Sequestration: The Long Consequences of Stealing a Medieval Papal Election

During the sede vacante in 1241, Frederick II blocked the arrival of some cardinal electors known to be hostile to his interests. Introduction The 1241 papal election (21 September to 25 October)[1] saw the election of Cardinal Goffredo da Castiglione as Pope Celestine IV. The election took place during the first of many protracted sede[…]

Witch Trial Hysteria in the Medieval and Early Modern Worlds

Natural events and pandemics contributed to the hysteria surrounding the witch trials of the 16th through 18th centuries. Introduction The witch trials in the early modern period were a series of witch hunts between the 15th and 18th centuries, when across early modern Europe, and to some extent in the European colonies in North America,[…]

A History of the Anti-Semitic ‘Blood Libel’ Hoax since the Middle Ages

This hoax has resulted in the arrest and killing of Jews throughout history. Introduction Blood libel or ritual murder libel (also blood accusation) is an antisemitic canard which accuses Jews of murdering Christian children in order to use their blood as part of religious rituals. Historically, these claims—alongside those of well poisoning and host desecration—have[…]

Miracles on Trial: Wonders and Their Witnesses in Eighteenth-Century France

People had become less and less likely to lend much credibility to witness testimony. One lazy afternoon in 1769, a heartfelt reunion between an incredulous young man and his former tutor led to a polite discussion regarding the possibility of miracles. After having expressed his disappointment that the young man had fallen prey to the[…]

Thomas Cromwell: Inserting Himself into Henry VIII’s ‘Great Bible’ via Cut-n-Paste

Thomas Cromwell’s Machiavellian maneuvering influenced his own depiction on the front of The Great Bible. Introduction The Great Bible is often seen as a monument of English reform – but could it also contain the first known example of political photoshopping in early modern England? Printed in 1538-9, it was to be purchased by every[…]

The Roman Catholic Church in Medieval Europe

Exploring the influence of the Roman Catholic Church in Europe during the High Middle Ages, from about 1000 to 1300 C.E. Introduction The Church was the center of life in medieval western Europe. Almost every community had a church building. Larger towns and cities had a cathedral. Church bells rang out the hours, called people[…]

Exploring ‘End Times’ Armageddon Mythology across Faiths

The term is often used in a generic sense to refer to any end of the world scenario. Introduction According to the Book of Revelation in the New Testament of the Christian Bible, Armageddon (from Ancient Greek: Ἁρμαγεδών Harmagedōn,[1][2] Late Latin: Armagedōn,[3] from Hebrew: הר מגידו‎ Har Megiddo) is the prophesied location of a gathering[…]

A History of the Origins and Spread of Islam

Exploring how the Islamic faith quickly spread throughout Arabia and beyond. Introduction Muhammad was born around 570 C.E. He taught the faith called Islam, which became one of the major religions of the world. Muhammad’s birthplace, Makkah (Mecca), was an ancient place of worship. According to tradition, many centuries before Muhammad was born, God tested[…]

Medieval Christian Saints and Magical Charms as Protection from Animals

Saints were sometimes associated with protecting animals, particularly in magical texts or ‘charms’. St Francis of Assisi (1181/82–1225) is traditionally known as the patron saint of animals and the natural environment. During the Middle Ages, however, other saints were sometimes associated with protecting animals, particularly in magical texts or ‘charms’. One such charm is found[…]

Sex with Demons: A Belief That Runs Deep in Christian and Jewish Traditions

The earliest account of demon sex in Jewish and Christian traditions comes from the Book of Genesis. Introduction Houston physician and pastor Stella Immanuel – described as “spectacular” by Donald Trump for her promotion of unsubstantiated claims about anti-malaria drug hydroxychloroquine as a “cure” for COVID-19 – has some other, very unconventional views. As well[…]

The Beginning of the Reformation in the 16th Century

This movement led to the start of many new Christian churches that broke away from the Catholic Church. Introduction The Reformation began in the early 1500s and lasted into the 1600s. Until then, all Christians in western Europe were Catholics. But even before the Reformation, the Church’s religious and moral authority was starting to weaken.[…]

Religion in Medieval England

The Church had a close relationship with the English state throughout the Middle Ages. Introduction Medieval Religion Unlike religion in the modern world, medieval religion had deep significance and central importance in the lives of most individuals and nations. There was hardly any concept of a secular nation where religion did not play any role[…]

‘Positives Christentum’: Christianity in Nazi Germany

Hitler identified himself as Christian and said “the [Nazi] Party represents the standpoint of Positive Christianity”. Introduction Positive Christianity (German: Positives Christentum) was a movement within Nazi Germany which mixed the belief that the racial purity of the German people should be maintained by mixing Nazi ideology with elements of Christianity. Adolf Hitler used the[…]

Theocratic Puritanism: Religious Intolerance in Colonial New England

They hoped to bring about the reform of theocratic Protestantism throughout the English Empire. Introduction After the arrival of the original Separatist “pilgrims” in 1620, a second, larger group of English Puritans emigrated to New England. The second wave of English Puritans established the Massachusetts Bay Colony, the New Haven Colony, and Rhode Island. These[…]

The Origins of Cathedrals and Chapels

Millions step into cathedrals and chapels every year. The history of these places of worship offers important insights into Christianity. Introduction Cathedrals and chapels have played vital roles in the development of Christian culture. As a scholar of the Bible, Judaism and Christianity, I have come to learn the historic importance of these structures and[…]

Magic in Medieval England: A Service Industry Used by Rich and Poor Alike

In medieval England using magic was a bit like drug use today: against the law and seen as immoral, but still widespread across society. Introduction Chances are that when you hear the words “medieval magic”, the image of a witch will spring to mind: wizened old crones huddled over a cauldron containing unspeakable ingredients such[…]

