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John Calvin b. (Fr.) 1509

The French theologian John Calvin (1509-1564) was one of the giants of the Reformation movement. He was born into a well-to-do family and spent most of his early years in preparation for the life as a priest. He studied law from 1528 to 1531 and soon came into contact with the Reformation movement. The repression he encountered in France drove him to exile, and he sought refuge in Basel, Ferrara, and Strasbourg. He eventually settled in Geneva where he became one of the leading contributors and innovators of the Reformation.  These events are recorded on the Bible Timeline Chart.

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Early Life

John (or Jean) Calvin was born on July 10, 1509, in the town of Noyon in Picardy, France. His father, Gerard Calvin (Cauvin), served as a lawyer and high-ranking notary for a bishop in Noyon. It was also in this town where Gerard met his wife, Jeanne Le Franc. In addition to John, the Calvins also had three or four other children. Gerard remarried and had two other children when Jeanne died in 1515..

At that time, the Calvins belonged to France’s wealthy middle-class. John studied at the Colleges des Capettes and was considered a brilliant student by his teachers. He was later sent to the home of the influential de Hangest family where he was educated by a tutor along with the children of the family. Despite his break from Catholicism and his exile from his homeland, the de Hangest family remained Calvin’s lifelong friends.

Around 1520 or 1521, John Calvin came to Paris with the de Hangest brothers. He studied Latin grammar at the College de la Marche in preparation for the degree in theology and eventually, the life of a priest. At twelve years old, Calvin already wore a tonsure and served as the clerk of a bishop. He followed it up by entering the College de Montaigu (still in Paris) to study philosophy.

Calvin During the Early Years of the Reformation

In 1526, Gerard Calvin pulled his son out of Paris and sent him instead to study law at the University of Orleans.  The elder Calvin’s withdrawal of his son from Montaigu was said to have stemmed from a disagreement with the bishop of Noyon. It was also a practical move by Gerard as the Reformation raged on in Europe at that time. If Luther became successful and the Church was dissolved, his son, at least, would still be able to make a living as a lawyer.

Calvin then transferred to the University of Bourges in 1529 to study under the humanist lawyer Andreas Alciati. He learned Greek under the humanist Melchior Wolmar and then became a lecturer on rhetoric at a local Augustinian monastery during his 18-month stay in Bourges. He went back to Noyon sometime in 1531 when he heard that his father was ill. Gerard Calvin died in May 1531. By June, the younger Calvin was already in Paris to study Greek and possibly, Hebrew. He stayed there for some time until the arrival of the plague forced him to flee for the countryside.

Calvin returned to Orleans sometime later to finish his law course. He came back in February of 1532 and published his commentary on Seneca’s De Clementia (his first book) in April of the same year. On November 1, 1533, Calvin helped the newly-elected rector of the University of Paris Nicolas Cop write his rectorial address. The audience took Cop’s speech as an attack on the Catholic Church and a demand for reforms. The faculty considered the speech heretical, and the Catholic authorities soon sent men to arrest Cop. However,  he had already fled for the Swiss canton of Basel.

The Exile

As a supporter of the Reformation, Calvin was forced to leave Paris to hide in Noyon.

Calvin had been a supporter of the Reformation for some time, so he was forced to leave Paris to hide in Noyon. He later came back to Paris but left again when it became clear to him that the city was a dangerous place for those who had sympathies for the movement.

Calvin went back to Noyon in May 1534 and gave up the benefices previously granted to him. He then traveled to different cities in his homeland to evade persecution and first came into contact with the Anabaptists while in hiding. He wrote his first tract, the Psychopannychia, to disprove the Anabaptist’s belief that the soul slept after death.

The hostilities towards Protestants in France finally forced Calvin to leave his homeland and seek refuge in Basel in 1535. The Swiss canton was known as a Protestant stronghold and home of various European Reformation leaders who fled repression in their own homelands. Calvin reunited with his friend Nicolas Cop, and later befriended some of the leading Protestant intellectuals in Basel.

Calvin contributed a preface to Pierre Robert Olivetan’s French translation of the Bible that was published in mid-1535. In the March of the following year, he published the Institutio Christianae Religionis. It was a statement of faith aimed at the nation of France and their king, Francis I. It soon reached France and became popular among the people.

Calvin left the safety of Basel to become the secretary of sympathetic Princess Renee of France, in her husband’s court in Ferrara. This stopover did not last long as the repression soon caught up with the French exiles. He then went to back to Basel and lived briefly in France while the Edict of Lyons was in effect.  The repressions continued, so Calvin, his brother Antoine, his half-sister Marie, and some residents of Noyon traveled to the Protestant-friendly city of Strasbourg.

Reforms in Geneva and Calvin in Strasbourg

The caravan could not travel directly to Strasbourg because of the dangers on the road, so they decided to detour to the canton of Geneva. The original plan was to stay only for the night, but Calvin became ill, so they had to remain there for several months. While they were stranded in Geneva, the French preacher Guillaume Farel approached Calvin and urged him to stay. Calvin agreed and served as a preacher (and later on as pastor) under Farel.

On January 16, 1537, the two French pastors presented the Articles on the Organization of the Church and its Worship in Geneva to a city council. The two men introduced some innovations in the Protestant church in Geneva and attempted to reform the city itself. The reforms did not sit well with the citizens, and they were suspected as agents of France. They were soon driven out of Geneva by a mob in 1538. They then sought refuge first in Bern and then in Zurich to appeal to the Protestant leaders, but to no avail. Calvin and Farel had no choice but to leave Zurich and seek temporary haven in Basel.

The two men soon parted ways when Calvin received an invitation from Strasbourg-based German reformists Wolfgang Capito and Martin Bucer. Calvin accepted their offer, while Farel moved to Neuchatel. His decision to settle in Strasbourg was a good one, and it was said that he was at his happiest there. He served as a minister to fellow French refugees which may have eased the pangs of homesickness during his exile. Money was hard to come by at first, but he supplemented his income by teaching in private. He expanded the original Institutio and had the second edition published in 1539. He also wrote a lengthy commentary on the Romans in the same year and had it published in 1540.

Calvin was always in poor health, so his friends convinced him to marry so there would be someone to take care of him. He agreed to see some candidates, but somehow never found them to his liking. With the help of his friends, Calvin married an Anabaptist widow named Idelette de Bure in 1540 and took in her two children from her previous marriage. The only child between her and Calvin, however, died soon after he was born.

Factional conflicts once again broke out in Geneva after the arrival of new church ministers, but Calvin wrote to his friends there that they should not give in to division. They should, he advised, follow the ministers appointed over them for the sake of unity.

A conflict also flared up between the cantons of Geneva and Bern in 1539 because of a piece of land which sat between their borders. The Genevan delegates sent by the authorities for the negotiations not only failed but also quarreled with their counterparts in Bern. They had to flee for their lives and were soon replaced by the followers of Farel. Farel’s partisans fared no better, and the situation only worsened.

Cardinal Jacopo Sadoleto, the Archbishop of Carpentras, quickly capitalized on this conflict in hopes that the Genevans would come back to Catholicism. He sent the council a letter convincing them to turn back from Protestantism and encouraged them to embrace Catholicism. The council of Geneva did not want to offend him, so the members decided to ask the Swiss theologian Pierre Viret to come up with a reply. Viret refused, so the Genevans sent a letter to Calvin in Strasbourg instead. He agreed and wrote the Responsio ad Sadoletum in which he defended Geneva’s stance on the Reformation.

