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[…]

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.[…]

Events and Impacts of the Medieval Crusades

Christians mounted violent campaigns against Jews and heretics in addition to the wars in Europe, North Africa, and the Middle East. Introduction The Crusades were launched by European Christians to reclaim Jerusalem and other holy sites in the Middle East from Muslims. Christians mounted these religious wars between 1096 and 1291. A major purpose was[…]

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[…]

Magna Ecclesia: A History of the Hagia Sophia

The aesthetic qualities of a geometric design are what most concern the twentieth-century work on Hagia Sophia. Introduction Hagia Sophia in Istanbul, constructed 532-537 CE, continues to be revered as one of the most important structures in the world. Hagia Sophia (Greek Ἁγία Σοφία, for ‘Holy Wisdom’) was designed to be the major basilica of the[…]

African American Spirituals: From Cotton Fields to Concert Halls

After the Civil War, touring groups of black college singers popularized slavery-era songs, giving rise to a new musical genre. “Swing low, sweet chariot….” These words are familiar to many Americans, who might sing them in worship, in Sunday school, around campfires, in school, and in community choruses. But the black singers responsible for introducing[…]

Christianity Used as a Justification for Slavery in 19th-Century America

White Christian slaveholders argued that slavery was a necessary evil because it would control the sinful, less humane, black race. Slave owners had many justifications for why holding people in bondage was acceptable. From the idea that African Americans were a lesser race who needed taking care of by white patriarchs to the economic justification,[…]

The English Reformation: Fighting the Oppressors to Become Them

Henry VIII and his heirs became equally as oppressive as the Catholic Church whose chains they threw off. Introduction The English Reformation began with Henry VIII of England (r. 1509-1547 CE) and continued in stages over the rest of the 16th century CE. The process witnessed the break away from the Catholic Church headed by[…]

The Sun-Cult in Ancient Egypt

The name of the new god in ordinary everyday parlance was pa Aton, “the Aton.” By Dr. Aylward M. BlackmanLate Special LecturerUniversity of Manchester It has often been maintained that the Aton-cult instituted by Oklmaton (Amenophis IV.) displays non-Egyptian features and is in a large measure the product of foreign influences. I hope, however, clearly[…]

The Spread and Impact of the Reformation in 16th-Century Europe

The many divisions among Christians led to a series of wars and persecutions. Introduction As Protestantism spread, it branched out in several directions. By the start of the 1600s, there were already many different Christian churches in Europe. Each Protestant denomination had its own beliefs and practices. But all Protestants had much in common. They[…]

The Cult of the Holy Name in the Long Fifteenth Century

The meaning and significance of devotion to the Holy Name remained open, malleable, and unstable. Introduction The article discusses the Europe-wide late medieval phenomenon of the cult of the Holy Name, using it as a case study to discuss the relationship of micro-and macro-historical transformations by scrutinizing the enormous success of a religious innovation which[…]

Magical Seals in a Medieval English Book of Hours

A prayer book including ‘seals’ that offered supernatural protection. In addition to containing the daily cycle of prayer, Books of Hours sometimes include magical spells or incantations, reflecting their lay owners’ concerns over physical and spiritual dangers. Stowe MS 16, a Book of Hours produced in London shortly before 1410, is an interesting example. This[…]

The Medieval Materiality of Magic: The Ritual Lives of People and Things

Examining objects and material culture in ritual performances intended to heal, protect and transform the living and the dead. Introduction This explores the relationship between medieval magic and religion, with particular emphasis on the use of objects and material culture in rites of healing, protection and transformation. It extends the practice-based approach to consider ritual[…]

The Inquisition in the Later Medieval and Renaissance Eras

During the Late Middle Ages and the early Renaissance, the concept and scope of the Inquisition significantly expanded. Introduction The Inquisition, in historical ecclesiastical parlance also referred to as the “Holy Inquisition”, was a group of institutions within the Catholic Church whose aim was to combat heresy. The Inquisition started in 12th-century France to combat[…]