Posts by Simonetta Carr

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“I found all the churches filled, in defiance of the precept of Truth, with those sluttish abominations - images. Since everyone was worshiping them, I undertook singlehanded to destroy them.” These were not the words of a Protestant Reformer. Their author was a ninth-century bishop, Claudius of...
Little is known about Ratramnus. He was a Benedictine monk at Corbie Abbey, in Picardy, France, who had gained an excellent reputation as scholar and writer. Besides his work on the Lord’s Supper (On the Body and Blood of the Lord), he wrote several books, including a popular treatise in four books...
At the beginning of the seventh century, the decision of the Council of Chalcedon that Jesus had two natures, human and divine, indivisible but distinct, was still not universally accepted. Even if the Council had specified that the expression “two natures” doesn’t mean that Jesus is “parted or...
Pierre Durand was born in a turbulent France. In 1685, only 15 years before his birth, France’s king Louis XIV (“Le Roi Soleil”), revoked the 1598 Edict of Nantes which had been allowed Protestants freedom of worship.
Philip Melanchthon was a brilliant scholar (one of the greatest Greek interpreters of his day), an insightful theologian, and Martin Luther’s right-hand man. Today, his memory is often limited to his mention in some of Luther’s most famous quotations.
John Knox considered Anne Locke one of his dearest friends and valued her advice and support. He confided in her at some the most difficult times of his life, even in the midst of military battles.
Basil of Caesarea is mostly known for his theological clarity at a time when important Christian doctrines on the Trinity and the nature of Christ were being debated and refined. A few know him for his charitable works on behalf of the poor and ill.
As the news challenge us to think biblically about the place of women in today’s world, it might be useful to remember there was a time when women were discouraged from reading, studying, and thinking independently. In fact, the Roman Catholic Church’s opposition to the translation of Scriptures in...
Many see Jonathan Edwards as a terrifying preacher. Some consider him one of the greatest American theologians. A few know a couple of endearing details of his life, such as his loving relationship with his wife Sarah. Very few know him as a father.
If it’s true, as the ancient Tertullian said, that “the blood of martyrs is the seed of the church,” much seed has been sown on Turkish soil, from the 2nd-century martyrdom of Polycarp to the massacre of Christian Armenians in 1915 (where 1.5 million Armenians lost their lives). And these are only...
As we watch news of North Korea and pray for that gospel-deprived country, it might be encouraging to remember the rapidity and intensity with which Christianity spread within the still undivided Korea in just a few decades.
I have heard Roman Catholics say that the Council of Trent brought great improvements to the church. If so, the improvements barely touched Italy, where the religious authorities continued to hide criminal acts and the Bible disappeared for centuries from the hands of the laity. In fact, at the...
Facing the opposition of a government that equated religious syncretism with peace, Peter Plancius persisted in pointing out the doctrinal errors of fellow pastor Jacob Arminius. It was not, as some historians think, a needless fastidiousness. Arminius’s teachings implied a different view of the...
In 841, Dhuoda’s world fell apart. William, the son she had nurtured and loved for fourteen years, had just left for Aachen (in today’s Germany), to live at the Frankish court. It had been a sudden decision, made by Dhuoda’s husband Bernard in order to prove his allegiance to the new king, Charles...
In 1618, the situation in Europe was tense. The Thirty Years’ War (1618-1648) was only a natural consequence of the religious and political conflicts of the previous century. On top of this, the Protestant camp was becoming dangerously divided by what many recognized as a semi-Pelagian tendency at...
The first meeting between Vittoria Colonna and Michelangelo Buonarroti (probably around 1537) was the start of a long and deep friendship. It was also, in some ways, uncommon. As a famed noblewoman, she was used to the company of artists, poets, and writers, but Michelangelo was one of a kind. His...
Ephrem was still a young man when his quick understanding, knowledge of Scriptures, literary skills, and love for the church captured the attention of the local bishop. Jacob had been bishop of the Christian community of Nisibis (a commercial center on the Persian border) since 309, when Ephrem was...
