The Martyrdom of St. Peter
Typical martyrdom of early Christians. The Emperor sometimes used them as living torches in his garden--illustrated here around the arena.
The Martyrdom of St. Ignatius of Antioch. He wrote to seven churches on his way to execution in Rome, begging them NOT to pray for his release. He wanted to be ground into wheat by the teeth of the wild beasts. You can read the seven epistles here.
We have a detailed description of the death of St. Polycarp which you can read here. The painting below illustrates point #15 of the story: "Polycarp is not injured by the fire."
Constantine and the Battle of the Milvian Bridge
Constantine sees a vision in the sky that says, "By this sign you shall conquer."
Caption below says: "With Chi-Rho painted on their shields, Constantine's men crowd down to the pontoon structure over which Maxentius' men were trying to escape."
A deeper look at the Edict of Milan can be found in this article by George Weigel. His main point is:
What we know as the 'Edict of Milan' marked the beginning the Christian Church’s deep entanglement with state power.
The article also mentions a novel on Helena, the mother of Constantine, by Evelyn Waugh. St. Helena is credited for finding the true Cross of Christ as well as the instruments of torture used. Most of these items can be seen at the beautiful church, Santa Croce in Gerusaleme in Rome.Pictured below is a fragment of the sign Pontius Pilate ordered to be placed above Jesus' head, "Jesus of Nazareth, King of the Jews" (often shortened on crucifixes to INRI: Iesus Nazarenus Rex Iudaeorum).
The Council of Nicea
For a little fun, you may enjoy this YouTube video rendition of what happened between St. Nicholas and the heretic Arius at the Council.
Father Mitch Pacwa says, "This is why we sing 'You'd better not pout, you'd better not cry. You'd better watch out; I'm telling you why: Santa Claus is coming to town!"
St. Augustine and his mother, St. Monica
As a young man, Augustine was an intellectual and a professor of rhetoric in Milan. He regarded Christianity as a simple faith for good, uneducated people such as his beloved mother Monica. He was called by God and compelled to read St. Paul's epistles. He soon became one of the most influential theological philosophers and writers in Church history. He was considered to be sympathetic to women, especially mothers. One of his most famous sayings is, "Love the sinner, hate the sin!"
Pope St. Leo the Great
Raphael's The Meeting between Leo the Great and Attila depicts Leo, escorted by Saint Peter and Saint Paul, meeting with the Hun king outside Rome.
Read more about Pope St. Leo here.
Baptism of Clovis, King of of the Franks
First barbarian king to be baptized.
St. Anthony of the Desert, also known as Anthony the Abbot or Anthony the Great, founder of Christian monasticism (eremitical or living apart) on the left; St Paul of Thebes, the Church's first known hermit, on the right. You can read an article on Antony here and Paul of Thebes here.
On the left, St. Pachomius, founder of cenobitcal (communal) monasticism. One story of his life says that an angel appeared to him and dictated a rule for his monastery. He was the first to have a rule for his way of community life. Here is a short biography on the saint.
On the right, an icon of St. Benedict who brought monasticism to the West. The Rule that St. Benedict wrote for his monks is considered one of the most important factors in the development of Christian Europe. In time, the Rule became the norm for all monks and nuns in the West.
Pope St. Gregory the Great
Biography, video, and even "fun facts" can be found here.
In 1938 Hillaire Belloc wrote a book entitled "The Great Heresies." Chapter 4 is entitled, "The Great and Enduring Heresy of Mohammed." It's not the easiest read but it will give you a good history of the origins and rise of Islam.
Interestingly, Belloc wrote: “It has always seemed to me possible, and even probable, that there would be a resurrection of Islam and that our sons or our grandsons would see the renewal of that tremendous struggle between the Christian culture and what has been for more than a thousand years its greatest opponent.”
Charles Martel and the Battle of Poitiers(also known as the Battle of Tours)
Charlemagne (grandson of Charles Martel)
Coronation of Charlemagne by Pope Leo on Christmas Day, 800 A.D. In this act, the Holy Roman Empire was born.
Abbey of Cluny
Pope Benedict XVI tells of the history and importance of the congregation of Cluny in a General Audience address in 2009. Read it here.
Great Schism of 1054
An article on the Great Schism from EWTN can be found here. For an easier read, try this article from the "Dummies" website.
Overall Church History
Harry Crocker's Triumph
The Didache Series: The History of the Church
On the Early Church
Kenneth Whitehead: One, Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic
- Persecuting Roman Emperors (this is not a Catholic site, but it seems accurate)
- The Empire and the Early Church, a Tale of Persecution and Justice. An essay by Christopher Check, president of Catholic Answers.
- This entry from the Catholic Encyclopedia is quite long and isn't the easiest to read, but if you scroll down, you'll find a list of the principal schisms in the Church.