February 21, 1109: Anselm, the Archbishop of Canterbury recognized as the "founder of Scholasticism," dies. One of the most profound thinkers of the Middle Ages, his treatise Why Did God Become Man was the greatest medieval treatise on the atonement. He is also known for his ontological argument for the existence of God.
February 21, 1142: Medieval French philosopher, teacher, and theologian Peter Abelard dies. Perhaps best known for his (chaste) love affair with nun Heloise, Abelard made his most important contribution in establishing a critical methodology for theology. Irritated with some of the unreasoning pietism of other monks, he wrote Yes and No, compiling the (sometimes conflicting) sayings of the Bible and church fathers on various controversial subjects (see issue 30: Women in the Medieval Church).
February 21, 1173: Pope Alexander III canonizes Thomas a Becket three years after the Archbishop of Canterbury's martyrdom at the hands of King Henry II's knights.
February 21, 1431: Pierre Cauchon, bishop of Beauvais, begins his interrogation of young Joan of Arc. She was eventually condemned as a heretic and burned at the stake (see issue 30: Women in the Medieval Church).
February 21, 1801: John Henry Newman, Anglican leader of the Oxford Movement, is born in London. The movement sought to reform the Church of England in a "high church" direction, but Newman left the church in 1845 to become a Catholic—a choice he explained in his Apologia pro Vita Sua (1864).
February 21, 1945: Eric Liddell, the Scottish Olympian whose story is told in the film Chariots of Fire, dies of a brain tumor. In 1925, he had joined the staff of the Anglo-Chinese Christian College in Tientsin, China (his birthplace). He was captured by the Japanese in 1942 and died just before his scheduled release.