Many of the people who were instrumental in driving Calvin and Farel out of Geneva died or fell out of favor in the city during this time. The Genevans also realized that they had been wrong in driving the Frenchmen out, so they decided to make amends to entice Calvin back to their city. The council first sent envoys to Strasbourg but were disappointed when they found that Calvin had traveled to Worms to attend a colloquy between the Catholics and Protestants.

The envoys followed him to Worms and convinced him to come to Geneva. Calvin, however, could not promise anything concrete as he still had commitments in Strasbourg. He was also hesitant to return as he considered the canton a dangerous place. He only promised the envoys to visit the city after the colloquy and asked the council to convinced Pierre Viret to take over for six months instead. He also made it clear that if he were to return, the people would have to submit to the reforms he had in mind both in church and in the city’s politics itself.

The council agreed, and he accepted a 6-month trial run in mid-1641. On September 13, 1541, John Calvin re-entered Geneva with his family, and they were received warmly—a far cry from the reception he received when he first entered it as a refugee. The council also gave him an allowance and allowed him and his family to live in a good house.

The Reformer of Geneva

Calvin’s first task was to help the council draft a set of ordinances for Geneva. The laws called Ordonnances ecclesiastiques were passed by a committee of councilors and ministers on November 20, 1541. Calvin’s Ordonnances allowed the committee to create a church hierarchy made up of pastors, doctors, elders, and deacons. The pastors’ main tasks were to preach and dispense the sacraments. Pastors were elected to the office by their peers and then confirmed by a committee. The twelve elders were in charge of discipline which was imposed with a heavy hand in Calvin’s Geneva. Deacons, meanwhile, took charge of charity works which included taking care of the city’s poor, ill, and imprisoned.

Calvin expected the people to attend regular sermons on Sunday and specific days during the week. Those who failed to attend church services without a valid reason received rebukes. Those who committed grave sins were excommunicated, banished, or executed. He also introduced some innovations for church services which included:

  • Congregational singing (especially of the Psalms)
  • Conveying the sermon in the people’s native language
  • Explanation of the sacraments

John Calvin initially preached several times each week. The task, however, became too much, so some of the responsibilities were passed on to other preachers. He was a prolific preacher, but it was not until 1549 that his sermons were transcribed by a French scribe named Denis Raguenir. His knowledge of the Bible and his immense memory also allowed him to preach without the aid of notes.

His work in Geneva, however, was not without opposition. Calvin’s Geneva was to be upright to the point that some residents (which he called the “libertines”) considered the laws too strict. Some of Geneva’s most prominent families made up the so-called libertines. At the center of this group was the Favre family patriarch Francois, his daughter Francoise, and his son-in-law Ami Perrin.

Calvin’s main issue was with Francoise Favre who violated the law against dancing in the city. She and her husband spent some time in prison when their behavior was reported (Perrin was imprisoned because of a separate offense). Perrin initially refused to apologize for his behavior but was later forced to submit.

In his quest to reform Geneva, Calvin and the city council ordered the taverns to be closed down. They were then converted to religious houses but were able to return to business many years later. Staging of certain plays was also prohibited for some time after a riot broke out in the city. Apart from dancing, other acts that were prohibited were swearing and gossiping. The council also requested Calvin to come up with a list of names that parents should not give to their children.

Later Years

Calvin continued working on the revisions on the Institutio and the commentaries on several books of the New Testament in Geneva. He also wrote a commentary on the book of Isaiah in 1551 which he dedicated to the English king Edward VI.

Idelette Calvin died after a series of illness in 1549. Her grief-stricken husband promised to take care of her children from her first marriage.  Calvin himself was often ill, but he made good on his promise to his wife and took care of her children.

The libertines led by Perrin and his father-in-law continued to cause trouble for Calvin over the years. In spite of their resentment, they knew that they would not be able to drive him out of the city again. In 1552, Ami Perrin was elected to a high position in the city, and it seemed that it was the start of Calvin’s defeat. After several standoffs with the libertines, Calvin decided to resign in July 1553. The council, however, refused to accept his resignation. The libertines themselves did not push for him to be driven out of the city again but only wanted him out of their way.

In summer of 1553, Calvin played a role in the downfall of the Spanish humanist and theologian Michael Servetus. The bad blood between Calvin and Servetus started in 1546 when they sent letters to each other but could not agree on doctrine. Calvin was further offended when Servetus sent back a copy of his very own Institutio with some annotations.

Branded as a heretic because of his denial of the Trinity, Servetus was forced to wander in some parts France and Italy. He was caught and imprisoned in the French city of Vienne, but he managed to escape before he was condemned to death by fire. Servetus then traveled to Geneva and even sat boldly inside the St. Pierre Cathedral where Calvin was preaching on August 13, 1553. It was a foolish decision as some people recognized him. Servetus was immediately arrested and imprisoned by the authorities.

To his credit, Calvin initially tried to reason out with Servetus, but the latter only stood by his beliefs. The council condemned Servetus as a heretic on October 20, and he was sentenced to death by fire six days later. Calvin asked the council to behead Servetus instead (considered more “humane” than burning), but the council refused to grant his request. Servetus was burned at the stake on October 27, 1553.

Calvin continued to write the commentaries on several Old Testament books starting between 1557 and 1564. He caught malaria in 1558, so he hurriedly expanded the Institutio for fear it would go unrevised when he died.

After overcoming roadblocks such as lack of funds and lack of enthusiasm from the council, Calvin’s dream of establishing a university in Geneva was finally realized in 1558. The university opened in summer of the following year, but it was still far from perfect. Calvin managed to secure Theodore Beza as rector of the university. Francois Berauld taught Greek, while the Frenchman Antoine Chevalier became a professor of Hebrew. He also hired the whole Lausanne faculty after they resigned en masse. Calvin himself taught theology, along with another professor.

Calvin was often ill with piles, bladder stones, and tuberculosis during the early 1560s. He became very weak and was unable to stand at the pulpit to preach without some form of assistance. On May 27, 1564, the 54-year old giant of the Reformation died peacefully in his home in his adopted city of Geneva. He was buried the following day in an unmarked grave in the common cemetery, as was his instruction when he was alive


Picture by: Formerly attributed to Hans Holbein, Public Domain, Link

Bouwsma, William J. John Calvin: A Sixteenth-Century Portrait. New York: Oxford University Press, 1989.

Parker, Thomas Henry Louis. John Calvin: A Biography. Philadelphia: Westminster John Knox Press, 1975.

Selderhuis, H.J, ed. The Calvin Handbook. Translated by Henry J. Baron. Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 2009.

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Mehmed IV/Ottoman Empire Thrived Under Sultan Mehmed IV, Revival of Ottoman Power Under

After many years of decline, the Ottoman Empire finally thrived again under Sultan Mehmed IV. The men who were responsible for the brief revival of Ottoman power under Mehmed were the Grand Viziers Koprulu Mehmed Pasha and his son, Fazil Ahmed Pasha. Competent yet ruthless, the Koprulus were considered as some of the best statesmen of the Ottoman Empire. Both men made political and economic reforms which brought back stability to the Ottoman Empire. The Ottoman army had declined before the Koprulu Era, but they were able to revive it and turn it into a formidable force once again.  These events are recorded on the Bible Timeline Chart in 1648.

