Historia Ecclesiae

Patristic Era (33 - 476)

St. Paul to the Laodiceans: Brief history of the apocryphal Epistle of St. Paul to the Laodiceans, an early forgery that was nonetheless accepted by a surprising number of medieval theologians. Its legitimacy was debated until as recently as 1600; includes a link to the spurious epistle.

Shepherd of Hermas: The 2nd century Shepherd of Hermas presents the Church as a Tower composed of living stones of various shapes and functions. This article examines the particularly Catholic elements of the document as well as some ambiguous or questionable passages.

Christianity and Mithraism: Is it true that Christianity borrowed many of its core tenets from a pre-Christian pagan religion called Mithraism? Epigraphic evidence and historical consensus actually establish that Christianity predates Mithraism and that Mithraism is Roman, not Persian, in origin.

Julian the Apostate & Religious Liberty: When the last pagan emperor of Rome wanted to really strike a blow at the heart of Christianity, it was not the sword, but religious liberty that he turned to. What was his motivation?

Meletius and St. Peter of Alexandria: The famous tale of the martyr St. Peter of Alexandria and his conduct towards the heretic Meletius while imprisoned, and how is demonstrates the falsity of the modern opinion that alliances with non-Catholic groups against larger social problems are a positive thing.

Canonization and the Early Church: In this extensive article, we will examine the nature of canonizations in the Early Church (focusing in on the period of the martyrs) in order to draw some insights on current disputed points.

The Evolution of Constantine
: Constantine is an enigma to historians. To what degree was his patronizing of the Christian Church due to true piety and to what degree was it political maneuvering? This article examines how historians have viewed Constantine throughout the ages.

Classical vs. Ecclesiastical Latin (part 1): An introduction to the difference between Classical Latin and Ecclesiastical Latin, both in terms of pronunciation and historical development.


Classical vs. Ecclesiastical Latin (part 2): A review of the development of Latin from classical to medieval/ecclesiastical, the reason for this development, and reasons why Catholics should prefer the ecclesiastical form of Latin to the classical form that is being pushed by university classics programs.

The Truth About Priestly Continence and Celibacy in the Early Church: Very thorough examination of the discipline of clerical continence in the Early Church. While the Early Church allowed married clerics, they never allowed sexually active clerics.

 Council of Ancyra and Celibacy: Examining a controversial canon from the Council of Ancyra (314) and whether or not it taught that bishops could give deacons permission to enter into marriage subsequent to ordination.


The Obedience of St. Athanasius: Athanasius is often invoked as an example of "justified disobedience." This association is absolutely unfounded, as Athanasius was always obedient to ecclesiastical authority, even when it was used to persecute him unjustly.

"That the seat of Peter might not be dishonored by the occupancy of two bishops": A strange episode from the reign of Constantius II when an Italian synod tried to convince a pope and anti-pope to both share the chair of St. Peter and the Roman Church recoils in horror at the suggestion that there could be two popes.

Fenestellae: Explaining the versus populum orientation of certain Roman basilicas as related to the access to martyrs tombs demanded by popular piety and the fenestellae windows that made this access possible.

St. Patrick's Lent on Cruachan-Aighle: The beautiful narrative of the Lent St. Patrick spent on Croagh-Patrick in the year 441, in which Patrick wept for the sins of men and was granted extraordinary favors by God. Taken from the Tripartite Life of St. Patrick.


Early Medieval (476-1066)

Infallibility and the Case of Pope Vigilius. A very thorough explanation of the controversial case of Pope Vigilius and the schism of the Three Chapters, explaining why Pope Vigilius was never actually condemned for heresy and why his example is a poor argument against papal infallibility.


Pantheon and All Saints: The institution of the solemnity of All Saints as a universal feast is forever associated with the Pantheon in Rome. In this essay we explain the political and religious background of the dedication of the Pantheon as a Christian Church in the year 609.


Quinisext Council in Trullo and Priestly Celibacy: The origin of the Eastern Orthodox custom of maintaining sexually active married priests is not apostolic but dates to the 7th century Quinisext Council in Trullo.


Tarik to His Muslim Hordes: On the ever of the Muslim conquest of Spain, the Moorish commander Tarik encourages his men with promise of rapine and sensual delight in Allah's jihad against Visigothic Spain.

Sacred Kingship and the Carolingians. How the concept of sacred kingship, so prevalent in the high middle ages, was developed by the propagandists of the Carolingian empire for the purpose of bolstering the authority of the Carolingian monarch.


Coronation of Charlemagne: The background of the famous imperial coronation of Charlemagne by Pope Leo III on Christmas Day of the year 800, as well as its short and long-term effects on Christendom and European history.

Four Contributions of the Cluniacs: In 910, William of Aquitaine founded the monastery of Cluny, which would eventually lead to the reformation of the Church and the transformation of medieval society. This article examines four ways the Cluniacs Christianized feudalism.

What happened in 1054? We all know that 1054 marks the beginning of the unfortunate schism between the East and the West. But, canonically speaking, what really happened that year? Some have posited the interesting position that the schism did not begin in 1054 and that what actually happened in 1054 was inconsequential canonically.

