This Week in History

A Pope Lays a Cornerstone and Undermines the Church: April 18, 1506

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Pope Julius II, portrait by Raphael

In April 18, 1506, Pope Julius II laid the cornerstone for a new basilica church over the burial place of St. Peter the Apostle in the Vatican. A great lover of the arts and patron of artists, Pope Julius hoped to accomplish what Pope Nicholas V had begun, 50 years before: to replace the aging St. Peter’s Basilica (built by the Emperor Constantine) with a new church that would shine with all the splendor with which Renaissance architecture and art could adorn it.

A year later, Pope Julius proclaimed a jubilee indulgence to fund this great project. An indulgence is a full or partial remittance by the Church of the temporal punishment for sins (such as one suffers in Purgatory) following the forgiveness offered in the Sacrament of Penance. Julius’s indulgence did not differ from indulgences issued by earlier popes. To obtain the indulgence, one had to be truly repentant, receive the Sacrament of Penance, and perform a good work. In the case of the jubilee indulgence, the good work was contributing money to the building of St. Peter’s Basilica. It was not unusual for the Church to issue indulgences for the funding of churches—which was considered a very holy work. Yet, this jubilee indulgence, in a few short years, would have tragic results that no one, including the pope, could foresee in 1507. (more…)



This Week in History

Parliament Emancipates Catholics:

April 13, 1829 

George IV in 1816

Conditions did not improve when George IV became king in 1820. As regent for his insane father, George III, since 1811, George IV had long supported the repression of radicals. Though a clever man (he was a student of the classics and fluent in French, Italian, and German), George IV was not a particularly good man. He was notoriously immoral and so did not mind the corruption that filled the British government. This made the new king very unpopular.

Though he spent most of his time at Windsor Castle, George IV continued to play a part in politics. He opposed all reform measures, including one that he himself had supported over 20 years before — Catholic emancipation. Since the 16th century, English law had forbidden Catholics to serve in Parliament or even to vote for members of Parliament. Penal laws carrying punishments of fines, imprisonment, and even death (for Catholic priests) were still on the books. In Ireland, though most of the population was Catholic, only Protestants could serve as magistrates; and everyone whether Protestant or not, had to pay tithes to support the Protestant Church of Ireland. Though in 1797 George IV had proposed a bill that would allow Catholics to sit in Parliament, by 1813 he was a firm opponent of similar bills. George IV now said his kingly oath to support the Protestant religion meant he had to oppose any efforts for Catholic emancipation.

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