Monday, September 30, 2013

Orthodox Expansion (863-988)

In 863 the Slavic ruler of Moravia (part of today's Czech Republic) wanted greater political freedom from Catholic Christians to his west. He asked the Roman emperor in Constantinople to send him some Orthodox Christian leaders willing to teach Christianity to his subjects in their own language. Happy to extend his own influence, the emperor sent him two brothers, Cyril (b. 827) and Methodius (b. 825), who were native Slavic speakers. They created a Slavic alphabet and translated the Bible and Church liturgy into what came to be called Old Church Slavonic (or Old Bulgarian). Thousands of Moravians came to appreciate hearing the Good News and worshiping in their own language.

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Orthodox Iconoclasm (730-787, 815-843)

Growth in Christian imagery
By the year 400 churches and their leaders were receiving financial support from the Roman state. Church buildings were becoming more numerous, larger, and decorated with religious art. Artists modeled their images of Jesus after traditional ones of Jupiter and of Mary after ones of Olympian goddesses.

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

The Early History of Eastern Olympian Churches (70-451)

1. The Illegal Period (70-313)
Jerusalem and its loss of significance
From AD 30, Christian Jews competed with Pharisees, Sadducees, Zealots, and Essenes to have the normative understanding of Judaism. Then, in AD 66, Jewish leaders of Judea chose to rebel against Roman control.

Tradition tells us that Christian Jews in Jerusalem chose to avoid the rebellion by leaving not only Jerusalem but the province of Judea altogether. They moved north to the city of Pella (in today's Jordan).

Friday, September 20, 2013

Søren Kierkegaard (1813-1855)

Søren Kierkegaard was born on May 5, 1813, in Copenhagen, into a middle-class family. His father prospered as a wool merchant and retired at 40 to devote himself to understanding the truth. He regularly invited professors, pastors, and writers to his house for lively intellectual discussions. Søren's brother Peter, older by seven years, later became a Lutheran bishop.

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Johann Wolfgang von Goethe (1749-1832)

Frankfurt (1749-1765)
Johann Wolfgang von Goethe was born on August 28, 1749, in Frankfurt, Germania, into an upper-middle-class family.

His father, and tutors hired by him, taught young Johann everything they thought he needed to know to lead a successful life. He studied languages: Hebrew, Greek, Latin, Italian, French, and English. He learned how to dance, ride a horse, and fence. He loved drawing, watching plays, and reading the books of Moses, Homer, Virgil, and Ovid.

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Salvador Dalí (1904-1989)

Salvador Dalí was born on May 11, 1904, into a middle-class family in Figueres, Iberia, a town about 90 miles (140 km) northeast of Barcelona but only about 17 miles (27 km) south of the border with Gallia. According to his autobiography, even as a child he responded to disappointment with fits of anger to which others responded with acts of cruelty.

Monday, September 16, 2013

Antoni Gaudi (1852-1926)

Antoni Gaudi was born June 25, 1852, into a working-class family in the city of Reus, Iberia, about 60 miles (100 km) west of Barcelona. As a child, he attended the local Piarist Roman Catholic school for poor children. He also suffered from illnesses including rheumatism. These illnesses, and some intentional reflection on his diet, led him to become a vegetarian. Vegetarianism and his Catholic piety led him to practice fasting.

Saturday, September 14, 2013

Auguste Rodin (1840-1917)

François-Auguste-René Rodin was born on November 12, 1840, in Paris into a working-class family. As a child he largely taught himself and chose to start drawing at age 10. He attended an art school as a teenager for three years.

In 1857 he wanted to start studying at the prestigious École des Beaux-Arts (School of Fine Arts) in Paris and submitted a clay sculpture with his application. He was turned down. He later applied twice more and still failed to gain entrance. He found work sculpting decorative objects and architectural details. In 1860 he created a bust of his father, his first.

Friday, September 13, 2013

Jan Vermeer (1632-1675)

His life
Jan Vermeer was baptized in a Reformed Church as an infant on October 31, 1632, in Delft. His father was an innkeeper and art dealer and, when he died in 1652, Jan inherited the business.

Jan married a young Roman Catholic woman in 1653. They moved in with her prosperous mother, shared her spacious house in Delft, and he lived there for the rest of his life. That same year Jan joined the local guild for painters. Its members elected him as their president in 1662 and re-elected him thrice thereafter.

