Funerary stele of Licinia Amias on marble, in the National Roman Museum. One of the earliest Christian inscriptions found, it comes from the early 3rd century Vatican necropolis area in Rome. It contains the text ΙΧΘΥϹ ΖΩΝΤΩΝ ("fish of the living"), a predecessor of the Ichthys symbol.

The history of Christianity concerns the Christian religion, Christian countries, and the Christians with their various denominations, from the 1st century to the present. Christianity originated with the ministry of Jesus, a Jewish teacher and healer who proclaimed the imminent Kingdom of God and was crucified c. AD 30–33 in Jerusalem in the Roman province of Judea.[1] His followers believe that, according to the Gospels, he was the Son of God and that he died for the forgiveness of sins and was raised from the dead and exalted by God, and will return soon at the inception of God's kingdom.[1]

The earliest followers of Jesus were apocalyptic Jewish Christians.[1] Christianity remained a Jewish sect for centuries, diverging gradually from Judaism over doctrinal, social and historical differences.[2] Christianity spread as a grassroots movement that became established by the third century.[3][4][5][6] The Roman Emperor Constantine I became the first Christian emperor and in 313, issued the Edict of Milan expressing tolerance for all religions thereby legalizing Christian worship.[7] Various Christological debates about the human and divine nature of Jesus occupied the Christian Church for three centuries, and seven ecumenical councils were called to resolve them.[8]

Christianity played a prominent role in the development of Western civilization in Europe after the Fall of Rome.[9][10][11][12][13] In the Early Middle Ages, missionary activities spread Christianity towards the west and the north.[14] During the High Middle Ages, Eastern and Western Christianity grew apart, leading to the East–West Schism of 1054. Growing criticism of the Roman Catholic church and its corruption in the Late Middle Ages (from the 14th to 15th centuries) led to the Protestant Reformation and its related reform movements, which concluded with the European wars of religion.[15][16][17]

In the twenty-first century, Christianity has expanded throughout the world.[18] Today, there are more than two billion Christians worldwide and Christianity has become the world's largest religion.[18] Within the last century, the center of growth has shifted from West to East and from North to the global South.[19][20][21][22]


Jewish–Hellenistic background

Main articles: Historical background of the New Testament and Bible

Further information: Hellenistic Judaism, Second Temple Judaism, and Second Temple Period

Christianity originated in 1st-century Judea from a sect of apocalyptic Jewish Christians within Second Temple Judaism.[1][23] The basic tenets of the Jewish religion during this era were ethical monotheism and the Torah, or the Mosaic Law.[24] In this period, the temple in Jerusalem was still central to Judaism, but synagogues were also established as institutions for prayer and the reading of Jewish sacred texts.[25] The Hebrew Bible developed during the Second Temple Period, as the Jews decided which religious texts were of divine origin.[26] Early 1st-century Christians primarily referenced the Septuagint version of the Hebrew Scriptures as it is written in Greek.[25]

The Roman province of Judea in the 1st century AD

The religious, social, and political climate of 1st-century Roman Judea and its neighbouring provinces was extremely diverse, characterized by socio-political turmoil,[1],[27][28] with numerous Judaic movements that were both religious and political.[29] The Jewish Messiah concept, promising a future "anointed" leader (messiah or king) from the Davidic line, developed in apocalyptic literature produced between the 2nd century BC and the 1st century BC.[30][1]

Roman Empire

The Christian gospel came into a Roman Empire which had only recently emerged from a long series of civil wars, and which would experience two more major periods of civil war over the next centuries.[31] This period saw the growth of the cult of the emperor which regarded the emperor as the "elect" of god.[32] Romans of this era feared civil disorder believing it produced anarchy, giving their highest regard to peace, harmony and order.[32] In order to reinforce order, society's class boundaries, which were most obvious in the courts where advantages and disadvantages based on class were convention, were turned into legislation.[32] Status, and the pursuit of status through wealth and the accumulation of possessions, was the pattern of Roman life.[33] Piety equaled loyalty to family, class, city and emperor, and it was demonstrated by loyalty to the practices and rituals of the old religious ways not by the individual faith of Christianity.[33]

Ministry of Jesus

Main articles: Chronology of Jesus, Historical Jesus, Historicity of Jesus, Life of Jesus in the New Testament, Ministry of Jesus, and Quest for the historical Jesus

The main sources of information regarding Jesus' life and teachings are the four canonical gospels, and to a lesser extent the Acts of the Apostles and the Pauline epistles. Virtually all scholars of antiquity accept that Jesus was a historical figure.[34][note 1]

An approximate chronology of Jesus can be estimated from non-Christian sources, and confirmed by correlating them with New Testament accounts.[38][39] Jesus was most likely born between 7 and 2 BC and died 30–36 AD.[38][40] The baptism of Jesus by John the Baptist can be dated approximately from Josephus' references (Antiquities 18.5.2) to a date before AD 28–35.[41][42][43][44]

Amy-Jill Levine says "there is a consensus of sorts on the basic outline of Jesus' life. Most scholars agree that Jesus was baptized by John, debated with fellow Jews on how best to live according to God’s will, engaged in healings and exorcisms, taught in parables, gathered male and female followers in Galilee, went to Jerusalem, and was crucified by Roman soldiers during the governorship of Pontius Pilate (26–36 CE)".[45]

According to the Gospels, Jesus is the Son of God, who was crucified c. AD 30–33 in Jerusalem.[1] His followers believed that he was raised from the dead and exalted by God, heralding the coming Kingdom of God.[1] Jesus had urged his followers to worship God, act without violence or prejudice, and care for the sick, hungry, and poor. He had also criticized the hypocrisy of the religious establishment which drew the ire of the authorities.[46] The Talmud says Jesus was executed for sorcery and for leading the people into apostasy.[47]

Early Christianity (c. 31/33–324)

Main article: History of early Christianity

Early Christianity is generally reckoned by church historians to begin with the ministry of Jesus (c. 27–30) and end with the First Council of Nicaea (325). It is typically divided into two periods: the Apostolic Age (c. 30–100, when the first apostles were still alive) and the Ante-Nicene Period (c. 100–325).[48]

Apostolic Age

Main article: Christianity in the 1st century

The Eastern Mediterranean region in the time of Paul the Apostle
stylized portrait of Jame the Just
James the Just, whose judgment was adopted in the Apostolic Decree of Acts 15:19–29, c. 50 AD

The Apostolic Age is named after the Apostles and their missionary activities.[note 2] The earliest followers of Jesus were a sect of apocalyptic Jewish Christians within Second Temple Judaism.[1][23][50][51][52] While there is evidence supporting the presence of Gentiles even in the earliest Christian communities (Acts 10), most early Christians, such as the Ebionites, were still actively Jewish.[23] The early Christian community in Jerusalem, led by James the Just, brother of Jesus, was singularly influential.[53][54] According to Acts 9,[55] they described themselves as "disciples of the Lord" and [followers] "of the Way", and according to Acts 11,[56] a settled community of disciples at Antioch were the first to be called "Christians". [note 3]

The Church of Saint Peter near Antioch (modern-day Antakya), the city where the disciples were called "Christians".[60]

Christianity gradually grew apart from Judaism for several reasons. Jerusalem fell to the Romans, and the Temple was destroyed in 70 AD.[61] Christianity did not support the Jews in their rebellion against Rome and blamed Judaism's rejection of Jesus for the Temple's destruction.[57][2] 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 warned to flee to the mountains in the north (Mark 13:14), but instead they went to Pella in the East in the region of the Decapolis across the Jordan River, although the historicity of Christians in this location is also heavily debated.[62][63]

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.[64]

Development of the biblical canon

Main articles: Development of the Christian biblical canon and Development of the New Testament canon

A folio from Papyrus 46, an early-3rd-century collection of Pauline epistles.

During the rise of Christianity in the first century CE, new scriptures were written in Koine Greek. Christians eventually called these new scriptures the "New Testament", and began referring to the Septuagint as the "Old Testament".[65] New Testament books already had considerable authority in the late first and early second centuries.[66] Even in its formative period, most of the books of the NT that were seen as scripture were already agreed upon. Linguistics scholar Stanley E. Porter says "evidence from the apocryphal non-Gospel literature is the same as that for the apocryphal Gospels – in other words, that the text of [most of] the Greek New Testament was relatively well established and fixed by the time of the second and third centuries".[67] There were disputes over the canonicity of some texts such as the Epistle to the Hebrews, the Epistle of James, the First and Second Epistle of Peter, the First Epistle of John, and the Book of Revelation.[68][69] The list of books included in the Catholic Bible was established as canon by the Council of Rome in 382, followed by those of Hippo in 393 and Carthage in 397.[70]

Spanning two millennia, the Bible has become one of the most influential works ever written, having contributed to the formation of Western law, art, literature, literacy and education.[71][72]

Ante-Nicene period

Main article: Christianity in the ante-Nicene period

this is an actual map showing where congregations were in the first three centuries
Map of the Roman empire with distribution of Christian congregations of the first three centuries displayed for each century
St. Lawrence (martyred 258) before Emperor Valerianus by Fra Angelico

The ante-Nicene period (literally meaning "before Nicaea") was the period following the Apostolic Age down to the First Council of Nicaea in 325. During this period, Christianity was mostly seen as odd, but also as disruptive, and by some, as a threat to "Romanness".[73] Christianity was mostly tolerated, but also persecuted though persecution tended to be localized actions by mobs and governors until Christianity reached a critical juncture in the mid-third century.[74]

Beginning with less than 1000 people, by the year 100, Christianity had grown to perhaps one hundred small household churches consisting of an average of around seventy (12–200) members each.[75] It achieved critical mass in the hundred years between 150 and 250 when it moved from fewer than 50,000 adherents to over a million.[76] This provided enough adopters for it to be self-sustaining and create further growth.[76][77]

Rodney Stark estimates that Christians made up around 1.9% of the Roman population in 250.[78] That year, Decius made it a capital offence to refuse to make sacrifices to Roman gods. The majority of scholars see Decius' decree as a requirement applied to all the inhabitants of the Empire, but they also see it as possible he intended it as an anti-Christian measure.[79] Still, Decius did not outlaw Christian worship.[80] Valerian pursued similar policies later that decade. These were followed by a 40-year period of tolerance known as the "little peace of the Church". Scholars generally agree there was a significant rise in the absolute number of Christians in the third century.[81] Stark, building on earlier estimates by theologian Robert M. Grant and historian Ramsay MacMullen, estimates that Christians made up around ten percent of the Roman population by 300.[78] The last and most severe official persecution, the Diocletianic Persecution, took place in 303–311.[82]

Church hierarchy

Gerd Theissen writes that church leadership in primitive Christianity transformed from itinerant preaching into resident leadership (those located in a particular community over which they exercised leadership) laying the foundation for the church structure that followed.[83]

Episkopoi were overseers – bishops – and presbyters were generally elders or priests. Deacons served. However, the terms were sometimes used interchangeably.[84]

Following the administrative pattern set by the Empire, the territory administered by a bishop came to be known by its ordinary civil term: diocese.[85] The bishop's actual physical location within his diocese was his "seat", or "see".[86]

A study by Edwin A. Judge, social scientist, shows that a fully organized church system had evolved before Constantine and the Council of Nicea.[4]

Church fathers

The earliest orthodox writers of the first and second centuries, outside the writers of the New Testament itself, were first called the Apostolic Fathers in the sixth century.[87] The title "Church Father" is used by the church to describe those who were the intellectual and spiritual teachers, leaders and philosophers of early Christianity.[88] Writing from the first century to the close of the eighth, they defended their faith, wrote commentaries and sermons, recorded the Creeds, church history, and lived exemplary lives.[89][note 4]

Characteristics of Early Christianity

One of the oldest representations of Jesus as the Good Shepherd, made around 300 AD

Early Christian communities were highly inclusive in terms of social stratification and other social categories.[99] Paul's understanding of the innate paradox of an all powerful Christ dying as a powerless man created a new understanding of power and a new social order unprecedented in classical society.[100][note 5]

Historian Raymond Van Dam says conversion produced "a fundamental reorganization in the ways people thought about themselves and others".[106] Women were able to negotiate an expanded role in society that was not available in the current forms of Judaism or Romanism.[107]

Prior to Christianity, the wealthy elite of Rome mostly donated to civic programs designed to elevate their status.[108][109][110] Christians, on the other hand, offered last rites to the dying, buried them, distributed bread to the hungry, and showed the poor great generosity.[111][112][note 6]

An important cultural shift took place in the way Christians buried one another: they gathered unrelated Christians into a common burial space, then "commemorated them with homogeneous memorials and expanded the commemorative audience to the entire local community of coreligionists" thereby redefining the concept of family.[113][114]

Classics scholar Kyle Harper [de; fr; nl] says "Christianity not only drove profound cultural change, it created a new relationship between sexual morality and society... [replacing the] ancient system where social and political status, power, and the transmission of social inequality to the next generation scripted the terms of sexual morality. ...There are risks in over-estimating the change in old patterns Christianity was able to begin bringing about; but there are risks, too, in underestimating Christianization as a watershed".[115]

Variant Christianities and orthodoxy

Main articles: Proto-orthodox Christianity, Diversity in early Christianity, and Early Christian heresies

The Bauer-Ehrman thesis is the prevailing paradigm in popular American culture, but it is not agreed upon by the majority of scholars.[116] The thesis states that Christianity of the second and third centuries was highly diverse; that its heretical forms were early, widespread, and strong; and that orthodoxy came later when the Roman church enforced conformity to its views.[117][118] Unambiguous evidence in Ephesus and western Asia Minor has demonstrated that heresy in these regions was neither early nor strong, that it was preceded by orthodoxy, and that orthodoxy was numerically larger.[119] The earliest writers shared 'core beliefs' on doctrine, ethos, fellowship and community and many doctrinal tenets such as monotheism, Jesus as Christ and Lord, and the Gospel as a message concerning salvation.[120] In the early centuries, a powerful, united, Roman church capable of enforcing its will did not yet exist.[121][122]

Late antiquity (325–476)

Main article: Christianity in late antiquity

See also: Christianity in the 4th century and Christianity in the 5th century

this is an actual map showing how congregations did form and it looks like the graphic representation of the modular network
Map of the Roman empire with distribution of Christian congregations displayed for each century

According to Michele R. Salzman, fourth century Empire featured sociological, political, economic and religious competition, producing tensions and hostilities between a large number of various groups. Christians described themselves as triumphant and focused on suppressing heresy.[123]

Influence of Constantine and Christian triumph

Main article: Constantine the Great and Christianity

Further information: Historiography of Christianization of the Roman Empire and Religious policies of Constantine the Great

Icon depicting the Emperor Constantine (centre) and the bishops of the First Council of Nicaea (325) holding the Niceno–Constantinopolitan Creed of 381.

