Church History

Here is our grand one-page summary of church history.




1. PATRISTIC ERA: 33 to 590 AD

2. MEDIEVAL ERA: 590 to 1417 AD

3. REFORMATION ERA: 1417 to 1648 AD

4. MODERN ERA: 1648 to 1962 AD

5. POSTMODERN ERA: 1962 AD to present


33 to 590 AD

a. Apostles
33 to 100 AD

Clement I of Rome. Disciple of the apostles, saint, Apostolic Father, pope. Died 97 AD. Writings include The First Epistle of Clement to the Corinthi­ans.

b. Martyrs
100 to 311 AD

Ignatius of Antioch. Martyr, saint, Apostolic Father, bishop of Antioch. Died 107 AD.

The Shepherd of Hermas. Writings include The Didache (~20 pages).

Diognetus Justin. Writings include Epistle to Diognetus (~96 pages).

Polycarp. Saint, Apostolic Father, bishop of Smyrna. Died 155 AD.

Justin the Martyr. Saint, martyr, layman, Apolo­gist. Died 165 AD.

Irenaeus of Lyons. Saint, bishop, opposed gnosti­cism. Died 202 AD. Writings include Adversus Haereses (488 pages).

Clement of Alexandria. Catechist. Died 215 AD.

Tertullian. Disciple of Justin the Martyr, apologist, opposed gnosticism. Died 225 AD.

Hippolytus. Saint, opposed gnosti­cism. Died 236 AD. Writings include Apostolic Tradition of Hippolytus (~192 pages)

Origen. Tortured for the faith. Died 251 AD. Writings include Bible Commentaries (multi-volume set)

Cyprian of Carthage. Martyr, saint, bishop, opposed No­vatianism. Died 258 AD. Writings include On the Unity of the Church, and Letters.

Dionesius of Alexandria. Died 265 AD.

Anastasius of Antioch. Martyr. Died 302 AD.

c. Christian Emperors
311 to 590 AD

First Council of Nicaea in 325 AD. Attended by more than 300 bishops. Condemned the Arian heresy. Declared that God the Father and God the Son were of the same substance.

Hilary of Poitiers. Saint, Doctor of the Church. Died 368 AD. Writings include De Trinitate (~377 pages).

Athanasius of Alexandria. Saint, Doctor of the Church. Died 370 AD. Writings include The Sayings of the Desert Fathers (~269 pages) and On the Incarnation (~60 pages).

Ephraem the Syrian. Deacon, Saint, Doctor of the Church. Died 373 AD. Writings include On the Diatessaron (~182 pages).

Basil the Great. Saint, Cappadocian theolo­gian, Doctor of the Church, Father of Monasticism in the East. Died 379 AD. Writings include Contra Eunomium (~553 pages) and On the Holy Spirit(~128 pages).

First Council of Constantinople in 381 AD. Attended by 150 bishops. Completed the Nicene Creed.

Cyril of Jerusalem. Bishop, Doctor of the Church. Died 368 AD. Writings include Catechesis (~345 pages).

Gregory Nazianzen. Saint, bishop of Constan­tinople, Doctor of the Church. Died 390 AD.

Gregory of Nyssa. Saint, Cappadocian Father. Died 395 AD. Writings include Life of Moses (~224 pages).

Ambrose of Milan. Saint, Doctor of the Church, opposed Arianism. Died 397 AD. Writings include On virginity (~67 pages).

John Chrysostom. Renown preacher, Bishop of Constantinople, saint, greatest of the Greek Fathers, Doctor of the Church. Died 407 AD. Writings include Bible Commentary (multi-volume series).

Jerome. Father of Biblical Science, controversialist, saint, Doctor of the Church. Died 419 AD.

Sulpitius Severus. Died 420 AD.

Augustine of Hippo. Saint, Doctor of the Church, Doctor of Grace. Died 430 AD. Writings include ConfessionsCity of God (~804 pages), Bible Commentary (multi-volume set), Sermons (multi-volume set).

