Picking up from where we left off, In part II of this study, we saw Christianity which had severed ties with its Jewish origins, and was severely persecuted at times, quickly became a privileged faith with the conversion of Roman Emperors to the Christian faith. With the power and prestige garnered by the Roman Church authority, came schisms, new teachings, heresies as well as rules and regulations through church councils. As the empire divided to the East and West, there were differences in teachings and understanding, while the western capitol Rome would have preeminence, making it’s bishop the pope. The language of the Bible was soon turning from the Greek to Latin and doctrines such as the trinity, veneration of mary & other saints would also become part and parcel of Christianity, while the Sabbath would be outlawed, as well as having any connection with ideas seen as Jewish. The New Testament list of books was finally decided upon, while Christianity steadily spread all over Europe extending the power of Rome throughout most areas, being dominated by the teachings and understandings of the Roman Church. For the 1st part of this study, highlighting the History of Christianity from 30AD – 300AD please go here. For the 2nd part, highlighting the History of Christianity from 300AD – 600AD please go here.
As mentioned in the 1st & 2nd Parts of this study, I acknowledge that no two people would agree on a list of the absolutely important events in Christianity. This is only an attempt to simply give you a better understanding of the history of our faith. If you believe that there is an important event missing on this list, please comment with the reason why you think it would have affected the outcome of today’s Christianity, and I will add it in after review.
2000 years of Christian History – Part III – 600AD – 1200AD
614: Siege of Jerusalem by Persia with the help of Jews – The Byzantine Empire (Eastern part of the Roman Empire with Greek as it’s language and Constantinople as the capital) had ruled over Jerusalem for many years, building monasteries and churches after the reign of Constantine. Under Roman rule, the Jews had been exiled, for revolting against the empire. At the time of the Byzantine Emperor Heraclius, Sharbaraz – the Sasanian Emperor (Last Iranian/Persian Empire before Islam) along with a significant Jewish force, sieged Jerusalem capturing it in the process. It is said that many Christians died in the following riots which occurred. The Sassanids would leave the control of Jerusalem back in the hand of Jews for a short period of time before Heraclius reconquered the whole territory from the Persians by 625.
622: Muhammad’s hijra: birth of Islam – Born in Mecca, Muhammad is said to have received revelations around the age of 40, preaching a monotheism and gathering a steady stream of followers. Under persecution by the Meccan authorities, Muhammed and his followers moved to Medina (commonly known as ‘Hijra’ : Emigration) where he was not only welcomed, but where an islamic state was later established. The rest of Arabia, which saw Medina as a threat, was unable to take medina in the battles that ensued, and by 630, Muhammad gathered together all the warring tribes under the banner of islam, even conquering Mecca.
637: Siege of Jerusalem by islamic empire – With Muhammad’s death in 632, the Rashidun Caliphate was established and Caliph Umar would conquer Jerusalem receiving a formal surrender by Sophronius – the then Patriarch (Head bishop of Eastern Greek Orthodox Church) of Jerusalem under Byzantine rule. The Arab muslims who solidified their rule over the region known as “Syria Palaestina” under Roman rule, and “Palaestina Prima” under the Byzantine Empire would hold control of it till the 11th century. The Al-Aqsa Mosque which stands on the temple mount today, started as a small prayer house, which was rebuilt and expanded in 705. After an earthquake in 746, the mosque was completely destroyed and rebuilt in 754, most of it being destroyed again by an earthquake in 1033, but two years later the Fatimid caliph Ali az-Zahir built another mosque which is what we see on the temple mount today.
663: Synod of Whitby – Two sects of Christianity existed in England – one was Celtic Christianity propagated by Columba in 563 being centered on independent monasteries and abbots. The second was Roman Catholic Christianity being centered around Kent and Essex established by 597. Even though the sects were similar in most traditions, the major distinctions were, when they celebrated easter and whether or not the authority of the pope was valid. Oswy the king of Northumbria, called an assembly at Whitby, where both sides were heard. Celtic leaders quoted Columba while the Catholics cited St.Peter. Even though the Romans prevailed, the two traditions complemented each other bringing about an age of Art and Scholarship in Britain – an example being the Lindisfarne Gospels which was a beautifully decorated version of Gospels written in a medieval script.
716: Boniface brings Roman Catholicism to the Germans – A saxon missionary, Boniface received a commission from the church in Rome, to go the Germanic peoples, later being consecrated as bishop of Mainz and spiritual leader of all Germany. Germans who were known for their veneration of Trees and Groves were said to have a sacred tree called the Donar Oak (also called Joves Oak/Thor’s Oak) which was reportedly felled by Boniface and his retinue. The wood from the oak was used in building a church, and the fact that the German gods could not protect their tree helped Boniface’s missionary work. Because of him Germany would become a stronghold of the Roman Catholic Church up to the time of Reformation in the 1500s.