Constantine I became the Roman Empire's first Christian emperor in 312, but how much Christianity he adopted at this point is difficult to discern.[124] Constantine was over 40, had most likely been a traditional polytheist, and according to historian Peter Brown, was a savvy and ruthless politician when he declared himself a Christian.[125] Although he was not baptized until shortly before his death, he pursued policies that were favourable to Christianity, and played an active role in the leadership of the Church.[126]

Contemporary scholars are in general agreement that Constantine did not support the suppression of paganism by force.[127][128][129][130][note 7]

However, Constantine wrote laws that threatened and menaced any who continued to practice sacrifice.[158][159][note 8] There is no evidence of any of the horrific punishments ever being enacted.[163] There is no record of anyone being executed for violating religious laws before Tiberius II Constantine at the end of the sixth century (574–582).[164] Constantine did not stop the established state support of the traditional religious institutions, nor did society substantially change its pagan nature under his rule.[155]

Christians of the fourth century believed Constantine's conversion was evidence the Christian God had conquered the pagan gods in Heaven.[165][166] Fourth century Christians writing after 312 constructed this as a universal narrative, describing the "mighty conflict" as begun with the resurrection of Jesus and victoriously completed in Constantine.[167][168][169]

Brown says, Constantine's conversion meant that, as far as paganism was concerned, "everything was done but the sweeping up".[170] "In most areas, polytheists were not molested, and, apart from a few ugly incidents of local violence, Jewish communities also enjoyed a century of stable, even privileged, existence.[171] Fourth century Christians focused on heresy as the higher priority.[172][173]

Constantine's policies were largely continued by his sons though not universally or continuously.[174] By the middle of the fourth century, it is likely that Christians comprised somewhere around half of the empire's population.[78][note 9]

Monasticism and hospitals for the poor

Main article: Christian monasticism

Further information: Ascetical theology, Mendicants, Christian mysticism, and Degrees of Eastern Orthodox monasticism

Christian monasticism grew from roots in certain strands of Judaism and views in common with Graeco-Roman philosophy and religion, and was modeled upon Scriptural examples and ideals such as John the Baptist who was seen as an archetypical monk.[182][183] Christian monasticism emerged separately from these other previous forms in the third century; by the 330's, it had become a significant social and religious force.[182] By the fifth century, Christian monasticism was a dominant force in all areas of late antique culture.[184][note 10]

Coptic icon of St. Anthony the Great, father of Christian monasticism and early anchorite. The Coptic inscription reads Ⲡⲓⲛⲓϣϯ Ⲁⲃⲃⲁ Ⲁⲛⲧⲱⲛⲓ ('the Great Father Anthony').

Monastic communities were, in general, devoted to prayer, moderate self denial, manual labor and mutual support.[188] However, early monastics also developed a health care system which allowed the sick to remain within the monastery as a special class afforded special benefits and care.[189] This destigmatized illness and formed the basis for future public health care. The first public hospital (the Basiliad) was founded by Basil the Great in 369.[190]

Central figures in the development of monasticism were Basil 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.[191]

Arianism, Nestorianism, Monophysites and the first ecumenical councils

Main articles: Arianism, Arian controversy, Nestorian schism, and Monophysitism

Further information: Diversity in early Christian theology, Germanic Christianity, and Gothic Christianity

Imagined portrait of Arius; detail of a Cretan School icon, c. 1591, depicting the First Council of Nicaea.
The ceiling mosaic of the Arian Baptistery, built in Ravenna by the Ostrogothic King Theodoric the Great.

During Antiquity, the Eastern church produced multiple doctrinal controversies that attempted to define how, and when, the Christ became both human and divine.[192] These were often dubbed heresies by their opponents, and during this age, the first ecumenical councils were convened to deal with them.

"Hospitality of Abraham", icon by Andrei Rublev; the three angels represent the Godhead according to Trinitarian Christians.

The first, and most influential, was between Arianism and orthodox trinitarianism. Arianism argued that the Christ was divine, but was a creation, and was therefore not equal to the Father. This spread throughout most of the Roman Empire from the 4th century onwards.[note 11][note 12] The First Council of Nicaea (325) and the First Council of Constantinople (381) resulted in a condemnation of Arian teachings as heresy and produced the Nicene Creed. Arianism was eventually eliminated by orthodox opposition and empirical law, though it remained popular for some time.[193][194]

The Third, Fourth, Fifth and Sixth ecumenical councils are generally considered the most important of the remaining councils, and all are characterized by Nestorianism vs. Monophysitism.[195] The West came down firmly on the side of stressing the humanity of Christ and the reality of His moral choices. To preserve His Divine nature, the unity of His person was described in a looser way than in Eastern theology. It was primarily this difference which was at the heart of the Nestorian controversy.[196]

The Church of the East during the Middle Ages

The resulting schism created a communion of churches, including the Armenian, Syrian, and Egyptian churches.[197] By the end of the 5th century, the Persian Church had become independent of the Roman Church eventually evolving into the modern Church of the East.[198] Though efforts were made at reconciliation in the next few centuries, the schism remained permanent, resulting in what is today known as Oriental Orthodoxy. Most Christians in Asia belonged to branches of the Nestorian church from the end of the fifth century into the thirteenth century.[199]


In the fourth century, Augustine argued that the Jewish people should not be forcibly converted or killed, but that they should be left alone. Until the thirteenth century, that left the Jews in an odd position in society as both protected and condemned by Christian teaching. According to Anna Sapir Abulafia, most scholars agree that Jews and Christians in Latin Christendom lived in relative peace with one another until the thirteenth century.[200][201] Scattered violence toward Jews occasionally took place during riots led by mobs, local leaders, and lower level clergy without the support of church leaders who generally followed Augustine's teachings.[202] [203]


Sometime before the fifth century, the church took its universally held traditional interpretation of Revelation 20:4–6 (Millennialism), and augmented it with supersessionism.[204][205] Millennialism is the hope of the thousand-year reign of the Messiah on earth, centered in Jerusalem, ruling with the redeemed Israel.[206] Supersessionism is a historicized and allegorized version of this which sees the church as the metaphorical Israel, thereby eliminating the Jews altogether.[207]

Supersessionism is significant because "It is undeniable that anti-Jewish bias has often gone hand-in-hand with the supersessionist view".[208] Many Jewish writers trace anti-semitism, and the consequences of it in World War II, to this particular doctrine among Christians.[209][210] Supersessionism has been a part of Christian thought for much of Christian history.[211] However, it has never been an official doctrine and has never been universally held.[206]

Christianity as a state religion

Main article: State church of the Roman Empire

Further information: Christianity and paganism, Persecution of pagans in the late Roman Empire, Theodosius I, and Religious policies of Constantius II

map of Roman Empire surrounding entire Mediterranean Sea in 375 under Theodosius the great
Theodosius I's empire

In the centuries following his death, Theodosius I (347–395) gained a reputation as the emperor who established Nicene Christianity as the official religion of the empire. Contemporary scholars see this as part of the narrative created by Christians at the end of the fourth century in their battle against Arianism.[212][213][214][215] Cameron explains that, since Theodosius's predecessors Constantine, Constantius, and Valens had all been semi-Arians, it fell to the orthodox Theodosius to receive credit for the triumph of Christianity from Christian literary tradition.[216][note 13] Cameron concludes there is no solid evidence that a universal ban on paganism in the Roman empire ever existed.[237] Peter Brown has written that, "it is impossible to speak of a Christian empire as existing before Justinian I" in the sixth century.[238]

The first countries to make Christianity their state religion were Armenia (301), Georgia (4th century), Ethiopia and Eritrea in 325.[239][240][241]

Christianity in the Roman Africa province

Main article: Christianity in the Roman Africa province

Informal primacy was exercised by the Archdiocese of Carthage, a metropolitan archdiocese also known as "Church of Carthage". The Church of Carthage thus was to the Early African church what the Church of Rome was to the Catholic Church in Italy.[242] Famous figures include Saint Perpetua, Saint Felicitas, and their Companions (died c. 203), Tertullian (c. 155–240),[243] Cyprian (c. 200–258), Caecilianus (floruit 311), Saint Aurelius (died 429), Augustine of Hippo (died 430), and Eugenius of Carthage (died 505).

In North Africa of the fourth century, a reaction to the reinstatement of Bishops who had fled during the persecution of Diocletian formed Donatism as a Christian sect that withdrew from Catholicism. It mainly flourished among the indigenous North African Berber population during the fourth and fifth centuries.[244][245][246] By the time Augustine became coadjutor Bishop of Hippo in 395, Donatists had been fomenting protests and street violence, refusing compromise, and attacking random Catholics without warning for decades. They often did serious and unprovoked bodily harm such as beating people with clubs, cutting off hands and feet, and gouging out eyes.[247]

Augustine began defending violence by the imperial authorities as a means of coercing the Donatists to repent, though he always opposed execution.[248][244] His authority on coercion was undisputed for over a millennium in Western Christianity, and according to Brown "it provided the theological foundation for the justification of medieval persecution".[249]


The integration of barbarian people into the Roman world of the fourth century transformed both Roman culture and the barbarians. One aspect of this change was religious. Beginning with the Goths around 369, various Germanic people adopted Christianity, and began to form into the distinct ethnic groups that would become the future nations of Europe.[250] Vandals converted shortly before they left Spain for northern Africa in 429.[251] Clovis I converted to Catholicism sometime around 498, founding what would eventually become the Carolingian Dynasty.[252]

In all cases, Christianization meant "the Germanic conquerors lost their native languages" as these languages became Latinized.[253] At least one historian of the time, Orosius, wrote that conversion made the barbarians milder and set limits on their "savagery".[254]

Early Middle Ages (476–842)

Main article: Christianity in the Middle Ages

See also: Christianity in the 6th century, Christianity in the 7th century, and Christianity in the 8th century

Further information: Syriac Christianity and Church of the East

The Age of the monk

Historian Geoffrey Blainey writes that the Catholic Church in the period between the Fall of Rome (476 C.E.) and the rise of the Carolingian Franks (750 C.E.) was like an early version of a welfare state. "It conducted hospitals for the old and orphanages for the young; hospices for the sick of all ages; places for the lepers; and hostels or inns where pilgrims could buy a cheap bed and meal". It supplied food to the population during famine and distributed food to the poor.[255][256]

Monasteries preserved classical craft and artistic skills while maintaining intellectual culture within their schools, scriptoria and libraries. As well as providing a focus for spiritual life, they functioned as agricultural, economic and production centers, particularly in remote regions.[257]

These early monasteries were models of productivity and economic resourcefulness, teaching their local communities animal husbandry, cheese making, wine making, and various other skills.[258] Medical practice was highly important and medieval monasteries are best known for their contributions to medical tradition. They also made advances in sciences such as astronomy, and St. Benedict's Rule (480–543) impacted politics and law.[256][259]

The formation of these organized bodies of believers distinct from political and familial authority, especially for women, gradually carved out a series of social spaces with some amount of independence thereby revolutionizing social history.[260]

Western missionary expansion

Main articles: Christianization and Christianization of Europe

Further information: Celtic Christianity and Germanic Christianity

After the Fall of Rome in the late fifth century, the church gradually replaced the Roman Empire as the unifying force in Europe, providing what security there was, actively preserving ancient texts and literacy.[261][262]

Pope Celestine I (422–430) sent Palladius to be the first bishop to the Irish in 431, and in 432, Gaul supported St Patrick as he began his mission there.[263] Relying largely on recent archaeological developments, Lorcan Harney has reported to the Royal Academy that the missionaries and traders who came to Ireland in the fifth to sixth centuries were not backed by any military force.[263]

Recent archaeology indicates Christianity had become an established minority faith in some parts of Britain by the fourth century. It was largely mainstream, and in certain areas, was continuous.[264] Irish missionaries led by Saint Columba, went to Iona (from 563), and converted many Picts.[265] The court of Anglo-Saxon Northumbria, and the Gregorian mission who landed in 596 sent by Pope Gregory I and led by Augustine of Canterbury, did the same for the Kingdom of Kent.[266]

The Franks first appear in the historical record in the 3rd century as a confederation of Germanic tribes living on the east bank of the lower Rhine River. The largely Christian Gallo-Roman inhabitants of Gaul (modern France and Belgium) were overrun by the Franks in the early 5th century. They were persecuted until the Frankish King Clovis I converted from Paganism to Roman Catholicism in 496.[267] Clovis I became the first king of the Franks to unite all of the Frankish tribes under one ruler.[268]

A seismic moment

In 416, the Germanic Visigoths had crossed into Hispania as Roman allies.[269] They converted to Arian Christianity shortly before 429.[251] An important shift took place in 612 when the Visigothic King Sisebut declared the obligatory conversion of all Jews in Spain, contradicting Pope Gregory who had reiterated the traditional ban against forced conversion of the Jews in 591.[270] Scholars refer to this shift as a "seismic moment" in Christian history.[271]

Justinian I and Eastern influence

The Eastern Roman Empire, with its heartland in Greece and Asia Minor, became the Byzantine Empire after the fall of the Roman West.[272] With its autocratic government, stable farm economy, Greek heritage and Orthodox Christianity, the Byzantine Empire lasted until 1453 and the Fall of Constantinople.[192]

this is a map showing the area that Justinian I conquered
The extent of the Byzantine Empire under Justinian's uncle Justin I is shown in the darker color. The lighter color shows the conquests of his successor, Justinian I also known as Justinian the Great

During Byzantium's first major historical period, from 476 to 641, its borders reached its furthest limits under the Emperor Justinian I.[273] In an attempt to reunite the empire, Justinian went to Rome to liberate it from barbarians leading to a guerrilla war that lasted nearly 20 years.[274]

After fighting ended, Justinian used a Pragmatic Sanction to assert control over Italy.[275] The Sanction effectively removed the supports that had allowed the Roman Senate to retain power.[276] Thereafter, the political and social influence of the Senate's aristocratic members disappeared, and by 630, the Senate ceased to exist. Its building was converted into a church.[276] Bishops stepped into civic leadership in the Senator's places.[276] The position and influence of the pope rose.[277]

A mosaic of Justinian I in the Basilica of San Vitale, Ravenna, Italy

Before the eighth century, the Pope as the 'Bishop of Rome,' had not had special influence over other bishops outside Rome and had not yet manifested as the central ecclesiastical power.[278] From the late seventh to the middle of the eighth century, eleven of the thirteen men who held the position of Roman Pope were the sons of families from the East. Before they could be installed, these Popes had to be approved by the head of State, the Byzantine emperor.[279]

This Byzantine papacy, along with losses to Islam and changes within Christianity itself, helped put an end to Ancient Christianity in the West.[280][281] This helped transform Christianity into its eclectic medieval forms.[282][283][284]


Main article: Byzantine Iconoclasm

An Eastern Roman mosaic showing a basilica with towers, mounted with Christian crosses, 5th century, Louvre

In terms of prosperity and cultural life, the Byzantine Empire of this period forms one of the high points of Christian history and Christian civilization,[285] and Constantinople remained the leading city of the Christian world in size, wealth, and culture.[286] There was a renewed interest in classical Greek philosophy and science, as well as an increase in literary output in vernacular Greek.[287] Byzantine art and literature held a preeminent place in Europe, and the cultural impact of Byzantine art on the West during this period was enormous and of long-lasting significance.[288]

Following a series of heavy military reversals against the Muslims, Iconoclasm emerged within the provinces of the Byzantine Empire in the early 8th century. In the 720s, the Byzantine Emperor Leo III the Isaurian banned the pictorial representation of Christ, saints, and biblical scenes. 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.[289] The iconoclastic movement destroyed much of the Christian Church's early artistic history. 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.

