13th Century

The 13th Century was the time when, after 150 years and way-too-many deaths, the Crusades to free the Holy Land from Muslim control were finally given up as a bad idea. But you've got to give your soldiers something to do — so there was the Crusade against King Peter of Aragon, the Crusades in Hungary, Italy and Poland, the Crusade against King Louis IV, the Crusade against the Bohemians and the Crusade against Finland — the Catholic Church appeared to be on a jihad. In contrast, toward the end of the Century, the Catholic Church of Rome and the rival Orthodox Church in Constantinople kissed and made up — but only temporarily.


The poorly-planned "Childrens' Crusade" ends in disaster.  According to tradition, a boy from France claimed that he had been visited by Jesus and told to lead a Crusade to peacefully convert Muslims to Christianity. He gained a considerable following, perhaps as many as 30,000 children. They walked to the Mediterranean Sea, believing that it would part for them on their arrival, allowing them to march to Jerusalem. When it didn't happen, two merchant ships offered free passage to as many children as were willing to go. But the merchants likely sold the children into slavery in northern Africa, where white slaves brought big bucks. None ever returned.    [Read more ...]


The Catholic Church officially defines the term transubstantiation.  The Fourth Council of the Lateran spoke of the bread and wine as "transubstantiated" into the body and blood of Christ (that is, the bread and wine actually became Christ's body and blood). Said the council: "His body and blood are truly contained in the sacrament of the altar under the forms of bread and wine — the bread and wine having been transubstantiated, by God's power, into his actual body and blood". This doctrine wouldn't sit well with the Protestant reformers who were to come a few centuries later.    [Read more ...]


St. Francis of Assisi has a life-altering vision.  Francis, founder of the Franciscan order of friars, was on a prayer retreat in the mountains when he was visited by an angel. When he emerged from the encounter he had the miraculous markings of stigmata on his body.('Stigmata' is a term for the five wounds that resemble those that Jesus Christ suffered during his crucifixion.) Following this event he was in constant pain from his stigmata, but said that the pain helped him understand more about the depth of God's love for humanity. Just two years after his death, Francis was canonized by Pope Gregory IX.    [Read more ...]


St. Thomas Aquinas is born.  This philosopher and theologian is still considered to be the Catholic Church's greatest scholar and one of only thirty-three Doctors of the Church at the time. His commentaries on Sacred Scripture and on Aristotle are still well-respected. Even into modern times the study of his works was required as part of a program of study for those seeking ordination as priests or deacons. He was canonized in 1323.    [Read more ...]


Raymund Llull, first missionary to the Muslims, is born.  This theologian and scholar encouraged the study of Arabic in Europe for the purpose of converting Muslims to Christianity. He traveled widely, and met with popes, kings, and princes, trying to establish colleges to prepare future missionaries. Llull believed that the conversion of Muslims should be achieved through prayer, not through military force, like the Crusades. In 1285 he embarked on his own mission to North Africa, however the Muslims there didn't want him and sent him packing. But Llull was persistant; he returned 3 more times. On his last trip an angry crowd stoned him, but he was able to get back to his home, where he died the following year.    [Read more ...]


The 7th Crusade, the last, is organized by King Louis IX of France.  This Crusade began well, taking the Egyptian port city of Damietta without opposition. However, the King got himself and his entire army captured as he marched down the Nile in hopes of taking Cairo. King Louis was released only after agreeing to pay an 800,000 gold livre ransom. This was the last serious attempt to re-capture the Holy Land by Christians.    [Read more ...]


The 2nd Council of Lyon attempts to unite the Roman Catholic and the Eastern Orthodox Churches.   (See 1054)  It was called in response to a pledge by Byzantine emperor Michael VIII to reunite the Eastern church with the West. After several months the two sides worked out their differences, and on June 29th they celebrated mass together as a symbol of their agreement. But it was a short-lived union. The vast majority of Byzantine Christians remained opposed this marriage with the Catholic Church, and upon Michael's death in 1282, his son and heir Andronicus II repudiated the union. Ever since, there's been talk about trying it again, but it hasn't happened yet.    [Read more ...]