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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May 20, 325: Emperor Constantine convenes the first Ecumenical Council in Nicea (now Iznik), Bithynia, to discuss Arianism, a heresy arguing that Christ was subordinate to God the Father. "I entreat you," Constantine said at the opening of the Council of Nicea, "to remove the causes of dissension among you and to establish peace." The council attempted to resolve the bitter conflict by anathematizing Arius (Arianism's founder) and ordering the burning of all his books, but the conflict continued ...

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