October 18, 1405: Enea Silvio Piccolomini (a.k.a. Pope Pius II) is born at Corsignano, Italy. Though faulted for taking radical and sometimes contradictory positions on issues, he was one of the best popes of his age: he wrote an important study of geography and ethnography, a popular love story, and an autobiography. He died in 1464 while planning a battle against the Turks, who controlled Constantinople.
October 18, 1685: French King Louis XIV issues the Edict of Fontainebleu, which revokes the Edict of Nantes and once again forbids Huguenots (French Protestants) from worshipping (see issue 71: Huguenots).
October 18, 1867: The United States purchases Alaska for $7.2 million, or about 2 cents an acre. Ten years later, after lax military administration had only worsened the territory's moral condition, an army private stationed in Alaska begged, "Send out a shepherd who may reclaim a mighty flock from the error of their ways, and gather them into the true fold." Presbyterian missionary Sheldon Jackson answered the call and spent decades raising funds, building schools and churches, and crusading for better laws (see issue 66: How the West Was Really Won).
May 29, 1453: Constantinople, capital of Roman Empire (and late Byzantine Empire) since Constantine founded the city in 324, falls to the Turks under Mehmed II, ending the Byzantine Empire. Muslims later rename the city Istanbul. The lavish cathedral that crowned the city, Hagia Sophia, was also converted into a mosque (see issue 74: Christians & Muslims). Today it is a museum and restoration work is being done to preserve both the Muslim and Christian layers of religious history.