726: Controversy over icons begins in Eastern church – The Roman Empire which had broken into the East and West, creating Western Latin Catholicism and Eastern Greek Orthodoxy, were growing apart. Religious images which were abundant in the Churches, were opposed at this time by both Religious and Imperial authorities of the Eastern Church, while the West remained firmly in support for veneration of images. Both, the Emperor Leo III, and his son after him, Constantine V, opposed images and passed edicts against them removing, burning or painting over them. Veneration of images was restored by the Empress Irene of Athens, through the Second Council of Nicea in 787. Although the iconoclast controversy returned in the early 9th century, it was resolved once again in 843 by Empress Theodora, who restored the icons. These controversies would contribute to the further deterioration of relations between the Western and the Eastern Churches.
732: Battle of Tours – Islam which had rapidly expanded, saw muslims taking control over Syria, Palestine, then Alexandria, Mesapotamia, and even Carthage as North Africa was swept across by Muslims. Then they entered Spain, while forces had also entered the Punjab area of India, and was at the door of Constantinople – capital of the Byzantine Empire and the Eastern Orthodox Church. While the Western empire of Rome had fallen to the Vandals, Ostrogoths and finally to the Franks, the Roman Church held onto it’s power, growing throughout the world in influence through missions such as ‘Augustine’s to England’ and Boniface’s to Germany’. The Franks who overran Rome were now in power, and were now being threatened by Muslims who not only overthrew Political authorities, but also offered a new religious system. Charles Martel, the King of the Franks who had converted to Roman Christianity, protected the territory, meeting the forces of the Muslim General Abd-er Rahman, at ‘Tours’ pushing them back to Spain, and ending the advance of the Muslims on Europe. While Constantinople had also successfully defended itself against seiges laid by Muslims in 678 and 718, If it weren’t for Frank Martel, the Muslims could have captured all of Europe and established Islam as the main Religious system, making Christianity seize to exist in most countries around the world.
750: Donation of Constantine written about this time – A forged Roman Imperial Decree document, it announced that Emperor Constantine I had transferred authority over Rome and supremacy over the four principal ‘sees’, Alexandria, Antioch, Jerusalem, and Constantinople, and also over all the churches of God in the whole earth to the Pope. This document was used in the assertion of power by some of the Popes, furthering the debate that would ultimately lead to the East–West Schism in 1054.
754: Pepin III’s donation helps found papal states – In 751, Pope Zachary had Pepin the Younger crowned king in place of the powerless Merovingian figurehead king Childeric III. Pepin who defeated the Lombards – taking control of northern Italy made a gift (called the Donation of Pepin) of the properties formerly constituting the Exarchate of Ravenna to the pope. In 781, Charlemagne codified the regions over which the pope would be temporal sovereign: a territory which expanded to include Ravenna, Pentapolis, parts of Benevento, Tuscany, Corsica, Lombardy and a number of other Italian cities.
800: Charlemagne crowned Holy Roman Emperor – Charles the Great, who took the throne after his father Pepin the younger, pushed the borders of his kingdom East, controlling Burgundy, much of Italy, Alamania, Bavaria, Thurginia, as well as Saxony and Frisia in the North. After a long time, a large part of Europe had a stable leadership. Pope Leo III, would crown Charlemagne who held the title ‘King’ as ‘Emperor’ – following in the footsteps of Constantine. Under Charlemagne, Art and Scholarship thrived bringing about the ‘Carolingian Renaissance’, which preserved many ancient writings ; as well as the spread of Christianity in his empire.
861: East-West conflict over Photius begins – A well-educated man from a noble Constantinopolitan family, Photios chose to be a scholar and statesman, being appointed Patriarch(Bishop) of Constantinople by Emperor Michael III who deposed Patriarch Ignatius. Amid power struggles between the pope and the Byzantine emperor, Ignatius was reinstated, while the pope deposed Photios. Photios resumed the position once again, when Ignatius died, by the order of the Byzantine emperor. Even though the new pope, John VIII, approved Photios’s reinstatement, this incident was a clear indication of the ever widening gap between East and West.
862: Cyril and Methodius begin mission to Slavs – Methodius, an abbot of a Greek Monastery and Cyril, a philosophy professor of Constantinople, took Eastern Orthodox Christianity to the Slavs, translating scripture and church liturgy to Slavonic. Cyrillic which acted as the foundation for the Russian Alphabet (and is still used by some today) was specifically created by Cyril for this task, based on Greek letters. It was one of the very first times where the idea of worshiping in any language other than Greek or Latin was even heard of. Germany and Rome, both opposed the idea – and Cyril and Methodius traveled to Rome to argue their case, both of whom became Roman monks after the pope authorized the Slavic Liturgy. Cyril died the next year, but Methodius continued with heavy opposition from the Germans till his death in 885. Shortly afterward, Latin replaced the Slavic liturgy, but Cyril and Methodius had created a fiercely independent Christian faith and tradition that would effect the neighboring countries and the world.
