15th Century

This Century saw the birth of printing as we know it, and as printed books became more widespread, the growth of reading and knowledge increased greatly. As a result, alternative ideas (not just about religion, but about everything) were now available to the masses. Previously, when all reading material was hand-written by scribes, those scribes were all employed by the Catholic Church; today it would be similar to one person owning all the print media in the world — all the newspapers, books and magazines. You wouldn't expect a great diversity of ideas, and that certainly was the case before the printing press. Beyond a doubt, the most important person in the Protestant Reformation wasn't Luther or Wycliffe or Tyndale — it was Gutenburg.


John Huss is burned at the stake.  Huss was a Czech priest, philosopher and reformer who was one of the very early figures in the Protestant movement. His teachings had a strong influence on Europe, and later even on Martin Luther himself. He was burned at the stake for heresy against the doctrines of the Catholic Church. His last words were "in 100 years, God will raise up a man whose calls for reform cannot be suppressed." 102 years later, Luther nailed his 95 Theses to the Church door. (See 1517)    [Read more ...]


With the election of Pope Martin V, "Great Western Schism" ends.  At the Council of Constance, specifically convened to deal with the dual-Popes problem (See 1309 & 1378), the issue was resolved by securing the resignations of Popes John XXIII and Gregory XII, and excommunicating the Pope that wouldn't resign, Benedict XIII. This 40-year schism did untold harm to papal prestige and intensified the growth of hostility to the Catholic Church in many parts of Europe.    [Read more ...]


The Catholic Church burns the bones of Wycliffe.  The Pope was so infuriated by Wycliffe's teachings and his translation of the Bible into English, that 44 years after his death, he ordered a "posthumous execution." Wycliffe's body (just bones by then) was dug-up, burned to ashes, crushed, and scattered in the River Swift! But the burning of such a man's bones could not end his influence. And what Wycliffe had started became one of the sparks of the Protestant Reformation.    [Read more ...]


Joan of Arc is burned at the stake.  This peasant girl from France had visions from God telling her to lead her countrymen to reclaim their land from the English. After success in battle she was captured, condemned as a heretic and executed. She was only 19 years old at the time. She became one of the Catholic Church's most popular saints after her canonization in 1920.    [Read more ...]


Strasbourg Cathedral, the largest Church in France, is completed.  This was the culmination of more than 250 years work. At 466 feet, it was the world's tallest building until the late 1800's. Described by novelist Victor Hugo as a "gigantic and delicate marvel," even today it is the 6th-tallest church in the world and the highest still-standing structure built entirely in the Middle Ages.    [Read more ...]


Constantinople, capital of Eastern Orthodoxy, is seiged and conquered by the Turks.  Even though the defenders of the city were outnumbered ten-to-one, it took almost 2 months for the Ottoman army to finally take the city. No one was certain of the final fate of Emperor Constantine, who was in the city; his body was never found. This led to a rumor that he had been 'stolen away' by an angel and would return with an army to reclaim the city. It didn't happen.    [Read more ...]


Johannes Gutenburg completes the first printed Bible.  [SEE AN ACTUAL PAGE] Up to this time, all Bibles were hand-written manuscripts that could take more than a year to produce. Sometimes called the "42-line Bible", copies sold for 30 florins each — roughly three years' wages for an average clerk. Within 50 years of this event, printing houses were located in most countries and books became accessible to people who previously couldn't afford them. It would be the printing presses of the next Century that would fuel the Protestant Reformation.    [Read more ...]


Erasmus of Rotterdam is born.  This Dutch scholar was a Catholic priest, teacher, and theologian. He was a prolific author and by the 1530s, his writings accounted for about 20% of all book sales in Europe. His most-famous work was a Greek-Latin New Testament, published in 1516. This work focused attention on just how corrupt and inaccurate the Latin Vulgate had become, and how important it was to go back and translate the Bible from the original Greek and Hebrew in order to maintain accuracy.    [Read more ...]


The Spanish monarchy establishes the infamous Spanish Inquision.  Its main purpose was to assure that Catholicism remained the religion of Spain, and to replace a previous Inquisition which was under papal control. This way the King and Queen could decide who the Inquision went after, not the Pope. Before it was over, more than 100,000 people had died — either by execution or in prison due to the poor conditions.    [Read more ...]


Martin Luther is born in Germany.  This Catholic priest and professor of theology became the first "poster child" for the Protestant Reformation. After his 95 Theses (See 1517) and his refusal to publicly retract them, Luther was excommunicated by the Pope and condemned as an outlaw by the Emperor. Nonetheless, the movement started by this man would rock the Christian world for the next 250 years!    [Read more ...]