December 1, 1170: Banished earlier by King Henry II because he sided with the church against the crown, archbishop of Canterbury Thomas Becket returns, electrifying all of England. Henry orders his former friend's execution, and Becket is slain by four knights while at vespers December 29. (T.S. Eliot's play Murder in the Cathedral is a fascinating exploration of the event.)
December 1, 1521: Pope Leo X, enemy of Martin Luther (whom he excommunicated in 1520), dies. Though sincere in his faith and morally stronger than some other medieval popes, Leo squandered much of the papal fortune for his own pleasure (see issue 34: Luther's Early Years).
December 1, 1917: Father Ed Flanagan founds Boys Town, a home for orphaned or delinquent children, in Omaha, Nebraska.
December 1, 1989: Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev and Pope John Paul II meet at the Vatican, announcing an agreement to reestablish diplomatic ties. Gorbachev also denounced 70 years of religious oppression in his country (see issue 18: Russian Christianity).
March 27, 1667: English poet John Milton publishes Paradise Lost, an epic of humankind's creation and fall.