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Mehmed IV

The Ottoman Sultan Mehmed IV was born on January 2, 1642, in Istanbul. He was the son of Sultan Ibrahim I by Turhan Hatice Sultan. He was just six years old when he became sultan in 1648 and he reigned until his deposition in 1687. The empire that Mehmed inherited was one of the largest at that time. His dominion stretched from the Hungarian frontier in Europe to the ports of Yemen in Asia. The Turks also held the Barbary Coast in North Africa and the Caspian Sea region in West Asia. He ruled up to 30 million people who belonged to different ethnic groups and religions.

But the Ottoman Empire of the mid-17th century had been in decline since the reign of Selim II. Incompetent and corrupt people held government positions over the years, while powerful harem women, viziers, and eunuchs dominated the Sultan’s court. The provinces were also ruled by corrupt or inept governors, and extortion was rampant. The prestige and strength of the army and the navy had also declined when the Ottomans failed to update their weapons. This was a sharp contrast to Christian Europe which, over the years, had invested in the latest weapons.

The decline started during Selim II’s reign, but it became worse during Ibrahim I’s reign. Nicknamed “the Mad,” Ibrahim preferred to spend his time in the harem instead of ruling his empire. His reign was beset with rebellions within the Empire, as well as attacks launched by the Venetians in the south and the Cossacks in the north. The exasperated Kosem Sultan, Ibrahim’s mother, was later forced to remove her son from the throne. His son, young Mehmed, was brought out of the harem so he could be crowned as Ottoman Sultan in 1648. Ibrahim was murdered soon after.

As Mehmed was still young at the time of his accession, Kosem Sultan and the Grand Viziers stood as his regents. His mother, the ambitious Turhan Sultan, was forced to take a backseat since Kosem Sultan was too powerful at that time. The empire remained unstable despite the change of hands. Rebellions flared up every now and then, while bandits preyed on their victims in the Anatolian countryside.

Turhan Sultan’s resentment of Kosem Sultan’s power simmered over the years. Kosem Sultan quickly realized that Turhan (and therefore Mehmed) would not be easily controlled, so she organized the sultan’s deposition with the Janissary corps in 1651. Her goal was to replace Mehmed IV with his younger brother, Suleiman, whose mother was Ibrahim’s concubine, Saliha Dilasub Sultan. Turhan and Mehmed were backed by the equally powerful eunuchs, and Kosem’s plot was foiled soon after. She was murdered inside the Topkapi Palace on September 2, 1651.

Her son was still young, so Turhan Sultan and the viziers took over as regents. Mehmed went back to the harem, but he devoted his time to playing instead of studying. Over the years, he also became an avid hunter, and he spent more time hunting than ruling a large but stagnant empire. In 1652, Turhan appointed a new Grand Vizier to manage state affairs on behalf of her son. The new Grand Vizier was Tarhoudja Ahmed Pasha, and he immediately started the economic and political reforms the empire desperately needed.

The Grand Vizier implemented new custom duties and confiscated the properties of rich families to replenish the empire’s coffers. He also prohibited the imposition of unreasonable taxes and forbade unqualified people from being appointed to government posts. This did not sit well with the Ottoman elite, so he was soon removed as Grand Vizier and executed. The Grand Vizier who succeeded him shared his fate in 1655.

Revolts because of incompetent administration and high taxes once again raged in the empire. The Venetians preyed on the empire’s weakness to blockade the Dardanelles. Because of this, grains and other foodstuffs shipped from Egypt could not reach Istanbul. This drove the prices of the food up which added to the rage of the people. The sultan, meanwhile, still continued his favorite pastime despite the chaos in the empire.

The Koprulu Era: The Resurgence of Ottoman Power

On September 1656, Turhan Sultan appointed an experienced 71-year old government official named Koprulu Mehmed Pasha as Grand Vizier. The competent Albanian vizier had retired some years before, but he was recalled to Istanbul by Turhan Sultan to fill in the position. He accepted the post. Unlike the grand viziers before him, Koprulu Mehmed Pasha coupled his competence with ruthlessness by ordering the execution of rivals and possible enemies. As a result of this, no one dared to stand in his way.

Koprulu Mehmed Pasha also implemented reforms which made the brief revival of the Ottoman Empire possible under Mehmed IV. He removed incompetent and corrupt viziers, judges, and provincial administrators. He curbed unnecessary spending throughout the empire. He also helped quash the rebellions within the empire, especially those led by Abaza Hasan Pasha and George II Rákóczi. Under Koprulu Mehmed Pasha’s leadership, the Turks were able to lift the Venetian blockade of the Dardanelles. They also recaptured the island of Bozcaada (Tenedos) and Lemnos in 1657.

Mehmed IV had grown up, but he still devoted his time to hunting. This left the empire in the hands of the competent and loyal Koprulu Mehmed Pasha. The Grand Vizier died in 1661 and his son, Koprulu Fazil Ahmed Pasha was soon appointed to the post. Like his father, the new Koprulu Grand Vizier was also an experienced and competent government official despite his age (he was 26). The only difference was that the younger Koprulu Grand Vizier was less ruthless than his father. He helped curb corruption within the government. The Turkish economy had also recovered during his time. He is considered as one of the best Ottoman Grand Viziers along with his father.

He controlled Habsburg intervention in Transylvania by sending a large army to Belgrade as a warning to Austria. When the Austrians refused, the Ottomans besieged the Habsburg-held Nove Zamky in Hungary. The fortress fell to the Ottomans in September 1663. The Austrians were forced to negotiate, but the two armies faced off once again in 1664 just as a messenger was trying to reach Fazil Ahmed Pasha. The battle took place near the town of Saint Gotthard in the westernmost border of Hungary, and it resulted in a devastating Ottoman loss. But the confirmation of the peace treaty between the two sides ended the hostilities—at least temporarily. Austria also agreed to back off from Transylvania for the time being.

The End of the Koprulu Era

A 16th century Ottoman rendering of the Siege of Vienna

Koprulu Fazil Ahmed Pasha died in 1676, and he was succeeded by his brother-in-law and deputy grand vizier, Merzifolu Kara Mustafa Pasha. He continued the policies of the last two Grand Viziers, but he was more ambitious and rash. The new Grand Vizier was also unpopular in the Ottoman court, unlike his father-in-law and brother-in-law. Mehmed IV, meanwhile, continued hunting and was still largely absent from ruling the empire.

Kara Mustafa Pasha’s failure in the Battle of Vienna was the end of the brief revival of the Ottoman Empire during the Koprulu Era. For many years, the Catholic Habsburg interfered with Hungarian affairs and even launched harsh counter-reformation measures against Protestant Hungarians. The resentment of the Hungarians turned into rebellion, and the young Protestant Imre Thokoly was chosen as the people’s leader. Imre Thokoly made an alliance with Kara Mustafa Pasha to counter the Austrians. He also promised to help the Ottomans recapture the fortress of Gyor which the Austrians stubbornly held onto.

In 1663, the Ottoman army marched from Istanbul to capture the fortress of Gyor. Kara Mustafa Pasha led the troops, and they were later joined by the allied Crimean Tatars. Mehmed went as far as Edirne to show his support for the troops, but hunting once again distracted him. The sultan also would not have gone if not for the insistence of Kara Mustafa Pasha. He would later pay the price for this neglect

Kara Mustafa Pasha became overconfident as he had a large army behind him. He commanded his army to bypass the fortress of Gyor, and march directly instead to the outskirts of Vienna. The Siege of Vienna ended in a crushing defeat for the Turks at the hands of the Holy League. The Grand Vizier was a poor general whose arrogance alienated the military leaders around him, especially the Crimean Tatar leader who led an important section of the cavalry. The defenders of Vienna were also disciplined fighters, while additional soldiers from allied European kingdoms later boosted their numbers. The European investment in advanced and superior weaponry also paid off in their defense.