Tempers ran high at the Synod of Dordt. By January 1619, Francis Gomarus, Reformed minister and veteran professor at the University of Leiden, had come to take some Remostrants’ opinions on the extent of Christ’s atoning sacrifice as a personal offense.
The Cappadocian Fathers (Basil of Caesarea, Gregory of Nyssa and Gregory of Nazianzus) are well known for their theological contributions to the doctrines of the Trinity and the nature of Christ. Basil’s and Gregory of Nyssa’s sister Macrina is less known, in spite of the powerful influence she...
The first part of John Newton’s life is well known. Born in 1725 in Wapping, London, he lived a turbulent youth, dominated, from age 17, by compelling feelings of love for Mary Catlett, known as Polly. The impulsiveness of these feelings conflicted with his father’s plans to set him up for a...
1773 didn’t start well for William Cowper. In spite of seemingly comfortable circumstances, he felt pressured by both hurtful local gossip and well-meaning friendly advice into making a decision he was just not able to make.
Seventeenth-century England was a time of uncertainty, upheaval, and questions, a time of civil and religious wars, revolutions, plague and fire. Books and articles tell us of the people who made history: James VI of Scotland and I of England, Charles I and the regicides, Elizabeth the Winter Queen...
The Protestant Reformation created some new questions in love relationships. For example, what’s an appropriate way for a Protestant preacher to propose to a lady or, even worse, for a former monk to propose to a former nun, without aggravating the accusations of Roman Catholics who accused...
Sixteenth-century Reformers were not the first to advocate the translation of the Bible and church liturgy in the language of the people. Nor were they the first to suffer opposition. Two 9th-century brothers from Thessalonica faced a similar struggle as they worked together to bring the Scriptures...
Some of the most influential women in church history were princesses or queens, who had the ability to establish a state religion according to their convictions. At a time when cuius regio, eius religio (whose realm, his religion) was in order, the Protestant church prospered best under Protestant...
On the vigil of Easter in 379, a group composed mostly of monks and women rushed into a church, attacked the congregants, wounded the preacher, and killed another bishop. They were not terrorists. They were followers of the doctrines of Arius, a previous priest who had opposed the notion of a fully...
Paolo Sarpi is not a familiar name in American discussions of the Protestant Reformation but was well known in 16th-century Europe. As was often the case, particularly in firmly Roman Catholic countries like Italy, placing a precise label on Sarpi’s theological beliefs is difficult and counter-...
William Tyndale’s English translation of the New Testament, first published in 1526, was met with sharp disapproval in England – not only because it was common knowledge that Scriptures should not be placed in the hands of the uneducated masses, but also because of the translation itself.
As we approach Christmas, it’s appropriate to reflect on Christ’s incarnation. This is what Athanasius, fourth-century bishop of Alexandria, Egypt, did in his treatise On the Incarnation of the Word. Expanding his explanation from Christ’s role in creation to His final glory in the second coming,...
Being a single mother was common in the sixteenth century, when wars and pestilence claimed the lives of many husbands. Most widows returned to their family homes or relied on the support of the local church. They often remarried. Anne Hooper focused on raising her daughter Rachel and promoting her...
On November 19, 1590, the Italian Reformer Girolamo Zanchi died while visiting the University of Heidelberg where he had once been professor of theology. He was buried with honors. His epitaph read, “Here lie the bones of the Italian Zanchi, exiled from his homeland for love of Christ.” The epitaph...
If Augustine of Hippo was with us today, he might spend his birthday as he did shortly after his conversion, when he lived in Cassiciago, 25 miles north of Milan, Italy. “After a meal light enough as not to hinder mental work,” he wrote, “I invited to the public baths all the people who lived with...
Thomas Cranmer is often remembered for his last dramatic hours of this life. After signing four documents of submission to papal authority and two statements of recantation of his previous beliefs, he shocked his large complacent audience by turning his last repentance speech into a repudiation of...
