This Week in History

Rasputin Found Dead: January 1, 1918

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.

Grigori Yefimovich Rasputin in 1915

On January 1, 1917, the mangled corpse of the peasant, Grigori Yefimovich Rasputin, was found in the frozen waters of the Neva River, in Petrograd— the Russian city that until September 1914 had been called St. Petersburg. News of the finding spread quickly through the capital and cheered the hearts of all who heard it. Many Russians believed Rasputin had been the cause of the empire’s sufferings and defeats during the war.

Rasputin already had the reputation of a holy man when he first came to St. Petersburg in 1903. Clad in monk’s robes and with a Russian monk’s long hair and beard, Rasputin was dirty, unkempt, and he stank. He was said, however, to be a healer. His dark, intense eyes seemed to hypnotize many on whom they fixed their gaze. He was first introduced to the family of Tsar Nikolai II and Tsarina Aleksandra in 1905. In 1908, Aleksandra summoned him to the royal palace when the Tsarevich Alexei had become desperately sick. The child suffered from hemophilia and was bleeding internally. With his seemingly mysterious powers, Rasputin calmed the boy. The bleeding stopped. As Rasputin left the palace, he warned the royal couple that in his hands lay their son’s life and the very future of the Romanov dynasty. (more…)



This Week in History

Uprising in Russia: December 26, 1825

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.

Grand Duke Nikolai Pavlovich Romanov, about 1821

Since Aleksandr I had no legitimate children, his throne would normally have passed to his next eldest brother. This brother was the Grand Duke Konstantin (Constantine) Pavlovich Romanov. Konstantin, however, did not want the throne. He would have to divorce his Polish wife to be tsar, because she was Catholic; and he was unwilling to do this. In 1822, Konstantin had signed a document in which he renounced his right to the throne. The heir to the throne was thus the next oldest brother, the 29-year old Grand Duke Nikolai.

Like the tsars before him, Nikolai was formally to take power by issuing a proclamation and receiving the oath of allegiance from his troops. He set December 26, 1825, as the date for this event. Yet, unknown to him, prominent men and secret Liberal societies throughout Russia had also been making preparations—not to welcome the new tsar, but to overthrow the existing Russian government and replace it with a constitutional monarchy.

The conspirators had spread a rumor among the troops in St. Petersburg and in other Russian cities that Konstantin had not really resigned and that Nikolai was thus nothing but a usurper. The troops were told that when Nikolai asked for their allegiance, they were to refuse it and instead cry out, “Long live Konstantin and the Constitution!” Many of the soldiers, it is said, were a little confused by the command. They did not know what a constitution was, and they assumed it was the name of the grand duke’s wife. (more…)



This Week in History

The Making of a Pope’s Motto:

December 23, 1922

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.

Pope Pius XI

“Gladly do We offer Our life for the Peace of the World!” These words were among the last spoken by Pope Benedict XV. The day after he uttered them, January 22, 1922, at 6 o’clock in the morning, the pope of peace “with great holiness fell asleep in the Lord.” Once again, in perilous times, the Church—and the world—was left without a shepherd.

The conclave to elect the new pope opened February 3, 1922; three days later, the cardinals had made their choice—Cardinal Achille Ratti, the archbishop of Milan, a close friend of Benedict XV. A theologian and scholar, Ratti had served as head of the Vatican Library and as the pope’s nuncio to the new nation of Poland. He took the name Pius XI and announced that he would guide his reign by the motto, pax Christi in regno Christi—“The Peace of Christ in the Kingdom of Christ.” (more…)



This Week in History

A Short-lived Union Broken:

December 12, 1452

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.

Emperor John VIII Palaiologos

The death of Murad I at the Battle of Kosovo in 1389 did not end the Ottoman threat to Europe. Constantinople, completely surrounded by Muslim territory, stood in most danger of Turkish conquest. But the conquest of the Balkans showed that the Ottomans were a threat to western Christendom as well. To combat the Ottoman threat—the common enemy—the Catholic West and the Orthodox East had to join forces.

Yet, though both called on the name of Christ, the Catholics and the Orthodox believers were separated by religious and cultural differences. To bridge the gap between them, the emperor of Constantinople, John VIII Palaiologos (reigned 1425–1448), traveled in splendid attire to Italy with a delegation of nobles, bishops, and military men. The emperor’s plan was to meet with representatives of the pope to solve the theological differences separating the two branches of Christianity. If this old schism could be ended, it would make for a strong and united front of Christian nations against the invading Turks. (more…)


by Michael Van Hecke, M.Ed.
 
Just after his installation as prefect of the Congregation for Catholic Education for the Holy See, Cardinal Giuseppe Versaldi oversaw the Vatican’s World Congress on Education. I was a participant and spoke to his Eminence about the renewal of education in America—and in particular about our efforts to create textbooks once again for Catholic schools.

He lauded the good news and said of our textbooks, having perused one volume, “This is important work!” I was obviously (more…)