman Emperor and other European monarchies, and the controversy led to nearly 50 years of civil war in Germany.

It began as a power struggle between Pope Gregory VII and Henry IV (then King, later Holy Roman Emperor) in 1076. The conflict ended in 1122, when Pope Callixtus II and Emperor Henry V agreed on the Concordat of Worms. The agreement required bishops to swear an oath of fealty to the secular monarch, who held authority "by the lance" but left selection to the church. It affirmed the right of the church to invest bishops with sacred authority, symbolized by a ring and staff. In Germany (but not Italy and Burgundy), the Emperor also retained the right to preside over elections of abbots and bishops by church authorities, and to arbitrate disputes. Holy Roman Emperors renounced the right to choose the pope.

In the meantime, there was also a brief but significant investiture struggle between Pope Paschal II and King Henry I of England from 1103 to 1107. The earlier resolution to that conflict, the Concordat of London, was very similar to the Concordat of Worms.

Siege of Acre, 1291


1095 Jan 1 - 1291
, Jerusalem

The Crusades were a series of religious wars initiated, supported, and sometimes directed by the Latin Church in the medieval period. The best known of these Crusades are those to the Holy Land in the period between 1095 and 1291 that were intended to recover Jerusalem and its surrounding area from Islamic rule. Concurrent military activities in the Iberian Peninsula against the Moors (the Reconquista) and in northern Europe against pagan West Slavic, Baltic and Finnic peoples (the Northern Crusades) also became known as crusades. Through the 15th century, other church-sanctioned crusades were fought against heretical Christian sects, against the Byzantine and Ottoman empires, to combat paganism and heresy, and for political reasons. Unsanctioned by the church, Popular Crusades of ordinary citizens were also frequent. Beginning with the First Crusade which resulted in the recovery of Jerusalem in 1099, dozens of Crusades were fought, providing a focal point of European history for centuries.

In 1095, Pope Urban II proclaimed the First Crusade at the Council of Clermont. He encouraged military support for Byzantine emperor Alexios I against the Seljuk Turks and called for an armed pilgrimage to Jerusalem. Across all social strata in western Europe, there was an enthusiastic popular response. The first Crusaders had a variety of motivations, including religious salvation, satisfying feudal obligations, opportunities for renown, and economic or political advantage. Later crusades were generally conducted by more organized armies, sometimes led by a king. All were granted papal indulgences. Initial successes established four Crusader states: the County of Edessa; the Principality of Antioch; the Kingdom of Jerusalem; and the County of Tripoli. The Crusader presence remained in the region in some form until the fall of Acre in 1291. After this, there were no further crusades to recover the Holy Land.

Pope Gregory IX from medieval manuscript: Universitätsbibliothek Salzburg, M III 97, 122rb, ca. 1270)

Medieval Inquisition

1184 Jan 1 - 1230
, France

The Medieval Inquisition was a series of Inquisitions (Catholic Church bodies charged with suppressing heresy) from around 1184, including the Episcopal Inquisition (1184–1230s) and later the Papal Inquisition (1230s). The Medieval Inquisition was established in response to movements considered apostate or heretical to Roman Catholicism, in particular Catharism and Waldensians in Southern France and Northern Italy. These were the first movements of many inquisitions that would follow.

The Cathars were first noted in the 1140s in Southern France, and the Waldensians around 1170 in Northern Italy. Before this point, individual heretics such as Peter of Bruis had often challenged the Church. However, the Cathars were the first mass organization in the second millennium that posed a serious threat to the authority of the Church. This article covers only these early inquisitions, not the Roman Inquisition of the 16th century onwards, or the somewhat different phenomenon of the Spanish Inquisition of the late 15th century, which was under the control of the Spanish monarchy using local clergy. The Portuguese Inquisition of the 16th century and various colonial branches followed the same pattern.

Avignon Papacy

Avignon Papacy

1309 Jan 1 - 1376
, Avignon

The Avignon Papacy was the period from 1309 to 1376 during which seven successive popes resided in Avignon (then in the Kingdom of Arles, part of the Holy Roman Empire, now in France) rather than in Rome. The situation arose from the conflict between the papacy and the French crown, culminating in the death of Pope Boniface VIII after his arrest and maltreatment by Philip IV of France. Following the further death of Pope Benedict XI, Philip forced a deadlocked conclave to elect the French Clement V as pope in 1305. Clement refused to move to Rome, and in 1309 he moved his court to the papal enclave at Avignon, where it remained for the next 67 years. This absence from Rome is sometimes referred to as the "Babylonian captivity of the Papacy".

