This Week in History

The Baptism of Europe:

Christmas Day, 496

This text comes from our book, Light to the Nations I: The History of Christian Civilization. To peruse sample chapters of our books, go hereFor ordering information on Light to the Nations I and our other texts, please click here.

The baptism of Clovis

In 481, Clodevech, the 16-year-old chief of one of the Frankish tribes, secured his father’s claim to kingship by exterminating all his cousins and rivals.At age 21, this chief, known to history as Clovis, led his tribe into the Seine valley. He killed the Roman governor there, taking the towns of Soissons, Rouen, Reims, and Paris. Then he marched through the Loire River valley to the borders of Brittany and secured his western border. Safe on one front, he moved against his cousins along the Rhine and killed them one by one. By 491, Clovis held all the Frankish princedoms except Cologne. He slew every prince of Meroving blood who fell into his hands, and he did his best to exterminate all other members of rival families who could lay claim to his throne. (more…)

This Week in History

Sherman Gives Lincoln a Christmas Present: December 22, 1865

This text comes from our high school text, Lands of Hope and Promise: A History of North America. Please visit our webpage to peruse sample chapters of our book. For ordering information on Lands of Hope and Promise and our other texts, please click here.

Jefferson Davis

On November 7, 1864, the day before the northern elections, Jefferson Davis addressed the Confederate Congress:

“There are no vital points on the preservation of which the continued existence of the Confederacy depends. There is no military success of the enemy which can accomplish its destruction. Not the fall of Richmond, nor Wilmington, nor Savannah, nor Mobile, nor of all combined, can save the enemy from the constant and exhaustive drain of blood and treasure which must continue until he shall discover that no peace is attainable unless based on the recognition of our indefeasible rights.”

These were brave words, but they betrayed desperation. They hinted at irregular, guerrilla warfare continuing until the North grew so tired of blood that it would concede southern independence. The regular channels of government in the South were fast falling apart. Even in the face of Sherman and Grant, some Southern governors obstructed the Confederate draft; the governor of Georgia said it violated states rights. The armies were in desperate need of soldiers, and records showed that from 100,000 to 200,000 men were absent. Davis had gone to Macon, Georgia in September to appeal to men to return to duty, but to no avail. As one Confederate senator from Texas noted, the people’s “confidence was gone, and hope was almost extinguished.” (more…)

This Week in History

Birth of a Great Romantic:

December 16, 1770

This text comes from our book, Light to the Nations II: The Making of the Modern World. See sample chapters, here. For ordering information on Light to the Nations II and our other texts, please click here.

“The Wanderer Above a Sea of Clouds,” by the German Romantic painter, Caspar David Friedrich

… [T]hough Romanticism started as a literary movement, the Romantic spirit moved into other art forms as well. For instance, a Romantic school of painting developed whose artists depicted scenes of drama, mystery, and even horror. Nor was Romanticism a purely German movement. From the group of early Romantics at Jena, it spread throughout Germany, into England, and eventually into southern Europe, France, and Russia.

But, besides literature, no art form was more affected by the Romantic spirit than was music. As in other art forms, music in the 18th century had followed the classical style; but with Ludwig van Beethoven, Romanticism entered music.

Born December 16, 1770, in Bonn, a city on the Rhine in the German archbishopric of Köln, Beethoven came from a family of musicians. Ludwig grew up in poverty, and his father was a violent and rough man, so Ludwig’s childhood and youth were not happy. Hoping to make money off his son’s musical talent, the father forced Ludwig to undergo a severe musical training from his fifth to his ninth years. After that, he received lessons on the piano, at which he excelled. As a teenager, Ludwig began supporting his family after his father, a singer, could no longer find employment. (more…)

This Week in History

Martin Luther Defies the Pope:

October 10, 1520

This text comes from our book, Light to the Nations I: The History of Christian Civilization. To peruse sample chapters of our books, go hereFor ordering information on Light to the Nations I and our other texts, please click here.

Portrait of Martin Luther as an Augustinian monk

Martin Luther did not intend to destroy the Catholic Church, nor did he intend to start a separate church. Luther wanted to reform the Church, to bring it back to what it was meant to be — the pure Bride of Christ.

Luther was not alone in wanting to reform the Church. Catholic humanists like Desiderius Erasmus of Holland, Thomas More of England, and the Cardinal Francisco Jiménez of Castile protested as loudly as Luther did against the problems in the Church. Even Cardinal Cajetan, who confronted Luther at Augsburg in 1518, carried on the same fight in the Roman curia. Unlike Luther, however, these reformers did not promote teachings that directly undermined the teaching authority of the Church.

Luther advocated several doctrines that were contrary to the Catholic Faith. His foremost idea was that salvation comes by faith only (sola fide) and not by any good works. Against the Catholic teaching that human nature, though fallen, is essentially good, Luther taught that human nature is wholly corrupt because of Original Sin. Since human nature is corrupt, only by God’s Grace (sola gratia), working through faith, can one be saved from eternal punishment. For Luther, however, Grace does not remove human sinfulness but only covers a person’s sins. (more…)