100 Key Events In Church History

RSS Feed

Events 1-25

Fire ravages Rome. Emperor Nero blames Christians and unleashes persecution.

Titus destroys Jerusalem and its temple. Separation deepens between Christianity and Judaism.

about 150
Justin Martyr writes his First Apology, advancing Christian efforts to address competing philosophies.

about 156
Polycarp, an eighty-six-year-old bishop, inspires Christians to stand firm under opposition.

Irenaeus becomes bishop of Lyons and combats developing heresies within the Church.

about 196
Colorful and cantankerous Tertullian begins writings that earn him the reputation of being the "Father of Latin Theology."

about 205
The gifted North African Origen begins writing. He headed a noted catechetical school in Alexandria.

Cyprian, bishop of Carthage, publishes his influential work Unity of the Church. He was martyred in 258.

Antony gives away his possessions and begins life as a hermit, a key event in the development of Christian monasticism.

Constantine is converted after seeing a vision of the cross. He becomes a defender and advocate of the oppressed Christians.

The Council of Nicea addresses debates perplexing the Church and defines the doctrine of who Jesus really was.

Athanasius' Easter Letter recognizes the New Testament Canon, listing the same books we have now.

In Milan, Bishop Ambrose defies the Empress, helping establish the precedent of Church confrontation of the state when necessary to protect Christian teaching and oppose the state.

Augustine of Hippo is converted. His writings became bedrock for the Middle Ages. The Confessions and City of God are still read by many.

John Chrysostom, the "golden tongued" preacher is made bishop of Constantinople and leads from there amidst continuing controversies.

Jerome completes the Latin "Vulgate" version of the bible that becomes the standard for the next one thousand years.

Patrick goes as a missionary to Ireland--taken there as a teenager as a slave. He returns and leads multitudes of Irish people to the Christian faith.

The Council of Chalcedon confirms orthodox teaching that Jesus was truly God and truly man and existed in one person.

Benedict of Nursia establishes his monastic order. His "rule" becomes the most influential for centuries of monasticism in the West.

Columba goes as a missionary to Scotland. He establishes the legendary monastic mission center at Iona.

Gregory becomes Pope Gregory I, known as "the Great." His leadership significantly advances the development of the papacy and has enormous influence on Europe.

Synod of Whitby determines that the English church will come under the authority of Rome.

Boniface, the "Apostle of Germany," sets out as a missionary to bring the gospel to pagan lands.

The "Venerable" Bede completes his careful and influential Ecclesiastical History of the English Nation.

At the Battle of Tours, Charles Martel turns back the Muslim invasion of Europe.

Events 26-50

Charlemagne crowned emperor by the pope on Christmas. He advances the church, education, and culture.

Cyril and Methodius, Greek brothers, evangelize the Serbs. Cyril develops the Cyrillic alphabet which remains the basis for the Slavonic used in the liturgy of the Russian church.

A monastery is established at Cluny and becomes a center for reform. By the mid-12th century, there were over 1,000 Clunaic houses.

Conversion of Vladimir, Prince of Kiev, who, after examining several religions, chooses Orthodoxy to unify and guide the Russian people.

The East-West Schism. Brewing for centuries, rupture finally comes to a head with the fissure that has lasted to this day.

Anselm becomes Archbishop of Canterbury. A devoted monk and outstanding theologian, his Cur Deus Homo? (Why Did God Become Man?), explored the atonement.

Pope Urban II launches the First Crusade. The crowd wildly shouts "God wills it!" There would be several crusades over the next centuries with many tragic results.

Bernard founds the monastery at Clairvaux. He and the monastery become a major center of spiritual and political influence.

about 1150
Universities of Paris and Oxford are founded and become incubators for renaissance and reformation and precursors for modern educational patterns.

Peter Waldo founds the Waldensians, a reform movement emphasizing poverty, preaching and the Bible. He and his followers are eventually condemned as heretics and the Waldensians suffer great persecution for centuries.

Francis of Assisi renounces wealth and goes on to lead a band of poor friars preaching the simple life.

The Fourth Lateran Council deals with heresy, reaffirms Roman Catholic doctrines and strengthens the authority of the popes.

Thomas Aquinas completes work on Summa Theoligica, the theological masterpiece of the Middle Ages.

Dante completes The Divine Comedy, the greatest work of Christian literature to emerge from the Middle Ages.

Catherine of Siena goes to Rome to help heal the "Great Papal Schism" which had resulted in multiple popes. Partly through her influence, the papacy moves back to Rome from Avignon.

about 1380
Wycliffe is exiled from Oxford but oversees a translation of the Bible into English. He is later hailed as the "Morning star of the Reformation."

John Hus, who teaches Wycliffe's ideas in Bohemia, is condemned and burned at the stake by the Council of Constance.

Johann Gutenberg produces the first printed Bible, and his press becomes a means for dissemination new ideas, catalyzing changes in politics and theology.

The Spanish Inquisition is established under King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella to oppose "heresy."

Savonarola, the fiery Dominican reformer of Florence, in Italy, is executed.

Michelangelo completes his notable artwork on the Sistine Chapel ceiling in Rome.

Martin Luther posts his ninety-five theses, a simple invitation for scholarly debate that inadvertently becomes a "hinge of history."

Zwingli leads the Swiss reformation from his base as head pastor in Zurich.

The Anabaptist movement begins. This "radical reformation" insists on baptism of adult believers and the almost unheard of notion of separation of church and state.

Henry VIII's Act of Supremacy makes the king, not the pope, head of the Church of England.

Events 51-75

John Calvin publishes The Institutes of the Christian Religion, the most substantial theological work of the Reformation.

