Christian History Timeline: Everyday Faith in the Middle Ages



1000 Society composed of three orders: those who pray, those who fight, those who work

1073–1085 Pope Gregory VII presses to end simony (sale of church offices), enforce clerical celibacy, and establish papal supremacy

1095 Pope Urban II calls for a crusade to aid Eastern Christians threatened by Muslims


c. 1150 Universities of Paris and Bologna founded; they take the lead in scholastic theology and canon law

1198–1216 Innocent III, greatest lawyer pope, raises papacy’s power to its height


1215 Fourth Lateran Council declares transubstantiation, obliges Christians to confess sins and receive Communion once a year, and proclaims a crusade against heretical Cathars

1294 In reaction to church legalism and bureaucracy, pious hermit Peter Morone is elected pope (Celestine V); after five disastrous months, he resigns


1300 Pope Boniface VIII proclaims first jubilee year; offers plenary indulgence to pilgrims who come to Rome; thousands come

1305–1377 The “Babylonian Captivity”—the pope resides at Avignon, France

1377 Pope returns to Rome; the next year Great Papal Schism opens—Christendom divided between two (and after 1409, three) rival popes


1414–1418 The Council of Constance restores church unity; burns Jan Hus for heresy.



c. 1000 Christian laity seek a more active religious role

c. 1050 Growing popularity of pilgrimages to Rome, Santiago de Compostela (in Spain), and the Holy Land

1096 Peter the Hermit leads the “People’s Crusade” to disaster


Mid–1100s Cathar and Waldensian movements spread

Bernard of Clairvaux inspires reform in the Cistercian order


c. 1200 The doctrine of purgatory takes shape

Early 1200s Francis of Assisi and Dominic of Calaruega found religious orders dedicated to apostolic poverty and preaching

Growing devotion to Communion leads to creation of Feast of Corpus Christi

Mid–1200s Flagellant processions spread and inspire lay religious societies (confraternities)

Late 1200s Thousands of masses endowed for the dead in purgatory


1347–1350 Black Death kills one-third of Europe, sparking flagellant processions and attacks on Jews

Late 1300s The Lollard movement, inspired by John Wycliffe, spreads

Female visionaries flourish: Catherine of Siena, Bridget of Sweden, and Julian of Norwich


Early 1400s Reform movements sweep through religious orders



1098 Anselm writes Why Did God Become Man?


c. 1100 Romanesque art represents Christ in majesty and the Virgin enthroned

1121 Abelard publishes Yes and No

1141 Hildegard of Bingen first writes of her visions

Late 1100s Gothic architecture celebrates God’s glory in soaring vaults and stained glass


1260 Chartres Cathedral finished

1273 Thomas Aquinas leaves Summa Theologica unfinished

Late 1200s Artists depict Jesus as one who suffers


1305 Dante begins Divine Comedy

1386 Chaucer begins Canterbury Tales


1418 First appearance of Thomas Kempis’s The Imitation of Christ

1455 First printed Bible by Gutenberg


By Daniel Bornstein

[Christian History originally published this article in Christian History Issue #49 in 1996]

Daniel Bornstein is associate professor of history at Texas A&M University. He is author of The Bianchi of 1399: Popular Devotion in Late Medieval Italy (Cornell, 1993).
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