The Grand Vizier and his troops limped back to Belgrade in defeat. He decided to spend the winter there, but the court ordered his execution later on. He was strangled in Belgrade on the 25th of December, 1683.

Mehmed, meanwhile, still continued hunting despite the loss of the Ottoman army. He also grew unpopular at court and among the troops. He finally gave up hunting when he realized his mistake, but the troops were still dissatisfied. Mehmed IV was removed as Ottoman sultan in November 1687, and he was succeeded by his brother, Suleiman II. Mehmed died in Edirne on January 6, 1693.


Carsten, F. L., ed. The New Cambridge Modern History, The Ascendancy of France: 1648-88. Vol. 1. Cambridge University Press, 1961.
Faroqhi, Suraiya, ed. The Cambridge History of Turkey: The Later Ottoman Empire, 1603–1839. Vol. 3. N.p.: Cambridge University Press, 2006.
Finkel, Caroline. Osman’s Dream: The Story of the Ottoman Empire, 1300-1923. NY, NY: Basic Books, 2007.
Kia, Mehrdad. The Ottoman Empire. Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 2008.
Shaw, Stanford Jay. History of the Ottoman Empire and Modern Turkey : Empire of the Gazis: The Rise and Decline of the Ottoman Empire, 1280-1808. Vol. 1. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1977.
Wheatcroft, Andrew. The Enemy at the Gate: Habsburgs, Ottomans and the Battle for Europe. London: Basic Books, 2008.
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Nicopolis, Crusaders Defeated in the Battle of 

When Emperor John VI left the Byzantine throne in 1354, he left behind an “empire” so reduced that it was only made up of Constantinople itself and a few territories in Greece. His co-emperor, the rebellious John V Palaiologos, succeeded to the throne. John V was later followed by his son Manuel upon his father’s death. Manuel’s reign was marked by humiliating defeats of Christian kingdoms of Eastern Europe by the Turks. He renewed the call for a Crusade against the Turks. The Crusaders who took part in it were defeated again in the Battle of Nicopolis in 1396. This event is recorded on the Bible Timeline Chart with World History during that time.

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The Twilight of the Byzantine Empire

Emperor John VI left the Byzantine throne to his young co-emperor John V Palaiologos in 1354. In the years that followed, the Byzantines steadily lost Thracian cities to the Ottoman Turks. Faced with the loss of Byzantium itself, John V came up with a drastic solution. He wrote to the Pope and offered to return to Catholicism if he would provide the Byzantine army with extra men.

Pope Innocent VI was happy to help with John V’s desire to convert to Catholicism. As for the Emperor’s need for extra troops, the Pope was powerless about it. He did ask several European rulers to help the Byzantines, but they either ignored him or sent too few men to help John V.

Pope Innocent VI died in 1362, and he was succeeded by Pope Urban V. He returned to Italy in 1369 after living in Avignon for some years. He moved to Viterbo as the condition of the Lateran Palace was not good at that time. John VI travelled to Viterbo and made another desperate appeal to Pope Urban V. There he submitted to the Pope and converted to Catholicism.

John V’s submission was useless as the Pope could provide only hundreds of men. The emperor tried Genoa and Venice next as he had no money to go home to Constantinople yet. The rulers of Venice and Genoa refused to help him. The Doge of Venice also reminded John V that he owed a lot of money to Venice. This loan was made by his mother so she could support his bid as emperor during the civil war. He was left stranded in Venice until his son Manuel came up with enough money to bring him home.

When he returned to Constantinople, he had no choice but to submit to the Ottoman Sultan Murad. He became nothing more than an Ottoman vassal with a reduced and impoverished territory. He also sent his son Manuel to the Ottoman court to assure the Turks that he would behave.


The Ottomans had a stable base in Thrace, so it was only a matter of time before they launched the attacks in Bulgaria and Serbia. Both kingdoms were beaten into submission, along with the Greek city of Thessalonica during the 1380s. Sultan Murad died during the Battle of Kosovo in 1389. He was replaced by his son Bayezid.

Bayezid forced Manuel to become a part of the Ottoman troops, and the prince had no choice but to submit. The Sultan also forbade John V from building Constantinople’s defences and threatened Manuel’s life if John V disobeyed. It was the last straw for the desperate John V. He stayed inside his own room until he starved to death in 1391.

Manuel fled from Bayezid when he heard that his father had died. He returned to Constantinople and ruled what was left of the once great Byzantine Empire. Bayezid allowed him to rule, but he sent Manuel a message that made it clear that the Ottomans would conquer Constantinople soon.

A New Crusade

The Turks first tried to besiege Constantinople in 1394, so Manuel had no choice but to ask other Christian kings for help. The problem, however, was that almost all the Christian rulers near him had submitted to the Turks. It was only King Sigismund of Hungary who answered his urgent pleas for help. Sigismund, in turn, pleaded with the Pope and other European kings to send soldiers to help them.

The antipope in Avignon and the Pope in Rome both issued a papal bull to start a new Crusade. As much as 10,000 French volunteers joined the Crusade, and they were led by John, Count of Nevers. A few Venetian and English soldiers also joined them, along with some Knights Hospitaller. They arrived in Hungary in June 1396.

“The crusaders took eight days to cross the Danube at the Iron Gate”

The Battle of Nicopolis

Sigismund was so impressed with the entourage of the Count of Nevers that he became optimistic of their victory. The King added as much as 60,000 Hungarian soldiers to counter the Turkish threat. They crossed the Danube River, and easily captured a couple of Turkish strongholds. While Bayezid and the Turks were busy attacking Constantinople, the Crusaders started to attack the Ottoman stronghold of Nicopolis (in present-day Bulgaria). When Bayezid heard of this, he immediately left Constantinople and marched his men to Nicopolis.

The Crusaders were caught by surprise when they heard that the Turks were coming. The Turks and the Crusaders met on the 25th of September 1396 in Nicopolis. The French knights recklessly engaged the Turks in battle without waiting for the Hungarian soldiers, so they were easily defeated. Bayezid also hid the Ottoman soldiers in the woods near Nicopolis and attacked the Hungarian troops who followed the French knights. The Crusaders were slaughtered, and Sigismund only escaped by boarding a ship which took him across the Danube. The rest of the Crusaders drowned as they were trying to flee.

Many of the captured Crusaders were executed right after the battle, while some knights were imprisoned and ransomed. The defeat of the Crusaders in the Battle of Nicopolis left another bitter taste in the mouth of the Europeans. It was the last of the major Crusades the European nobility took part in, and this fiasco left Constantinople truly alone. The Ottomans, meanwhile, followed up their victory by capturing several Bulgarian cities.

Picture By Denis Barthel –, CC BY-SA 3.0, Link
Finkel, Caroline. Osman’s Dream: The Story of the Ottoman Empire, 1300-1923. New York: Basic Books, 2006.
Madden, Thomas F. Crusades: The Illustrated History. Ann Arbor, MI: Univ. of Michigan Press, 2004.
Uyar, Mesut, and Edward J. Erickson. A Military History of the Ottomans: From Osman to Ataturk. Santa Barbara, CA: Praeger Security International/ABC-CLIO, 2009.
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Jews Driven from England

In 1290, King Edward I issued the Edict of Expulsion which drove the Jews to leave England for other parts of continental Europe. This event is recorded on the Bible Timeline Chart with World History during that time. Their ancestors first came from France to England in 1066 after William the Conqueror encouraged them to come with him to his new kingdom. The first wave of Jewish migrants initially worked as merchants and bankers. Others ventured into and became rich moneylenders. The cutthroat nature of the business, however, led to their downfall in England. They were oppressed for many years until they were finally forced to leave in 1290.