A total of seven popes reigned at Avignon, all French, and all under the influence of the French Crown. In 1376, Gregory XI abandoned Avignon and moved his court to Rome (arriving on January 17, 1377). But after Gregory's death in 1378, deteriorating relations between his successor Urban VI and a faction of cardinals gave rise to the Western Schism. This started a second line of Avignon popes, subsequently regarded as illegitimate. The last Avignon antipope, Benedict XIII, lost most of his support in 1398, including that of France; after five years besieged by the French, he fled to Perpignan in 1403. The schism ended in 1417 at the Council of Constance.

A 14th-century miniature symbolizing the schism

Western Schism

1378 Jan 1 - 1417
, Europe

The Western Schism, also known as the Papal Schism, the Vatican Standoff, the Great Occidental Schism, or the Schism of 1378 (Latin: Magnum schisma occidentale, Ecclesiae occidentalis schisma), was a split within the Catholic Church lasting from 1378 to 1417 in which bishops residing in Rome and Avignon both claimed to be the true pope, and were joined by a third line of Pisan claimants in 1409. The schism was driven by personalities and political allegiances, with the Avignon papacy being closely associated with the French monarchy. These rival claims to the papal throne damaged the prestige of the office.

The papacy had resided in Avignon since 1309, but Pope Gregory XI returned to Rome in 1377. However, the Catholic Church split in 1378 when the College of Cardinals declared it had elected both Urban VI and Clement VII pope within six months of Gregory XI's death. After several attempts at reconciliation, the Council of Pisa (1409) declared that both rivals were illegitimate and declared elected a third purported pope. The schism was finally resolved when the Pisan claimant John XXIII called the Council of Constance (1414–1418). The Council arranged the abdication of both the Roman pope Gregory XII and the Pisan antipope John XXIII, excommunicated the Avignon antipope Benedict XIII, and elected Martin V as the new pope reigning from Rome.

Storming of the Teocalli by Cortez and His Troops | ©Emanuel Leutze

Christianization of the Americas

1493 Jan 1
, Mexico

Beginning with the first wave of European colonization, the religious discrimination, persecution, and violence toward the Indigenous peoples' native religions was systematically perpetrated by the European Christian colonists and settlers from the 15th-16th centuries onwards.

During the Age of Discovery and the following centuries, the Spanish and Portuguese colonial empires were the most active in attempting to convert the Indigenous peoples of the Americas to the Christian religion. Pope Alexander VI issued the Inter caetera bull in May 1493 that confirmed the lands claimed by the Kingdom of Spain, and mandated in exchange that the Indigenous peoples be converted to Catholic Christianity. During Columbus's second voyage, Benedictine friars accompanied him, along with twelve other priests. With the Spanish conquest of the Aztec empire, evangelization of the dense Indigenous populations was undertaken in what was called the "spiritual conquest." Several mendicant orders were involved in the early campaign to convert the Indigenous peoples. Franciscans and Dominicans learned Indigenous languages, such as Nahuatl, Mixtec, and Zapotec. One of the first schools for Indigenous peoples in Mexico was founded by Pedro de Gante in 1523. The friars aimed at converting Indigenous leaders, with the hope and expectation that their communities would follow suit. In densely populated regions, friars mobilized Indigenous communities to build churches, making the religious change visible; these churches and chapels were often in the same places as old temples, often using the same stones. "Native peoples exhibited a range of responses, from outright hostility to active embrace of the new religion." In central and southern Mexico where there was an existing Indigenous tradition of creating written texts, the friars taught Indigenous scribes to write their own languages in Latin letters. There is significant body of texts in Indigenous languages created by and for Indigenous peoples in their own communities for their own purposes. In frontier areas where there were no settled Indigenous populations, friars and Jesuits often created missions, bringing together dispersed Indigenous populations in communities supervised by the friars in order to more easily preach the gospel and ensure their adherence to the faith. These missions were established throughout the Spanish colonies which extended from the southwestern portions of current-day United States through Mexico and to Argentina and Chile.

Martin Luther posted the Ninety-five Theses in 1517 | ©Lucas Cranach the Elder


1517 Jan 1
, Germany

The Reformation was a major movement within Western Christianity in 16th-century Europe that posed a religious and political challenge to the Catholic Church and in particular to papal authority, arising from what were perceived to be errors, abuses, and discrepancies by the Catholic Church. The Reformation was the start of Protestantism and the split of the Western Church into Protestantism and what is now the Roman Catholic Church. It is also considered to be one of the events that signify the end of the Middle Ages and the beginning of the early modern period in Europe.

