September 25, 1534: Pope Clement VII dies. An unpopular pope, Clement failed to halt Luther's reformation or to implement his own reforms in the Catholic church. Henry VIII asked Clement VII to annul his marriage with Catherine of Aragon. The pope's reluctance led to Henry VIII's break from Catholicism (see issue 48: Thomas Cranmer).
September 25, 1555: The Peace of Augsburg is signed after the defeat of Emperor Charles V's forces by Protestant princes in Germany (1552). The official recognition of the Lutheran church in Germany, the agreement signified the dissolution of both political unity in Germany and the medieval unity of Christendom.
September 25, 1789: Congress amends The U.S. Constitution to prohibit establishment of a state church or governmental interference with the free exercise of religion.
September 25, 1872: Peter Cartwright, an indefatigable Methodist circuit rider, dies at age 97. Though he was characterized as rough, uneducated, and eccentric, his drive and physical stamina enabled him to preach throughout midwestern frontiers for 70 years (see issue 45: Camp Meetings & Circuit Riders).
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 ...