The Rise of Islam

The rise of Islam (600 to 1517) unleashed a series of military campaigns that conquered Syria, Mesopotamia, Egypt and Persia by 650, adding North Africa and most of Spain by 740. Only the Franks and Constantinople were able to withstand this medieval juggernaut. Historians Matthews and Platt have written that, "At its height, the Arab Empire stretched from the Indus River and the borders of China in the East, to the Atlantic in the West, and from the Taurus mountains in the North to the Sahara in the South". Islam was the colossus of the Middle Ages.[290]

Rashidun Caliphate

The Umayyad Mosque was built on the site of a church

Since they are considered "People of the Book" in the Islamic religion, Christians under Muslim rule were protected as dhimmi.[291][292] However, dhimmi are inferior to Muslims in Muslim culture, and Christian populations living in the lands invaded by the Arab Muslim armies between the 7th and 10th centuries AD suffered religious persecution, religious violence, forced conversion to Islam,[291][293] and martyrdom multiple times at the hands of Arab Muslim officials and rulers.[292][294][293][295] Many were executed under the Islamic death penalty for defending their Christian faith.[294][293][295]

Umayyad Caliphate

Roderick is venerated as one of the Martyrs of Córdoba

In general, Christians subject to Islamic rule were allowed to practice their religion with some notable limitations stemming from the apocryphal Pact of Umar. This treaty, supposedly enacted in 717 AD, forbade Christians from publicly displaying the cross on church buildings, from summoning congregants to prayer with a bell, from re-building or repairing churches and monasteries after they had been destroyed or damaged, and imposed other restrictions relating to occupations, clothing, and weapons.[296]The Umayyad Caliphate persecuted many Berber Christians in the 7th and 8th centuries AD, who slowly converted to Islam.[297]

Abbasid Caliphate

The Abbasid Caliphate was less tolerant of Christianity than had been the Umayyad caliphs.[292] Those such as Elias of Heliopolis, monks and prisoners of war who refused to convert were frequently killed.[298]

Nonetheless, Christian officials continued to be employed in the government, and the Christians of the Church of the East and the Jacobite Church were often tasked with the translation of Ancient Greek philosophy and Greek mathematics.[292][299][note 14]

High Middle Ages (800–1299)

Main article: Medieval history of Christianity § High Middle Ages (800–1300)

See also: Christianity in the 9th century, Christianity in the 10th century, Christianity in the 11th century, Christianity in the 12th century, and Christianity in the 13th century

The intense and rapid changes of the High Middle Ages are considered some of the most significant in the history of Christianity.[307]

Massacre and Renaissance

Main articles: Carolingian Renaissance and Carolingian church

Further information: Donation of Pepin and Frankish Papacy

The Coronation of Charlemagne, by assistants of Raphael, c. 1516–1517.

Saxon resistance to rule by the Carolingian kings was fierce and often targeted Christian churches and monasteries.[308] In 782 Saxons broke yet another treaty with Charlemagne, attacking the Franks when the king was away, dealing the Frankish troops heavy losses.[267][309][310] In response, the Frankish King returned, defeated them, and "enacted a variety of draconian measures" beginning with the massacre at Verden.[311] He ordered the decapitation of 4500 Saxon prisoners offering them baptism as an alternative to death.[312] These events were followed by the severe legislation of the Capitulatio de partibus Saxoniae in 785 which prescribes death to those that are disloyal to the king, harm Christian churches or its ministers, or practice pagan burial rites.[313] His harsh methods raised objections from his friends Alcuin and Paulinus of Aquileia.[314] Charlemagne abolished the death penalty for paganism in 797.[315]

Charlemagne also began the Carolingian Renaissance, a period of intellectual and cultural revival of literature, arts, and scriptural studies, a renovation of law and the courts, and the promotion of literacy. Charlemagne himself could not read or write, but he admired it, so in order to address the problems of illiteracy, Charlemagne founded schools and attracted the most learned men from all of Europe to his court. They had many accomplishments including the development of lower case letters called Carolingian minuscule.[316] Beginning in the late 8th century under Charlemagne, renaissance continued into the 9th century under his son, Louis the Pious.[317]

Charlemagne transformed law, and founded feudalism.[318]

Monastic reform

Further information: Cluniac Reforms, English Benedictine Reform, and Gregorian Reform

The spread of Cistercians from their original sites in Western-Central Europe during the Middle Ages

The church of this era had immense authority, but the key to its power were three monastic reformation movements that swept Europe in the tenth and eleventh centuries.[319][320] Prior to this, the church had become riddled with corruption, the buying and selling of church offices, and disregard for the sacraments.[321]

Owing to its stricter adherence to the reformed Benedictine rule, the Abbey of Cluny became the leading centre of Western monasticism from the later 10th century.[322] The monastery at Cluny was established in 910 by the Benedictine Order without feudal obligations, allowing it to institute reforms.[321] 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.[307]

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. Inspired by Bernard of Clairvaux, the primary builder of the Cistercians, they became the main force of technological advancement and diffusion in medieval Europe.[323]

A third level of monastic reform was provided by the establishment of the Mendicant orders. 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. Ancient Christians had not thought of their movement in terms of social reform, whereas a "profound revolution in religious sentiment" led the new monastics to see their calling as actively working to reform the world.[324][325] Commonly known as "friars", mendicants live under a monastic rule with traditional vows of poverty, chastity, and obedience but they emphasize preaching, missionary activity, and education.

The monk's new focus on reforming the world influenced the next 400 years of European history.[307] Dominicans came to dominate the new universities; they traveled about preaching against heresy, and eventually became notorious for their participation in the Medieval Inquisition, the Albigensian Crusade and the Northern crusades.[326] Christian policy denying the existence of witches and witchcraft would later be challenged by the Dominicans allowing them to participate in witch trials.[327][328]


While the Middle Ages was a difficult time for most women, abbesses and female superiors of monastic houses were powerful figures whose influence could rival that of male bishops and abbots.[329][330]

The Gregorian Reform also impacted women in general by establishing new law requiring the consent of both parties before a marriage could be performed, a minimum age for marriage, and by codifying marriage as a sacrament.[331][332] That made the union a binding contract, making abandonment prosecutable with dissolution of marriage overseen by Church authorities.[333] Although the Church abandoned tradition to allow women the same rights as men to dissolve a marriage, in practice men were granted dissolutions more frequently than women.[334][335]

Spread of Christianity in Eastern Europe

Main article: Christianization

See also: Christianization of Serbs, Christianization of Bohemia, Christianization of Moravia, Christianization of Europe, and Spread of Christianity

Western Europe, the Holy Roman Empire, Kievan Rus', and the Byzantine Empire in the Middle Ages (year 1000)

Throughout central and eastern Europe, the Balkan Peninsula (Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Croatia, Kosovo, Montenegro, North Macedonia, Romania, Serbia, and Slovenia), and the area north of the Danube (Poland, Hungary, Russia), Christianization and political centralization went hand in hand.[336][337] Local elites wanted to convert because they gained prestige and power through matrimonial alliances and participation in imperial rituals.[338][note 15]

Duchy of Bohemia and the Holy Roman Empire in 11th century
Czech Rep. – Bohemia, Moravia and Silesia IV (en)

Significant missionary activity in this region only took place after Charlemagne defeated the Avar Khaganate several times at the end of the 8th century and the beginning of the ninth centuries.[339]

St. Cyril and St. Methodius monument on Mt. Radhošť

Two Byzantine brothers, Saints Constantine-Cyril and Methodius, played the key missionary roles in spreading Christianity to Bohemia, Moravia and Slovakia territories beginning in 863.[340] They spent approximately 40 months in Great Moravia continuously translating texts, teaching students, and developing the first Slavic alphabet while translating the Gospel into the Old Church Slavonic language.[341][342] Old Church Slavonic became the first literary language of the Slavs and, eventually, the educational foundation for all Slavic nations.[341]

East West schism

Main article: Christianity in the Middle Ages

See also: Photian schism and East–West Schism

Further information: Eastern Orthodox opposition to papal supremacy

Many differences between East and West had existed since Antiquity. Disagreements over whether Pope or Patriarch should lead the church, whether that should be done in Latin or Greek, whether priests must remain celibate and other points of doctrine such as the Filioque Clause which was added to the Nicene creed by the west, were intensified by cultural, geographical, geopolitical, and linguistic differences between East and West.[192][343][344] Eventually, this produced the East–West Schism, also known as the "Great Schism" of 1054, which separated the Church into Western Catholicism and Eastern Orthodoxy.[343]

Rise of universities

Modern western universities have their origins directly in the Medieval Church.[345][346][347][348][349] They began as cathedral schools then formed into self-governing corporations with charters.[350] Students were considered clerics.[351] This was a benefit that imparted legal immunities and protections. Schools were divided into faculties which specialized in law, medicine, theology or liberal arts (largely devoted to Aristotle), awarded degrees and held the famous quodlibeta theological debates amongst faculty and students.[350][352] The earliest were the University of Bologna (1088), the University of Oxford (1096), and the University of Paris where the faculty was of international renown (c. 1150).[353][354][355] Matthews and Platt say "these were the first Western schools of higher education since the sixth century".[350]

Investiture controversy

Main article: Investiture controversy

Henry IV, the Holy Roman Emperor at the gate of Canossa Castle in 1077, during the Investiture controversy.

The Investiture controversy was the most significant conflict between secular and religious powers that took place in medieval Europe.[356] It began as a dispute in the 11th century between the Holy Roman Emperor Henry IV and Pope Gregory VII concerning who would appoint bishops (investiture).[357] Ending lay investiture threatened to undercut the power of the Holy Roman Empire and the ambitions of the European nobility. But allowing lay investiture meant the Pope's authority over his own people was limited.[358][note 16]

A similar controversy occurred in England between King Henry I and St. Anselm, Archbishop of Canterbury, over investiture and episcopal vacancy.[362] The English dispute was resolved by the Concordat of London (1107).[361]


Main article: Crusades

The Kingdom of Jerusalem and the Crusader states with their strongholds in the Holy Land at their height, between the First and the Second Crusade (1135)

Generally, the Crusades (1095–1291) refer to the European Christian campaigns in the Holy Land sponsored by the Papacy against Muslims in order to reconquer the region of Palestine.[363][364][365] The crusades produced cultural changes in both East and West fundamentally altering the political map of both. Crusades contributed to the decline of Byzantium and to the development of national identities in the newly forming European nations. The West's polarization and militarization increased its alienation from the East, and contact between Islamic and Christian cultures led to the exchange of medical knowledge, art and architecture and increased trade.[366][367]

The Holy Land had been part of the Roman Empire, and thus subsequently of the Byzantine Empire, until the Arab Muslim invasions of the 7th and 8th centuries. Thereafter, Christians had generally been permitted to visit the sacred places in the Holy Land until 1071, when the Seljuk Turks closed Christian pilgrimages and assailed the Byzantines, defeating them at the Battle of Manzikert. Emperor Alexius I asked for aid from Pope Urban II against Islamic aggression. He probably expected money from the pope for the hiring of mercenaries. Instead, Urban II called upon the knights of Christendom in a speech made at the Council of Clermont on 27 November 1095, combining the idea of pilgrimage to the Holy Land with that of defending the defenseless by waging a holy war against infidels.[368]

The First Crusade captured Antioch in 1099 and then Jerusalem. The Second Crusade occurred in 1145 when Edessa was taken by Islamic forces. Jerusalem was held until 1187 and the Third Crusade, after battles between Richard the Lionheart and Saladin. The Fourth Crusade, begun by Innocent III in 1202, intended to retake the Holy Land but was soon subverted by the Venetians. When the crusaders arrived in Constantinople, they sacked the city and other parts of Asia Minor and established the Latin Empire of Constantinople in Greece and Asia Minor. Five numbered crusades to the Holy Land culminated in the siege of Acre of 1219, essentially ending the Western presence in the Holy Land.[369]

Jerusalem was held by the crusaders for nearly a century, while other strongholds in the Near East remained in Christian possession much longer. The crusades in the Holy Land ultimately failed to establish permanent Christian kingdoms. Islamic expansion into Europe remained a threat for centuries, culminating in the campaigns of Suleiman the Magnificent in the 16th century.