Exploring Abrahamic Mythology since the Ancient World

In its broadest academic sense, the word “myth” simply means a traditional story. However, many restrict the term to sacred stories. Introduction Abrahamic mythology is the body of myths associated with Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. The term encompasses a broad variety of legends and stories, especially those considered sacred narratives. Mythological themes and elements occur[…]

Charms, Magical and Religious Remedies in the Medieval World

Medieval people firmly believed in God and occult powers. By Véronique SoreauPhD Student in English and Anglo-Saxon Languages and LiteratureCentre d’Etudes Supérieures de Civilisation MédiévaleUniversité de Poitiers Introduction Charms are incantations or magic spells, chanted, recited, or written. Used to cure diseases, they can also be a type of medical recipe.[1]  Such recipes were often[…]

The Post-Reformation Protestant Mission in the Modern World

The Protestant churches that emerged from the Reformation movements of the 12th to the 16th centuries arrived late, following the Catholic Church, to efforts to spread Christianity. By Dr. Andreas Feldtkeller / 10.26.2017 Professor of Religious Studies and Intercultural Theology Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin Abstract The Protestant churches that emerged from the Reformation movements of the[…]

The Post-Reformation Catholic Mission in the Modern World

The Inquisition by Francisco Goya / Wikimedia Commons The inter-cultural communication and the exchanges and transfers regarding Christian doctrine (catechism) – and regarding art and science – after the Reformation. By Dr. Michael Sievernich / 07.14.2011 Professor of Theology Johannes Gutenberg University, Mainz Abstract This article provides an overview of the Catholic Mission in the modern era,[…]

Wittenberg Influences on the Reformation in Scandinavia

Wittenberg was the most important source of inspiration for the Reformation in both of the Scandinavian kingdoms.    By Dr. Simo Heininen (left) and Dr. Otfried Czaika (right) / 08.01.2012 Heininen: Professor of Theology, University of Helsinki Czaika: Professor of Church History, Norwegian School of Theology, Religion and Society Introduction Wittenberg was the most important source of[…]

Golden Tickets to the Underworld in Ancient Greece

Tablet with Instructions for the Deceased in the Underworld, 350–300 B.C., Greek. Gold, 7/8 × 1 7/16 × 1/16 in. The J. Paul Getty Museum, Gift of Lenore Barozzi, 75.AM.19 How some ancient Greeks navigated their passage to a happier afterlife. By David Saunders / 10.30.2018 Curator, Department of Antiquities J. Paul Getty Museum Introduction[…]

Janus: The Roman God of Beginnings and Endings

Detail from The Temple of Janus by Peter Paul Rubens. Wikimedia Commons. Wikimedia Commons On January 1, we consider the origins of Janus, after whom this month is named. Dr. Caillan Davenport / 12.31.2017 Senior Lecturer in Classics and Ancient History and ARC DECRA Senior Research Fellow Macquarie University January 1 can be a day of regret and reflection – did I really[…]

Palaces in Ancient Egypt: Cities for Kings and Gods

Illustration of the ancient palace of Malkata The grandeur that early European explorers had come to expect in royal building programs seems to have been reserved for sacred space and funerary complexes. By Dr. Steven Snape Reader in Egyptian Archaeology University of Liverpool Introduction For early European explorers in Egypt, it was inconceivable that the massive monumental[…]

The People vs. Tyranny: The Secular Martyrdom of John Lilburne

John Lilburne, reading from Coke’s Institutes of the Lawes of England (1628-44) at his trial for high treason in 1649. Photo courtesy The British Library/Public Domain He was a 17th-century champion of legal rights that are important to us all. By Dr. Michael Braddick / 11.26.2018 Professor of History (Early Modern England) University of Sheffield The English[…]

What Hanukkah’s Portrayal in Pop Culture Means to American Jews

Hanukkah demands fewer religious rituals than most other Jewish observances. Golden Pixels LLC Despite the primacy of Christmas in American culture, the visibility of Hanukkah in pop culture reminds Jews that they have their own holiday in which they can take pride. By Dr. Ted Merwin / 12.05.2017 Part-Time Associate Professor of Religion Director, The Milton B. Asbell Center for Jewish Life (2001) Dickinson College When I was[…]

Shamanism in Ancient Korea

Cheongung, or the main Shrine Hall of the Three Sages, on the grounds of Samseonggung. Samseonggung Shrine is dedicated to the traditional worship of the three mythical creators of Korea: Whanin, Whanung, and Dangun. Its influence on ancient Korean culture is most tangible in surviving art, architecture, literature, and music. By Mark Cartwright / 11.08.2016 Historian Introduction Bangsadaps,[…]

The City of Gilgamesh: Temple Rule in Ancient Babylon

Passing lion, brick panel from the Procession Way which ran from the Marduk temple to the Ishtar Gate and the Akitu Temple / Photo by Jastrow, Louvre Museum, Wikimedia Commons Gilgamesh, legendary ruler of Uruk, famous drinker, womanizer and battler against monsters, was a King Arthur of Mesopotamian antiquity. By Dr. Paul Kriwaczek British Historian Uruk[…]

Human and Non-Human Sacrifice in Aztec Religious Practice

 / An Aztec ceremonial knife with a cedarwood handle and flint blade. The figure of the handle is covered in turquoise and shell mosiac and represents an Aztec Eagle knight. 1400-1521 CE. (British Museum, London) / British Museum, Creative Commons This was a strictly ritualized process which gave the highest possible honor to the gods and was regarded[…]