909: Monastery at Cluny founded – With political struggles on the rise, church leaders were acting as secular warlords – grabbing land and power, practicing violence, deceit and all kinds of evil. At this time William the Pious, Duke of Aquitaine, setup a monastery in Cluny, built on the rules laid out by Benedict of Nursia in 540 – poverty, chastity and obedience. Becoming the largest church building in western Christendom, until St.Peter’s Basilica, it led as many as 2000 monasteries. Having a reforming effect on the church, cluny created some of the bishops and popes in the west, notably Pope Urban II who launched the First Crusade.
988: Christianization of “Russia” – Even though Christianity had penetrated Russia, it was not generally accepted till the conversion of Vladmir, prince of Russia. Vladmir, who built a number of pagan temples, had 800 concubines, 5 wives, and was known for cruelty and treachery. When he sought out to keep his people content, he reportedly sent men to examine the major religions – of which judaism and islam were not appealing to him because of their dietary restrictions. The prince who had to choose between Roman Catholicism and Greek Orthodoxy, chose Greek Orthodoxy – the religion of the neighboring Byzantine empire, marrying Anna – the sister of the Byzantine emperor Basil. In 988 Vladmir was baptized, slowly but surely converting people from pagan religions to Christianity. The Russian church which focused on worship, had the liturgy in their own language Slavonic (Thanks to Methodius and Cyril) and beautiful churches built by Vladmir and his successors.
1054: East-West Schism – In 1043, Michael Cerularius became patriarch of the East (Constantinople) and in 1049, Leo IX became pope in the west(Rome). Leo wanted Michael and the Eastern church to submit to Rome. The pope sent representatives to Constantinople; Michael refused to meet them, so they excommunicated Michael on behalf of the pope. Michael in turn excommunicated the representatives. The East and West had differences such as Language(Greek vs Latin), forms of worship, bread used in communion, date of lent, how mass was celebrated, Eastern priests could marry and grow beards(Western priests could not), the doctrine of purgatory(the East did not accept it), the western addition of “and from the son” to the nicene creed of “the Holy Spirit proceeds from the father”(seen as heretical in the east). All these differences that had existed for so long, erupted as these two bishops of the East and West declared each other as not a true Christian – creating a schism that would be unrepairable.
1077: Emperor submits to Pope over investiture – The struggle for power between pope and emperor rose to a fever pitch when pope Gregory VII attempted to enact reforms to the investiture process, but was met by much resistance from the Holy Roman Emperor Henry IV. Henry insisted that he reserved the traditionally established right of previous emperors to “invest” bishops and other clergymen, despite the papal decree. Henry renounced Gregory as pope, and was excommunicated in return, being deposed by pope Gregory, at Rome. Gregory stated furthermore that, one year from that day, the excommunication would become permanent and irrevocable. When violence broke out, with many nobles threatening to elect a new king, Henry felt he had to have his excommunication lifted. Crossing the Alps, he made the long harsh journey to meet with the pope in Augsburg. Reaching the castle of Canossa, the Pope ordered that Henry be refused entry. Waiting at the gate for three full days, henry was finally admitted – and he is said to have knelt before Pope Gregory and begged his forgiveness. Gregory absolved Henry and invited him back into the Church lifting the excommunication. The pope had officially become more powerful than the emperor.
1093: Anselm becomes archbishop of Canterbury – When William of Normandy conquered England, he brought many Norman teachers and clergy to England. Among them was Lafranc, who became Archbishop of Canterbury – and after him his student Anselm would take the position being appointed by William II, son of the conqueror. Anselm who was exiled again and again, for standing up against kings to protect church lands, funds and power – wrote “Cur Deus Homo” (Why did God become man?) at this time. Anselm’s idea of Christ’s reconciling work on the cross is the best known theological explanation of Christ’s atoning work, being called “the Satisfactory theory of Atonement”.
