Thursday, July 7, 2022

Today on the Almanac, we head back to the 15th century to a French king who wanted his reformation of the church.

*** This is a rough transcript of today’s show ***

It is the 7th of July 2022. Welcome to the Christian History Almanac brought to you by 1517 at; I’m Dan van Voorhis.

With significant events, we look at the immediate causes- the thing that marks the beginning of a movement. We have favorite heroes and dates, and I’ll let you pick your favorite. Here in America we just celebrated the 4th of July, and I work for a company called 1517…, so you get the idea. But what about remote causes? What about deeper historical context?

Today we have some of that for you- we head today to a time late in the Middle Ages, before the Reformation, when the entire Kingdom of France decided to have a little reformation of their own. This is the story of King Charles VII of France.

He’s a fascinating character in his own right- Charles was the son of King Charles VI of France. Charles VI was a king during some of the worst moments in Medieval French history- namely, the battle at Agincourt (this is where the English get their famous victory and the St. Crispin’s Day speech, made famous by its reference to wee “Band of Brothers”). Nevertheless, it went terribly for the King, whose crown would now go to the English. Charles VII was determined, however, to be king. But his father's weakness and eventual insanity lead to division within France.

Charles VII tried to rule, but a rival faction occupied the capital, and Charles fled to Bourges, where he attempted to lead but with little authority or leverage. The English defeated the French at Orlean, and all seemed lost. Enter Joan of Arc. Her story is for another time, but the confidence she inspired and the army she helped lead would reinvigorate the French people and the king. Charles was welcomed back to the capital, officially crowned, and now able to raise the tax revenue needed to fight a war.

But, English was only a temporal problem. Charles and the French had a spiritual issue with the Pope. And just as France had been ravaged by controversy and war in the late Middle Ages, so was the Catholic Church. The church had to deal with its Papal Schism (when there were three popes at once). The church had to deal with the Hussites in Bohemia and their call to reform. The church had to deal with successive councils that claimed it was them, not the pope, who had absolute authority. And the church had the specter of the encroaching Ottomans who would soon sack Constantinople.

And so, with the Pope on the ropes, Charles VII decided to make a power play. It was on the 7th of July in 1438 that Charles VII of France decreed his Pragmatic Sanction at Bourges, a document that severely limited the power of the Pope in the French church.

The pragmatic sanction called for the election of French church officials in France instead of positions being set by Papal fiat. French church cases were to be tried in a French church court- not sent to Rome. Taxes sent to Rome from France were suspended, and the King affirmed the Council of Basel's controversial teachings in elevating the Councils' authority over the Pope.

The Pragmatic Sanctions at Bourges decreed on this day in 1438 put a considerable strain between the Papacy and the French Kingdom. The pragmatic sanctions proved ineffective, but Francis I of France and the Pope would develop a mutually beneficial agreement with the Concordat of Bologna signed in 1516. It would be too little too late, and the age of Reformations would commence.

The Last Word for today comes from the lectionary for today from James 2:

14 What good is it, my brothers and sisters, if someone claims to have faith but has no deeds? Can such faith save them? 15 Suppose a brother or a sister is without clothes and daily food. 16 If one of you says to them, “Go in peace; keep warm and well fed,” but does nothing about their physical needs, what good is it? 17 In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead.

18 But someone will say, “You have faith; I have deeds.”

Show me your faith without deeds, and I will show you my faith by my deeds. 19 You believe that there is one God. Good! Even the demons believe that—and shudder.

This has been the Christian History Almanac for the 7th of July 2022, brought to you by 1517 at

The show is produced by a man whom you will hear on an upcoming episode of the Weekend Edition- he is Christopher Gillespie.

The show is written and read by a man who is depressed by the dumb Angels but also in first place in 2 fantasy baseball leagues… so… I’m Dan van Voorhis.

You can catch us here every day- and remember that the rumors of grace, forgiveness and the redemption of all things are true…. Everything is going to be ok.

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