Today in Christian History

January 8

January 8, 1438: In an attempt to forge an alliance that would save Constantinople from the Turks, the Orthodox and Roman Catholic churches meet at the Council of Ferrara-Florence. A temporary union was reached, but Constantinople fell anyway in 1453, ending the Byzantine Empire.

January 8, 1438: Mathematician, physicist, astronomer, and devout Roman Catholic Galileo Galilei dies in Arcetri, Italy, under house arrest by the Inquisition (see issue 76: Christian Face of the Scientific Revolution).

January 8, 1956: Missionaries Jim Elliot, Nate Saint, Roger Youderian, Ed McCully, and Pete Fleming are killed by Ecuadorean Indians they sought to evangelize. The story of the missionaries and their deaths along the Curaray River was publicized by Elliot's widow, Elisabeth, in Through Gates of Splendor, published the following year.

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December 6, 345 (traditional date): Nicholas, bishop of Myra, one of the most popular saints in the Greek and Latin churches—and Santa Claus's namesake—dies.

December 6, 1273: Following a tremendous mystical experience while conducting Mass, Thomas Aquinas suspends work on his Summa Theologica. "I can do no more," he told his servant. "Such things have been revealed to me that all that I have written seems to me as so much straw. Now I await the end of my life (see issue 73: Thomas Aquinas). ...

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