1095: First Crusade launched by Council of Clermont – In 1088 a Frenchman named Urban II, became pope. When emperor Alexis of Constantinople appealed to the pope for help against the Muslim Turks, even though the Catholic and Orthodox Christians were not one church, Urban sought to draw all Christendom together against a common enemy. Calling the Council of Clermont, Urban preached “Tear that land from the wicked race and subject it to yourselves” to which the people cried “Deus Vult! Deus Vult! (God wills it!) which became the battle cry of the crusades. The pope’s representatives recruited many knights from Europe who were spurred by religious goals, economic gain or the adventure of recapturing the pilgrimage sites which had fallen into Muslim hands – and almost being seen as an act of service to God. Urban assured the warriors that they would enter heaven directly or reduce their time in purgatory by warring against the Muslims. On their way to the holy land, the crusaders stopped in Constantinople. While Emperor Alexis, saw the chain-mail-clad soldiers as a threat, the crusaders saw the emperor as a traitor, for making treaties with the Turks. Provisioned by the Emperor, the army captured Antioch and Jerusalem, in the bloodbath that followed – utilizing a “take no prisoners” tactic. Muslims as well as Jews who lived in Jerusalem were butchered and Godfrey of Bouillon elected as Ruler of the Latin Kingdom of Jerusalem. The papacy enhanced its power further by proving that it could muster a great number of soldiers who would die for their faith. The Al-Aqsa mosque was converted to a palace and a church at this time.
1115: Bernard founds monastery at Clairvaux – Known as the greatest Cistercian, he founded a monastery at Clairvaux, establishing 65 Cistercian houses and denying the doctrine of immaculate conception. The Second Crusade which was a failure, was mainly preached by Bernard.
1122: Concordat of Worms ends investiture controversy – An agreement which happened between Pope Calixtus II and Holy Roman Emperor Henry V, near the city of Worms – It brought to an end the first phase of the power struggle between the Papacy and the Holy Roman Emperors by abolishing the claim of the emperors to influence papal elections.
1150: Universities of Paris and Oxford founded – Higher education which took place in monasteries and cathedral schools, turned to private schools with the opening of universities in Bologna and Paris. Teachers and students who received social privileges of the clergy, yet being separate from them – developed fields of study such as Arts, Medicine, Law & Theology. Henry II who prohibited English students from studying in Paris, led to the opening of the university in Oxford – making such study centers incubators for the Renaissance and the Reformation.
1173: Waldensian movement begins – Peter Waldo, a french merchant, enlisted 2 priests to translate the bible into French, and started teaching the common folk about Christ. Waldo and his followers who believed that Jesus wanted His teachings practiced by all (instead of the prevalent belief of a religious life being required only of monks and priests), started teaching the New Testament to the common-folk by going two by two to the marketplaces. Waldo, who was excommunicated by the Archbishop of Lyons for acting outside the church, taught the priesthood of all believers. They also rejected relics, pilgrimages, holy water, clergy vestments, saints’ days, church feast days and purgatory. In 1207, pope Innocent III offered to receive the Waldensians back if they submitted to the Catholic authorities. Many returned, and the ones who didn’t were condemned as heretics and many were stamped out by the inquisition, while others spread out through Europe being embraced by Protestants at the time of Reformation.
1187: Saladin takes Jerusalem – A Muslim of Kurdish origin, Saladin was the first Sultan of Egypt and Syria and the founder of the Ayyubid dynasty. The Muslim armies under Saladin captured or killed the vast majority of the Crusader forces, at the battle of Hattin, reconquering Jerusalem, signalling the end of the first Kingdom of Jerusalem. Saladin, also restored the function of Al-Aqsa mosque to its former state.
1192: Third Crusade – Led by Philip Augustus, Frederick Barbarossa and Richard Lionheart – the campaign which was largely successful, capturing Acre, Jaffa, and reversing most of Saladin’s conquests, failed to capture Jerusalem – which was the main motivation of the Crusade. Saladin who failed to defeat Richard in any military engagements, gave way for Richard to secure several more key coastal cities. Richard departed the holy city after finalizing a treaty with Saladin, which granted the Muslims control over Jerusalem, but allowed unarmed Christian pilgrims and merchants to visit the city. The successes of the Third Crusade also allowed the Crusaders to maintain a considerable kingdom based in Cyprus and on the Syrian coast.
Christianity which was now the Religion of Rome, was spreading all throughout Europe. With the birth of Islam, Rome was threatened as Islam conquered most of the areas under Roman rule, even capturing Jerusalem. While the Eastern and Western churches grew apart finally breaking all ties, Muslims threatened Europe – being pushed back at the battle of Tours. The pope became significantly more powerful, superseding emperors in esteem and even owning land. The 1st Crusade would return power of Jerusalem back to Rome through much bloodshed, but would fail to hold Jerusalem in their grasp as the Muslims retook the city, inciting a failed 2nd Crusade and a partially successful 3rd. Universities of Paris and Oxford were begun creating incubators for the Renaissance and the Reformation, while movements such as the Waldensians signaled the beginning of a free thinking Christianity, which was outside the Church of the Roman Empire.