Columbus and Christianity in the Americas: Christian History Timeline

The Americas

1492–1521 Initial Contact

1492 Oct. 12, Columbus lands in the Americas

1493 Pope Alexander VI divides discovered lands between Portugal and Spain

1502 First black slaves arrive in the Americas

1503 Queen Isabella permits the encomienda system in Hispaniola

1508 Papal bull gives Spanish crown nearly total control of the church in the Americas

1511 Antonio Montesinos protests treatment of Indians in Hispaniola

1514 Bartolomé de Las Casas dedicates his life to defending the Indians

1519—1521 Cortés conquers the Aztecs of Mexico

1521–1551 Early Missions

1524 Twelve Franciscans (“Twelve Apostles of New Spain”) arrive in Mexico; Dominicans follow within decade

1527 Juan de Zumárraga appointed bishop of Mexico City and “protector of the Indians”

1530 Diocese of Mexico City created; African slaves now imported in large numbers

1531 Virgin Mary said to appear to Juan Diego, beginning cult of the Virgin of Guadalupe

1531–1533 Francisco Pizarro conquers the Incas of Peru; Dominicans begin evangelizing Peru

1537 Pope declares Indians are rational creatures capable of receiving Christianity

1542–43 The New Laws, designed to protect Indians, enacted (but rarely enforced)

1549 Jesuits come to Brazil and soon found reducciones, Indian villages

1550–51 Las Casas and Sepúlveda debate the justice of Spain’s conquest of the Americas

1551–1600 Church Consolidation

1551 First Council of Bishops in Lima, Peru, begins organizing Latin American church

1553 University of Mexico founded. With University Of Lima (1522), first major universities in New World

1562 Luis Beltrán, America’s first saint, begins ministry on behalf of Indians in Colombia

1570—71 Inquisition formally set up in Peru and Mexico

1581 Toribio Alfonso de Mogrovejo becomes archbishop of Lima and serves the Indians

1582—83 Third Council of Lima institutes catechisms in Indian languages and other church reforms

1600–1810 Resurgence & Affluence

1605 In Paraguay, Jesuits begin their most successful reducciones

1610 Mission of Santa Fe (New Mexico) established; Pedro Claver, “Slave to the Negroes,” begins ministry in Colombia

1691—1711 Eusebio Kino works with Indians in New Mexico and Arizona

1718 In Texas, the San Antonio mission (the Alamo) founded

1767 Jesuits, suspected of holding too much power and wealth, are expelled from Spanish dominions by order of King Charles III

1769 In California, Franciscan Junípero Serra founds mission at San Diego; eventually 21 missions established

1807–08 Napoleon Bonaparte invades Spain and Portugal, becoming a catalyst for Latin American independence movements

World Events

1492–1521 Initial Contact

1492 Ferdinand and Isabella’s forces drive Moors from Spain

1500 First black-lead pencils used in England

1512 Michelangelo paints the Sistine Chapel

1517 Luther publishes his Ninety-Five Theses

1519 Charles of Spain elected Holy Roman Emperor; Magellan begins first round- the-world voyage; da Vinci dies

1521–1551 Early Missions

1525 In Germany, Anabaptist movement begins

1527 Machiavelli dies

1531 The “Great Comet” (Halley’s Comet) creates stir

1534 Henry VIII named head of English church

1536 John Calvin’s Institutes of the Christian Religion

1540 Jesuit order approved by the Pope

1543 Copernicus’s Revolutions of Heavenly Bodies

1545–1563 Council of Trent reforms the Catholic church

1551–1600 Church Consolidation

1559 John Knox returns turns to Scotland and begins Scottish Reformation

1561 Tulips from the Far East first come to Europe

1565 Teresa of Avila’s Way of Perfection

1567 Two million Indians in South America die of typhoid fever

1588 England defeats Spanish Armada, marking the end of Spanish domination of the seas

1600–1810 Resurgence & Affluence

1605 Shakespeare’s MacBeth

1611 King James Bible published

1620 Pilgrims found Plymouth Colony

1648 Peace of Westphalia concludes European wars of religion

1678 Bunyan’s Pilgrim’s Progress

1687 Newton’s Principia

1738 John and Charles Wesley’s conversions

1740 The Great Awakening peaks

1742 Handel’s Messiah

1776 Declaration of Independence; Adam Smith’s Wealth of Nations

1789 The French Revolution; U.S. Constitution and Bill of Rights

By Thomas S. Giles

[Christian History originally published this article in Christian History Issue #35 in 1992]

Thomas S. Giles is project editor for Christianity Today.
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