Prior to Martin Luther, there were many earlier reform movements. Although the Reformation is usually considered to have started with the publication of the Ninety-five Theses by Martin Luther in 1517, he was not excommunicated until January 1521 by Pope Leo X. The Edict of Worms of May 1521 condemned Luther and officially banned citizens of the Holy Roman Empire from defending or propagating his ideas. The spread of Gutenberg's printing press provided the means for the rapid dissemination of religious materials in the vernacular. Luther survived after being declared an outlaw due to the protection of Elector Frederick the Wise. The initial movement in Germany diversified, and other reformers such as Huldrych Zwingli and John Calvin arose. In general, the Reformers argued that salvation in Christianity was a completed status based on faith in Jesus alone and not a process that requires good works, as in the Catholic view. Key events of the period include: Diet of Worms (1521), formation of the Lutheran Duchy of Prussia (1525), English Reformation (1529 onwards), the Council of Trent (1545–63), the Peace of Augsburg (1555), the excommunication of Elizabeth I (1570), Edict of Nantes (1598) and Peace of Westphalia (1648). The Counter-Reformation, also called the Catholic Reformation or the Catholic Revival, was the period of Catholic reforms initiated in response to the Protestant Reformation.

Christianity in the Philippines

Christianity in the Philippines

1564 Jan 1
, Philippines

Ferdinand Magellan's arrival in Cebu represents the first attempt by Spain to convert natives to Christianity. According to a description of events, Magellan met with Raja Humabon of Cebu, who had an ill grandson whom the explorer, or one of his men, was able to help cure. Out of gratitude, Humabon and his chief consort allowed themselves to be christened "Carlos" and "Juana", with some 800 of his subjects also being baptised. Later, Lapulapu, the monarch of neighbouring Mactan Island had his men killed Magellan and routed the ill-fated Spanish expedition.

In 1564, Luís de Velasco, the Viceroy of New Spain, sent the Basque explorer Miguel López de Legazpi to the Philippines. Legazpi's expedition, which included the Augustinian friar and circumnavigator Andrés de Urdaneta, erected what is now Cebu City under the patronage of the Holy Child, and later conquered the Kingdom of Maynila in 1571 and the neighbouring Kingdom of Tondo in 1589. The colonisers then proceeded to proselytise as they explored and subjugated the remaining parts of what is now the Philippines until 1898, with the exception of parts of Mindanao, which had been Muslim since at latest the 10th century CE, and the Cordilleras, where numerous mountain tribes maintained their ancient beliefs as they resisted Western colonisation until the arrival of the United States in the early 20th century.

Pilgrims Going to Church by George Henry Boughton (1867)

Puritan migration to New England

1620 Jan 1 - 1638
, New England

The Puritan migration to New England was marked in its effects from 1620 to 1640, declining sharply afterwards. The term Great Migration usually refers to the migration in the period of English Puritans to Massachusetts and the Caribbean, especially Barbados. They came in family groups rather than as isolated individuals and were mainly motivated for freedom to practice their beliefs.

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

Galileo affair

1633 Jan 1
, Pisa

The Galileo affair (Italian: il processo a Galileo Galilei) began around 1610 and culminated with the trial and condemnation of Galileo Galilei by the Roman Catholic Inquisition in 1633. Galileo was prosecuted for his support of heliocentrism, the astronomical model in which the Earth and planets revolve around the Sun at the centre of the universe.

In 1610, Galileo published his Sidereus Nuncius (Starry Messenger), describing the surprising observations that he had made with the new telescope, among them, the Galilean moons of Jupiter. With these observations and additional observations that followed, such as the phases of Venus, he promoted the heliocentric theory of Nicolaus Copernicus published in De revolutionibus orbium coelestium in 1543. Galileo's discoveries were met with opposition within the Catholic Church, and in 1616 the Inquisition declared heliocentrism to be "formally heretical." Galileo went on to propose a theory of tides in 1616, and of comets in 1619; he argued that the tides were evidence for the motion of the Earth.

In 1632 Galileo published his Dialogue Concerning the Two Chief World Systems, which defended heliocentrism, and was immensely popular. Responding to mounting controversy over theology, astronomy and philosophy, the Roman Inquisition tried Galileo in 1633, found him "vehemently suspect of heresy", and sentenced him to house arrest where he remained until his death in 1642. At that point, heliocentric books were banned and Galileo was ordered to abstain from holding, teaching or defending heliocentric ideas after the trial. Originally Pope Urban VIII had been a patron to Galileo and had given him permission to publish on the Copernican theory as long as he treated it as a hypothesis, but after the publication in 1632, the patronage was broken off.

