11th Century

After the year 1000 passed, and it became obvious that the world wasn't going to end, Europe embarked on some of the greatest building projects that the world had even seen. Cathedrals began to rise up all across the Continent — many still standing majestically today. Massive amounts of time and resources went into building these houses of worship; some countries almost went bankrupt financing church construction. By the time it was over, more stone had been quarried in France for the building of churches than had been used by ancient Egypt in making all their monuments! At the time it was the only way folks knew how to show their devotion to the Creator. These cathedrals became a real sources of pride, as city-states each tried to out-do each other building bigger and more-impressive churches.


The Church splits in two.  In the early Centuries, the domain of the Catholic Church included the entire Roman Empire. But later, when the Empire split in two, times got tough for the Church. By the middle of the 11th Century, Pope Leo was leading the Western half from Rome, and Patriarch Michael Cerularius ruled from Constantinople. These guys weren't exactly friends. A year earlier Cerularius had circulated a letter criticizing in strong terms many of the practices of the Western church. A rather-lame attempt to resolve the differences was made, but it only made matters worse. So the once-united Church became divided into two: Eastern Orthodox and Roman Catholic. It's called the Great Schism between East and West. Although they like each other alot better these days, the Catholic Church's two halves have never re-merged (and it's doubtful that they ever will.)    [Read more ...]


William the Conqueror takes control of England and its Church.  It was with the Pope's blessing that William, a nobleman in France, invaded England. However what happened next surprised everyone — even the Pope. William claimed authority over the Church in the entire region that he ruled. He ousted almost all of the English-born bishops and abbots, replacing them with French clergy who he hand-picked. The conquering king also retained the right to overrule all decisions made by church courts. Although the Pope wasn't pleased by all this, William was always a strong supporter of the Church, so the Pope tolerated him. It was a time when, at least in England, Church and State were basically one-in-the-same.    [Read more ...]


Pope Gregory VII excommunicates Holy Roman Emperor Henry IV — twice!  The rift started when King Henry said that he, as well as the Pope, had the right to appoint church officials. This upset Pope Gregory so much that he excommunicated Henry. Must not have done much good because a couple years later he did it again. The Pope even told Henry's subjects that they need not support their King anymore. Pope Gregory insisted that Henry come to him personally and apologise. Henry indeed went to Rome, but instead of apologizing, he threw the pope out, and forced Gregory into exile, where he remained until he died 12 years later. Bottom line: Don't upset the King.    [Read more ...]


The 1st Crusade is launched by Pope Urban II.  Initially created in response to an appeal from Eastern Christians to help them repel an invading Turkish army, an additional goal soon became the principal objective — the reconquest of Jerusalem and the Holy Land, freeing them from Muslim rule. They succeeded in taking Jerusalem and establishing Christian churches there, but it didn't last. The Muslims came back and for the next century and a half, successive Crusades returned to free Jerusalem again. They never had much real success.    [Read more ...]