These events represent some of the major developments in 14th-century Christian history, including the challenges and crises faced by the Catholic Church, the impact of the Black Death, and the emergence of reform movements that would pave the way for the Protestant Reformation in the following century.
14th Century Christian History
1309: Pope Clement V Moves to Avignon
- Pope Clement V officially established the papal residence in Avignon, marking the beginning of the Avignon Papacy.
1311-1312: Council of Vienne
- The Council of Vienne was convened to address various issues within the Church, including suppressing the Knights Templar.
1347-1351: The Black Death
- The Black Death, a devastating pandemic caused by the bubonic plague, spread across Europe, leading to widespread death and social upheaval.
1378-1417: The Western Schism
- The Western Schism, also known as the Papal Schism or the Great Schism, saw multiple claimants to the papal throne, leading to a split within the Catholic Church.
1380: Death of John Wycliffe
- John Wycliffe, an English theologian, and reformer, died. He is known for his early efforts to translate the Bible into English and his criticism of the Church's wealth and practices.
1382-1415: The Council of Constance
- The Council of Constance was convened to resolve the Western Schism. It eventually elected Pope Martin V as the sole pope, ending the schism.
1397: Jan Hus' Appointment as Rector
- Jan Hus, a Czech reformer and theologian, was appointed as the rector of Charles University in Prague.
1415: Execution of Jan Hus
- Jan Hus was tried and executed at the Council of Constance for heresy, becoming a symbol of the Hussite movement and an early precursor to the Protestant Reformation.
1417: Election of Pope Martin V
- The Council of Constance elected Pope Martin V, officially ending the Western Schism and reuniting the Catholic Church under a single pope.
1431-1439: Council of Basel
- The Council of Basel sought to address various reform issues within the Church and attempted to assert the authority of the council over the pope, leading to conflicts.
1453: Fall of Constantinople
- The Byzantine Empire fell to the Ottoman Turks, leading to the end of the Eastern Roman Empire and further separating the Eastern Orthodox and Western Catholic Churches.
We have now reached the 14th century in our ongoing series of century summaries. My Christian hero from this century is John Wycliffe--commonly hailed as "the Morning star of the Reformation." It was my privilege to produce a film on his life.
During the preparation phase of the production, our director, Tony Tew, and his family moved from London to Dorset in the south of England. One day, a woman in her eighties welcomed them to the neighborhood. She inquired about Tony's profession. He told her he was a filmmaker preparing a film on a late medieval clergyman named John Wycliffe. The dear lady was stunned and almost passed out. When she could speak, she revealed her name as Marcella Wycliffe-Thompson, the only known descendant of John Wycliffe, from the lineage of Wycliffe's sister. She had lived her life as a Christian and devout daughter of the Church of England and never once heard the life and ministry of Wycliffe emphasized. That a film would now be made on his life exceeded her fondest dreams that her ancestor would not be forgotten. What a joy it was to bring this aged woman to the set and let her meet the actors. She gazed for a long time into the face of Peter Howell, who played the role of Wycliffe, in beard and costume. Then she asked him a few questions, before turning to me to say: "Yes, that is he all right!" She, of course, had drawn her impression of Wycliffe from historic paintings just as we had in preparing the actor. - - Ken Curtis
• The Papacy, having reached its high point with Innocent III (1160-1216), begins a decline under Boniface VIII (c. 1234-1303).
• 1302--Papal bull "Unam sanctum" pronounces the highest papal claims to supremacy
• 1309-1377--"Babylonian Captivity" of papacy. Pope resides in Avignon, France, strongly under the control of the French King.
• 1378-1417--Great Schism, with two or three popes claiming authority.
• The Black Death or bubonic plague ravages Europe; 25 million Europeans, over 1/4 of the population, dies.
• Mysticism flourishes in many areas, especially Germany and the Low Countries.
• Meister Eckhardt teaches the nature of God is unknowable except through the inner knowledge of Himself God has placed in each soul.
• Catherine of Siena has a vision joining her with Christ in a mystical marriage; spends her life in serving others, including trying to end the Great Schism of the papacy.
• Seeking forgiveness from sins, bands of "flagellants" roam the countryside beating themselves as penance.
• 1305-1314--Dante writes his Divine Comedy mirroring the heights and depths of the Christianity of the 13th and 14th centuries.
• John Wycliffe transforms Oxford into the spiritual center of England. Looks to the Scriptures for authority and truth.
• 1382--Wycliffe is expelled from Oxford, translates Bible into English, and trains lay preachers to spread the Scripture.
• 1398--John Hus begins lecturing on theology at Prague University and spreads Wycliffe's ideas.
Photo: Getty/Igor Zhuravlov