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William I the Conqueror and the Jews

In 1066, the Norman nobleman William the Bastard landed in England from France and conquered it from King Harold II. He became King William I the Conqueror, the first ruler of England who came from the House of Normandy. He encouraged the Jews of Rouen (the capital of Normandy) to come with him to England after he was crowned as king. The Jews of Normandy were merchants and bankers, so he was eager for them to help him with the country’s finances and its administration. The Jews were enterprising and an offer to flourish in England was difficult to reject. Others, however, were eager to make a fresh start because they experienced oppression in France. The Jews arrived in England in 1066 with their families.

A Fresh Start

Many of them started out as merchants, pawnbrokers, and moneylenders. They were favored by King William I who announced that the Jews and their properties were under his protection during a council in 1070. More Jews migrated to England in the years that followed and started to live alongside the English. They expanded into Northampton, York, Bristol, Kent, and Newcastle. Many of them acquired their own lands and prospered as moneylenders. They were so rich that they could even afford to lend money to a hospital and to a certain bishop. They leased some of the homes they owned and even built their own synagogues.

“Expulsions of Jews in Europe from 1100 to 1600.”


However, their peaceful existence in England did not last long.

Just as many of the Jews became successful moneylenders, their neighbors became poor and sank into heavy debt. Some of the Jewish moneylenders also charged higher-than-usual interest rates (a practice called usury). As years passed by, the borrowers’ simmering resentment boiled over to full-blown anti-Jewish feelings. Some people were so angry with the Jews that they banded together and killed some of them after King Richard I’s coronation in 1189. This grim situation continued until 1190.

Richard, I was angry at his people as the Jews were important sources of revenues for his kingdom. To protect the Jews, he ordered Hubert Walter to set up an Archa system wherein all transactions between Jews and their clients were recorded. He also set up a protection scheme for the Jews. However, the system was prone to corruption as some administrators ordered the Jews to pay up so they would be protected from threats.

The efforts of Richard I to protect them did not mean that they were free from the cruelty of the next English kings. During King John’s reign in 1210, he ordered a Jew to be tortured after the man refused to pay his taxes. Each day, his torturers removed one tooth until he gave up and paid them to save his last molar. During the thirteenth century, the Jews were allowed to live in select areas of a town but were forbidden to live anywhere they wanted. Apart from the usury issues, rumors of them kidnapping children and killing them during Passover (Blood Libel) also circulated in thirteenth century England.

Attempts to drive the Jews out of England started in earnest in 1231 in Leicester. It was led by Simon de Montfort, the Earl of Leicester. It would have succeeded if the Bishop of Lincoln did not interfere. The Jews of Leicester still needed to move to another part of the town until they were finally driven out in 1253.

The campaign to drive out the Jews from their cities and towns spread to other parts of England in the years that followed. During the latter half of the 1200s, they were forced to live in Archa towns specifically designed for them. Others retreated into remote parts of the island to escape oppression. Those who could not escape became victims of violent crimes.

Edward I and the Edict of Expulsion

Their situation grew worse when King Edward I (Hammer of the Scots) started his reign. He had just returned from the Ninth Crusade and came home to an empty treasury. Many of his people were heavily indebted to the Jews, so they had no money to pay for their taxes. Since his people could not pay the moneylenders, he could not collect money from the Jews, too. That was the point when the king decided that the Jews’ usefulness had also run out.

If the situation of the Jews in England was bleak, then it could only get worse. Over in Italy, Pope Gregory X issued a condemnation of usury and prohibited anyone from engaging in this kind of business. When the news reached him, Edward immediately told the remaining Jews to give up their money lending businesses. He ordered them to switch to other trades or work as laborers so that they would not be punished.

The Jews appealed to Edward, but he did nothing to ease their plight. Some of them were forced to return to Normandy, while others traded in wool and corn. Those who could not find other trades started to clip the edges of coins so these could be melted, formed, and put back into circulation. Those who were caught clipping coins were arrested and their properties were confiscated. Some Jews chose to convert to Christianity as punishments for these offences were sometimes lighter on Christians.

Plans to expel the Jews from England began in earnest during the 1280s. It reached a grim finale when Edward I issued the Edict of Expulsion for the Jews in 1290. They needed to leave England before November 1st of the same year or face consequences. They did not have a choice, and the Jews left England for France, Spain, Germany, and Flanders in 1290.

Picture By Expulsión_judíos.svg: Ecelanderivative work: ecelan (talk) – Expulsión_judíos.svg, CC BY-SA 3.0, Link
Chazan, Robert. The Jews of Medieval Western Christendom, 1000-1500. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 2006.
Cohn-Sherbok, Dan. Atlas of Jewish History. London: Routledge, 1994.
“Oxford Jewish Heritage.” The History of the Medieval Jews of England. Accessed December 14, 2016.
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Aztec Empire at its Height in Mexico

The Mexica people came a long way from homeless and oppressed wanderers between 1200 and 1300 to masters of the Valley of Mexico during the 1400s. They built the city of Tenochtitlan in 1325 and turned it into a magnificent capital of an expanding kingdom. The Mexica realm became bigger when its kings established the Aztec Triple Alliance with the cities of Tlacopan and Texcoco. During the fifteenth century, the Aztec empire stretched from Central Mexico into the Gulf and Pacific Coasts. They also conquered the northern frontiers of Guatemala. The Aztec Empire’s height in Mexico is recorded on the Bible Timeline Chart with World History during the late 1400s.

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The Rise of the Aztec Empire

Before they became the undisputed masters of Central Mexico, the Mexica people were ruled by the powerful and cruel Tepanec rulers of Azcapotzalco. This kind of arrangement continued until the Tepanec lords decided to murder Chimalpopoco, the Mexica’s third king, along with his half-Tepanec son while they slept in his palace.

The Mexica people and their council of elders hastily elected a successor to replace their murdered king. The successor was Prince Itzcoatl, the son of the previous king Huitzilihuitl. He became the new ruler of Mexicas in 1426/1427. After the celebrations, King Itzcoatl sent his nephew to negotiate for peace with King Maxtla, the Tepanec king of Azcapotzalco. But Maxtla did not want peace between his people and the Mexicas, so he declared war on them.

Itzcoatl had no choice but to tell his people to prepare for war. The rulers of the cities of Texcoco and Tlacopan also agreed to join him in battle as their people were also oppressed by the Tepanecs. It became the Mexica (Tenochtitlan)-Texcoco-Tlacopan Triple Alliance, and as the years passed, it would be known as the Aztec Empire. The armies of the Triple Alliance defeated the Tepanec warriors and killed many of their people. They also brought the city of Azcapotzalco to the ground as revenge for their oppression. King Itzcoatl then allowed his soldiers to loot the city’s treasures and added these to Tenochtitlan’s wealth.

King Itzcoatl died in 1440, but not before he led his army to conquer the cities of Coyoacan and Xochimilca. When he died, he left behind a stronger, bigger, and wealthier empire.