Life in Medieval Cluny: Founded in 910, the Abbey of Cluny became the center of the most important reform movement in high medieval Catholicism. What was life like inside the monastery? How was Cluny organized?

High Medieval (1066-1215)

Dictatus PapaeRevisiting Dictatus Papae: This pivotal document from the Gregorian papacy spelled out papal policy during the Investiture Controversy and made some of the most remarkable claims about papal power in the history of the Church. What does this document really say, and to what degree is it binding today?

Catholicism and Medievalism
: A very general article reminding us of the contributions of the medieval world and an appeal for all Catholics to become medievalists.

Berengar and His Importance
: Synopsis of the background and details of the 11th century controversy over the heresy of Berengar (Berengarius) of Tours, who denied Transubstantiation and whose heresy occasioned a rich development in sacramental theology.

St. Malachy: Case for Authenticity Malachy: Case for Authenticity: Lengthy article offering the historical arguments in favor of a 12th century origin of the famous prophecy of the popes, attributed to St. Malachy of Armagh.

Capuciati and the Peace of Aquitaine (1183): Brief outline of the Capuciati movement of southern France in the late 12th century.



Orderic Vitalis and Curly-Toe Shoes: The 12th century monastic historian Orderic Vitalis waxes eloquent about the effeminacy of curly-toed shoes and other fashions of Normandy in the 12th century.


Miracle at Mont-St-Michel: From the 15th century miraculous anthology of Johann Herolt, the Blessed Virgin Mary rescues a pregnant woman from drowning in the sea before Mont. St-Michel.

Religion and Culture in Frankish Syria: Examining the religion and culture of the Latin Frankish kingdom of Jerusalem during the height of the crusading movement (1099-1187), emphasizing the distinction between the attitudes of the short-term Crusading armies and the long-term colonists who made Palestine their home.

Innocent III: Ten Reasons Why A Man Should Not Get Married: Excerpts from Pope Innocent III's classic 1198 work "On the Misery of the Human Condition" in which the future pontiff pleads with men not to get married and offers ten arguments against matrimony.

Crusaders and Conversion: Examining the question of whether or not the Crusaders engaged in the forceful conversion of Muslims to Christianity.

Late Medieval (1215-1517)

Cathar Apocalypticism: An examination of the apocalyptic beliefs of the medieval Cathar heretics; or, more precisely, the lack of a coherent system of Cathar apocalyptic dogmas, founded on their inherent Manichaean mistrust of a material universe, and hence, a material destruction of that universe.

A Visit to Greenland's Hvalsey Church: Where can we find the westernmost boundary of Latin Christendom in the high middle ages? At the desolate ruins of Hvalsey parish church on the southermost tip of Greenland.


Battle of Belgrade: 1456: After the fall of Constantinople in 1453, the Turkish advance did not simply cease; Mehmet II, the victor of Constantinople, geared up his forces for an invasion of the Catholic Balkans. This is the story of the pivotal Battle of Belgrade in 1456 and the great Catholic Hungarian warrior Janos Hunyadi.

Gesta Romanorum: The Severed Foot: A medieval moral treatise uses the example of a knight's cruelty to his peasant to demonstrate God's justice in how He disposes the fates of men.

Protestant Revolt (1517-1588)

Glosses Reveal a Gnostic Luther: A series of recently compiled glosses and notes of Martin Luther reveal a man obsessed with Gnostic concepts who was disdainful of St. Augustine and more heretical than previously thought on questions of Christology.

Prayer Book Rebellion (1549): When Cranmer and Protector Somerset attempt to forcibly introduce the English liturgy of the Book of Common Prayer in Devon and Cornwall in 1549, the Catholics go absolutely berserk.

How Mary Queen of Scots Could Have Kept Her Throne: A critical look at nine pivotal decisions made by Mary Queen of Scots during her brief reign as Queen of Scotland (1561-1567) and how, had those choices been made differently, Mary could have kept her throne.

Exorcism of Nicola Aubrey: A very public exorcism in 16th century France expels the devil by the power of the Blessed Sacrament and converts scores of local Protestants who acknowledge the Real Presence and the power of the Catholic rite.

St. Bartholomew's Day Massacre Death Toll: Very thorough and well-documented article and examining the question of how many people were killed in the St. Bartholomew Day Massacre, arriving at the conclusion that the death toll for this event has been vastly exaggerated.

Roman Frescoes and the English Martyrs: The fascinating story of how some 16th century frescoes at the English College in Rome helped the English Church get scores of its martyrs of the reformation-era beatified.

History of the Devil's Advocate: A broad history of canonizations in the second millennium, demonstrating how the office of Advocatus Diaboli emerged out of the Decrtist movement, the role of the Advoctaus Diaboli, and how canonizations have changed since the downgrading of the office in 1982.

Post-Tridentine Period (1588-1870)

Jesuit Martyrs of Virginia: A brief history of the mission of Fr. Segura in Virginia and the first Jesuit martyrs to grace the shores of North America with their blood.

