March 21, 547: Italian monk Benedict, author of the Benedictine rule (which established the pattern for European monastic life through the Middle Ages), dies at Monte Cassino. In 1965 Pope Paul VI proclaimed him the patron saint of Europe.
March 21, 1146: At the urging of Bernard of Clairvaux (one of the most famous theologians and monks of his day), France's King Louis VII announces he will lead the Second Crusade to regain the crusader capital of Edessa. When he failed two years later, Christians were devastated that a crusade preached by a moral exemplar and led by royalty could fail (see issue 24: Bernard of Clairvaux and issue 40: The Crusades).
March 21, 1556: After denying earlier forced recantations, Anglican Archbishop of Canterbury Thomas Cranmer, a crucial figure in the English Reformation and author of the Book of Common Prayer, is burned at the stake by Queen Mary. He reportedly thrust his arm into the flames, saying the hand that had signed the recantations should be the first to burn (see issue 48: Thomas Cranmer).
March 21, 1685: German organist and composer Johann Sebastian Bach is born in Eisenach, Germany. Though largely unrecognized in his day and forgotten for years after his death, he has since become recognized as one of history's unequalled musical masters. But music was never just music to Bach. Nearly three-fourths of his 1,000 compositions were written for use in worship. Between his musical genius, his devotion to Christ, and the effect of his music, he has gained recognition in many circles as the "Fifth Evangelist.
March 21, 1656: James Ussher, calvinist theologian and archbishop of Armagh, Ireland, dies. Famous for his chronology of the Bible (which placed the creation of the world in 4004 B.C.), he also created a history of the Latin Church and the articles of faith for the Church in Ireland. Respected by Christians of all traditions, he was given a state funeral and buried in Westminster Abbey.
March 21, 1788: Charles Wesley, brother of John and author of 8,989 hymns (including "Hark! The Herald Angels Sing," "And Can It Be," "O for a Thousand Tongues to Sing," "Love Divine, All Loves Excelling," "Jesus, Lover of My Soul," "Christ the Lord Is Risen Today," "Soldiers of Christ, Arise," and "Rejoice! the Lord Is King!"), dies at age 81 (see issue 2: John Wesley, issue 31: Golden Age of Hmyns, and issue 69: Charles and John Wesley).
March 21, 1844: William Miller's first proposed date of Christ's return—between March 21, 1843, and March 21, 1844—ends with little fanfare. Miller soon changed the date to October 22, 1844, but when that passed his followers became disillusioned and premillennialism experienced a massive setback. The Adventist churches grew from the Millerite movement (see issue 61: The End of the World).
March 21, 1871: Journalist Henry M. Stanley, on assignment for the New York Herald, begins his search for David Livingstone in Africa. After he found him (and uttered the famous words "Dr. Livingstone, I presume?"), the Scottish missionary converted him. Stanley was persuaded to return to Africa years later to continue missionary work and exploration (see issue 56: David Livingstone).
March 21, 1900: After the death of its founder, evangelist Dwight L. Moody, Chicago's Bible Institute for Home and Foreign Missions changes its name to Moody Bible Institute (see issue 25: D.L. Moody).
April 23, 1073: Hildebrand is elected pope, taking the name Gregory VII. The first pope to excommunicate a ruler (Henry IV), Gregory was driven out of Rome in 1084. "I have loved righteousness and hated iniquity," were his last words, "therefore I died in exile.
April 23, 1538: John Calvin and William Farel (whom Calvin was assisting) are banished from Geneva. The day before, Easter Sunday, both had refused to administer communion, saying the city was too full of vice to partake. Three years later, ...