May 15, 1265: Poet and politician Dante Alighieri, author of "The Divine Comedy," is born in Florence, Italy. Dante finished the epic poem just before his death, and it was quickly recognized as brilliant. His epitaph begins: "Dante the theologian, skilled in every branch of knowledge that philosophy may cherish in her illustrious bosom" (see issue 70: Dante's Guide to Heaven and Hell).
May 15, 1525: Radical reformer Thomas Munzer is captured and many of his followers are killed in the disastrous Battle of Frankenhausen. Munzer was executed in Muhlhausen 12 days later after being tortured to force a confession. Though many of his beliefs were rejected by later, nonviolent Anabaptists, his emphasis on suffering discipleship, his rejection of infant baptism, and his call for judgment of the church became key teachings in the movement (see issue 5: The Anabaptists).
May 15, 1886: American poet Emily Dickinson, author of many poems on death, eternity, God, and the afterlife, dies. Only 7 of her 1,775 poems were published at the time.
May 15, 1948: Father Edward Flanagan, founder of the U.S. Home for Homeless Boys (later called Boys Town) in Omaha, Nebraska, dies. "There is no such thing as a bad boy," Flanagan believed.
May 15, 1984: American evangelical Francis A. Schaeffer dies in Rochester, Minnesota. Many of his books, which include The God Who is There (1968) and How Should We Then Live (1976), argue that moral relativity is responsible for social ills.
February 17, 661: Finan, bishop of Lindisfarne (an island off the eastern coast of England) who throughout his life sought to preserve Celtic customs against Roman influence, dies. Three years later, at the Synod of Whitby, Celtic Christians agreed to abide by Roman traditions. "Peter is guardian of the gates of heaven, and I shall not contradict him," said the Celtic King, Oswy (see issue 60: How the Irish Were Saved).
February 17, 1858: Waldensians, ancient "Protestants" from the Italian Alps who ...