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Pope Benedict IX

Pope Benedict IX from The Lives and Times of the Popes, Volume 3

Most of the more than 170 medieval popes were good men trying to serve their Church, their fellow Christians, and God. But there were a few exceptions. Benedict IX was one of those exceptions.

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Medieval History Spotlight10

A New Religion

Wednesday April 16, 2014

As most Christians (and many non-Christians) know, the early followers of Jesus were persecuted by the authorities in the Roman Empire. Christians were blamed for the Great Fire in Rome and thrown to the lions; many zealous converts were ostracized, exiled and even executed for their faith. At one point, it even became illegal to be a Christian in Rome.

Yet in the Middle Ages, an overwhelming percentage of the population of western Europe was Christian, and the bishop of Rome -- the pope -- was such a powerful cleric that the few kings who dared to disobey his commands found themselves in some difficult situations. The Christian Church had become the most influential institution in the western world.

How did this change come about? How could what can only be described as a sect within Judaism become a full-fledged, independent religion? What events made Christianity change from an oppressed and illegal following to the triumphant and official creed of the Roman Empire? And how did the city of Rome become the center of Christianity in the west?

Get the answers in the very basic introduction, A New Religion.

News Bits

Wednesday April 9, 2014

This week, just a few stories about sunken ships, found communities, and the return of what was lost.

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Rest in Peace, Jacques Le Goff

Wednesday April 2, 2014

Through works like The Birth of Europe and Medieval Civilization, groundbreaking historian Jacques Le Goff helped us all understand that the Middle Ages were not a time of darkness but the era in which many of our most fundamental modern western principles were formed. He did a great deal to change the focus of learning about the past from politics and events to attitude and anthropological matters. Two of his books are on my shelf (and several more on my wish list). Jacques Le Goff's impact has been strong these last several decades, and his works will continue to influence and inform for decades to come.

Jacques Le Goff died in Paris on Tuesday at the age of 90.

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King Francis I

Monday March 31, 2014

A supporter of the arts, Francis I of France invited Leonardo da Vinci to spend his declining years at his summer residence. Legend has it the artist died in the arms of the king. What was this Renaissance king like? Find out in his Who's Who Profile.

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