The Catholic Reformation


1648 Jan 1
, Trento

The Counter-Reformation was the period of Catholic resurgence that was initiated in response to the Protestant Reformation. It began with the Council of Trent (1545–1563) and largely ended with the conclusion of the European wars of religion in 1648. Initiated to address the effects of the Protestant Reformation, the Counter-Reformation was a comprehensive effort composed of apologetic and polemical documents and ecclesiastical configuration as decreed by the Council of Trent. The last of these included the efforts of Imperial Diets of the Holy Roman Empire, heresy trials and the Inquisition, anti-corruption efforts, spiritual movements, and the founding of new religious orders. Such policies had long-lasting effects in European history with exiles of Protestants continuing until the 1781 Patent of Toleration, although smaller expulsions took place in the 19th century.

Such reforms included the foundation of seminaries for the proper training of priests in the spiritual life and the theological traditions of the Church, the reform of religious life by returning orders to their spiritual foundations, and new spiritual movements focusing on the devotional life and a personal relationship with Christ, including the Spanish mystics and the French school of spirituality.

It also involved political activities that included the Spanish Inquisition and the Portuguese Inquisition in Goa and Bombay-Bassein etc. A primary emphasis of the Counter-Reformation was a mission to reach parts of the world that had been colonized as predominantly Catholic and also try to reconvert nations such as Sweden and England that once were Catholic from the time of the Christianisation of Europe, but had been lost to the Reformation.

First Great Awakening

First Great Awakening

1730 Jan 1
, Britain

The First Great Awakening (sometimes Great Awakening) or the Evangelical Revival was a series of Christian revivals that swept Britain and its thirteen North American colonies in the 1730s and 1740s. The revival movement permanently affected Protestantism as adherents strove to renew individual piety and religious devotion. The Great Awakening marked the emergence of Anglo-American evangelicalism as a trans-denominational movement within the Protestant churches. In the United States, the term Great Awakening is most often used, while in the United Kingdom the movement is referred to as the Evangelical Revival.

Building on the foundations of older traditions—Puritanism, Pietism and Presbyterianism—major leaders of the revival such as George Whitefield, John Wesley and Jonathan Edwards articulated a theology of revival and salvation that transcended denominational boundaries and helped forge a common evangelical identity. Revivalists added to the doctrinal imperatives of Reformation Protestantism an emphasis on providential outpourings of the Holy Spirit. Extemporaneous preaching gave listeners a sense of deep personal conviction of their need of salvation by Jesus Christ and fostered introspection and commitment to a new standard of personal morality. Revival theology stressed that religious conversion was not only intellectual assent to correct Christian doctrine but had to be a "new birth" experienced in the heart. Revivalists also taught that receiving assurance of salvation was a normal expectation in the Christian life.

While the Evangelical Revival united evangelicals across various denominations around shared beliefs, it also led to division in existing churches between those who supported the revivals and those who did not. Opponents accused the revivals of fostering disorder and fanaticism within the churches by enabling uneducated, itinerant preachers and encouraging religious enthusiasm.

Restoration Movement

Restoration Movement

1790 Jan 1
, United States

The Restoration Movement (also known as the American Restoration Movement or the Stone–Campbell Movement, and pejoratively as Campbellism) is a Christian movement that began on the United States frontier during the Second Great Awakening (1790–1840) of the early 19th century. The pioneers of this movement were seeking to reform the church from within and sought "the unification of all Christians in a single body patterned after the church of the New Testament.

The Restoration Movement developed from several independent strands of religious revival that idealized early Christianity. Two groups, which independently developed similar approaches to the Christian faith, were particularly important. The first, led by Barton W. Stone, began at Cane Ridge, Kentucky, and identified as "Christians". The second began in western Pennsylvania and Virginia (now West Virginia) and was led by Thomas Campbell and his son, Alexander Campbell, both educated in Scotland; they eventually used the name "Disciples of Christ". Both groups sought to restore the whole Christian church based on visible patterns set forth in the New Testament, and both believed that creeds kept Christianity divided. In 1832 they joined in fellowship with a handshake.

Among other things, they were united in the belief that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God; that Christians should celebrate the Lord's Supper on the first day of each week; and that baptism of adult believers was necessarily by immersion in water.: 147–148 Because the founders wanted to abandon all denominational labels, they used the biblical names for the followers of Jesus.: 27 Both groups promoted a return to the purposes of the 1st-century churches as described in the New Testament. One historian of the movement has argued that it was primarily a unity movement, with the restoration motif playing a subordinate role.