“The maximal extent of the Aztec Empire”

Aztec Golden Age

King Itzcoatl was succeeded by his son Moctezuma I Ilhuicamina. He ruled a wealthy and powerful empire, so he decided that it was time to honor Huitzilopochtli, the Aztec god of war. Moctezuma ordered his people to build the Great Temple right in the center of Tenochtitlan. It took many years before they finished the building. It remained unfinished when he died and was only completed by his son Ahuitzotl. He folded the city of Texcoco and the lands of the Chalcas into the Aztec empire during his reign and expanded his domain east into the Gulf of Mexico. He ruled for thirty years. These years were considered to be the Aztecs’ golden age in political influence and military might.

Two of his sons succeeded Moctezuma I when he died, but both kings were unremarkable and their years were marked with crushing defeats. The second son, King Tizoc, was so unpopular that he was murdered by his own men. The council elected Moctezuma’s youngest son, Prince Ahuitzotl, as Tizoc’s successor in 1486.

Luckily, their gamble paid off as King Ahuitzotl was a young and brave warrior who was favored by his people. It was during his reign that the Aztecs completed the construction of the Great Temple. This event was celebrated with a feast and the sacrifice of tens of thousands of slaves and captives in honor of their god.

Ahuitzotl proved to be a capable ruler and a great military commander. He expanded the empire’s borders into Oaxaca, Guerrero, Veracruz, and even as far south as Guatemala. He died in 1502 after returning from a war in Oaxaca.

Picture By Provincias_tributarias_de_la_Triple_Alianza_(s._XVI).svg: YavidaxiuAztec_Empire_(orthographic_projection).svg:File:Provincias tributarias de la Triple Alianza (s. XVI).svg : YavidaxiuFile:Mexico (orthographic projection).svg : SsolbergjDerivative work : Keepscases and SémhurProvincias_tributarias_de_la_Triple_Alianza_(s._XVI).svg, from the Atlas del México prehispánico, special edition of Arqueología Mexicana, 2000-07-05, México.Aztec_Empire_(orthographic_projection).svg, CC BY-SA 3.0, Link
Aguilar-Moreno, Manuel. Handbook to Life in the Aztec World. New York: Facts on File, 2006.
Cremin, Aedeen. The World Encyclopedia of Archaeology. Richmond Hill, Ont.: Firefly Books, 2012.
Hardoy, Jorge Enrique. Pre-Columbian Cities. New York: Walker, 1973.
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Crusade, Sixth 

If the past five Crusades were violent and the results were often disappointing, then the Sixth Crusade was downright strange. It was pulled off with great timing and without bloodshed by the Holy Roman Emperor Frederick II between 1228 and 1229. He received Jerusalem after signing a treaty with the Ayyubid Sultan al-Kamil, but neither Muslims nor Christians were happy with the turn of events. He returned to Europe in the same year, but not before he earned the ridicule of the people of the Holy Land and Europe. The Fifth Crusade is recorded on the Bible Timeline with World History during 1248 AD.

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Frederick’s Crusade

Although it was not as violent as the previous ones, the Fifth Crusade also ended in disappointment and humiliation. One of those who shouldered the blame was the papal legate Pelagius because he convinced the Crusaders to attack Cairo even though they were not prepared. Pope Honorius III’s popularity also took a beating when the Fifth Crusade ended. But then he shifted the blame to the Holy Roman Emperor Frederick II after he failed to follow through on his promise to go to the Holy Land and lead the Crusader army.

Two years after the end of the Fifth Crusade, Frederick once again promised Pope Honorius that he would lead an army to recover Jerusalem. He set the year of his voyage in 1225, but he postponed it once again when it was time for him to leave. He promised that he would go in 1227 after the exasperated Pope finally threatened him with excommunication.

Meanwhile, Frederick agreed to marry Isabelle II (Yolande of Brienne), the teenage queen of Jerusalem. This union was also backed by Pope Honorius III and the bride’s father King John in hopes that it would force Frederick to commit himself to the Crusade. Since Isabelle was still young, her father became her regent, and he hoped that Frederick would give him the troops he needed to take back Jerusalem. It did not happen as Frederick wanted the title of the King of Jerusalem himself.

John was angry with Frederick, but there was nothing that he could do. Pope Honorius died in March of 1227 so that the German emperor once again postponed the voyage until August of that year. When August came, he conveniently fell ill after boarding the ship, and they returned to Italy after just three days at sea. No one believed that Frederick was sick. Many thought it was just another reason for him to postpone the Crusade. Pope Gregory IX, Honorius’ successor, was angry and impatient. He immediately excommunicated the Holy Roman Emperor, and the two became bitter enemies afterwards. They hated each other so much that the Pope even labelled Frederick as the Antichrist. Meanwhile, Frederick also did not have one good word to say about the Pope.

In the Holy Land

Isabelle II, Frederick’s wife, died after giving birth to their son Conrad in spring of 1228. Eager to claim Jerusalem for his son (or for his own), Frederick finally took the voyage to the Holy Land with a small number of knights. The Sixth Crusade started when his ship docked in the Holy Land in September of the same year. Pope Gregory was unhappy with Frederick’s initiative since he had been excommunicated before. The Pope issued a second excommunication since Frederick left Europe without the Church’s blessing.

“Kingdom of Jerusalem after treaty from 1229”

As expected, Frederick showed that craftiness and a great sense of timing worked in his favor in the Holy Land. He made an alliance with the Ayyubid Sultan al-Kamil who, at that time, was struggling with his brother and ruler of Syria al-Mu’azzam Isa. The Syrians under Al-Mu’azzam Isa had rebelled against al-Kamil, so he was eager to put it down with the help of Frederick and his German troops. In exchange, al-Kamil would hand over Jerusalem to the Holy Roman Emperor Frederick.

But Al-Mu’azzam Isa had already died when Frederick arrived in Acre. Sultan al-Kamil did not need Frederick’s help anymore, but he was not also looking forward to a new war with him. Instead, he honored their earlier treaty and simply gave Jerusalem to Frederick. But the Sultan made it clear that he wanted the Muslim inhabitants of the city to stay even though Jerusalem was back in Christian hands. He also told Frederick not to rebuild the walls of the city. A ten-year peace between them sweetened the deal.

Frederick took back Jerusalem without bloodshed—something that past Crusader Kings did not accomplish. But this strategy did not sit well with the Pope as he had excommunicated the emperor twice. The Muslims and Christians of the Holy Land were also displeased with this.

Their opinions did not matter for Frederick as he and his troops marched in victory in Jerusalem in 1229. He also crowned himself the King of Jerusalem instead of his son Conrad. The Patriarch of the holy city, however, did not support him as he had been excommunicated by the Pope. He never stayed in the city for long. He appointed two Frankish noblemen as his representatives in the city and left it in the same year to face Pope Gregory who, by then, had invaded Sicily.

Picture By Muir’s Historical Atlas (1911), at, Public Domain, Link
Abulafia, David. Frederick II: A Medieval Emperor. New York: Oxford University Press, 1992.
Edbury, Peter. The New Cambridge Medieval History C. 1198-1300. Edited by David Abulafia. Vol. V. Cambridge: University Press, 1995.
Madden, Thomas F. Crusades: The Illustrated History. Ann Arbor, MI: Univ. of Michigan Press, 2004.
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Mali Converted to Islam, Leaders of 

The leaders of Mali converted to Islam around the thirteenth century (1200-1300) after the empire’s Lion Prince Sundiata Keita united his people. Many of Mali’s kings even became devout Muslims after the death of Sundiata Keita. They also listened to Muslim advisers who were influential in the royal court of Mali’s kings. The conversion of Mali to Islam is recorded on the Bible Timeline Chart with World History during 1235 AD.

