It is the 11th of June 2020. Welcome to the Christian History Almanac brought to you by 1517 at 1517.org. I’m Dan van Voorhis.

The year was 1292. We go way back in the Wayback Machine today. We’ll take a brief look at the end of the 13th century and then circle our way back to this day in that year.

In the second part of the 1200s, there were people on the move. Despite reeling from the death of Genghis Khan, the Mongols invaded modern-day Vietnam and Russia, continuing to consolidate Asia and knocking on the door to the West. Marco Polo was traveling and, more importantly, recording and printing the fantastic tales from the East. The Ottoman Empire was first founded during this period. They, too, would be a mobile people. And not to be left out, the Ninth Crusade left for Jerusalem.

Governments were starting to change in Europe. Of course, the Magna Carta was the game changer from the first half of the century. And it was the Catalan Courts that began to function on the Iberian Peninsula in the second part of the thirteenth century. This unprecedented system for medieval Europe established courts made up of elite citizens that could check the power of the king. These courts could veto any unilateral royal decrees.

This time was also the era of institutional learning for the first time on a grand scale. The Sorbonne and Cambridge were founded to rival their slightly older sister, the University of Oxford. A primary purpose of institutionalized learning was to combat the spread of heresy, although the secondary benefits would prove to be more useful. The late 13th c. saw the invention of such things as eyeglasses and glass mirrors. And these two not only contributed to the field of optics but a kind of literature. Works of mirror literature would be titled “a mirror for students” or a “mirror for princes.” These were texts to instruct you as you behold yourself as if in a mirror, the art of self-criticism.

This was an age of both great legends such as Khan, Polo, and William Wallace, but also for great scholars and churchmen. This is the century of Francis of Assisi, Thomas Aquinas, and Dante.

And today we recognize a man who is said to have died on this date in the year 1292, Roger Bacon. The Franciscan scholar would revolutionize the sciences and write a significant work for the Pope, instructing him how to rebuild Christendom in the West through the proper use of education. Bacon studied at Oxford, where Aristotle had just been introduced. He took his knowledge to Paris, where he revolutionized the teaching of epistemology, that is, “how do we know what we know.” He is considered by some to be the real founder of modern science. Ironically, he would take that title away from Francis Bacon, no relation. Fun fact: Roger Bacon is said to have created a bronze talking head that could predict the future.

His major work, literally titled “Opus Maius” (that means “major work”), was the treatise, as mentioned earlier, written to Pope Clement IV. It warned of the people looking to false authorities, looked at the causes of human error, and people’s inability to embrace the new learning. Furthermore, it had typical apocalyptic overtones, and it included a hierarchy of world religions. It is a flawed but remarkably early piece of comparative religion. He goes on to promote a kind of apologetic, depending on the faith of the person with whom you are speaking.

Bacon’s fascination with alchemy and a rudimentary understanding of sciences that soon developed made him something of an oddity in the later medieval and early modern church. But his influence and works should be up there with the other medieval greats. He was probably born around 1220, probably died in 1292, very possibly on this day: Roger Bacon.

The reading for today stays on the Medieval tip: a stanza from a hymn by Thomas Aquinas. This from his “Thee We Adore, O Hidden Savior,” translated by James Russel Woodford.

Fountain of goodness, Jesus, Lord, and God,

cleanse us, unclean, with thy most cleansing blood;

increase our faith and love, that we may know

the hope and peace which from thy presence flow.

That was from “Thee We Adore, O Hidden Savior” by Thomas Aquinas, translated by James Russel Woodford.

This has been the Christian History Almanac for the 11th of June 2020 brought to you by 1517 at 1517.org. The show is produced by Christopher “Zoltar” Gillespie. The show is written and read by 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.


CONTACT: CHA@1517.org

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