A History of Heresy in Ancient and Medieval Christianity

The study of heresy requires an understanding of the development of orthodoxy and the role of creeds in the definition of orthodox beliefs. Introduction, Etymology, Definition Heresy in Christianity denotes the formal denial or doubt of a core doctrine of the Christian faith[1] as defined by one or more of the Christian churches.[2] In Western[…]

A Page from the Sahib Din’s Mewar ‘Ramayana’ in the Seventeenth Century

By the time of Din’s work in 1650, the Ramayana had grown to twenty-four thousand verses that were organized into seven thematic books. By Dr. Arathi MenonHistorian of Art and Architecture What’s In a Story? In its simplest form, a story has a beginning, an end, and events that unfold in between. It has a[…]

Saints in Medieval Christian Art

The powers of saints were believed to extend to their images. By Dr. Wendy A. SteinResearch AssociateDepartment of Medieval Art and The CloistersMetropolitan Museum of Art Since early Christian times, hundreds of men and women have been revered in the Church and identified as saints. Their lives were held up as models of exemplary behavior,[…]

Hieronymous: Saint Jerome and the Lion

The Golden Legend often blends traditional stories about the saints with historical facts, as seen in the account of St. Jerome’s life. Everyone loves a picture of a medieval lion. The Twitter hashtag #notalion celebrates how amusingly unrealistic they often look, frequently resembling cuddly housecats more than the king of beasts. In medieval manuscripts, lions[…]

Pilgrimage by Proxy: A Medieval Guidebook for Pilgrims to the Holy Land

The text is a detailed account of a pilgrimage to Jerusalem and Mount Sinai, originally written by the Franciscan friar Niccolò da Poggibonsi. A recent addition to our digitised collections [at the British Library] is a unique 15th-century guidebook for pilgrims to the Holy Land. Almost like a late medieval Lonely Planet guide for a[…]

Magical Uses of Imagery in Ancient and Medieval Byzantine Art

These images were sometimes augmented with texts that were used for protective or healing purposes. Introduction Christianity was central to the outlook and personal identity of the average Byzantine; nonetheless, there is abundant physical evidence that some types of popular religious or “magical” practices were widespread from late antiquity to the end of the empire.[…]

Samhain: The Celtic Inspiration for Modern Halloween

Ancient Celts divided the year into two halve – the lighter half and the darker half, and held four celebrations to mark the changing seasons. By Hillary SmithArt Historian Introduction Samhain (pronounced “SOW-in” or “SAH-win”), was a festival celebrated by the ancient Celts halfway between the autumn equinox and the winter solstice. It began at[…]

The Ancient Egyptian Afterlife and the ‘Feather of Truth’

After death, one was guided through the Hall of Two Truths where the heart was weighed against a feather. Introduction Is it possible to have a heart that is lighter than a feather? To the ancient Egyptians it was not only possible but highly desirable. The after-life of the ancient Egyptians was known as the[…]

Azazel: The Evil Fallen Angel of Ancient and Medieval Hebrew Apocalypticism

The Book of Enoch brings Azazel as a fallen angel onto Mount Hermon, a gathering-place of demons of old, as a rebellious “Watcher”. Overview Azazel is, according to the Book of Enoch, a fallen Angel. In the Bible, the name Azazel appears in association with the scapegoat rite; the name represents a desolate place where[…]

Ahriman: The ‘Devil’ of Ancient and Medieval Zoroastrianism

Ahriman was the “Evil spirit, … whose religion is evil [and] who ever ridiculed and mocked the wicked in hell.” Overview Angra Mainyuis the Avestan-language name of Zoroastrianism’s hypostasis of the “destructive spirit/mentality” and the main adversary in Zoroastrianism either of the Spenta Mainyu, the “holy/creative spirits/mentality”, or directly of Ahura Mazda, the highest deity[…]

Eastern Religions in the Ancient Roman World

Romans were particularly receptive to foreign cults at times of social upheaval to help address new uncertainties and fears. Roman religion, both by native instinct and deliberate policy, was widely inclusive, comprised of different gods, rituals, liturgies, traditions, and cults. Romans, considered by Cicero as the religiosissima gens (the most religious peoples), not only worshipped[…]

