This Week in History

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

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

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.

(more…)



This Week in History

Execution of the Cristeros’ 

“Maestro”: April 1, 1927

This text comes from our book, 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. Please visit our blog to read our previous post on the Cristeros.

“Escena de Viernes Santo en pleno siglo XX” (A Holy Friday Scene in the Middle of the 20th Century) — a picture depicting Christ (center) as Clero (a priest), and his torturers as Calles, Morones, and Obregón.

In the early battles, the insurgents were victorious against local forces but were defeated when they confronted the federal army — which led the federal commander in Jalisco, General Jesús Ferreira, to boast that he would conduct, not a campaign, but a hunt in the state. But in the Pacific coastal state of Colima he met his match in the person of an ex-seminarian and leader of the ACJM, Enrique de Jesús Ochoa. When Ochoa removed his insurgent force from Colima city to Caucentla on the border of Jalisco, Ferreira met him there — and was repulsed.

Because of the insurgents’ war cry — Viva Cristo Rey! (“Long live Christ the King!”) — the Federals, perhaps in mockery, named them Cristo-reyes or Cristeros. But though they might despise them for being peasants, Federal commanders learned to their dismay that the Cristeros had a number of gifted leaders. These were not militarily trained but were men of the common trades who discovered in the crucible of conflict a gift for strategy and command. Along with Ochoa were Jesús Degollado, a druggist; José Reyes Vega and Aristeo Pedroza, priests; and Victoriano Ramirez and Miguel Hernandez, ranch hands. Under such leaders, in the early months of 1927, Cristero forces won significant victories against crack federal cavalry at San Francisco del Rincón in Guanajuato, and at San Julián in Jalisco. (more…)



This Week in History

A Dastardly Execution: March 21, 1804

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

Napoleon Bonaparte, as First Consul of the Republic of France

Despite the Treaty of Amiens, France and Great Britain could not keep peace for long. In the several months following the signing of the treaty, Napoleon’s suspicions of England grew. Great Britain, he claimed, was not keeping to what she agreed to in the treaty. He complained that the government of King George III allowed the Bourbon princes to live in England and even supported them with money. He bristled at the ridicule English newspapers hurled at him—he, the First Consul of France and the champion of the Republic!

The English had their own grievances against France. The king’s government could not tolerate the power France had gained on the continent. Northern Italy and Switzerland had come under the republic’s “protection,” and so had the island of Elba (between Corsica and Italy) as well as the country of Holland. In granting “protection” to the Batavian Republic, as Holland was now called, France controlled the best coastline in northern Europe. And then there was the simple snobbery of the English upper class. For them, “Buonaparte” was nothing but an upstart—a lowborn Italian who by cunning had pushed his way into the society of his betters. Admiral Horatio Nelson spoke for many English aristocrats when he called Napoleon the “Corsican scoundrel.” (more…)



This Week in History

Assassination of the Russian Constitution: March 13, 1881

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

Tsar Aleksandr II

As he had done every Sunday for many years, on the Sunday of March 13, 1881, Tsar Aleksandr II climbed into his bulletproof carriage. Then, accompanied by seven armed Cossacks, he rode along the Katerina Canal in St. Petersburg on his way to review the changing of his guards. It was a cold day, but people gathered on the sidewalks along the street to watch the passing of the tsar. One of these was a young man, Nikolai Rysakov; but he had not come simply to see the tsar. In his hands the youth held a small package. When the tsar’s carriage was before him, Rysakov threw the package. It exploded under the carriage, killing a Cossack guard and wounding the driver and several spectators on the street. (more…)