April 7, 1199: England's King Richard I, the "Lionhearted," dies at age 41. Richard, as one of the three leaders of the Third Crusade, negotiated Christian access to Jerusalem (see issue 40: The Crusades).
April 7, 1498: Franciscan friars arrange an "ordeal by fire" in Florence to settle the dispute between reforming preacher Jerome Savonarola and Pope Alexander VI. Alexander had excommunicated Savonarola for preaching against papal corruption; Savonarola responded by calling for the pope to step down. If Savonarola's friend Fra Domenico could walk safely between two walls of fire, God was supposedly on the Florentine city-manager's side. But Savonarola never sent Domenico out. The crowd rioted, Savonarola's power crumbled, and he was soon arrested, tortured, and executed.
April 7, 1541: On his thirty-fifth birthday, Francis Xavier, cofounder of the Society of Jesus (Jesuits), sets sail from Lisbon, Portugal, for Goa, India. The first Roman Catholic missionary there, he also traveled to Japan, Sri Lanka, and other countries in Asia. It is hard to say how many people Xavier, the Roman Catholic patron saint of all missions, converted; the figure goes as high as 1 million, but modern scholars peg the number around 30,000. Jesuits claim 700,000.
May 26, 1521: The Edict of Worms formally condemns Martin Luther's teachings and he is put under the ban of the Holy Roman Emperor. Those who fear for his life then kidnap Luther and hide him in Frederick’s Wartburg castle (see issue 34: Luther's Early Years).
May 26, 1232: Pope Gregory IX sends the first Inquisition team to Aragon (in present-day Spain).
May 26, 1647: Massachusetts enacts a law forbidding any Jesuit or Roman Catholic priest from entering Puritan jurisdictions. Second-time ...