Baltic wars

Main article: Northern Crusades

Baltic Tribes c 1200
Danish Bishop Absalon destroys the idol of Slavic god Svantevit at Arkona in a painting by Laurits Tuxen

When the Pope (Blessed) Eugenius III (1145–1153) called for a Second Crusade in response to the fall of Edessa in 1144, Saxon nobles in Eastern Europe refused to go.[370] From the days of Charlemagne (747–814), the free barbarian people around the Baltic Sea had raided the countries that surrounded them, stealing crucial resources, killing, and enslaving captives.[371] For the leaders of these countries, that meant subduing the Baltic area was more important to them than going to the Levant.[370] In 1147, Eugenius' Divini dispensatione, gave the eastern nobles crusade indulgences for the Baltic area.[370][372][373] The Northern, (or Baltic), Crusades followed, taking place, off and on, with and without papal support, from 1147 to 1316.[374][375][376]

These rulers saw holy war as a tool for territorial expansion, alliance building, and the empowerment of their own young church and state.[377] Taking the time for peaceful conversion did not fit in with these plans.[378] Conversion by these princes was almost always a result of conquest, either by the direct use of force, or indirectly, when a leader converted and required it of his followers.[379]

According to Fonnesberg-Schmidt, "While the theologians maintained that conversion should be voluntary, there was a widespread pragmatic acceptance of conversion obtained through political pressure or military coercion".[380] There were often severe consequences for populations that chose to resist.[381][382][383]

Political centralization through persecution

By 1150, Western culture was at a watershed point. Kings actively worked to centralize power into themselves and their nations leaving the concept of Christendom behind and becoming more secular.[326] Centralization was accomplished by taking legal, military, and social powers away from local level aristocrats (and local church leaders) who had traditionally held such powers. The state attacked the older kinship systems by redefining membership in a minority as being a threat to the social order and proactively pursuing their punishment. Stereotyping, propaganda and the legal prosecution of minorities like Jews and homosexuals functioned socially and politically to legitimate the state and its authority and enable the transfer of power.[384] By 1200, local authority had been replaced by inquisition that was dependent upon state support.[385][note 17]

Moore writes that persecution became a functional tool of power and a core element in the social and political development of Western society.[395][396][397] By the 1300s, "The maintenance of civil order through legislated separation [segregation] and discrimination was part of the institutional structure of all European states ingrained in law, politics, and the economy".[398][390][399]

The church did not have the leading role in this but had a part in it through new canon laws.[400][401][402] According to the Oxford Companion to Christian Thought, during this period the religion that had begun by decrying the role of law as less than that of grace and love (Romans 7:6) developed the most complex religious law the world has ever seen, and in it, Christianity's concepts of equity and universality were largely overlooked.[403]

Medieval Inquisition

Main articles: Albigensian Crusade, Buda heresy, and Proto-Protestantism

Further information: Hussite Crusades, Massacre of Mérindol, and Savoyard–Waldensian wars

The Medieval Inquisition, including the Episcopal Inquisition (1184–1230) and the later Papal Inquisition (1230s–1240s), was a type of criminal court established and run by the Roman Catholic Church from around 1184. Inquisition placed an overseeing authority into the position of the "wronged party" who made the accusation against the suspect; then that same authority did the investigating and also judged their guilt.[404]

Dependent upon undependable secular support, inquisitions dealt largely, but not exclusively, with religious issues such as heresy.[404] Inquisition was not a unified single bureaucratic institution.[405][406] Jurisdiction was often local and limited; lack of support and outright opposition often obstructed it; and many parts of Europe had erratic inquisitions or none at all.[405]

Historian Christine Caldwell Ames writes that Dominican inquisitors saw their work as proving the "true faith" by interpreting Christ as the just persecutor of evil.[404] Ames calls this a "measured manipulation of the Christian faith" supported by circumstance, since heresy had exploded across Christendom in the 11th century.[407]

At the same time, inquisition was contested stridently through continuous and various kinds of opposition and complaint, both in and outside the church. Opponents charged heresy inquisitions with proving the Roman church was "unchristian" and "a destroyer of its gospel legacy, or even the real enemy of Christ".[408]


Canon law of the Catholic Church (Latin: jus canonicum)[409] was the first modern Western legal system, and is the oldest continuously functioning legal system in the West,[410] predating European common law and civil law traditions.[411] Justinian I's reforms had a clear effect on the evolution of jurisprudence, and Leo III's Ecloga influenced the formation of legal institutions in the Slavic world.[412]

By the 1300s, most bishops and Popes were trained lawyers rather than theologians.[403]

Late Middle Ages and the Renaissance (1300–1564)

Main article: Medieval history of Christianity § Late Middle Ages (1300–1499)

See also: Christianity in the 14th century, Christianity in the 15th century, and Renaissance

Papal monarchy

Palais des Papes; it is one of the largest and most important medieval Gothic buildings in Europe

The popes of the fourteenth century worked to amass power into the papal position, building what is often called the papal monarchy.[413][414] This was accomplished partly through the reorganization of the ecclesiastical financial system. The poor had previously been allowed to offer their tithes in goods and services, but these popes revamped the system to only accept money. A steady cash flow brought with it the power of great wealth. The papal states were thereafter governed by the pope in the same manner the secular powers governed. The pope became a pseudo-monarch.[413]

These fourteenth century popes were greedy and politically corrupt, so that pious Christians of the period became disgusted, leading to the loss of papal prestige.[413][415][note 18] Devoted and virtuous nuns and monks became increasingly rare. Monastic reform had been a major force in the High Middle Ages, but it is largely unknown in the Late Middle Ages.[417] People living during the fourteenth century experienced plague, famine and war that ravaged most of the continent; there was social unrest, urban riots, peasant revolts and renegade feudal armies, and this was in addition to the religious changes often forced upon them by their new monarchies. They faced all of this with a church unable to provide much moral leadership as a result of its own internal conflict and corruption.[418]

The church reached its low point in the early 1400s when there were three different men claiming to be the rightful Pope.[419][413]

Avignon Papacy and the Western Schism

Main articles: Avignon Papacy and Western Schism

In 1309, Pope Clement V moved to Avignon in southern France in search of relief from Rome's factional politics.[413] Seven popes resided there in the Avignon Papacy until 1378.[420] Troubles grew while the prestige and influence of Rome decreased without a resident pontiff, and in 1377 Pope Gregory XI returned to Rome. After his death, the papal conclave met in 1378 in Rome and elected an Italian Urban VI to succeed Gregory.[413] The French cardinals did not approve. They held a second conclave electing Robert of Geneva instead. This began the Western Schism, establishing two popes, two Colleges of Cardinals, two curios and two church tax systems, both existing at the same time.[419][413]

Different secular leaders threw their support behind one or the other. Papal authority declined. In 1409, both sets of cardinals called the Pisan council electing a third pope and calling on the other two to resign, but they refused, leaving the church with three popes. The Council of Constance (1414–1418), called by the Holy Roman Emperor, finally resolved the conflict by electing Pope Martin V to replace the rest.[413]

In 1418, the Papacy regained control of the church, consolidated the Papal States and focused on the pursuit of power.[421] During this time, wealthy Italian families secured episcopal offices for themselves. The individuals who became Pope Alexander VI and Pope Sixtus IV were known for ignoring the moral requirements of their position. Pontiffs such as Julius II often waged campaigns to protect and expand their domains, and popes spent lavishly pursuing personal grievances, private luxuries and public works.[422]

Criticism of the Catholic Church's abuses and corruption

Further information: Bohemian Reformation, English Reformation, and Proto-Protestantism

Jan Hus defending his theses at the Council of Constance (1415), painting by the Czech artist Václav Brožík

John Wycliffe, an English scholastic philosopher and Christian theologian best known for denouncing the abuses and corruption of the Catholic Church, was a precursor of the Protestant Reformation.[423] He emphasized the supremacy of the Bible and called for a direct relationship between God and the human person, without interference by priests and bishops.[423] The Lollards, a Proto-Protestant Christian movement that followed the teachings of Wycliffe, played a role in the English Reformation.[423][424][425][426] Jan Hus, a Czech Christian theologian based in Prague, was influenced by Wycliffe and spoke out against the abuses and corruption he saw in the Catholic Church.[427] His followers became known as the Hussites, a Proto-Protestant Christian movement that followed the teachings of Jan Hus, who became the best known representative of the Bohemian Reformation.[427][423] He was a forerunner of the Protestant Reformation,[427][423] and his legacy has become a powerful symbol of Czech culture in Bohemia.[428] Both Wycliffe and Hus were accused of heresy and subsequently condemned to the death penalty for their outspoken views about the Catholic Church.[429][427][423]

Renaissance and the Catholic Church

See also: Italian Renaissance

Michelangelo's Pietà (1498–99) in St. Peter's Basilica, Vatican City

High Renaissance was the most brilliantly creative period of western history, and it was the Popes who became the leading patrons of the new style, and the Church which commissioned and supported such artists as Michelangelo, Brunelleschi, Bramante, Raphael, Fra Angelico, Donatello, and Leonardo da Vinci.[421]

Scholars of the Renaissance created textual criticism which revealed writing errors by medieval monks and exposed the Donation of Constantine as a forgery. Popes of the Middle Ages had depended upon the document to prove their political authority.[430]

Catholic monks developed the first forms of modern Western musical notation leading to the development of classical music and all its derivatives.[431]

Fall of Constantinople

Further information: Christianity in the Ottoman Empire, Persecution of Christians § Ottoman Empire, and History of the Eastern Orthodox Church under the Ottoman Empire

Christian liturgical procession from the Ottoman Empire (Constantinople), depicted by Lambert de Vos in 1574.

In 1453, Constantinople fell to the Ottoman Empire. The flight of Eastern Christians from Constantinople, and the Greek manuscripts they carried with them, is one of the factors that prompted the literary renaissance in the West.[432]

The Ottoman government followed Islamic law when dealing with the conquered Christian population. The Church's canonical and hierarchical organization were not significantly disrupted and its administration continued to function.

Hagia Sophia; was the religious and spiritual centre of the Eastern Orthodox Church for nearly one thousand years

However, these rights and privileges, including freedom of worship and religious organization, were often established in principle but seldom corresponded to reality.[433][434] The Hagia Sophia and the Parthenon, which had been Christian churches for nearly a millennium, were converted into mosques. Violent persecutions of Christians were common and reached their climax in the Armenian, Assyrian, and Greek genocides.[435][436]

Albigensian Crusade

Main article: Albigensian Crusade

Map of Languedoc on the eve of the Albigensian Crusade

Cathars, also known as Albigensians, were the largest of the heretic groups that began reappearing in the High Middle Ages.[note 19] In 1209, after decades of having called upon secular rulers for aid in dealing with the Cathars and getting no response,[437] Pope Innocent III and the king of France, Philip Augustus, joined in a military campaign against them.[438][439] Scholars disagree on whether war was determined more by the Pope or by King Philip and his proxies.[440][note 20]

"Kill them all"

On 22 July 1209, in the first battle of the Albigensian Crusade, mercenaries rampaged through the streets killing all they came across in what came to be known as the Massacre of Béziers. Some twenty years later, a story that historian Laurence W. Marvin calls apocryphal arose about this event claiming the papal legate, Arnaud Amaury, was said to have responded: "Kill them all, let God sort them out". Marvin says it is unlikely the legate ever said any thing at all. "The speed and spontaneity of the attack indicates that the legate probably did not know what was going on until it was over".[445] Other scholars argue that the statement is not inconsistent with what was recorded by the contemporaries of other church leaders, or with what is known of Arnaud Amaury's character and attitudes.[446][447]

Four years later, in a 1213 letter to Amaury, the pope rebuked the legate for his conduct in the war and called for an end to the campaign.[448] The campaign continued anyway. The Pope was then reversed by the Fourth Lateran council which re-instituted crusade status two years later in 1215; afterwards, the Pope removed it yet again.[449] Throughout the rest of the campaign, Innocent vacillated; unable to make up his mind if the crusade had been right, he sometimes took the side favouring crusade then sided against it.[450]

By the end of the campaign, 16 years later, the campaign no longer had the status of a crusade nor were its fighters rewarded with dispensations. The army had seized and occupied the lands of nobles who had not sponsored Cathars but had been in the good graces of the church; Albigensia thereby became southern France. Catharism continued for another hundred years (until 1350).[451][452]

Iberian Reconquista

Main article: Reconquista

San Pedro de la Nave, one of the oldest churches in Spain.

Between 711 and 718, the Iberian peninsula had been conquered by Muslims in the Umayyad conquest. [note 21] The military struggle to reclaim the peninsula from Muslim rule had been taking place for centuries until the Christian Kingdoms reconquered the Moorish states of Al-Ándalus in 1492.[456]

Depiction of the Battle of Navas de Tolosa by 19th-century painter Francisco de Paula Van Halen.

Isabel and Ferdinand married in 1469, united Spain with themselves as the first king and queen, fought the Muslims in the Reconquista and soon after established the Spanish Inquisition.[457]

During this time, "New Christians" had begun to appear as a socio-religious designation and legal distinction in the Spanish Empire and the Portuguese Empire.[456] Most of the history of the "New Christians" refers to the Jewish converts, who were generally known as Conversos or Marranos,[458] while the Muslim converts were known as Moriscos.[459]

The Spanish inquisition was originally authorized by the Pope in answer to royal fears that Conversos and Muranos were spying and attempting to sabotage the new state. The initial inquisitors proved so severe that the Pope soon opposed it and unsuccessfully attempted to shut it down.[460] Ferdinand is said to have pressured the Pope, and in October 1483, a papal bull conceded control of the inquisition to the Spanish crown.[461] According to Spanish historian José Casanova, the Spanish inquisition became the first truly national, unified and centralized state institution.[462] It functioned as Ferdinand and Isabella's personal police force, existing separately and above even the nobles of the state.[463]

Roots of scientific revolution

Clerks studying astronomy and geometry. Early 15th century, France.

