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Christianity / Church / Church History / Church History By Century

15th Century

Updated Oct 06, 2023
15th Century

These events represent some of the major developments in 15th-century Christian history, including the resolution of the Western Schism, the fall of Constantinople, the influence of the Renaissance on Christian thought and culture, and the beginnings of the Spanish Inquisition and pre-Reformation movements.

15th Century Christian History

  1. 1409-1418: Council of Pisa and Council of Constance

    • The Council of Pisa attempted to resolve the Western Schism, but it only added another pope. The Council of Constance (1414-1418) successfully resolved the schism by electing Pope Martin V, ending the papal split.
  2. 1415-1417: Execution of Jan Hus

    • Jan Hus, a Czech reformer, was executed at the Council of Constance for heresy, leading to increased tension between reform-minded groups and the Catholic Church.
  3. 1431-1449: Hundred Years' War

    • The Hundred Years' War between England and France, though primarily a political and territorial conflict, had religious overtones, with Joan of Arc playing a prominent role as a religious figure.
  4. 1453: Fall of Constantinople

    • The Byzantine Empire fell to the Ottoman Turks, marking the end of the Eastern Roman Empire and further dividing the Eastern Orthodox and Western Catholic Churches.
  5. Late 15th century: Renaissance

    • The Renaissance, emphasizing humanism and cultural revival, began to influence Christian thought and art, leading to significant developments in theology, art, and science.
  6. Late 15th century: Invention of the Printing Press

    • Johannes Gutenberg's invention of the printing press around 1440 allowed for the mass production of books, including the Bible, leading to increased access to religious texts.
  7. 1492: Reconquista and Columbus' Voyage

    • The Catholic Monarchs, Ferdinand and Isabella, completed the Reconquista by capturing Granada, ending centuries of Islamic rule in Spain. In the same year, Christopher Columbus made his first voyage to the Americas with the support of the Spanish crown.
  8. Late 15th century: Beginnings of the Spanish Inquisition

    • The Spanish Inquisition was established to maintain religious orthodoxy in Spain, targeting Jews, Muslims, and conversos (Jews who had converted to Christianity).
  9. Late 15th century: Papal Patronage of the Arts

    • Popes such as Nicholas V and Sixtus IV were notable patrons of the arts during the Renaissance, commissioning the construction of churches, cathedrals, and artwork.
  10. Late 15th century: Pre-Reformation Movements

    • Various reform movements and religious dissenters, such as the Lollards in England and the Hussites in Bohemia, began to question the authority and practices of the Catholic Church, laying the groundwork for the Protestant Reformation in the 16th century.

• 1414 -1417 - The Council of Constance seeks to end the Great Schism, the embarrassment of having two or three popes competing for authority and power. This same council burns Czech priest John Hus as a heretic and condemns John Wycliffe posthumously.

• Religious beliefs continue to be matters of political concern.

• Thomas a' Kempis' classic Imitation of Christ written.

• 1431 -- Joan of Arc is burned at Rouen as deemed a heretic.

• 1453 -- The Turks capture Constantinople and turn St. Sophia Basilica into a mosque. The many scholars fleeing to the West encouraged a revival of classical learning - the Renaissance.

• 1453 -- Johann Gutenberg develops his printing press and prints the first Bible.

• 1479 -- The Inquisition against heresy in Spain set up by Ferdinand and Isabella with papal approval. Under Torquemada, Jews are given three months to become Christians or leave the country.

• 1498 -- Savonarola burned. He was a great preacher of reform in Florence, Italy.

• Florence under the Medicis becomes the center of Renaissance humanism. Brunelleschi, Donatello, Michelangelo, Botticelli, and Leonardo da Vinci all create important works of art with Christian themes. At the same time the Medicis become supporters of a papacy more worldly than ever before.

• The Vatican Library is founded by Nicholas V.

• 1492 -- Columbus' voyage and a new age of exploration and Christian expansion begin.

Photo: Getty/TerryJLawrence


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