Today in Christian History

December 12

December 12, 1189: King Richard I "the Lion Hearted" leaves England on the Third Crusade to retake Jerusalem, which had fallen to Muslim general Saladin in 1187 (see issue 40: The Crusades).

December 12, 1582: Spanish General Fernando Alvarez de Toledo (also known as the Duke of Alva) dies. The duke had been sent, along with 10,000 troops, by King Philip II of Spain to quell the Reformation in Holland. The duke's "Council of Blood" was responsible for some 18,000 deaths.

December 12, 1667: The Council of Moscow deposes Russian Orthodox Patriarch Nikon. A "man of great ability and sincerity but of autocratic temper," according to one historian, his calls for liturgical reform grew into a fight over the relationship between church and state. Though deposed at the council, banished, and imprisoned for 14 years, his liturgical reforms were sanctioned. In 1681, he was recalled to Moscow by the new tsar, but he died on the way. He was buried with patriarchal honors and all decrees against him were revoked (see issue 18: Russian Christianity).

December 12, 1712: The colony of South Carolina requires "all persons whatsoever" to attend church each Sunday and refrain from skilled labor and travel. Violators of the "Sunday Law" could be fined 10 shillings or locked in the stocks for two hours.

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February 27, 280: Constantine, the first Roman emperor converted to Christianity, is born. Though some scholars question the authenticity of Constantine's conversion (which came after he saw a vision on the battlefield), the emperor did seek to settle church controversies by calling the Council of Nicea in 325 (see issue 57: Converting the Empire).

February 27, 380: Roman emperor Theodosius makes Christianity the official law of the land. "It is our will," he decreed, "that all the peoples we rule ...

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