Between 1150 and 1200, Christian scholars had traveled to Sicily and Spain to retrieve the writings of Aristotle, which had been lost to the West after the Fall of the Western Roman Empire. Insights gained from Aristotle triggered a period of cultural ferment that one "modern historian has called the twelfth century renaissance".[350] Thomas Aquinas responded to this intellectual challenge to faith by writing his monumental summas in support of human reason as compatible with faith.[464] Christian theology adapted to Aristotle's secular and humanistic natural philosophy, adjusting the church's understanding of several sciences, including astrophysics, for the next 500 years - until Galileo.[465]

By the Late Middle Ages, Aquinas's rationalism was being heatedly debated in the new universities.[466] William Ockham resolved the conflict by arguing that faith and reason should be pursued separately so that each could achieve its own end.[466] Historians of science David C. Lindberg, Ronald Numbers and Edward Grant have described what followed as a "medieval scientific revival".[465][467]

Science historian Noah Efron has written that Christianity provided the early "tenets, methods, and institutions of what in time became modern science".[468][note 22]

Early modern period (c. 1500–c. 1750)

See also: Early modern period, Christianity in the modern era, Christianity in the 16th century, Christianity in the 17th century, and Christianity in the 18th century

Colonization and Christianization of the Americas

Main articles: Catholic Church and the Age of Discovery, Christianity in the 16th century, Christianization, European colonization of the Americas, Forced conversion § Christianity, and Spread of Christianity

Further information: Cultural genocide, Ethnocide, Forced assimilation, and Religious persecution

American Discovery Viewed by Native Americans (Thomas Hart Benton, 1922). European discovery and colonization had many, though not exclusively, disastrous effects on the Indigenous peoples of the Americas and their societies.[16][17][469][470]

Following the geographic discoveries of the 1400s and 1500s, increasing population and inflation led the emerging nation-states of Portugal, Spain, and France, the Dutch Republic, and England to explore, conquer, colonize and exploit the newly discovered territories.[471] While colonialism was primarily economic and political, it also opened the door for Christian missions.[472][473] Some missionaries supported colonialism and an almost equal number opposed it.[474] According to historical theologian Justo González, colonialism and missions each sometimes aided and sometimes impeded the other.[475]

Different state actors created colonies that varied widely.[476] Some colonies had institutions that allowed native populations to reap some benefits. Others became extractive colonies with predatory rule that produced an autocracy with a dismal record.[477] For 200 years, European society had legislated discrimination as part of its institutional structure.[398][390][399] Therefore, beginning with the first wave of European colonization, many colonies also practiced religious discrimination along with racialism and political discrimination, persecution, and violence toward the people and their native religions.[478][15][16][17][469][470]

Portugal practiced extractive colonialism, and the Spanish military was known for its ill-treatment of Amerindians.[479] Spanish missionaries are generally credited with championing efforts to initiate protective laws for the Indians and for working against their enslavement.[480] Historian Jacob Schacter says "ambivalent benevolence" was at the heart of most British and American attitudes toward Natives.[481]

A catastrophe was wrought upon the Amerindians by contact with Europeans. Old World diseases like smallpox, measles, malaria and many others spread through Indian populations. "In most of the New World 90 percent or more of the native population was destroyed by wave after wave of previously unknown afflictions. Explorers and colonists did not enter an empty land but rather an emptied one".[482]

Under Islam

Having continued as a dhimmi community under the Sunni Caliphate after the Muslim conquest of Persia (633–654), the Church of the East played a major role in the history of Christianity in Asia. Between the 9th and 14th centuries, it represented the world's largest Christian denomination in terms of geographical extent. It established dioceses and communities stretching from the Mediterranean Sea and today's Iraq and Iran, to India (the Saint Thomas Syrian Christians of Kerala), the Mongol kingdoms in Central Asia, the Turkic tribes in Central Asia,[483] and China during the Tang dynasty (7th–9th centuries). In the 13th and 14th centuries, the church experienced a final period of expansion under the Mongol Empire, where influential Church of the East clergy sat in the Mongol court.[484]

Protestant Reformation

Main articles: Christianity in the 16th century, Reformation, Protestantism, and History of Protestantism

Martin Luther initiated the Reformation with his Ninety-five Theses in 1517.

In the early 16th century, attempts were made by the Christian theologians Martin Luther and Huldrych Zwingli, along with many others, to reform the Catholic Church. They considered the roots of corruption within the Catholic Church and its ecclesiastical structure to be doctrinal, rather than simply a matter of depravity, moral weakness, or lack of ecclesiastical discipline, and thus advocated for God's autonomy in redemption, and against voluntaristic notions that salvation could be earned by people. The Reformation is usually considered to have started with the publication of the Ninety-five Theses by Luther in 1517, although there was no schism until the 1521 Diet of Worms. The edicts of the Diet condemned Luther and officially banned citizens of the Holy Roman Empire from defending or propagating his ideas.[485]

The word Protestant is derived from the Latin protestatio, meaning declaration, which refers to the letter of protestation by Lutheran princes against the decision of the Diet of Speyer in 1529, which reaffirmed the edict of the Diet of Worms ordering the seizure of all property owned by persons guilty of advocating Lutheranism.[486] The term "Protestant" was not originally used by Reformation era leaders; instead, they called themselves "evangelical", emphasising the "return to the true gospel (Greek: euangelion)".[487]

Early protest was against corruptions such as simony (the buying and selling of church offices), the holding of multiple church offices by one person at the same time, episcopal vacancies, and the sale of indulgences. The Protestant position also included the Five solae (sola scriptura, sola fide, sola gratia, solus Christus, soli Deo gloria), the priesthood of all believers, Law and Gospel, and the two kingdoms doctrine. The three most important traditions to emerge directly from the Reformation were the Lutheran, Reformed, and Anglican traditions, though the latter group identifies as both "Reformed" and "Catholic", and some subgroups reject the classification as "Protestant".[488]

Unlike other reform movements, the English Reformation began by royal influence. Henry VIII considered himself a thoroughly Catholic king, and in 1521 he defended the papacy against Luther in a book he commissioned entitled, The Defence of the Seven Sacraments, for which Pope Leo X awarded him the title Fidei Defensor (Defender of the Faith). However, the king came into conflict with the papacy when he wished to annul his marriage with Catherine of Aragon, for which he needed papal sanction. Catherine, among many other noble relations, was the aunt of Emperor Charles V, the papacy's most significant secular supporter. The ensuing dispute eventually led to a break from Rome and the declaration of the King of England as head of the English Church, which saw itself as a Protestant church navigating a middle way between Lutheranism and Reformed Christianity, but leaning more towards the latter.[489] Consequently, England experienced periods of reform and also Counter-Reformation. Monarchs such as Edward VI, Lady Jane Grey, Mary I, Elizabeth I, and Archbishops of Canterbury such as Thomas Cranmer and William Laud, pushed the Church of England in different directions over the course of only a few generations. What emerged was the Elizabethan Religious Settlement and a state church that considered itself both "Reformed" and "Catholic" but not "Roman", and other unofficial more radical movements, such as the Puritans. In terms of politics, the English Reformation included heresy trials, the exiling of Roman Catholic populations to Spain and other Roman Catholic lands, and censorship and prohibition of books.[490]

Economics, capitalism and banking

Protestantism has promoted economic growth and entrepreneurship, especially in the period after the Scientific and the Industrial Revolution.[491][492] Scholars have identified a positive correlation between the rise of Protestantism and human capital formation,[493] work ethic,[494] economic development,[495] and the development of the state system.[496] According to the Merton Thesis, there was a positive correlation between the rise of English Puritanism and German Pietism on the one hand, and early experimental science on the other.[497][498][499]

Max Weber in his book The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism (1904–1905) asserted that Protestant ethics and values along with the Calvinist doctrine of asceticism and predestination gave birth to capitalism.[500][501] Weber says this contributed to economic growth and the development of banking across Northern Europe.[502][503] As one of the most influential and cited books in sociology, its thesis has been controversial since its release. In opposition to Weber, historians such as Fernand Braudel and Hugh Trevor-Roper assert that capitalism developed in pre-Reformation Catholic communities. Joseph Schumpeter, an economist of the twentieth century, has referred to the Scholastics as "they who come nearer than does any other group to having been the 'founders' of scientific economics".[504]

Radical Reformation

Main article: Radical Reformation

Beginning in Germany and Switzerland in the 16th century, the Radical Reformation was a disorderly collection of loosely related reformation groups that included Anabaptists, Spiritualists, and Evangelical Rationalists.[505] They opposed the traditional church-state theories of classical Protestantism (Lutherans, Reformed and Elizabethans), were often indifferent to governmental jurisdiction altogether, and supported a full separation from the state. Rejecting Luther's key teachings on salvation by faith alone and predestination, along with Catholic transubstantiation, places them "equally distant from classical Protestantism and Tridentine Catholicism, according to historian George Huntston Williams.[488]


Main article: Counter-Reformation

See also: Council of Trent

The Counter-Reformation was the response of the Catholic Church to the Protestant Reformation. It consisted of the Confutatio Augustana, the Council of Trent, the Roman Catechism, and the Defensio Tridentinæ fidei, heresy trials, the exiling of Protestant populations from Catholic lands, the seizure of children from their Protestant parents for institutionalized Catholic upbringing, a series of wars, and the Index Librorum Prohibitorum.

Protestant Christians were excommunicated and persecuted, prompting some to live as crypto-Protestants (also termed Nicodemites), against the urging of John Calvin who urged them to live their faith openly.[506] Crypto-Protestants were documented as late as the 19th century in Latin America.[507]

The Council in Santa Maria Maggiore church; Museo Diocesiano Tridentino, Trento

The Council of Trent (1545–1563) initiated by Pope Paul III addressed issues of corruption such as simony, absenteeism, nepotism, the holding of multiple church offices by one person, and other abuses. It also reasserted traditional practices and doctrines of the Church, such as the episcopal structure, clerical celibacy, the seven Sacraments, transubstantiation (the belief that during mass the consecrated bread and wine truly become the body and blood of Christ), the veneration of relics, icons, and saints (especially the Blessed Virgin Mary), the necessity of both faith and good works for salvation, the existence of purgatory and the issuance (but not the sale) of indulgences. Protestant doctrinal objections and changes were rejected. The council fostered an interest in education for parish priests to increase pastoral care. Milan's Archbishop Saint Charles Borromeo set an example by visiting the remotest parishes and instilling high standards.[citation needed]

Catholic Reformation

Main article: Catholic Reformation

Simultaneous to the Counter-Reformation, the Catholic Reformation consisted of improvements in art and culture, anti-corruption measures, the founding of the Jesuits, the establishment of seminaries, a reassertion of traditional doctrines and the emergence of new religious orders aimed at both moral reform and new missionary activity. Also part of this was the development of new yet orthodox forms of spirituality, such as that of the Spanish mystics and the French school of spirituality.[note 23]

Religious wars (16th, 17th and early 18th centuries)

In the Early modern Era, religious wars were waged in Europe after the Protestant Reformation. They ranged from international wars to internal conflicts.

They began in the Holy Roman Empire with the minor Knights' Revolt (1522) which called for governmental reform and almost immediately inspired the larger and more serious Peasants' War (1524–1525).[509][510] Warfare intensified in the First Schmalkaldic War (1546-470) and the Second Schmalkaldic War (1552-1555) after the Catholic Church began the Counter-Reformation.[511]

The rise of Calvinism triggered a second wave of wars, beginning in France in 1562 as well as the Dutch revolt of 1566.[511] Seven years after the Peace of Augsburg had established a truce in Germany on the basis of territorialism, France became the centre of religious wars which lasted for 36 years.[512]

The final wave of religious wars triggered the Thirty Years War (1618-1648) following the erosion of the settlement at Augsburg. The involvement of foreign powers made it the largest and most disastrous.[511]

The causes of these wars are debated.[note 24] Political scientist James Bernard Murphy writes that "Virtually all major [political] theorists ... cite the ‘‘wars of religion’’ to ... demonstrate the dangers that religious belief poses to political order".[517] However, scholars have largely interpreted these wars as struggles for independence that coincided with the break up of medieval empires into the modern nation states.[511] Many scholars agree the wars of this period were partly fought to obtain security and freedom for each religious confession, but mostly fought for political gain, since national, dynastic, and mercenary interests generally prevailed, although there is, as yet, no consensus.[518][512]

Witch trials (1450–1750)

Main articles: Christian views on magic, Witch-hunt, Witch trials in the early modern period, and Salem witch trials

See also: Little ice age

Until the 1300s, the official position of the Roman Catholic Church was that witches did not exist.[519][note 25] While historians have been unable to pinpoint a single cause of what became known as the "witch frenzy", scholars have noted that, without changing church doctrine, a new but common stream of thought developed at every level of society that witches were both real and malevolent.[523] Records from inquisitions show the belief in magic had remained so widespread, it has convinced some historians that Christianization had not been successful among the rural people.[524] Since it was believed witches could call up hail storms at will, Wolfgang Behringer ties witch frenzy to climate change caused by the Little Ice Age which began around 1300 and lasted into 1850 CE. Scapegoating is observed by 1560.[525] There is broad agreement that approximately 100,000 people were prosecuted, (about 80% women, most over 40), while approximately forty to fifty thousand people were executed.[526][523][note 26]

Modern inquisitions

Main article: Inquisition

Further information: Spanish Inquisition, Portuguese Inquisition, and Goa Inquisition

History of the Inquisition divides into two major parts: its Papal creation in the early thirteenth century, and its transformation into permanent secular governmental bureaucracies between 1478 and 1542.[535]

Historian Helen Rawlings says, "the Spanish Inquisition was different [from earlier inquisitions] in one fundamental respect: it was responsible to the crown rather than the Pope and was used to consolidate state interest.[536]

The Portuguese Inquisition, in close relationship with the church, was also controlled by the crown who established a government board, known as the General Council, to oversee it. The Grand Inquisitor, chosen by the king, was nearly always a member of the royal family.[537]

T. F. Mayer, historian, writes that "the Roman Inquisition operated to serve the papacy's long standing political aims in Naples, Venice and Florence".[538] Its activity was primarily bureaucratic. The Roman Inquisition is probably best known for its condemnation of Galileo.[539]

Trial of Galileo

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

In 1610, Galileo published his Sidereus Nuncius (Starry Messenger), describing observations made with his new telescope. These and other discoveries exposed difficulties with the understanding of the heavens that was common at the time. Scientists, along with the Catholic Church, had adopted Aristotle's view of the earth as fixed in place, since Aristotle's rediscovery 300 years prior.[540] Jeffrey Foss writes that, by Galileo's time, the Aristotelian-Ptolemaic view of the universe had become "fully integrated with Catholic theology".[541]