Council of Ephesus in 431 AD. Attended by 200 bishops. Condemned Nestorius, bishop of Constantinople, for teaching heresy. Defined Theotokos (Bearer of God) as the title of Mary, mother of the Son of God made Man.

John Cassian. Preserved teachings of the Desert Fathers. Saint. Died 433 AD. Writings include Institutiones (~304 pages) and Confer­ences (~224 pages).

Cyril of Alexandria. Saint, bishop. Doctor of the Church. Died 444 AD. Writings include On the Gospel of John (334 pages).

Pseudo-Dionysius the Areopagite. Mystic. Died in the 400s. Writings include Di­vine NamesMystical Theology, and The Celestial Hierarchy.

Peter Chrysologus. Saint, Doctor of the Church. Died 450 AD. Writings include Sermons.

Council of Chalcedon in 451 AD. Attended by about 600 bishops. Declared that Christ is one divine Person with two distinct natures, divine and human.

Leo I the Great. Saint, Doctor of the Church, pope. Died 474 AD. Writings include The Tome of LeoLetters, and Sermons.

Severinus Boethius. Saint. Died 524 AD. Writings include The Con­sola­tion of Philosophy (152 pages).

Benedict of Nursia. Saint, father of Monasticism in the West. Died 543 AD. Writings include The Rule of Benedict (~112 pages).

Second Council of Constantinople in 553 AD. Attended by 165 bishops. Condemned the Nestonian heresy.


590 to 1417 AD

a. Missionaries
590 to 1049 AD

Gregory I the Great. Saint, pope, Doctor of the Church. Died 604 AD. Writings include 40 Gospel Homilies (~380 pages) and The Book of Morals (35 books).

Isadore of Seville. Doctor of the Church. Died 636 AD. Writings include Ety­mologiae (~489 pages).

Maximus the Confessor. Tortured for the faith. Died 662 AD. Writings include Life of the Virgin (~232 pages).

Third Council of Constantinople in Turkey in 680-681 AD. Attended by 160 bishops. Restated the teaching of the Council of Chalcedon (451), and condemned some false teachings.

Bede the Venerable. Saint, Doctor of the Church. Died 735 AD. Writings include On the Song of Songs (~170 pages), and Ecclesiastical History of the English People (~43 pages) and Homilies on the Gospels (~29 pages).

John of Damascus. Saint, Doctor of the Church. Lived 754 to 787 AD. Writings include On Divine Images (~100 pages) and Fountain of Wisdom.

Second Council of Nicaea in Turkey in 787 AD. Declared that images could be set up and could be given honor or veneration, but not worship. Worship belongs to God alone. Iconoclasm (image-breaking) was condemned.

John Scotus Eriugena. Died 840 AD. Writings include his translation of Pseudo-Dionysius the Areopagite.

Fourth Council of Constantinople in Turkey in 869-870 AD. Attended by more than 100 bishops. Excommunicated Photius, Patriarch of Constantinople, which caused further tension between East and West.

Cyril of Alexandria. Saint. Died 885. Writings include On the Unity of Christ (~150 pages).

b. Popes and Scholars
1049 to 1294 AD

Peter Damian. Saint, Doctor of the Church. Died 1072 AD. Writings include The Letters of Peter Damian (~800 pages).

Anselm of Canterbury. Saint, Doctor of the Church, Father of Scholasticism. Died 1109 AD. Writings include The Proslogion(~27 pages), and Cur Deus Homo (~94 pages), and The Procession of the Holy Spirit.

First Council of the Lateran in Rome in 1123 AD. Ended the custom of investiture. The State could invest bishops and abbots with symbols of temporal authority, but had no right to invest them with spiritual authority.

Second Council of the Lateran in Rome in 1139 AD. Condemned the anti-pope, Anacletus II.

