October 3, 1226: Francis of Assisi, preacher and mystic who created monastic communities for men and women devoted to poverty and serving the poor, dies (see issue 42: Francis of Assisi).
October 3, 1692: Puritan clergy in Salem, Massachusetts, agree there would be no more executions resulting from the witch trials. More than 150 suspected witches had been put on trial in the previous year, and 19 had been hanged (see issue 41: The American Puritans).
October 3, 1789: George Washington names November 26 as a day of national thanksgiving for the ratification of the Constitution. On the same date in 1863, Abraham Lincoln designates the last Thursday in November as Thanksgiving Day.
December 1, 1170: Banished earlier by King Henry II because he sided with the church against the crown, archbishop of Canterbury Thomas Becket returns, electrifying all of England. Henry orders his former friend's execution, and Becket is slain by four knights while at vespers December 29. (T.S. Eliot's play Murder in the Cathedral is a fascinating exploration of the event.)
December 1, 1521: Pope Leo X, enemy of Martin Luther (whom he excommunicated in 1520), dies. Though sincere in his ...