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Islam in West Africa

During the seventh century, Arab Muslims reached the African continent via the Sinai desert and the Red Sea. Despite the dangers, they still managed to reach Egypt, Sudan, Libya, Tunisia, Algeria, and Morocco. Apart from their religion, they also brought the Arab culture to North Africa. Native North African Christians called Copts eventually became minorities in Egypt, while ethnic Nubians who practiced Christianity also struggled against the popularity of Islam.

“Muslim traders from North Africa crossed the Sahara Desert and reached the western part of the Sahel to trade salt”

Muslim traders from North Africa crossed the Sahara Desert and reached the western part of the Sahel to trade salt in exchange for the region’s abundant gold. They also preached Islam to the people of the Sahel but what they brought was the Sunni religious law called Maliki. One by one, the people of the Sahel region (particularly the people of the Ghana and Mali Empires) converted to Islam. Many, however, combined their new-found faith with their native religions. Others only converted to Islam so that they could take part in the lucrative Saharan trade.

Around the thirteenth century, many of the West African leaders had converted to Islam which included the leaders of the Mali Empire. The most revered of these Mali kings was Mansa Musa, who was said to be the richest man on earth at that time because of his kingdom’s gold.

Mali’s Muslim Kings

Before the arrival of Islam, the people of ancient Mali worshipped the spirits that lived inside objects. This practice is known as animism. Their village chiefs also served as their religious leaders. Around the twelfth century, Arab, Berber, and Tuareg merchants trickled from the northern part of the Sahara to trade salt for region’s gold. Some of the people of the Ghana Empire (which came before the Mali Empire) converted to Islam.

The Mali Empire replaced Ghana after it crumbled. Sundiata Keita, Mali’s Lion Prince, united his people and formed the Mali Empire after he defeated Sumanguru, King of Sosso. Although King Sundiata did not convert to Islam, he had many Muslim men who served in his court. He ruled between 1217 and 1255. His son, Mansa Uli, became the new king after his father’s death.

The Mali kings who followed Sundiata Keita converted to Islam. Some of them even made a pilgrimage to Mecca (the hajj). The greatest of these Muslim kings was Mansa Musa who reigned from 1307 to 1332. He made Islam the state religion of the Mali Empire and made a pilgrimage to Mecca in 1324. He and his entourage of about 60,000 people passed through North Africa on the way to Mecca. He was said to be so rich that he brought with him many camels loaded with gold, and was known to be the richest man on earth at that time. He established good relations with the rulers of Morocco and then built a mosque in Egypt. He spent so much of the gold he brought with him in Egypt that its value went down many years after he and his people returned to Mali. The Malian cities of Timbuktu and Djenne also became important centers of worship and Islamic studies.

The Empire of Mali also crumbled after its people rebelled and it was attacked by the Tuaregs in the fifteenth century. It was conquered by the kingdom of Gao, which later gave way to the Muslim Songhay Empire.

Picture By Holger Reineccius at the German language Wikipedia, CC BY-SA 3.0, Link
Hill, Margaret. “The Spread of Islam in West Africa: Containment, Mixing, and Reform from the Eighth to the Twentieth Century.” FSI | SPICE. Accessed November 22, 2016.
Oliver, Roland, ed. The Cambridge History of Africa C. 1050-c. 1600. Vol. 3. Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 1977. Print.
Pouwels, Randall L. “The History of Islam in Africa.” Ohio University Press. Accessed November 23, 2016.
Zamosky, Lisa. Mansa Musa: Leader of Mali. Huntington Beach, CA: Teacher Created Materials, 2010.
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Order of Austin Friars

The Order of the Austin Friars was created around 1253 on the British island, but at that time, it was less powerful than other Catholic orders. It was closed down during the Dissolution of the Monasteries between 1536 and 1541. The Order of Austin Friars is recorded on the Bible Timeline Chart with World History between 1150 and 1200 AD.

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The Founding of the Austin Friars

In 1252, a group of hermits who followed the rule of Saint Augustine settled in Wales. Later on, the earl of Hereford and Essex and former Crusader Henry de Bohun ordered the construction of the first house of the Austin Friars in London. He had it built near the church of Saint Peter le Poer on Broad Street. In 1256, Pope Alexander IV gave his official recognition of the Order of Austin Friars.

The Order first followed the laws of the Dominicans, but they later followed the rule of the Augustinians (the word ‘Austin’ itself was a shortened version of the name ‘Augustine’). The brothers (friars) relied on donations that came from rich people to survive. In the early years, their property on London’s Broad Street was rented from the archdeacon of Saint Olave’s. The land donation of the Bishop of Bath and Wells in 1281 later made the priory’s property grow larger.

The Austin Friars were accused of occupying land that was not theirs in 1321. In 1334, they gained even more property after another land donation. The land which they occupied was transferred to them by the government in 1345, and there they built a new priory church nine years later.

In 1381, several Fleming rebels took refuge inside the Austin priory during the Peasants’ Revolt. They were later killed by a mob after they were dragged outside, but luckily, the crowd left the Austin friars alone. A Lollard preacher named Peter Patteshull later accused them of murder and other sins in 1388. He preached against them in front a crowd that gathered at Saint Christopher’s church. The crowd became angry at the friars during his sermon that they threatened to destroy the church. They only stopped when the sheriff arrived and convinced them to leave.

“The ruins of Glastonbury Abbey, dissolved in 1539 following the execution of the abbot”

The Dissolution of the Monasteries and the End of the Austin Friars

The Austin Friars met their biggest challenge during the reign of Henry VIII of England. The king and his chief minister fought the Roman Catholic Church, so they ordered all monasteries to be closed starting in 1536. The government ordered the friars to leave the priory, and they never went back even after the execution of the chief minister in 1540. The Marquess of Winchester later turned the building into a townhouse. Meanwhile, some parts of the Austin Friar building were converted to warehouses during the 19th century.

The church was later used by the Dutch Church, but a large part of the building remained as a warehouse. What remained of the original Austin Friar buildings were destroyed by the German bombers during the air raids of the Second World War. Some were rebuilt during the 1950s, a street named after the Austin Friars still exist in the city of London today.

Picture by: Public Domain, Link
Douglas, J. D., and Earle E. Cairns, eds. The New International Dictionary of the Christian Church. Grand Rapids: Zondervan Pub., 1978.
“Friaries: The Austin friars,” in A History of the County of London: Volume 1, London Within the Bars, Westminster and Southwark, ed. William Page (London: Victoria County History, 1909), 510-513. British History Online, accessed November 8, 2016,
Justice, Steven. Writing and Rebellion: England in 1381. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1994.
Röhrkasten, Jens. The Mendicant Houses of Medieval London, 1221-1539. LIT Verlag Münster, 2004.
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Election of Popes (1059), Decree of


The middle of the eleventh century was a tumultuous period for the papacy. Six popes reigned during a twelve-year period (December of 1046 until March of 1058). Four of them were German bishops who were favored by the Holy Roman Emperor Henry III (all four kept their bishoprics in Germany even when they served as popes). One of the popes who was elected during this period was French, while another, Benedict IX, was an Italian who descended from a powerful family. Benedict IX’s reign, in particular, embodied the chaotic period after he was elected because of bribery and expelled twice from the papacy. Another “pope” who was elected during this time was Benedict X. His election was considered as invalid as it was arranged by Lombard nobles in 1058 using bribery and intimidation. The decree of the Election of Popes was then made around 1000 AD according to the Bible Timeline Chart with World History.

