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Christianity: the 1200's

An Overview: What happened in this century?


c.1200 At this point, approximately 500 monasteries throughout Europe were tied in with the mother monastery at Citeaux, France. This Cistercian Order was a major movement for reform in the Catholic Church.
1204 The Fourth Crusade. Originally intended to recapture Jerusalem by going through Egypt, it ended up with the Crusaders diverting to and sacking Constantinople and briefly, although forceably, reuniting the Western and Eastern halves of Christianity (to 1261).
c.1205 Stephen Langton divided the New Testament into chapters. He became the Archbishop of Canterbury and was probably present at the signing of the Magna Carta.
1208 Francis of Assisi gathered his first followers. He also drew up a simple Rule for them to follow.
1210 Pope Innocent III approved the Franciscan Order. They became known as the “Order of Friars Minor.”
The Big Picture: Priests, Monks/Nuns, & Friars
  • A priest is a man who is ordained, is usually attached to a church/cathedral in some way, and whose supervisor is a bishop.
  • A monk/nun is one who joins a monastic Order and who usually lives in or is attached to a community of monks or nuns (for example, a monastery or convent) and whose supervisor is an Abbot or Abbess.
  • A friar is like a monk except they are more likely to live away from the community (or “friary”) and are more involved in preaching or serving. Orders that have friars are known as “mendicant” Orders.
  • One of the main “jobs” of a priest is to offer the sacraments: baptism, Eucharist (Lord's Supper, reconciliation (going to “confession”), confirmation, marriage, and anointing of the sick (previously known as “last rites”); Holy Orders is the seventh sacrament but the average priest will not officiate at that).
  • Monks and friars may or may not be ordained and able to offer the sacraments, depending on the needs of their Orders.
1212 The Children's Crusade. Groups of children from Germany and France marched to the Mediterranean Sea and expected it to open before them so they could march on to the Holy Land. When it did not do so, the children loaded on ships and sailed off. Some of the ships sank and others took the children and sold them into slavery. [Author's note: Some medieval scholars doubt this took place.]
1215-1221 The Fifth Crusade. The Crusaders tried to go through Egypt, but the army was defeated.
1216 Pope Honorius III approved the Dominican Order. They became known as the Order of Friars Preachers.
1219 Francis of Assisi participated in the Fifth Crusade, but his goal was to preach to the Muslims. He was able to cross over into the Muslim camp in Egypt and talk to the Muslim general and ruler of Egypt. The general did not convert, but, against the wishes of the imams present, did allow Francis to return to the Crusader camp after several days. To read more about Francis and the Fifth Crusade, go here.
1223 In this year, Francis of Assisi and some of his followers created the Second Nativity Scene (the first Nativity Scene being with Jesus). To learn more, go here.
1226 Francis of Assisi died. To read an excerpt from his "Little Flowers of St Francis," go here.
1228 The Sixth Crusade. This Crusade witnessed almost no fighting but was a diplomatic venture. Jerusalem was back in the hands of the Crusaders when Emperor (German king) Frederick II negotiated a peace treaty with the Sultan of Egypt which allowed Frederick to rule over Jerusalem, Nazareth, and Bethlehem. Frederick crowned himself "King of Jerusalem."
1244 Muslims, fleeing from the invading Mongol army and traveling to Egypt, conquered Jerusalem and the surrounding lands. All the Christians were killed in Jerusalem. It remained under Muslim control until 1917 (during World War I) when it became a British protectorate.
1249-1250 The Seventh Crusade with Louis IX, king of France, attempting to attack Egypt; it failed.
1261 The Empire of Nicea retook Constantinople from the Western Crusaders. It reverted to an Orthodox Church domain as it was in the year 1204 when the Crusaders from the Fourth Crusade captured it.
1263 Egyptian Muslims captured Nazareth.
1265 Egyptian Muslims captured Antioch
1268-1271 The papacy was vacant; no one was pope.
1270 The Eighth Crusade. Louis IX, the king of France, determined to land in Tunisia in order to prepare for an attack on Egypt. Louis died on August 25. His son became the new king, but the Crusade was effectively over.
late 1200s Marco Polo traveled with his father and uncle to China, other places in the Far East and throughout the Middle East. He published an account of his travels which helped open up lands beyond the Middle East to the Europeans. One note of interest: in his autobiography he stated that, while in India, he saw a monument to the Apostle Thomas.
1291 The last battle of the Crusades occurred between the Muslims of Egypt and the Crusaders. The Crusaders lost and were forced out of the Holy Land at Acre (in present-day northern Israel). The Muslims had 120,000 men and the Crusaders had 20,000 men.

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