It is the 2nd of July 2020. Welcome to the Christian History Almanac brought to you by 1517 at 1517.org, I’m Dan van Voorhis.
The year was 1505. The Renaissance was in its infancy and the Reformation was still incubating. The biggest news these days tended to come from the explorers mapping out lands previously unknown.
In 1505, Gonçalo Álvares, a Portuguese explorer and companion of Vasco de Gama, sailed into the South Atlantic and was the first to discover the island that would take his name, the “Ilha de Gonçalo Álvares”. The island is located between South America and South Africa and just north of Antarctica. The island is now known as Gough Island and is a British territory. The small volcanic island is perhaps the most remote place on the planet that has a human presence. The population is usually about six, as those are the people servicing its weather station.
In 1505, the Portuguese were establishing their trade routes, with Vasco De Gama having navigated the route to India around the Cape of Good Hope. Other explorers began to raid the African east coast. A Portuguese fleet attacked the Kilwa Sultanate on the Swahili coast and took Mombasa, a port city in modern Kenya. All of this was part of an attempt to create a monopoly on the east African coast for trade.
The Portuguese also made their way to China where they established relations between Portugal and Beijing. Eventually, Macau became the agreed-upon port for western trade. China’s willingness to trade with the West was spurred by the sometimes erratic Zhu Houzhao who became Emperor in 1505. Taking the name Zhengde, he was the 11th Emperor in the Ming Dynasty. The Emperor was known for his eccentricities. He would create an Imperial zoo for his leopards, tigers, and other beasts. Growing tired of them, he transformed the zoo into a kind of brothel. Known as a womanizer, he also was responsible for the destruction of his own palace which literally exploded when a large cache of gunpowder was set off by a fallen lantern.
The Emperor was enamored with foreigners. For a time, he had so many Arabic and Persian Muslims in his court some had suggested that he had converted to Islam. The rumors were only given more credence when he signed an edict against the slaughtering and consumption of pigs. Zhengde, despite his amorous streak, had no children and was succeeded by a cousin. Zhengde died at 31 after falling off his boat while drunk in the Grand Canal.
Back in Europe, the first pocket watch was created. The watch goes by the clever name of 1505 Watch. While clocks had been made, they had never been created on a small enough scale for personal use. The watch, invented by Peter Heinlen in Nuremberg, was lost until it appeared at an antique flea market in 1987. The watch today would fetch close to 100 million dollars. The 515-year-old watch is still in working order today.
In 1505 Margaret Roper was born. The daughter of Sir Thomas More would become a scholar in her own right, translating the works of Eusebius and Erasmus among others.
Thomas Tallis was born in 1505. He would become perhaps the most famous of all English composers.
And it was on this day, the 2nd of July in 1505, that a midsummer storm near Erfurt changed the course of history. Martin Luther was a young law student who, while traveling to visit his parents, was caught in the storm. When lightning struck near the young Luther, he is said to have cried out, “Help me St. Anne, I shall become a monk.” He called upon St. Anne, as she was the patron saint of miners, his father’s occupation. He returned to school, had one last party, and then joined the Order of Augustinian Hermits in Erfurt. Internal “Sturm und Drang” while in the monastery would lead to Luther’s Reformation revelations. Ironically, his journey toward understanding that Jesus was the only mediator between man and God began by crying out to a saint, on this day, the 2nd of July in 1505.
The reading for today comes from Luther himself, this from his 1520 treatise, “On the Freedom of the Christian.”
“Although the Christian is thus free from all works, he ought in this liberty to empty himself, take upon himself the form of a servant, be made in the likeness of men, be found in human form, and to serve, help and in every way deal with his neighbor as he sees that God through Christ has dealt and still deals with him.”
This has been the Christian History Almanac for the 2nd of July 2020 brought to you by 1517 at 1517.org. The show is produced by a man who still rocks his Baby G Shock, Christopher 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.