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The Cardinals who were supposed to take part in the election of a new pope upon the death of Pope Stephen IX in 1058 fled from Rome to Siena out of fear for their safety. In Siena, the cardinals elected Gerard de Bourgogne (Gerard of Burgundy), the Bishop of Florence, as the new pope. He had the backing of Hildebrand of Sovana (future Pope Gregory VII), the Holy Roman Emperor Henry III, and other Italian nobles who had him escorted by their own troops when he entered Rome on January 24, 1059. He adopted the name Nicholas II. He then assembled a synod in the Lateran Palace less than three months after his election to prevent the repetition of corrupt papal election practices that had persisted since the ninth century. One hundred and thirteen bishops attended the Synod of 1059.

Benedict IX”

“In Nomine Domini” of 1059

An earlier synod called the Lateran Council of 769 previously tried to address the papal election issues that persisted over the years. The Lateran Council decreed that the papal candidate should only be chosen from among the cardinal priests or cardinals deacons upon election. But since the publication of the Lateran Council’s decrees, Pope Nicholas found that only 25 of the popes previously elected were qualified (as they held the positions of cardinal priests and cardinal deacons). Five popes were of dubious backgrounds while as much as fifty percent of popes elected between 769 up to the eleventh century failed to qualify for some reason or another (the catch was that Nicholas II himself was not qualified).

To rectify this, they released a papal bull known as “In Nomine Domini” (In the Name of Our Lord) after the Roman Synod of 1059. It contained the following decrees that addressed the papal election:

  1. Upon the death of the pope, the cardinal bishops should summon the cardinal clergy, other priests, and the laity for them to give their consent to the election of the new pope.
  2. Only the cardinal bishops were allowed to elect the pope (this was done so as to prevent bribery and simony).
  3. The candidate should be chosen within the Roman clergy, but if they can’t find a suitable candidate, the Cardinals were allowed to elect one from another church.
  4. After they have chosen a pope-elect, this was followed by an endorsement by the cardinal priests and cardinal deacons.
  5. The endorsement required the agreement not only of the cardinals but also of the rest of the Roman clergy and the laity.
  6. Rome was the ideal place for the election, but if circumstances did not permit for them to vote in Rome, the cardinals were allowed to assemble and elect the new pope anywhere.
  7. The new pope would then assume his responsibilities and the powers that came along with the position. He should also send a message to the Holy Roman Emperor as a courtesy.
Picture By Artaud de Montor (1772–1849) –, Public Domain, Link Artaud de Montor (1772–1849) –, Public Domain, Link
Guruge, Anura, and Matt Kirkland. The Next Pope. Alton, NH: WOWNH, 2011.
Mann, Horace K., and Johannes Hollnsteiner. The Lives of the Popes in the Early Middle Ages: The Popes of the Gregorian Renaissance. Vol. VI. London: B. Herder, 1925.
“Medieval Sourcebook: Decree of 1059: On Papal Elections.” Internet History Sourcebooks Project. Accessed October 19, 2016.
Weber, Nicholas. “Pope Nicholas II.” The Catholic Encyclopedia. Vol. 11. New York: Robert Appleton Company, 1911. 19 Oct. 2016 <>.
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Alexander III

Pope Alexander III started his turbulent reign as Roman Pontiff in 1159 and ended it in 1181 where he is recorded on the Bible Timeline Chart with World History. He had to deal with the powerful Holy Roman Emperor Frederick Barbarossa and the antipopes who rose during his reign.

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Early Life

The future Alexander III was born Rolando (or Orlando) in the city of Siena in 1105. According to tradition, he descended from the powerful Tuscan family of the Bandinelli and was the son of Rainucci of Siena. He served as a professor of theology (canon law) in Bologna and may have taught in the city of Pisa. Pope Eugene visited Pisa in 1148 and heard about the brilliance of Rolando as a lawyer and theologian. So the pope had him brought to Rome. The pope later appointed him as a cardinal deacon of Santi Cosma e Damiano in Rome, a cardinal priest at St. Mark’s, and finally, as Chancellor of the Apostolic See.

“Allegorical sculpture of Pope Alexander III and Saint Bernard of Clairvaux crowning Afonso I King of Portugal, in the Alcobaça Monastery.”

Election as Pope

The previous Pope Adrian IV died in the town of Anagni in 1159. While he was on his deathbed, the cardinal priests were worried that someone from Frederick Barbarossa’s camp would be elected as pope. As Adrian lay dying, they agreed not to elect anyone supported by Frederick Barbarossa’s camp, particularly Octavian, the cardinal priest of Santa Cecilia in Travestere. The election was held in Rome after Adrian’s burial. As expected, the majority of cardinals voted for Rolando while the rest voted for Octavian.

There was a commotion when Octavian wrested the pope’s scarlet mantle from the archdeacon when he attempted to give it to Rolando. Rolando also tried to grab the mantle from Octavian, but he had already worn it and declared himself the elected Pope Victor IV to the people who waited outside. It was followed by more chaos until Victor IV (Octavian) was acclaimed by the confused Romans.

Flight and Exile

Rolando (now named Alexander III) retreated to the sanctuary of Cardinal Boso (a cousin of the deceased Pope Adrian IV) near St. Peter’s. He later fled to and sought refuge in Cisterna Di Latina outside Rome out of fear for his safety. He was consecrated in the church of Santa Maria Maggiore on September 20, 1159. It was followed by the excommunication of Antipope Victor IV and his backer, the Holy Roman Emperor Frederick Barbarossa. But both men only ignored his decree.

Frederick Barbarossa assembled the Council of Pavia in 1160. It was, however, attended by abbots and bishops of the West who favored Alexander as pope. The council did not end very well, and Alexander returned to Rome in 1161. With no end in sight to the schism and without an access to the papal treasury, he went on an exile to France from 1161 to 1165.

Frederick, meanwhile, made many expeditions in Italy. His power was weakened when Victor IV died in 1164, so he supported another antipope, Guido of Crema, who later took the name Paschal III. The struggle for power between Frederick and Alexander was only resolved in 1176 after the Lombard League defeated the emperor’s troops in the Battle of Legnano in 1176.

Last Years

Pope Alexander was a supporter of the English Archbishop Thomas Becket, so he had him canonized as a saint in 1173, three years after his murder. During the last years of his life, Pope Alexander introduced the principle of two-thirds in the election of the pope to prevent another controversy. A new wave of violence in Rome once again forced him to flee the city. It was for the last time as he died on the 30th of August, 1181, in the Civita Castellana in the province of Viterbo.

Picture By © José Luiz Bernardes Ribeiro / , CC BY-SA 3.0, Link
Clarke, Peter D., and Anne Duggan. Pope Alexander III (1159-81): The Art of Survival. Farnham, Surrey, England: Ashgate, 2012. Print.
Kleinhenz, Christopher. Medieval Italy: An Encyclopedia. New York: Routledge, 2004. Print.
Mann, Horace K., and Johannes Hollnsteiner. The Lives of the Popes in the Early Middle Ages. Vol. 10. London: K. Paul, Trench, Trübner, 1902. Print.