March 18, 386: Cyril, bishop of Jerusalem from 315, dies. Best known for his series of discourses given during Lent for those to be baptized on Easter, he early on advocated the veneration of relics and argued for transubstantiation—the doctrine that the bread and wine of Communion become the actual body and blood of Christ.
March 18, 1123: The First Lateran Council opens in Rome. Convoked by Callistus II, it repeated and confirmed earlier decrees. The Western church, however, remembers its importance as being the first "ecumenical council" held in the West.
March 18, 1314: Thirty-nine Knights Templar are burned at the stake in Paris. Though few others besides Dante championed the innocence of the oft-maligned military order, most scholars now agree with him. Created to protect pilgrims going to the Holy Land, had become wealthy after the crusades. Perhaps because of jealously, they were accused of sodomy, blasphemy, and heresy (see issue 40: The Crusades).
March 18, 1861: London's Metropolitan Tabernacle, the sanctuary of English Baptist preacher Charles Haddon Spurgeon, opens. Spurgeon had insisted that the enormous building employ Greek architecture because the New Testament was written in Greek—a decision that influenced church architecture throughout the world (see issue 29: Charles Spurgeon).
March 18, 1885: The "Cambridge Seven," young aristocrats who decided to become missionaries to China—and thus became celebrities back home—arrive in Shanghai (see issue 52: Hudson Taylor).
March 24, 1208: After England's irreligious King John opposed his choice for Archbishop of Canterbury, Pope Innocent III places Britain under an interdict. Innocent had all religious services canceled, churches closed, and the dead were not given Christian burials until John surrendered. Soon after, the king signed the Magna Carta, in which the first article affirms "That the Church of England shall be free . . .
March 24, 1816: Methodist Bishop Francis Asbury, age 71, preaches his last sermon. ...