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Christian History

Today in Christian History

August 11

August 11, 1253: Clare of Assisi, a Benedictine nun known for her spiritual relationship with St. Francis and for founding the Poor Clares, dies. In 1958, citing a legend that Clare once saw and heard Mass being celebrated miles away, Pope Pius XII proclaimed her the patron saint of television (see issue 42: Francis of Assisi).

August 11, 1519: Johann Tetzel, the German Dominican priest whose peddling of indulgences inspired Martin Luther to write his 95 Theses, dies. Throughout Germany he infamously preached, "As soon as the coin in the coffer rings, the soul from purgatory springs." Even the papal envoy eventually criticized him. As for Luther, though he once called Tetzel "the primary author of this tragedy," when he heard Tetzel lay dying, wrote the friar a letter of comfort: "Don't take it too hard. You didn't start this racket" (see issue 34: Luther's Early Years).

August 11, 1890: John Henry Newman dies. Ordained an Anglican in 1824, he later helped lead the Oxford Movement, aiming to restore the Church of England to its high church principles. In 1843 he left the church and became a Roman Catholic.

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February 21, 1142: Medieval French philosopher, teacher, and theologian Peter Abelard dies. Perhaps best known for his (chaste) love affair with nun Heloise, Abelard made his most important contribution in establishing a critical methodology for theology. Irritated with some of the unreasoning pietism of other monks, he wrote Yes and No, compiling the (sometimes conflicting) sayings of the Bible and church fathers on various controversial subjects (see issue 30: Women in the Medieval Church).

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