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Christian History

Today in Christian History

January 17

January 17, 356 (traditional date): Antony of Egypt, regarded as the founder of Christian monasticism, dies at age 105. Committed to a life of solitude and absolute poverty, he took two companions with him into the desert when he knew his death was near. They were ordered to bury him without a marker so that his body would never become an object of reverence (see issue 64: Antony and the Desert Fathers).

January 17, 1377: Gregory XI moves the papal see from Avignon (where it had been for 72 years) back to Rome. However, when he died the next year, two men (one in Rome, the other in Avignon) both claimed to succeed him, creating "The Great Schism." (The break between eastern and western churches in 1054 is also called "The Great Schism.")

January 17, 1525: The Zurich City Council arranges a public debate on the subject of infant baptism, which Ulrich Zwingli mandated but Conrad Grebel and Felix Manz (among others) opposed on the grounds that baptism symbolizes a believer's commitment to Christ. Grebel and Manz were defeated and eventually killed for their views (see issue 4: Ulrich Zwingli).

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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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