As we celebrate the 500th anniversary of the Protestant Reformation, it’s good to travel back about 1400 earlier, when a concerned pastor and missionary to today’s France sat down to write a well-informed and comprehensive work, in order to provide some clarity in his confused theological times.
On August 22, 1572, while Paris was lingering in the celebrating mood after the wedding between Henry, King of Navarre, and Marguerite de Valois, sister of King Charles IX of France, 16-year old Louise de Coligny received some terrible news. Her father Gaspard had been shot. Thankfully, he was...
October 11 marks the 486th anniversary of the death of Huldrych Zwingli (1484 – 1531) at the Battle of Kappel, where he acted as chaplain and flag-bearer for the troops. In spite of being one of the key protagonists of the Protestant Reformation, he is mostly known today for his disagreements with...
In 1563, the Protestant scholar John Foxe published a book with the typically long title Actes and Monuments of these latter and perilous days, touching matters of the Church, wherein are comprehended and described the great persecutions and horrible troubles that have been wrought and practiced by...
Katherine Parr’s life is punctuated by danger, action, and scandal. We usually remember her close brush with death, when a powerful group of courtesans plotted to destroy her. Some may remember her contested marriage to Thomas Seymour, who kept the gossiping tongues of London happily wagging...
A simple Google search of “Olympia Morata” and “feminist” yields 6,530 results. Some call her “a forgotten, feminist voice” or “a feminist in Renaissance Italy.” These definitions would have puzzled her. She was highly esteemed in her day, but for different reasons.
On 17 August 1560, the Scottish Parliament read twice and with great care a newly drafted Confession of Faith. It was an important document for a transformed nation that had just won the right to abandon Roman Catholic worship and adopt a Protestant theology, liturgy, and church order.
On his 23rd birthday, 10 August 1559, Caspar Olevianus had a chance to preach his first sermon in German in a lecture hall at Trier, Germany (his birthplace). He had been waiting long for this moment. His love for the gospel had bloomed in his college days, when he had first come into contact with...
Giulia Gonzaga’s early life sounds like a fairy tale. At age 20, she was already one of the most envied women in Italy. She owned large properties and her castle was a favorite meeting place for artists, poets, and musicians. She was considered the most beautiful woman in the country. Yet, she was...
My earlier post on the 16th-century booklet The Benefit of Christ has elicited many responses. Several people have pointed me to this edition https://archive.org/details/benefitchristsd00palegoog , which I had seen before. It’s not a faithful translation and is written in such an archaic language...
Heinrich Bullinger’s early life was studded with dangers. At the time of his birth, July 18, 1504, his family was still frequently on the move to escape the wrath of his uncles (his mother’s brothers), who were bent on killing his father. After all, Heinrich Sr. was the local priest, and had taken...
Marie Durand was born on July 15, 1711 in in the French village of Bouschet de Pranles. Largely unknown outside of France, she is remembered for her faithfulness to her faith while imprisoned for thirty-eight years in the Tower of Constance. In fact, she has become a symbol of resistance, to the...
Happy birthday, John Calvin! It’s been 508 years since you were born in your beloved France. How should we celebrate? If you were here, would you join us?
It was 1543. North of the Alps, Protestant reformers were busy publishing books. In Rome, the papacy was busy banning them. Still, the publishers in Venice, a proudly independent republic with a reputation of opposition to the pope, were persistent. That year’s best-seller was an Italian essay by a...
On June 28, 1586, the Slovenian Reformer Primož Trubar died in Derendingen, in the Holy Roman Empire. Almost unknown in the US, he is a national hero in Slovenia. His portrait has appeared on banknotes, coins, and postage stamps, and his life has been told and retold in books, articles, and even a...
By the 19th century, the story of Lady Jane Grey, the young queen who succeeded Edward VI for less than two weeks, had already been heavily fictionalized, romanticized, politicized, and reinvented. The famous painting by Paul Delaroche, The Execution of Lady Jane Grey (1833), is a classic example...
In occasion of Father’s Day, I diverge from the usual mini-bios to peek into the lives of some fathers who lived during the Reformation, with all the struggles and joys this task embraced.