The Society of Jesus is approved by the Vatican. Founded by Ignatius Loyola, the Jesuit order places its services entirely at the disposal of the pope.

The Council of Trent opens. Called by the Roman Catholic Church, it addresses abuses and serves the Catholic Counter-Reformation.

Cranmer produces the beloved Book of Common Prayer for the Church of England.

John Knox returns to Scotland to lead reformation there after a period of exile in Calvin's Geneva.

The Saint Bartholomew's Day Massacre in France witnesses the killing of tens of thousands of Protestant Huguenots by Catholics.

Anglican preacher turned Separatist, John Smith, baptizes the first "Baptists."

Publication of the Authorized or King James translation of the Bible in the English language. Fifty-four scholars worked for four years on the project.

Pilgrims coming to America sign the Mayflower Compact and commit themselves to seek the public good, uphold group solidarity and forsake self-seeking.

Jan Amos Comenius is driven from his homeland in Moravia and wanders the rest of his life spreading educational reform and pleading for Christian reconciliation.

The Westminster Confession is drafted in the Jerusalem Room at Westminster Abbey.

George Fox founds the Society of Friends, more commonly known as "Quakers." Seeking to live simple lives, opposed to warfare and avoiding formal worship, they had an influence far exceeding their numbers.

Rembrandt completes his masterful painting the Return of the Prodigal Son.

German Lutheran minister Philip Jacob Spener publishes Pia Desideria which becomes a manifesto for "Pietism."

John Bunyan's The Pilgrim's Progress is published. It becomes second in international circulation, exceeded only by the Bible.

Johann Sebastian Bach and George Frederick Handel born. These two will go on to become musical giants illustrating the central place of Biblical subjects in the masterpieces of Western art.

Publication of Isaac Watt's Hymns and Spiritual Songs marks a new development in the kind of music sung in churches.

Awakening at Herrnhut launches Moravian Brethren as the forerunner of modern Protestant missionary movements.

Great Awakening under Jonathan Edwards stirs the American colonies with many conversions and individual returns to heartfelt faith.

John Wesley's conversion eventually leads to the founding of a branch of the Methodist Church although he had no intention of forming a separate denomination.

Newspaperman Robert Raikes begins Sunday schools to reach poor and uneducated children in England. It rapidly becomes a vital international movement.

1793 William Carey sails as a missionary to India and oversees more Bible translations than had previously been produced in all Christian history.

The British Parliament votes to abolish the slave trade. Its decision is owing in large part to the tireless efforts of the Christian politician William Wilberforce.

The Campbells begin the Disciples of Christ, an element within what became known as the "Restoration Movement" of American Christianity.

Adoniram and Ann Judson sail for India. These first missionaries to be sent from America evangelize Burma and translate the scriptures into Burmese.

Events 76-100

Richard Allen, a former slave, founds the African Methodist Episcopal Church.

Elizabeth Fry begins ministry to women in prison and becomes model for social compassion and involvement.

Charles G. Finney's urban revivals begin and introduce techniques that decisively affect later mass evangelism in America.

about 1830
John Nelson Darby helps found the Plymouth Brethren, a group which spreads the dispensational view of Scriptural interpretation.

John Keble's sermon "National Apostasy" initiates the Oxford movement in England.

Hudson Taylor arrives as a missionary in China. His faith work has immense impact.

Philosopher Soron Kierkegaard publishes Attacks on Christendom.

Charles Haddon Spurgeon becomes pastor in London and will go on the be one of the most influential pastors ever.

Dwight L. Moody is converted. He goes on to become one of the most effective American evangelists.

David Livingstone publishes Missionary Travels and his exploits in Africa attract world wide attention.

William Booth founds the Salvation Army, vowing to bring the gospel into the streets to the most desperate and needy.

Pope Pius IX proclaims the doctrine of Papal Infallibility.

The Student Volunteer Movement begins as a major thrust of young people to bring the gospel to the world as missionaries.

Asuza Street revival launches Pentecostalism, and paves the way for the development of the modern charismatic movement.

The fundamentals are published and demonstrate the great divide in American Christianity known as the "Modernist-Fundamentalist" controversy.

Karl Barth's Commentary on Romans is published, effectively critiquing modernistic theology.

First Christian radio broadcast over KDKA in Pittsburgh.

Cameron Townsend begins the Summer Institute of Linguistics that aspires with sister organization Wycliffe Bible translators to bring the Bible to every language group of the world.

Dietrich Bonhoeffer is executed by the Nazis. The German pastor is killed just days before the Allies arrive to liberate that region. His theological writings remain influential.

The World Council of Churches is formed as an interdenominational body promoting Christian unity and presence in society.

Billy Graham's Los Angeles crusade thrusts the young evangelist into several decades of worldwide ministry and an impressive reputation.

Charismatic renewal surges forward, crossing denominational lines and becoming more mainstream.

Second Vatican Council begins, the most significant council since Trent. It will promote new attitudes and practices in Catholicism.

Martin Luther King, Jr., a Baptist minister, leads a march on Washington espousing the teachings of Jesus in a civil rights movement that affects all American.

The Chinese church grows despite the Cultural Revolution. Christianity did not die out under Communism, but experienced one of the most dramatic church growths ever.

About 100 Key Events In Church History

See the top 100 key events in church history.  Learn when Constantine converted to Christianity.  Discover when the New Testament Canon was recognized.  Study the dates of the Apostles' Creed.

  • Editors' Picks

    17 Prayers of Gratitude for the Holiday Season
    17 Prayers of Gratitude for the Holiday Season
  • The First Thanksgiving We Don't Remember
    The First Thanksgiving We Don't Remember
  • Black Friday and the Love of Stuff
    Black Friday and the Love of Stuff