It is the 1st of December 2020. Welcome to the Christian History Almanac brought to you by 1517 at 1517.org. I'm Dan van Voorhis.
The year was 1521.
For context, let's talk about today, the 1st of December 2020. Today is a "giving" Tuesday. It is not uncommon in the history of the Christian Church for institutions to ask its members and friends to contribute for the good of the institution and the propagation of the Gospel. Here at 1517, we publish daily content, six things a day on average. Our Academy has reached over 40,000 people in over 20 countries. We have 2.3 million downloads across our podcasting network, and this show will likely hit its one-millionth download next month. When you help support content like this, we only promise you more content and specifically more content that teaches and encourages and reminds you that in Christ, everything is going to be ok. You can go to 1517.org/Donate to support us.
But what if someone offered something, something church-related that might bring comfort, and they suggested that if you paid so much, you would receive so much forgiveness. That would be called an indulgence.
Now kids, if you'll turn in your history books to 1521, I want to tell you all about a man who got into trouble for selling indulgences. It was on this, the 1st of December in 1521, that Pope Leo X died. Pope Leo, or Giovanni di Lorenzo de Medici, was born in 1475 to the preeminent Florentine family and, by the time he died, was a central figure in the Luther affair.
It is no secret that here at 1517, we, as the kids say, "stan" the Reformation. Luther, flawed as he was, tends to wear the "white hat" in our Reformation telling while Leo is often stuck with the black hat, twisting his little black mustache as he plotted the demise of freedom-loving Christians everywhere… "Muah-hahaha" and all that.
I don't suggest we put the white hat on Leo but let us look at him in a generous light. While being born into a powerful family, the future Pope Leo was tonsured as an 8-year-old, committing to life in service of the church. He was elevated to Cardinal in 1498 and was elected Pope in 1513. He is known as a "Renaissance Pope" for his investment in the advancement of knowledge and the arts. He was considered a peaceful Pope in comparison to his predecessor Julius, the "Warrior Pope." He was furthermore a fair bit more pious than the recent Borgia Popes. So how did it go wrong? Leo continued his predecessors' practices of building the Papal states into a center for the arts, learning, and political power. And that cost money. And that old "Warrior" pope left a lot of bills to be paid with interest. And so, Leo gave the green light for a new indulgence. While this wasn't a new practice, financial hardships in Northern Europe helped lead to a backlash that led to Martin Luther posting his 95 Theses in 1517.
But even then, Leo was not that concerned. Maybe he was not concerned enough. When the Holy Roman Emperor died in 1519, Leo put his support behind Luther's elector and protector: Frederick of Saxony, to be the next Emperor. But by early 1521, Leo had enough. He formally excommunicated Luther at the beginning of the year. Then, the new Emperor Charles called the Diet of Worms to question Luther. There Luther took his stand, was condemned, and then kidnapped by Frederick for his safety. The Reformation began to spread in its earliest and rowdiest forms. Meanwhile, the Ottomans began their siege on Belgrade. The Italian Wars kicked off between Charles and Francis, and the wild and wooly 1520s were underway.
Leo contracted a form of pneumonia and spent the last months of the year monitoring the "Luther Affair" as well as the political situation unfolding, when he died suddenly on the morning of this, the 1st of December in 1521. Giovanni Di Lorenzo De' Medici, Pope Leo X, born in 1475, was 45 years old.
The readings for this month will all be Advent and Christmas related. It is the time of year that many of our poets are at their best. Today we read the poem "Advent Calendar" by Rowan Williams.
He will come like last leaf's fall.
One night when the November wind
has flayed the trees to the bone, and earth
wakes choking on the mould,
the soft shroud's folding.
He will come like frost.
One morning when the shrinking earth
opens on mist, to find itself
arrested in the net
of alien, sword-set beauty.
He will come like dark.
One evening when the bursting red
December sun draws up the sheet
and penny-masks its eye to yield
the star-snowed fields of sky.
He will come, will come,
will come like crying in the night,
like blood, like breaking,
as the earth writhes to toss him free.
He will come like child.
This has been the Christian History Almanac for the 1st of December 2020 brought to you by 1517 at 1517.org. The show is produced by Christopher Gillespie, who reminds you that it is the season of Advent, not Christmas. The show is written and read by Dan van Voorhis, who reminds you that we won't judge you if you want to jump to Christmas carols. 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.