Papal Coins of the Renaissance and Baroque: Examination of some samples of the coinage of the Papal States from 1447-1689, including biographical notes about their designers and the popes who had them minted.

Milton the Catholic: Not John Milton, but his brother Christopher, a convert to Roman Catholicism and a Lord of the Exchequer. Another Catholic standing in the shadow of a Protestant relative!


Kateri: Lily at the Foot of the Cross: The first Native-American saint was not a role model for ecologists, feminists and New Agers; she was a devoted bride of Christ who clung to her Savior wholeheartedly in holy penitence.

Anti-Catholicism in the Salem Witch Trials: The famous Salem Witch Trials of 1692 actually have their origin in the profoundly unjust trial and execution of Catholic Ann Glover in 1688, tried and put to death as a witch due to anti-Catholic prejudice.

Benedict XIV Non Ambigimus: English translation of the 1741 encyclical on the proper observance of the Lenten fast.

Convulsionaries (1759): A fascinating article on the bizarre French charismatic movement of the 18th century, centered around the cemetery of St. Medard in Paris, its Jansenist inspiration and sadomasochistic tendencies; drawn from primary sources.

What is Jansensim?: An introduction to the historical and theological background to the most controversial and persistent heresy of the immediate post-Tridentine period - the teachings of Cornelius Jansen as found in his work Augustinus.

Great Storm of August, 1792: The very day the radical Jacobins arrested Louis XVI and inaugurated the anti-Catholic Reign of Terror, a fearsome thunderstorm of uncommon intensity and an almost supernatural intelligence struck Paris and overthrew the crosses of the city's churches.

Whitman Massacre (1847) In 1847, the Cayuse Indians of Oregon massacred a local doctor and twelve others in belief that the settlers were responsible for a smallpox outbreak. After the massacre, the condemned Indians embraced the Catholic Faith with the unintended consequences that for half a century the Catholics of the region were falsely accused of inciting the massacre.

 Di Rossi Finds the Catacomb of Callixtus (1848). Account of the finding of the famous catacomb of Callixtus by the great Giovanni Battista Di Rossi, the Father of Christian archaeology - also contains some humorous anecdotes about Pius IX.

Modern Period (1870-Today)

Understanding the Kulturkampf: Brief history of the unsuccessful attempt of the German Imperial Chancellor Otto von Bismarck to destroy the power of the Catholic Church in Prussia between 1871-1878 in the tumultuous struggle known as the Kulturkampf.

Affaires des Fiches (1904-1905): The important but much neglected Masonic conspiracy known as the Affaire des Fiches, in which French Freemasons working within the French government conspired to deny Catholic military officers and civil servants promotion.

 Theory of the Hijacked Council: Shortly before his abdication, Pope Benedict XVI reflected on what went wrong with the implementation of the Second Vatican Council. While he offers some very valid insights on the "virtual Council" of the media, we also need to take into account that this virtual Council was in large part promoted and promulgated by the Church herself.

Council Fathers on Ambiguity in Vatican II: The charge that the documents of the Second Vatican Council contain dangerous ambiguities do not originate with modern traditionalist critiques; rather, they stem from the statements of the Council Fathers themselves.

Blessed John's Lost Legacy: For most progressives, "Good Pope John" is the model of their ideal tolerant, non-judgmental, inclusive pope. Yet this assessment of Pope John XXIII is not reflected in the pontiff's writings, which forcefully insist on the necessity of belonging to the Catholic Church and submitting to the Bishop of Rome.

Original Vatican II Schemas: Four of the discarded original schemas of Vatican II have been translated into English by a priest of Marquette University. These are the documents prepared by Cardinal Ottaviani's Preparatory Commission which the Council Fathers thought were too rigid and scholastic. Read them online here!

Understanding the Herzegovina Question (1975-present): An objective understanding of what is really going on in the Bosnian village of Medjugorje depends upon a proper understanding of the historical context of the "Herzegovinia Question", a dispute between the Bosnian Franciscans and the diocesan clergy going back to the time of Leo XIII.

John Paul II Admits 1984 Consecration Invalid : Following his March, 1984 consecration of the whole world to the Immaculate Heart of Mary, Pope John Paul II uttered some off the cuff remarks that have been taken by many to insinuate that not even the Pope himself believed his 1984 consecration of the world fulfilled the requirements given by Our Lady of Fatima.

The Balamand Conference (1993): In 1993, prelates of the Roman Catholic Church and representatives of the Orthodox communion met at the monastery of Balamand in Lebanon to discuss the fate of Christianity in the former Soviet bloc. The resulting document was a stunning disregard for traditional Catholic ecclesiology and an erosion of the rights of the Church in the East that continues to stunt Catholic missionary efforts in the East to this day.

Bl. "Pino" Puglisi: The life and martyrdom of Blessed Giuseppe "Pino" Puglisi, a Sicilian priest martyred by the Mafia in 1993 for courageously opposing the Mafia domination of his city despite the silence of many of the clergy. He was beatified by Pope Francis in 2013.