Religion in the Ancient Graeco-Roman World

The idea of a single, unified, and dominant religion shared by all members of a single culture was aberration from the norm. Introduction One single word that can accurately be used to describe the religious situation of the Mediterranean world is “complex.” all kind of religion was manifested in some form or other around the[…]

An Historical Overview of Charismatic Catholicism

The Catholic charismatic movement in the United States began during the 1960s, encompassing various forms of Pentecostalism. Pentecostalism in the U.S. Catholic charismatics practice forms of Pentecostalism that embrace the belief that individuals can receive gifts of the Holy Spirit. Modern Pentecostalism in the United States began on Azuza Street in Los Angeles. Starting in[…]

Religion in 18th-Century America and the Emergence of Evangelicism

The Great Awakening swept the English-speaking world, as religious energy vibrated between the U.K. and the American colonies. Introduction Against a prevailing view that eighteenth-century Americans had not perpetuated the first settlers’ passionate commitment to their faith, scholars now identify a high level of religious energy in colonies after 1700. According to one expert, religion[…]

A History of the ‘Divine Right of Kings’ Doctrine

The origins of the theory are rooted in the medieval idea that God had bestowed earthly power to the king. Introduction The Divine Right of Kings is a political and religious doctrine of royal absolutism. It asserts that a monarch is subject to no earthly authority, deriving his right to rule directly from the will[…]

The Development of the Church in Medieval Christianity

Christianity had developed as a religious idea in Roman Palestine and slowly spread throughout the Empire. By Fr. Chad J. Stumph, D.D. Christianity transformed from a persecuted, unorganized group of believers into a hierarchical, dominating Church over the course of seven centuries, developing alongside the changing political environment of post-Roman Europe. The development of the[…]

Religious Responses to Satire since Ancient Greece

Condemnation of satirists has often taken the form of censorship, public humiliation, imprisonment, and even death. Satire as Criticism Indeed, condemnation of satirists has more commonly taken the form of censorship, public humiliation and imprisonment. Aristophanes, who wrote satiric plays 2,400 years ago, was condemned during his lifetime for his depictions of citizens of Athens.[…]

A Brief History of ‘Sacred Violence’ since the Ancient World

From ancient world to the crusades of the medieval period to today, people have sought ways to ‘sanctify’ harmful actions. Introduction Along with their swastikas borrowed from Nazi Germany, white supremacists marching in the U.S. and elsewhere have in recent years displayed crosses embellished with the Latin phrase “Deus Vult” – “God wills it.” Taken[…]

Magna Mater: The Cult of Cybele in Ancient Rome

Originally, the Cybelean cult was brought to Rome during the time of the Second Punic War (218 -201 BCE). Introduction History verifies the importance of religion not only on a society’s development but also on its survival; in this respect the Romans were no different than other ancient civilizations. During the formative years of the[…]

The Cult of Athena in Ancient Greece

In Athens, the cult of Athena Polias was the most important religious faction. Much like the Vestal Virgins of Rome, the priestesses of Greek religion enjoyed a great many perks that other Greek women did not. In exchange for the commitment to their religious and civic responsibilities, they were often paid, given property, and most[…]

Teddy Roosevelt and Religion in Politics

Attacks on a candidate’s religious beliefs and affiliations have a long history in America. Teddy Roosevelt knew the danger in this. Catholics, Unbelievers, and Elections In the 1908 presidential campaign, the religious beliefs of the Republican Party nominee, William Howard Taft, came under attack. In response, another prominent Republican – the outgoing President Theodore Roosevelt[…]

A History of Apocalyptic Theology and Threat in American Politics

American leaders have often yielded to despair and lamented “the end” – as far back as the founding of the republic. ‘We Are Not a Chosen People’ During the early stages of national life, the mood was no different. Actually, it was even worse. When Thomas Jefferson realized the implications of grounding a nation upon[…]

Ancient Greek Sanctuaries as Artistic Hubs

Greek sanctuaries were perennially lively venues, each with their idiosyncratic myths and rites. Introduction For the ancient Greeks, religion was inextricably tied to everyday life. Gods and many other supernatural beings could manifest anywhere, at any time, and often in unexpected forms. Yet even within such a boundless concept of religion, there were locations deemed[…]

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[…]

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[…]