It is the 9th of October 2020. Welcome to the Christian History Almanac brought to you by 1517 at 1517.org. I'm Dan van Voorhis.

The year was 1201.

We will get to our event on this day, in this year, in just a moment. We will begin today by getting an overview of the church in this 13th century. Some historians will paint the 1200s as a time of Papal power and church growth. Between institutions and alliances, the Christian church in Europe will flourish from the perspective of worldly influence. However, as is usually the case, we will see cracks in the façade that portend future calamity.

The 13th century was marked by the crusading spirit that makes much of the high middle ages, but this century was especially Crusade-y. Depending on how you count, there may have been as many as ten crusades in this century or perhaps only as few as five. It depends on how you want to define Crusades. If they are understood as merely an aspect of Christian/Muslim contests over the Holy Land, the number is closer to five. However, the idea of "crusading" took on a broader definition in this century, with targets in other Middle Eastern locations and even Crusades against fellow Christians in Europe. Crusades joined a crusade against the Albigenses in France against the Eastern Orthodox as well as Russian Christians. The 13th century also saw the peculiar story of the so-called "Children's Crusade." Tens of thousands of children allegedly marched on the Holy Land but were unsuccessful. The story goes that most of the kids were either kidnapped, sold into slavery, or perished. It's a crazy story, but the scant and conflicting first-person accounts might give us pause before repeating it as gospel truth.

The 13th century saw the flowering of Scholasticism. The 4th Lateran Council in 1215 is considered perhaps the most significant council until Trent in the 16th century. The council cemented doctrines of confession and the presence of Christ in the Eucharist. It called for church reform and encouraged the crusades. The education of priests was paramount for reform, and for this, the older model of having canon schools at Cathedrals needed remodeling. And this is the century of the university.

In 1200 a German student studying in Paris decided to have a party with his friends. He sent a young boy to the local tavern to get a jug of wine. The tavern owner took the boy's money but gave him sour wine. Unhappy with this, the older boys went down to the tavern and beat the snot out of the owner and patrons. Local authorities gave the ok for retaliation, and there was soon blood in the streets. At least five students died, including the German student. When the authorities refused to back, either the students or professors, the academic set started discussing their own self-interest and protection. They agreed to form a union. The word for this was "universitas." This was the birth of the term. And it is good, meet, and right to recognize the Universities in Paris as the progenitor of the movement. Of course, we often refer to the University of Paris, or at least its theological faculty, as "the Sorbonne." Why? Well, I'll tell you. And it just so happens to be that it was on this, the 9th of October in 1201, that Robert of Sorbonne was born.

Robert was born to a low-income family in Northern France but attended school as he committed to serving the church. After his schooling, he served across France, most notably at Notre Dame. He was recommended to the King as a theological advisor and confessor. The King, being Louis IX, that is, the future St. Louis, allowed Robert to open a school for those less fortunate, for those whose families looked a lot like his own. The Maison de Sorbonne was built with money from King Louis in 1258. By this time, Robert had established himself as one of the most popular preachers in France and a well-liked administrator of his new theological college. The school would famously charge nothing and allow the public to sit in on lectures. Robert spent the last decades of his life as a proponent of higher education in the service of the church. Today his name is synonymous with theological education and the University of Paris. Robert Sorbonne died in 1274 in Paris. Born on this, on the 9th of October in 1201, he was 72 years old.

The reading for today comes from the 13th-century poet and theologian Francis of Assisi. This is a paraphrase from William Draper of a stanza of a poem you might recognize as part of the hymn "All Creatures of Our God and King."

And all ye men of tender heart,
forgiving others, take your part,

Ye who long pain and sorrow bear,
praise God and on him cast your care,


This has been the Christian History Almanac for the 9th of October 2020 brought to you by 1517 at 1517.org. The show is produced by a man who, when asked why the children's crusade failed, might tell you that they lacked enough infantry, Christopher Gillespie. The show is written and read by Dan van Voorhis. You can catch us here every day. Remember that the rumors of grace, forgiveness, and the redemption of all things are true. Everything is going to be ok.