Christianity in Indonesia. A Protestant missionary minister, Wiebe van Dijk sitting on a Sumbanese tomb, preaching the Gospel to the people of Sumba, circa 1925–1929.

Christianity in Indonesia

1824 Jan 1
, Indonesia

The first missionaries were sent by Stamford Raffles in 1824, at which time Sumatra was under temporary British rule. They observed that the Batak seemed receptive to new religious thought, and were likely to fall to the first mission, either Islamic or Christian, to attempt conversion.

A second mission that in 1834 of the American Board of Commissioners for Foreign Missions met with a brutal end when its two missionaries were killed by Batak resistant to outside interference in their traditional adat.

The first Christian community in North Sumatra was established in Sipirok, a community of (Batak) Angkola people. Three missionaries from an independent church in Ermelo, Netherlands arrived in 1857, and on 7 October 1861 one of the Ermelo missionaries united with the Rhenish Missionary Society, which had been recently expelled from Kalimantan as a result of the Banjarmasin War.

The mission was immensely successful, being well supported financially from Germany, and adopted effective evangelistic strategies led by Ludwig Ingwer Nommensen, who spent most of his life from 1862 until his death in 1918 in North Sumatra, successfully converting many among the Simalungun and Batak Toba as well as a minority of Angkola.

Christian fundamentalism

Christian fundamentalism

1900 Jan 1
, United States

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, fundamentalist Christians began to appear in various Christian denominations as numerous independent movements of resistance to the drift away from historic Christianity. Over time, the Evangelical movement has divided into two main wings, with the label Fundamentalist following one branch, while the term Evangelical has become the preferred banner of the more moderate side. Although both strands of Evangelicalism primarily originated in the English-speaking world, the majority of Evangelicals today live elsewhere in the world.

Paul VI presiding over the introductory ingress of the council, flanked by Cardinal Alfredo Ottaviani (left), Cardinal Camerlengo Benedetto Aloisi Masella and Monsignor Enrico Dante (future Cardinal), Papal Master of Ceremonies (right), and two Papal gentlemen.

Second Vatican Council

1962 Oct 11 - 1965 Dec 8
, St. Peter's Basilica

The Second Ecumenical Council of the Vatican, commonly known as the Second Vatican Council, or Vatican II, was the 21st ecumenical council of the Roman Catholic Church. The council met in St. Peter's Basilica in Rome for four periods (or sessions), each lasting between 8 and 12 weeks, in the autumn of each of the four years 1962 to 1965. Preparation for the council took three years, from the summer of 1959 to the autumn of 1962. The council was opened on 11 October 1962 by John XXIII (pope during the preparation and the first session), and was closed on 8 December 1965 by Paul VI (pope during the last three sessions, after the death of John XXIII on 3 June 1963).

Pope John XXIII called the council because he felt the Church needed “updating” (in Italian: aggiornamento). In order to connect with 20th-century people in an increasingly secularized world, some of the Church's practices needed to be improved, and its teaching needed to be presented in a way that would appear relevant and understandable to them. Many Council participants were sympathetic to this, while others saw little need for change and resisted efforts in that direction. But support for aggiornamento won out over resistance to change, and as a result the sixteen magisterial documents produced by the council proposed significant developments in doctrine and practice: an extensive reform of the liturgy, a renewed theology of the Church, of revelation and of the laity, a new approach to relations between the Church and the world, to ecumenism, to non-Christian religions to religious freedom and more importantly, on the eastern Churches.

Te Deum Ecuménico 2009 in the Santiago Metropolitan Cathedral, Chile. An ecumenical gathering of clergy from different denominations.

Catholic-Orthodox Ecumenism

1965 Dec 1
, Rome

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).

Over the last century, 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.


2023 Jan 1
, Europe

The history of Christianity continues to be written today. As new generations of Christians are born and raised, their own stories and experiences become part of the larger narrative of the faith. The growth of Christianity has been especially remarkable in recent decades, with the religion now being the largest in the world. The influence of Christianity is felt in almost every sector of society. It has impacted governments, business, science, and culture in profound ways. And yet, despite its incredible impact on the world, Christianity remains a deeply personal journey for each of its followers. No two Christians share the same journey, and each person’s faith is shaped by their own personal experiences and relationships. In the end, Christianity is a living, breathing faith that continues to transform and be transformed by the people who follow it. Its future will be determined by the stories we tell, the choices we make, and the way we choose to live our lives.


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