September 30, 1452: The first section of the Gutenberg Bible was finished in Mainz, Germany, by the printer Johannes Gutenberg. It is unclear when Gutenberg conceived of his Bible project, though he was clearly in production by 1452. He probably produced about 180 copies — 145 that were printed on handmade paper imported from Italy and the remainder on more luxurious and expensive vellum. Only four dozen Gutenberg Bibles remain, and of these only 21 are complete.
September 30, 1770: George Whitefield, Anglican preacher, evangelist, and major leading figure in the Great Awakening, dies. Whitefield was probably the most famous religious figure of the eighteenth century and was capable of commanding thousands on two continents through the sheer power of his oratory. In his lifetime, he preached at least 18,000 times to perhaps 10 million hearers.
December 1, 1170: Banished earlier by king Henry II because he sided with the church against the crown, archbishop of Canterbury Thomas a 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 faith ...