Scientists of the day largely rejected Galileo's assertions, since most had no telescope, and Galileo had no physical theory to explain how planets could orbit the sun which, according to Aristotelian physics, was impossible. (That would not be resolved for another hundred years.) Galileo's peers alerted religious authorities to his "errors" and asked them to intervene.[542] In response, the church forbade Galileo from teaching it, though it did not forbid discussing it, so long as it was clear it was merely a hypothesis. Galileo published books and asserted scientific superiority.[541] He was summoned before the Roman Inquisition twice. First warned, he was next sentenced to house arrest on a charge of "grave suspicion of heresy".[543]

The Galileo affair has been considered by many to be a defining moment in the history of the relationship between religion and science. Since the creation of the Conflict thesis by Andrew Dickson White and John William Draper in the late nineteenth century, religion has been depicted as oppressive and oppositional to science.[544] Edward Daub explains that, while "twentieth century historians of science dismantled White and Draper’s claims, it is still popular in public perception".[545] Casting Galileo's story as a contest between science and religion is an oversimplification, writes Jeffrey Foss.[543] Galileo was heir to a long scientific tradition with deep medieval Christian roots.[468]

Puritans in North America

Main article: Puritan migration to New England (1620–40)

Further information: History of the Puritans in North America

Pilgrims Going to Church by George Henry Boughton (1867)

The Puritans, or Pilgrims, left England and established Massachusetts Bay Colony in 1628, so they could have the religious freedom to build their own churches and create an area with Puritanism as the established religion.[546] They founded Harvard College eight years later.[547][548] Unlike the Spanish or French, the English colonists made little effort to evangelize the native peoples.[549] Puritans supported public education, and in 1642, Massachusetts required parents to ensure their children's ability to read. In the Old Deluder Satan Act in 1647, the state mandated community schooling, laying the basis for public schools in America.[550]

According to Robert K. Merton, the values of English Puritanism and German Pietism led to the scientific revolution of the 17th and 18th centuries. (The Merton Thesis is both widely accepted and disputed.) Merton explained that the connection between religious affiliation and interest in science was the result of a significant synergy between the ascetic Protestant values and those of modern science.[551][552]

Late modern period (c. 1750–c. 1945)

See also: Late modern period, Christianity in the 18th century, Christianity in the 19th century, and Christianity in the 20th century

Great Awakenings

Main articles: First Great Awakening, Second Great Awakening, and Third Great Awakening

With roots in German Pietism and British Evangelicalism, and in order to counter the extreme rationalism of biblical criticism of the Age of Enlightenment, a revitalization of religious piety known as the first Great Awakening swept through the American colonies between the 1730s and the 1770s.[553][554][555]

Beginning among the Presbyterians, it quickly spread to Congregationalists (Puritans) and Baptists, creating American Evangelicalism and Wesleyan Methodism.[556] Moderates disapproved and battles over the movement and its dramatized style raged in both congregations and denominations. This caused the division of American Protestantism into 'Parties' for the first time, which eventually led to critical support for the American Revolution.[557] In places like Connecticut and Massachusetts where one denomination received state funding, other churches now began to lobby local legislatures to end that favoured treatment, separating church and state.[553]

The Second Great Awakening (1800–1830s) led to the beginnings of the Mormons, the Restoration Movement and the Holiness movement. In 1801, over 25,000 people gathered in the small frontier community of Cane Ridge, Kentucky.[558] They united in extolling moral reform as the Christian alternative to armed revolution, and established societies that operated separately from any church to "teach the poor to read, suppress sexual vice and ungodly amusements such as cockfighting and bear-baiting, and to abolish the slave trade".[559] These were pioneers in developing nationally integrated forms of organization which produced the mergers and business consolidations that reshaped the American economy.[560] The beginnings of social reform movements concerning the abolition of slavery, women’s rights, and temperance have been directly connected to this religious revival.[561]

The Third Great Awakening began from 1857 and was most notable for taking the movement throughout the world, especially in English speaking countries.[562]

The final group to develop from the "great awakenings" in North America was Pentecostalism, which had its roots in Holiness movements, and began in 1906 on Azusa Street in Los Angeles. Pentecostalism would later lead to the Charismatic movement.[563]

American colonialism

The beginning of American Protestant missions abroad followed the sailing of William Carey from England to India in 1793 after the Great awakening. A great effort was also made to evangelize America.[564] Missionaries played a crucial role in the acculturation of the American Indians.[565][566]


Main articles: Restorationism and Restoration Movement

Restorationism refers to the belief that a purer form of Christianity should be restored using the early church as a model.[567][568] In many cases, restorationist groups believed that contemporary Christianity, in all of its forms, had deviated from the true, original Christianity, which they then attempted to "reconstruct", often using the Book of Acts as a "guidebook" of sorts. Usually, Restorationists do not describe themselves as "reforming" a Christian church which has continuously existed since the time of Jesus, instead, they describe themselves as restoring the Church that they believe was lost at some point in the history of Christianity. "Restorationism" is frequently used to describe the Stone-Campbell Restoration Movement.

The term "restorationist" is also used to describe movements such as Adventism, a movement which originated in the 1830s in the United States during the Second Great Awakening when Baptist preacher William Miller first publicly shared his belief that the Second Coming would occur at some point between 1843 and 1844, and the Jehovah's Witness movement, founded in the late 1870s by Charles Taze Russell. The term can also be used to describe the Latter Day Saint movement, including the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS Church), the Community of Christ and numerous other Latter Day Saint denominations. Latter Day Saints, also known as Mormons, believe that Joseph Smith was chosen to restore the original organization which was established by Jesus, now "in its fullness", rather than reform the church.[569][570][571][572]

Eastern Orthodoxy

Further information: Religion in the Soviet Union

Churches of the Moscow Kremlin, as seen from the Balchug

The Russian Orthodox Church held a privileged position in the Russian Empire, expressed in the motto of the late empire from 1833: Orthodoxy, Autocracy, and Populism. Nevertheless, the Church reform of Peter I in the early 18th century had placed the Orthodox authorities under the control of the tsar. An ober-procurator appointed by the tsar ran the committee which governed the Church between 1721 and 1918: the Most Holy Synod. The Church became involved in the various campaigns of russification,[573] and was accused of involvement in Russian antisemitism,[574] despite the lack of an official position on Judaism as such.[575]

The Bolsheviks and other Russian revolutionaries saw the Church, like the tsarist state, as an enemy of the people. Criticism of atheism was strictly forbidden and sometimes led to imprisonment.[576][577][578] Some actions against Orthodox priests and believers included torture, being sent to prison camps, labour camps or mental hospitals, as well as execution.[579][580]

Demolition of the Cathedral of Christ the Saviour in Moscow on the orders of Joseph Stalin, 5 December 1931, consistent with the doctrine of state atheism in the USSR.[581]

In the first five years after the Bolshevik revolution, one journalist reported 28 bishops and 1,200 priests were executed.[582] This included people like the Grand Duchess Elizabeth Fyodorovna who was at this point a monastic.[note 27] Recently released evidence indicates over 8,000 were killed in 1922 during the conflict over church valuables.[583] More than 100,000 Russian clergymen were executed between 1937 and 1941.[584]

New imperialism (19th and 20th centuries)

Further information: Civilizing mission

Beginning in the mid-nineteenth century, New Imperialism was a second wave of economic and political colonialism that lasted until World War II.[585] During this time, colonial powers gained territory at almost three times the rate of the earlier colonial period, opening many new territories with some assurance of safety for Christian missionaries who soon followed.[586] The sixteenth century had been the "great age of Catholic expansion" whereas the nineteenth century was that for Protestantism.[587]

Protestantism initiated translations of the Bible into native languages which supported the development of national literatures, and was instrumental in generating a democratic legacy for many colonies.[588] Translating developed a dictionary, a written record of native customs, spread literacy, mass printing, and developed voluntary organizations.[589] This profoundly impacted native cultures in Africa which responded with "movements of indigenization and cultural liberation".[590] According to Sanneh, that means western missionaries began the "largest, most diverse and most vigorous movement of cultural renewal in [the] history" of Africa.[591][592]

"Although contact with Christian missionaries might have had beneficial long-term effects for human capital, political participation, and eventually democratization, contact with the colonial slave trade has had pernicious effects".[593]


In many colonial societies after World War II, Christian missionaries played a transformative role in the development of decolonization moving former colonies toward independence.[594] In the post-colonial world, it has become necessary for Christianity to break free of its colonial moorings, says Sanneh.[595]

Trends in Christian theology

Liberal Christianity, sometimes called liberal theology, is an umbrella term for religious movements within late 18th, 19th and 20th-century Christianity. According to theologian Theo Hobsen, liberal Christianity has two traditions. Before the secular Enlightenment of the eighteenth century, a specifically Christian Idealism imagined a liberal state. Its concepts took form in the Radical Reformation's view of political and cultural liberty, and was essential to the creation of the modern secular state.[596]

This has largely been eclipsed by the second tradition of liberal Christianity born of seventeenth century rationalism. Rationalistic humanism sought to wean Christianity from its "irrational" cultic roots.[597] Lacking any grounding in Christian "practice, ritual, sacramentalism, church and worship", liberal Christianity lost touch with the fundamental necessity of faith and ritual in maintaining Christianity.[598] This eventually led to the twentieth century revolt against liberal Christianity, the birth of fundamentalism, and liberalism's recent decades of decline.[599]

Fundamentalist Christianity is a movement that arose mainly within British and American Protestantism in the late 19th century and early 20th century in reaction to modernism.[600] Before 1919, fundamentalism was loosely organized and undisciplined. Its most significant early movements were the holiness movement and the millenarian movement with its premillennial expectations of the second coming.[601]

In 1925 fundamentalists participated in the Scopes trial, and by 1930, the movement appeared to be dying.[602] Then in the 30s, Neo-orthodoxy began uniting moderates of both sides.[603] In the 1940s, "new-evangelicalism" established itself as separate from fundamentalism.[604] Today, fundamentalism is less about doctrine than political activism.[605]

Under Communism and Nazism

Pope Pius XI

Main articles: Confessing Church, Kirchenkampf, Persecution of Christians in Nazi Germany, Persecution of Christians in the Eastern Bloc, and Persecution of Christians in the Soviet Union

Further information: Catholic Church and Nazi Germany, German Christians (movement), Nazi persecution of the Catholic Church in Germany, Pope Pius XII and the Holocaust, and Positive Christianity

Under the state atheism of countries in the Soviet Union and the Eastern Bloc, Christians of many denominations experienced persecution, with many churches and monasteries being destroyed, as well as clergy being executed.[note 28][note 29][note 30]

The position of Christians affected by Nazism is highly complex.[609] Pope Pius XI declared – Mit brennender Sorge – that Fascist governments had hidden "pagan intentions" and expressed the irreconcilability of the Catholic position and totalitarian fascist state worship, which placed the nation above God, fundamental human rights, and dignity. His declaration that "Spiritually, [Christians] are all Semites" prompted the Nazis to give him the title "Chief Rabbi of the Christian World".[610]

Catholic priests were executed in concentration camps alongside Jews; for example, 2,600 Catholic priests were imprisoned in Dachau, and 2,000 of them were executed (cf. Priesterblock). A further 2,700 Polish priests were executed (a quarter of all Polish priests), and 5,350 Polish nuns were either displaced, imprisoned, or executed.[611] Many Catholic laymen and clergy played notable roles in sheltering Jews during the Holocaust, including Pope Pius XII. The head rabbi of Rome became a Catholic in 1945 and, in honour of the actions the pope undertook to save Jewish lives, he took the name Eugenio (the pope's first name).[612] A former Israeli consul in Italy claimed: "The Catholic Church saved more Jewish lives during the war than all the other churches, religious institutions, and rescue organisations put together".[613]

The relationship between Nazism and Protestantism was complex. Most leaders and members of the largest Protestant church in Germany, the German Evangelical Church, which had a long tradition of nationalism and support of the state, supported the Nazis when they came to power.[614][615] A smaller contingent formed the Confessing Church which strongly opposed Nazism. In a study of sermon content, William Skiles says "Confessing Church pastors opposed the Nazi regime on three fronts... first, they expressed harsh criticism of Nazi persecution of Christians and the German churches; second, they condemned National Socialism as a false ideology that worships false gods; and third, they challenged Nazi anti-Semitic ideology by supporting Jews as the chosen people of God and Judaism as a historic foundation of Christianity".[616]

Nazis interfered in church affairs, harassed members, executed mass arrests and targeted well known pastors like Martin Niemöller and Dietrich Bonhoeffer.[617][618][note 31] Bonhoeffer, a pacifist, was later found guilty in the conspiracy to assassinate Hitler and executed.[620]

Contemporary Christianity

Main article: History of Christianity of the Late Modern era

See also: Christianity in the 20th century and Christianity in the 21st century

Second Vatican Council

Main article: Second Vatican Council

On 11 October 1962, Pope John XXIII opened the Second Vatican Council, the 21st ecumenical council of the Catholic Church. The council was "pastoral" in nature, interpreting dogma in terms of its scriptural roots, revising liturgical practices, and providing guidance for articulating traditional Church teachings in contemporary times. The council is perhaps best known for its instructions that the Mass may be celebrated in the vernacular as well as in Latin.[621]


Main article: Ecumenism

On 21 November 1964, the Second Vatican Council published the Decree on Ecumenism, Unitatis Redintegratio.[623] With a pre-history of its own, it can also be seen within the overall context of the many rapid changes taking place in relationships among Christian churches in the United States between 1961 and 1964.[623] Protestant Bible scholar and leader in the World Council of Churches, Paul S. Minear (1906 - 2007) describes these changes as "revolutionary" while Robert Wuthnow calls them a complete "restructuring of American religion".[624]

The Roman Catholic goals of ecumenism, (as given to the World Council of Churches and propogated by the Second Vatican Council), are to establish full communion amongst all the various Christian churches in faith, sacramental life and ministry.[625] Not all churches engaged in the pursuit of ecumenism have accepted these goals.[626] Amongst Evangelicals, there has not been an agreed upon definition, strategy or goal.[627]

Pentecostalism is the largest and fastest growing movement in Christianity of the early twenty-first century.[628] It has a different ecclesiology which has prevented its involvement in, and produced some hostility toward, the formal, creedal and institutional practices that have characterized the ecumenism of the WCC.[629] Pentecostals do not see ecumenism as the pursuit of unifying all into one. Instead, they see it as a many centered unity of faith.[629]