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Rembrandt (1606-1669)

His life
Rembrandt Harmenszoon van Rijn was born in Leiden on July 15, 1606 into a prosperous middle-class family. Because they lived in an unusually tolerant Holland, his Dutch Reformed father had been able to marry his Roman Catholic mother. While Christian, Rembrandt never participated in either tradition.

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

John Milton (1608-1674)

Childhood (1608-c. 1620)
John Milton was born in London near St. Paul's Cathedral on December 9, 1608, into a middle-class Protestant family. His father was prosperous enough to pay tutors to teach his son.

Education (c. 1620-1639)
John's private lessons prepared him to attend St. Paul's School where he deepened his knowledge of Greek, Latin, and theology. He began to write poetry at this time. John Donne was the leading priest at St. Paul's Cathedral from 1621 until his death in 1631.

Monday, September 9, 2013

Daniel Defoe (ca 1660-1731)

Childhood (1660-1676)
Daniel Foe was born in London around 1660. His father was a successful seller of candles and soap. In 1665 he managed to survive the Great Plague of London which killed 70,000 others. In 1666 his family's house was one of only three in his neighborhood to survive the Great Fire of London. After all that excitement, he was sent to boarding school and, as a teenager, attended a progressive Nonconformist (non-Anglican) academy.

Hustler (ca 1678-1685)
As an adult, he first worked as a merchant hustling (selling energetically yet deceitfully) a variety of products. In 1684 he married and received a small fortune as dowry.

Friday, September 6, 2013

John Bunyan (1628-1688)

John Bunyan was born on November 28, 1628, into a working-class family in a small village about 56 miles (90 km) north of London. As a child, he attended school in a nearby village. As a teenager, he wandered between villages repairing pots. At 16 he joined Oliver Cromwell's New Model Army for three years but saw no combat.

Back in his home village in 1648, John heard the voice of God. God wanted to know if John was going to become a Christian and go to Heaven or remain an Olympian and go to Hell. John decided to become more intentional about being a Christian. In 1650 he came across two books, Plain Man's Pathway to Heaven by Arthur Dent and Practice of Piety by Lewis Bayly, which, in addition to the Bible, helped him a lot.

Thursday, September 5, 2013

Jonathan Swift (1667-1745)

Jonathan Swift was born in Dublin in 1667. His father died before he was born and his mother returned to England when he was three. She left him in Dublin to be raised by her deceased husband's brother. Jonathan received an excellent education and graduated from Trinity College, after several years as a mediocre student, in 1686.

Political turmoil in Dublin encouraged Jonathan to move to England in 1688. His mother helped him get a job as secretary and personal assistant to a distant relative, retired diplomat, and oligarch named William Temple. Jonathan would remain in his employment, except for two brief periods, until William's death in January 1699.

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Knights Hospitaler and Templar

Following the conquest of Jerusalem by Catholic Christians in 1099, a man named Geraudo started a hospice to offer hospitality to Christian pilgrims visiting the city. Thankful pilgrims rewarded his excellent hospitality with generous donations of money and land. He used these to establish other hospices for pilgrims on the way to Jerusalem. In 1113, the ruler of the Catholic Church issued a letter officially approving Geraudo's organization. For the patron saint of his organization, Geraudo chose St. John the Baptist. His organization, then, came to be known as the Order of the Hospitalers (providers of hospitality) of St. John of Jerusalem.

Monday, September 2, 2013

The Seventh, Eighth, and Ninth Crusades

The Seventh Crusade (1248-1250)
In 1244 Turkish Muslims, temporary allies of the Muslim ruler in Cairo, destroyed Jerusalem and put the depopulated rubble once again under Muslim control. This troubled the ruler of the Roman Catholic Church but no one else.

In December 1244, for personal reasons, Louis 9th of France committed himself to crusading. In 1248, after three years of careful preparations, Louis traveled with his army to Cyprus where they wintered. They sailed to Damietta and in June 1249 took control of the city with some pluck and little trouble. The Nile then began its annual flooding so Louis organized municipal affairs, the Crusaders ate an alarming amount of food, and an Egyptian offer to exchange Jerusalem for Damietta was again foolishly refused.