It is the 21st 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 1542.
The Italian War of 1542 started in this year. As you might expect, it seemed like it would be a war of historic proportions. Charles V, the Holy Roman Emperor, allied with Henry VIII of England to take on Francis I of France, James V of Scotland, and Suleiman the Magnificent of the Ottoman Empire. The war turned out to be a dud. Both sides suffered massive casualties, and the status quo remained. It would be the last war for kings Henry, Francis, and James.
The town of Hildesheim underwent a historic conversion in 1542. Hildesheim, a town in Northern Germany in the foothills of the Harz mountains, had long been a stronghold for the Catholic church. Since the 9th century, the Hildesheim cathedral made it an important ecclesiastical center. However, in 1542, this once Catholic center had a wholesale conversion to Lutheranism. Much of this had to do with pressure with Lutheran princes and the Burghers voting for independence from Rome. However, there was also a theological conviction amongst many, and almost overnight, a city changed its confession of faith.
In 1542 Juan Rodriguez Cabrillo was sailing near the west coast of North America. He touched down in a bay he called San Miguel. It would later be renamed, San Diego. He then became the first European to set foot on an island which he named San Salvador. We know it today as Catalina Island.
Cabrillo wasn’t the worst of explorers or conquistadores and he was no angel. But before you think that this might be some enlightened modern position, it was in 1542, that Bartolome De Las Casas finished his book “A Brief Description of the Destruction of the Indies.” it took him ten years to publish it. But in it, he decries those who use violence in the name of Christ in the new world. It is a remarkable read and gives us a sense of the contemporary arguments against the devastation of natives.
In 1542 Catherine Howard was executed. The 5th wife of Henry VIII was beheaded for allegedly having an affair. As we mentioned, James V also died this year. The King of Scotland had a girl six days before his death. The young Mary Queen of Scots became Queen Regnant at six days old. In 1542, the Spanish explorer Hernando De Soto died, and in that same year, the Spanish mystic, St. John of the Cross was born.
And it was on this, the 21st of July in 1542 that Pope Paul III issued the Papal bull, “Licet ab Initio.” Remember, bulls are named after the first words of the decree and thus, sometimes wholly unhelpful. Translated, this one is “although from the beginning.”
The full text, however, reads that the Catholic church has the power to scrutinize anyone’s faith “in each and every city of Christian kingdoms, towns, lands, and places, whether this side or beyond the mountains, anywhere they please even in Italy.”
The “even in Italy” was important. The Reformation never gained much of a foothold in Italy, as you might expect. But a few “underground” reformers had made some inroads in getting the Italians to ask for a few general reforms.
Primarily the work of Bernardino of Ochino and Peter Martyr Vermigli, the Italian Reformation sought to introduce communion in both bread and wine as well as to expand the doctrines of grace in a more Augustinian manner. This new bull and its call for a Roman inquisition successfully squashed the reform movement. Ochino and Vermigli both fled to Switzerland. It is estimated that in 3 years, over 800 people were arrested in Italy and close to 100 killed.
The Council of Trent would soon find less coercive ways to promote the Catholic faith, but inquisitions like this one would still pepper the next few centuries of the church. The bull “Licet ab Initio” was promulgated on this, the 21st of July, in 1542.
The reading for today comes from Soren Kierkegaard from an 1851 “Discourse on Communion.”
“Lord Jesus Christ, the birds had nests, the foxes had dens, and you had no place where you could lay your head. You were homeless in the world-yet you yourself were a hiding place, the only place where the sinner could flee. And so even this very day you are a hiding place. When the sinner flees to you, hides himself with you, is hidden in you, he is eternally kept safe, since love hides a multitude of sins.”
This has been the Christian History Almanac for the 21st of July 2020 brought to you by 1517 at 1517.org. The show is produced by my date for the 2021 Catalina Wine Mixer 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.