Historically, divisions in Christianity have been caused by theological differences, but also by political and cultural differences.[630] In the U.S. after WWII, political and cultural lines were crossed in the name of "individual freedom, equality, national unity and a shared faith in God". Ecumenical debates over religious liberty and biblical studies intertwined historically with cultural and social changes such as support for the Civil Rights movement. The 1960 election of John F. Kennedy was symbolic of the change in American attitudes.[631]

In the twenty-first century an indifference to ecumenism has developed, but scholars see this as reflective of difficulties faced by the churches themselves.[632] Churches have become captive to culture, and sentiment is widespread that ecumenism has stalled.[632] Modern proponents of ecumenism take the approach that the ecumenical movement is best served operating from within each confessional identity as the framework which will eventually make ecumenism possible.[633]

World Christianity

Main article: World Christianity

Laying on of hands during a service in a neo-charismatic church in Ghana

World Christianity, otherwise known as "global Christianity", has been defined both as a term that attempts to convey the global nature of the Christian religion[19][22][634] and an academic field of study that encompasses analysis of the histories, practices, and discourses of Christianity as a world religion and its various forms as they are found on the six continents.[635] However, the term often focuses on "non-Western Christianity" which "comprises (usually the exotic) instances of Christian faith in 'the global South', in Asia, Africa, and Latin America".[636] It also includes Indigenous or diasporic forms of Christianity in the Caribbean,[637] South America,[637] Western Europe,[638] and North America.[638]

See also

Christian history BC C1 C2 C3 C4 C5 C6 C7 C8 C9 C10 C11 C12 C13 C14 C15 C16 C17 C18 C19 C20 C21


  1. ^ Toward the end of the Twentieth century, multiple scholars traced elements of Christianity to currents in first-century Judaism and discarded nineteenth-century views that Jesus was based on previous pagan deities.[35] Mentions of Jesus in extra-biblical texts exist and are supported as genuine by the majority of historians.[36] Differences between the content of the Jewish Messianic prophecies and the life of Jesus undermine the idea that Jesus was invented as a Jewish Midrash or Peshar.[37]
  2. ^ A primary source is the Acts of the Apostles, but its historical accuracy has been debated and its coverage is partial, focusing especially from Acts 15[49] onwards on the ministry of Paul, and ending around 62 AD with Paul preaching in Rome under house arrest.
  3. ^ 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.[57] 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.[57][58][59]
  4. ^ In Origen's time (c. 185 – c. 253), I Clement, The Shepherd of Hermas, and the Gospel of Barnabas were regarded as scripture, whereas after Athanasius in 367, Christian history was revised with the view that Christian theology was not yet fully developed during this early period.[90] This allowed the genuine writings to be interpolated with Neo-Platonic theology of the fourth century. Other authentic writings were only preserved within collections of outright forgeries.[91] The authentic texts did not become available to be studied until the seventeenth century. The Didache was not published until 1883.[92]
    Early Christian doctrine was less defined and less elaborate than later theology as none of the early church fathers were professional theologians.[93] Their writings are largely concerned with practical problems, church polity and discipline.[94] These writings provide insight into how the Bible and church traditions were understood through rational interpretation during the earliest days.[95]
    As Christianity spread throughout the provinces of the Roman Empire and beyond its borders, it acquired members from high-ranking social classes and the well-educated circles of the Hellenistic world; they sometimes became bishops who wrote famous sermons and treatises. They were primarily defenders of orthodoxy, but they also wrote philosophy and theology as well as apologetics and polemics.[96] Historians and theologians refer to this as the "golden age" of Christian thought.[97]

    Figures such as John Chrysostom, Ambrose, Jerome, Basil, Gregory of Nazianus, Gregory of Nyssa, and the prolific Augustine, all wrote major works that are still studied. For example, Augustine on human will became a focus for later philosophers such as Schopenhauer, Kierkegaard, and Nietzsche.[98] Augustine's philosophical method, especially demonstrated in his Confessions, had a continuing influence on Continental philosophy throughout the 20th century.

  5. ^ Christianity was experienced as a new start, and was open to both men and women, rich and poor. Baptism was free. There were no fees, and it was intellectually egalitarian, making philosophy and ethics available to ordinary people including those who might have lacked literacy.[101] Heterogeneity characterized the groups formed by Paul the Apostle, and the role of women was much greater than in any of the forms of Judaism or paganism in existence at the time.[102] New Testament scholar N. T. Wright argues that these ideas were revolutionary to the classical world.[103]

    Ante-Nicaean Christianity was also highly exclusive.[104] Believing was the crucial and defining characteristic that set a "high boundary" that strongly excluded the "unbeliever".[104] In Daniel Praet's view, the exclusivity of Christian monotheism formed an important part of its success, enabling it to maintain its independence in a society that syncretized religion.[105]

  6. ^ Robin Lane Fox provides examples. During the siege of Alexandria in 262 CE, two Christian leaders arranged to rescue many Christian and pagan people who were old and weak. During the great famine of 311–312 CE, rich pagan donors gave at first, but then withheld funds fearing they themselves would become poor. Christians fed them.[111]
  7. ^ He never engaged in a purge,[131] there were no pagan martyrs during his reign.[132][133] Pagans remained in important positions at his court.[127] Constantine ruled for 31 years and never outlawed paganism.[132][134]
    In Eusebius' church history, there is a bold claim of a Constantinian campaign against the temples, however, there are discrepancies in the evidence.[135] Temple destruction is attested to in 43 cases in the written sources, but only four have been confirmed by archaeological evidence.[136]
    Trombley and MacMullen explain that discrepancies between literary sources and archaeological evidence exist because it is common for details in the literary sources to be ambiguous and unclear.[137][138] For example, Malalas claimed Constantine destroyed all the temples, then he said Theodisius destroyed them all, then he said Constantine converted them all to churches.[139][140]
    At the sacred oak and spring at Mamre, a site venerated and occupied by Jews, Christians, and pagans alike, the literature says Constantine ordered the burning of the idols, the destruction of the altar, and erection of a church on the spot of the temple.[141] The archaeology of the site shows that Constantine's church, along with its attendant buildings, only occupied a peripheral sector of the precinct, leaving the rest unhindered.[142]
    During his long reign, Constantine destroyed a few temples, plundered more, and generally neglected the rest.[128] Constantine was vigorous in reclaiming confiscated properties whenever these issues were brought to his attention, and he used reclamation to justify the destruction of some pagan temples such as Aphrodite's temple in Jerusalem.[143][144] Using the vocabulary of reclamation, Constantine acquired several more sites of Christian significance in the Holy Land.
    A number of elements coincided to end the temples, but none of them were strictly religious.[145] Earthquakes caused much of the destruction of this era.[146] Civil conflict and external invasions also destroyed many temples and shrines.[147]
    Economics was also a factor in temple destruction.[145][148][149] The Roman economy of the third and fourth centuries struggled, and traditional polytheism was expensive and dependent upon donations from the state and private elites.[150] Roger S. Bagnall reports that imperial financial support declined markedly after Augustus.[151] Lower budgets meant the physical decline of urban structures of all types.
    This progressive decay was accompanied by an increased trade in salvaged building materials, as the practice of recycling became common in Late Antiquity.[152] Economic struggles meant that necessity drove much of the destruction and conversion of pagan religious monuments.[145][148][149] In many instances, such as in Tripolitania, this happened before Constantine the Great became emperor.[153]
    Constantine "confiscated temple funds to help finance his own building projects", and he confiscated temple hoards of gold and silver to establish a stable currency; on a few occasions, he confiscated temple land;[154] he refused to personally support pagan beliefs and practices while also speaking out against them.[155] He forbade pagan sacrifices and closed temples that continued to offer them;[132] he wrote laws that favoured Christianity;[156][126] he personally endowed Christians with gifts of money, land and government positions.[157][127] Yet Constantine never stopped the established state support of the traditional religious institutions.[155]
  8. ^ Blood sacrifice of animals (or people) was the element of pagan culture most abhorrent to Christians, though Christian emperors often tolerated other pagan practices.[160][161] Brown notes that the language of the anti-sacrifice laws "was uniformly vehement", and the "penalties they proposed were frequently horrifying", evidencing the intent of "terrorizing" the populace into accepting the absence of public sacrifice being imposed by law.[162] Sacrifice, a common practice in all nations prior to this, largely disappeared by the mid fourth century.[160]
  9. ^ Over the century after Constantine, his nephew Julian became the only non-Christian emperor. Under the influence of his adviser Mardonius, Julian renounced Christianity and embraced a Neoplatonic and mystical form of Greco-Roman Paganism.[175] He campaigned against corruption, instituted several reforms and rebuilding projects, but is best known for attempting to revive Greco-Roman Paganism in the Roman Empire. He began by reopening the temples his predecessor Constantius had closed,[176] modifying them to resemble episcopal structures, by advocating public charity (previously unknown in the Greco-Roman religion), and by personally practicing sacrifice. There was little public support, and Julian's short reign ended when he was wounded in the Battle of Samarra and died days later during the expedition against the Sasanian Empire (363).[177]

    Still, paganism had not completely ended, though it had been gradually declining in popularity since the second century BC.[178][179] Paganism persisted despite the absence of the ritual of sacrifice, writes Brown, because polytheists were accustomed to offering prayers to the gods in many ways and places that did not include sacrifice. Pollution was only associated with sacrifice, and the ban on sacrifice had fixed boundaries and limits.[180] Paganism thus remained widespread into the early fifth century continuing in parts of the empire into the seventh and beyond.[181]

  10. ^ The deserts of the Middle East became inhabited by thousands of male and female Christian ascetics, hermits and anchorites, including St. Anthony the Great (otherwise known as St. Anthony of the Desert), St. Mary of Egypt, and St. Simeon Stylites, collectively known as the Desert Fathers and Desert Mothers.[185] In 963 an association of monasteries called Lavra was formed on Mount Athos, in Eastern Orthodox tradition.[186] This became the most important center of orthodox Christian ascetic groups in the centuries that followed.[186] In the modern era, Mount Athos and Meteora have remained a significant center.[187]
  11. ^ "Arius wanted to emphasise the transcendence and sole divinity of God ... . God alone is, for Arius, without beginning, unbegotten and eternal. In the terminology of negative theology, Arius stresses monotheism with ever-renewed attempts. God can only be understood as creator. He denies the co-eternal state of the Logos with God, since otherwise God would be stripped of his absolute uniqueness. God alone is, and thus he was not always Father. ... Following Proverbs 8:22–25, Arius is able to argue that the Son was created. For Arius the Logos belongs wholly on the side of the Divine, but he is markedly subordinate to God".[193]
  12. ^ "A heresy of the Christian Church, started by Arius, bishop of Alexandria (d. 336), who taught that the Son is not equivalent to the Father (όμοούστος = consubstantialis), thereby provoking a serious schism in the Christian Church, which in turn affected the fortunes of the Jews in many countries. In view of the fact that most Germanic peoples—such as the eastern and western Goths, as also the Franks, the Lombards, the Suevi, and the Vandals—were baptized into Arian Christianity, and that these tribes settled in widely spread districts of the old Roman empire, a large number of Jews, already resident in those lands, fell under Arian domination. In contrast with the domination of the orthodox church, the Arian was distinguished by a wise tolerance and a mild treatment of the population of other faiths, conduct mainly attributable to the unsophisticated sense of justice characterizing the children of nature, but also traceable in some degree to certain points of agreement between the Arian doctrine and Judaism, points totally absent in the orthodox confession. The very insistence upon the more subordinate relationship of the Son—that is, the Messiah—to the God-father is much nearer to the Jewish doctrine of the Messiah than to the conception of the full divinity of the Son, as enunciated at Nicaea".[194]
  13. ^ Nearly all the sources available on Theodosius are ecclesiastical histories that are highly colored and carefully curated for public reading.[212] Beginning with contemporaries like the bishop Ambrose, and followed in the next century by church historians such as Theodoret, these histories focus on Theodosius' impact on the church, frequently moving into panegyric and hagiography.[217]

    Numerous literary sources from the period, both Christian and pagan, falsely attributed to Theodosius multiple anti-pagan initiatives such as the withdrawal of state funding to pagan cults (Gratian) and the demolition of temples (for which there is no primary evidence).[218] Theodosius was also associated with the ending of the Vestal virgins, but twenty-first century scholarship asserts the Virgins continued until 415 and suffered no more under Theodosius than they had since Gratian restricted their finances.[219]

    Theodosius has also been associated with ending the ancient Olympic Games, which he also probably did not do.[220][221] Sofie Remijsen [nl] says there are several reasons to conclude the Olympic games continued after Theodosius I, and that they came to an end under Theodosius the second when an accidental fire burned down the Olympiad's Temple.[222]
    Theodosius championed Christian orthodoxy, and the majority of the laws he wrote were intended to eliminate heresies and promote unity within Christianity.[223] In 380, he issued the Edict of Thessalonica to the people of Constantinople. It was addressed to Arian Christians, granted Christians no favours or advantages over other religions, and it is clear from mandates issued in the years after 380, that Theodosius had not intended it as a requirement for pagans or Jews to convert to Christianity.[224] For example, legal scholar Pál Sáry explains that, "In 393, the emperor was gravely disturbed that the Jewish assemblies had been forbidden in certain places. For this reason, he stated with emphasis that the sect of the Jews was forbidden by no law".[225]
    The Edict declared those Christians who refused the Nicene faith to be infames, and prohibited them from using Christian churches.[226] Sáry uses this example: "After his arrival in Constantinople, Theodosius offered to confirm the Arian bishop Demophilus in his see, if he would accept the Nicene Creed. After Demophilus refused the offer, the emperor immediately directed him to surrender all his churches to the Catholics".[227] Pagans, on the other hand, were mostly left alone.[171]

    Some twentieth century scholars thought a universal ban on paganism and the establishment of Christianity as the "official" religion of the empire, though never explicitly stated, could be implied from Theodosius' law of November 392.[223][228][229] However, this law was sent only to Rufinus in the East;[230] it describes and bans private domestic sacrifice;[231] it bans magic used for divining the future from such sacrifice and any idolatry associated with it,[232] and it makes no mention of Christianity.[233][234] Sozomen, the Constantinopolitan lawyer, wrote a history of the church around 443 where he evaluates the law of 392 as having had only minor significance at the time it was issued. Sacrifice had mostly already ended by the mid-300s.[235][236]

  14. ^ Eastern Christian scientists and scholars of the medieval Islamic world (particularly Jacobite and Nestorian Christians) contributed to the Arab Islamic civilization during the reign of the Umayyad and the Abbasid, by translating works of Greek philosophers to Syriac and afterwards, to Arabic.[300][299][301] They also excelled in philosophy, science, theology, and medicine.[302][303] And the personal physicians of the Abbasid Caliphs were often Assyrian Christians such as the long serving Bukhtishu dynasty.[304] Many scholars of the House of Wisdom were of Assyrian Christian background.[305][306][299]
  15. ^ Historian Ivo Štefan asserts that, in general, adoption of Christianity in Bohemia, Poland and Hungary was not forced either by pressure from outside or by violence.[338]
  16. ^ Bishoprics being merely lifetime appointments, a king could better control their powers and revenues than those of hereditary noblemen. Even better, he could leave the post vacant and collect the revenues, theoretically in trust for the new bishop, or give a bishopric to pay a helpful noble.[358] The Roman Catholic Church wanted to end lay investiture to end this and other abuses, to reform the episcopate and provide better pastoral care and separation of church and state.[359] Pope Gregory VII issued the Dictatus Papae, which declared that the pope alone could appoint bishops.[359] Henry IV's rejection of the decree led to his excommunication and a ducal revolt. Eventually, Henry IV received absolution after a dramatic public penance, though the Great Saxon Revolt and conflict of investiture continued.[360] It took "five decades of excommunications, denunciations and mutual depositions...spanning the reign of two emperors and six popes" to settle the controversy in 1122.[361]
  17. ^ Jews and homosexuals were the first. Previously, papal bulls served as a charter of protection for the Jews.[386] From the time of Augustine, the church had advocated freedom for the Jews. During the Middle Ages, the Catholic Church still upheld the Constitutio pro Judæis (Formal Statement on the Jews):

    We decree that no Christian shall use violence to force them to be baptized, so long as they are unwilling and refuse.…Without the judgment of the political authority of the land, no Christian shall presume to wound them or kill them or rob them of their money or change the good customs that they have thus far enjoyed in the place where they live".[387]

    Constitutio pro Judæis were papal bulls which set out the official position of the papacy regarding the treatment of Jews. The first bull by that name was issued in about 1120 by Calixtus II and served as a papal charter of protection to Jews. It was prompted by attacks on Jews by the First Crusade, during which over five thousand Jews were slaughtered in Europe. The bull forbade Christians, on pain of excommunication, from forcing Jews to convert, harming them, taking their property, disturbing the celebration of their festivals and interfering with their cemeteries.[386]
    Then contents of the Talmud mocking the central figures of Christianity became public.[388] Historians agree this was a turning point in Jewish-Christian relations.[389] In 1215, the Fourth Lateran Council met and accepted church laws that required Jews to distinguish themselves from Christians in their dress, prohibited them from holding public office, and prohibited Jewish converts from continuing to practice Jewish rituals.[390][391] In the words of Hebrew University historian Ben-Zion Dinur, from 1244 on, both state and church would "consider the Jews to be a people with no religion (benei bli dat) who have no place in the Christian world".[392]
    Expulsions of Jews in Europe from 1100 to 1600

    In the eleventh century, the legal code of the Kingdom of Jerusalem ordained the death penalty for "sodomites". From the 1250s onwards, the legal codes in the nation-states of Spain, France, Italy and Germany followed this example. Sociologist R. I. Moore writes that "By 1300, places where male sodomy was not a capitol offense had become the exception rather than the rule".[393] In the next few centuries, the penalty was extended to Gypsies, beggars, spendthrifts, prostitutes, and idle former soldiers.[394]

  18. ^ Ullmann writes: "What the observer of the papacy witnessed in [these] centuries was a gradual, though clearly perceptible, decomposition of Europe as a single ecclesiastical unit, and the fragmentation of Europe into independent, autonomous entities which were soon to be called national monarchies or states. This fragmentation heralded the withering away of the papacy as a governing institution operating on a universal scale".[416]
  19. ^ See especially Moore 1985, and the collection of essays Frassetto 2006 for a consideration of the origins of the Cathars, and proof against identifying earlier heretics in the West, such as those identified in 1025 at Monforte, outside Milan, as being Cathars. Also see Wakefield & Evans 1991
  20. ^ According to historian Elaine Graham-Leigh, Pope Innocent believed the tactical, as well as policy and strategic decisions, should be solely "the papal preserve".[441] J. Sumption and Stephen O'Shea put forth Innocent III as "the mastermind of the crusade".[442][443][440]

    Jean Markale, on the other hand, suggests the true architect of the campaign was the French king Philip Augustus, stating that "it was Phillip who actually petitioned Innocent for permission to conduct the Crusade".[440] Historian Laurence W. Marvin says the Pope exercised "little real control over events in Occitania".[444]

  21. ^ Spain and Sicily are the only European regions to have experienced Islamic conquest.[453] The blended Muslim, Christian and Jewish cultures that resulted from the eighth century onward left a profound imprint on Spain.[453] The Mozarabs, or more precisely Andalusi Christians,[454] were the Christians of al-Andalus, or the territories of Iberia under Muslim rule from 711 to 1492. Following the Umayyad conquest of the Visigothic Kingdom in Hispania, the Christian population of much of Iberia came under Muslim control. In Umayyad al-Andalus (the Iberian Peninsula), the Mālikī school of Islamic law was the most prevalent.[293] The martyrdoms of forty-eight Christian martyrs that took place in the Emirate of Córdoba between 850 and 859 AD[455] are recorded in the hagiographical treatise written by the Iberian Christian and Latinist scholar Eulogius of Córdoba.[294][293][295] The Martyrs of Córdoba were executed under the rule of Abd al-Rahman II and Muhammad I, and Eulogius' hagiography describes in detail the executions of the martyrs for capital violations of Islamic law, including apostasy and blasphemy.[294][293][295]
  22. ^ Some scholars and historians attribute Christianity to having contributed to the rise of the Scientific Revolution:
  23. ^ The papacy of St. Pius V was known not only for its focus on halting heresy and worldly abuses within the Church, but also for its focus on improving popular piety in a determined effort to stem the appeal of Protestantism. Pius began his pontificate by giving large alms to the poor, charity, and hospitals, and the pontiff was known for consoling the poor and sick as well as supporting missionaries. These activities coincided with a rediscovery of the ancient Christian catacombs in Rome. As Diarmaid MacCulloch states, "Just as these ancient martyrs were revealed once more, Catholics were beginning to be martyred afresh, both in mission fields overseas and in the struggle to win back Protestant northern Europe: the catacombs proved to be an inspiration for many to action and to heroism".[508]
  24. ^ Theorists such as John Kelsay and James Turner Johnson argue that these religious wars were varieties of the Just war tradition for liberty and freedom.[513] William T. Cavanaugh points out that many historians argue these ‘‘wars of religion’’ were not primarily religious, but were more about state-building, nationalism, and economics.[514] If they had been motivated most deeply by religion, Catholics would fight Protestants, whereas Catholics often formed alliances with Protestants to fight other Catholics and vice versa. Historian Barbara Diefendorf argues that religious motives were always mixed with other motives, but the simple fact of Catholics fighting Catholics and Protestants fighting Protestants is not sufficient to prove the absence of religious motives, since religious conflict is often "familial".[515] According to Marxist theorist Henry Heller, there was "a rising tide of commoner hostility to noble oppression and growing perception of collusion between Protestant and Catholic nobles".[516]
  25. ^ In medieval canon law, Christian thought on this subject is represented by a passage called the Canon Episcopi. Alan Charles Kors explains that the Canon is skeptical that witches exist while still allowing the existence of demons and the devil.[520] By the mid-fifteenth century, popular conceptions of witches changed dramatically, and Christian thought denying witches and witchcraft was being challenged by the Dominicans and being debated within the church.[521][522][328]
  26. ^ The highest concentration of witch trials occurred in the Holy Roman Empire (southwestern Germany) during the years 1561 to 1670 long after the Protestant Reformation.[526] The majority of those brought to trial were not executed, and most of those accused were never brought to trial.[526] Ankarloo and Clark indicate the main pressure to prosecute witches came from the common people, and trials were mostly civil trials.[527][528] Most twenty-first century scholars argue that types of legal systems mattered most in determining a trial's outcome.[526][529]

    The church remained divided over the existence of witches and proper methods for dealing with the accused throughout the period. Inquisitions did not generally convict or execute them.[526] In 1631, using sarcasm, ridicule and piercing logic, the Jesuit Friedrich Spee wrote Cautio Criminalis (Precautions for Prosecutors) in which he sought to expose the flawed arguments and methods used by the Dominican witch-hunters.[530][531] The moral impression of his book was great.[532] Witch trials became scant in the second half of the seventeenth century and eventually simply subsided.[533][534]

  27. ^ Executed along with her were: Grand Duke Sergei Mikhailovich Romanov; the Princes Ioann Konstantinvich, Konstantin Konstantinovich, Igor Konstantinovich and Vladimir Pavlovich Paley; Grand Duke Sergei's secretary, Fyodor Remez; and Varvara Yakovleva, a sister from the Grand Duchess Elizabeth's convent.
  28. ^ "One of the first assignments of state atheism was the eradication of religion. In their attempt to destroy faith in God, Soviet authorities used all means of persecution, arrests and trials, imprisonment in psychiatric hospitals, house raids and searches, confiscations of Bibles and New Testaments and other Christian literature, disruption of worship services by the militia and KGB, slander campaigns against Christians in magazines and newspapers, on TV and radio. Persecution of Evangelical Baptists was intensified in the early 1960s and continues to the present".[606]
  29. ^ "In the Soviet Union the Russian Orthodox Church was suffering unprecedented persecution. The closing and destruction of churches and monasteries, the sate atheism imposed on all aspects of life, the arrest, imprisonment, exile and execution of bishops, clergy, monastics, theologians and tens of thousands of active members had brought the Church to prostration. The voice of the Church in society as silenced, its teaching mocked, its extinction predicted".[607]
  30. ^ "One of the main activities of the League of Militant Atheists was the publication of massive quantities of anti-religious literature, comprising regular journals and newspapers as well as books and pamphlets. The number of printed pages rose from 12 million in 1927 to 800 million in 1930. All these legislative and publicistic efforts were, however, only incidental to the events of the 1930s. During this period religion, was quite simply, to be eliminated by means of violence. With the end of NEP came the start of forced collectivisation in 1929, and with it the terror, which encompassed kulaks and class enemies of all kinds, including bishops, priests, and lay believers, who were arrested, shot and sent to labour camps. Churches were closed down, destroyed, converted to other uses. The League of Militant Atheists apparently adopted a five-year plan in 1932 aimed at the total eradication of religion by 1937".[608]
  31. ^ By October 1944, 45% of all pastors and 98% of non-ordained vicars and candidates had been drafted into military service; 117 German pastors of Jewish descent served at this time, and yet at least 43% fled Nazi Germany because it became impossible for them to continue in their ministries.[619]


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  3. ^ Hopkins 1998, p. 192.
  4. ^ a b Judge 2010, p. 4.
  5. ^ Trombley 1985, pp. 327–331.
  6. ^ Humfress 2013, pp. 3, 76, 83–88, 91.
  7. ^ Wilken 2013, pp. 75–87.
  8. ^ Wilken 2013, pp. 88–98.
  9. ^ Roman Catholicism, "[Christianity] has been the decisive spiritual force in the history of Western civilization". Encyclopædia Britannica
  10. ^ Hayes, Carlton J.H. (1953). Christianity and Western Civilization, Stanford University Press, p. 2: That certain distinctive features of our Western civilization—the civilization of western Europe and of America—have been shaped chiefly by Judaeo – Graeco – Christianity, Catholic and Protestant.
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  12. ^ Thomas E. Woods and Antonio Canizares, 2012, "How the Catholic Church Built Western Civilization," Reprint ed., Washington, D.C.: Regnery History, ISBN 1596983280, see accessed 8 December 2014. p. 1: "Western civilization owes far more to the Catholic Church than most people—Catholic included—often realize. The Church in fact built Western civilization."
  13. ^ Marvin Perry (1 January 2012). Western Civilization: A Brief History, Volume I: To 1789. Cengage Learning. pp. 33–. ISBN 978-1-111-83720-4.
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  15. ^ a b Corrigan & Neal 2010, pp. 125–146.
  16. ^ a b c Stannard 1992, pp. 57–146.
  17. ^ a b c Thornton 1987, pp. 42–158.
  18. ^ a b Pew Research 2011.
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  24. ^ González 1987, p. 37.
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  26. ^ Tov 2014, pp. 37–46.
  27. ^ Davies, Horbury & Sturdy 2001, pp. 94–167.
  28. ^ Schwartz 2009, p. 49 "Though we know of more radical Jewish organizations in the first century—the Christians are the best-known example—the three main sects are evidence not simply of Judaism's diversity but also of the power of its ideological mainstream".
  29. ^ Schwartz 2009, p. 91 "Though Josephus speaks of three (and in one polemical passage of four) sects, it seems certain that there were many more sectarian groups in first-century Palestine".
  30. ^ Davies & Finkelstein 2003, pp. 524–533.
  31. ^ Rankin 2016, pp. 1–2.
  32. ^ a b c Rankin 2016, p. 2.
  33. ^ a b Rankin 2016, p. 3.
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  49. ^ Acts 15:36
  50. ^ Hurtado 2005, pp. 13–55.
  51. ^ Freeman 2010, pp. 31–46.
  52. ^ Lietaert Peerbolte 2013, pp. 238–255.
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  56. ^ Acts 11:26
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  59. ^ Seifrid 1992, pp. 310–211, 246–247.
  60. ^ Acts 11:26 "and when he had found him, he brought him to Antioch. So it was that for an entire year they met with the church and taught a great many people, and it was in Antioch that the disciples were first called 'Christians.'"
  61. ^ Brandon 2010, p. ix, chapter 8.
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  71. ^ Koenig 2009, p. 31, "The Bible is the most globally influential and widely read book ever written. ... it has been a major influence on the behavior, laws, customs, education, art, literature, and morality of Western civilization".
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