Bernard of Clairvaux. Saint, Doctor of the Church, nicknamed the “Mellifluous Doctor.” Died 1140 AD. Writings include Sermons, and The Steps of Humility and Pride (~104 pages), and On Loving God (~45 pages).

Abelard of Paris. Died 1140 AD. Writings include Historia Calamitatum (~20 pages).

Hugh of St. Victor. Died 1141 AD. Writings include De Doctrina Christiana, and On the Sacraments of the Christian Faith.

Gratian. Died 1160 AD. Writings include Decretum.

Peter the Lombard. Arguably the first ever to compose a systematic theology Died 1160 AD. Writings include Four Books of Sentences.

Richard of St. Victor. Died 1173 AD. Writings include De Trinitate.

Third Council of the Lateran in Rome in 1179 AD. Decreed that the votes of two-thirds of the Cardinals were required for the election of a pope.

Joachim of Florie. Died 1202 AD.

Fourth Council of the Lateran in Rome in 1215 AD. This was one of the most important councils before the Council of Trent. It declared the necessity of yearly Confession and Holy Communion, and the doctrine of Transubstantiation.

Dominic. Saint. Died 1216 AD.

Francis of Assisi. Saint. Died 1226 AD.

Anthony of Padua. Saint, Doctor of the Church. Nicknamed the “Evangelical Doctor.” Died 1231 AD.

First Council of Lyon in France in 1245 AD. Discussed the Schism with the Byzantines, and the immorality of the clergy. Deposed Emperor Frederick II because of sacrilege, suspicion of heresy, perjury and disturbing the peace.

Clare of Assisi. Saint. Died 1253 AD.

Second Council of Lyon in France in 1274 AD. Attended by 500 bishops, and such dignitaries as Bonaventure and Albertus Magnus. Thomas Aquinas died on his way to the Council. The Council established union between Eastern and Western Churches.

Thomas Aquinas. Saint, Doctor of the Church. Nicknamed Common Doctor, and Angelic Doctor. Died 1274 AD. Writings include Summa Contra Gen­tiles, and Summa Theologiae.

Bonaventura. Saint, Doctor of the Church. Nicknamed the Seraphic Doctor. Died 1274 AD. Writings include A Life of St. Francis.

Albert the Great. Saint, Doctor of the Church. Nicknamed Doctor Universalis and Doc­tor Expertus. Died 1280 AD.

c. Papal Schisms
1294 to 1417 AD

John Duns Scotus. Doctor of the Church. Nicknamed the Subtle Doctor. Died 1308 AD. Writings include Philosophical Writings: A Selection (~393 pages)

Council of Vienne in France in 1311-1312. Suppressed the order of Knights Templar, and dealt with matters related to the clergy.

Dante Alighieri. Died 1321 AD. Writings include The Divine Comedy.

Meister Eckhart. Died 1328 AD.

William of Ockham. Founder of nominalism. Died 1347 AD.

Anonymous. Writings include The Cloud of Unknowing (~166 pages)

Catherine of Siena. Saint, Doctor of the Church. Died 1380 AD. Writings include Dialogue (~338 pages)

John Wycliffe. Died 1384 AD.

John Hus. The first reformer. The Catholic church burned him at the stake. Died 1415 AD. Writings include De Ecclesia.

Julian of Norwich. Died 1416 AD. Writings include Revelations of Divine Love (~185 pages).

Council of Constance in Germany in 1414-1418 AD. Ended the Great Schism – three men were each claiming to be the pope, and it was causing division in the Church. Condemned John Wycliffe and Jan Hus.

Thomas à Kempis. Died 1471 AD. Writings include The Imitation of Christ (~165 pages).


1417 to 1648 AD

a. The Pre-Reformation
1417-1517 AD

Prior to the pre-Reformation, there were two people whose death paved the way for the Reformation to happen:

John Wycliff (1331-1384). A professor at Oxford University. Believed in predestination for salvation. After his death, the Council of Constance declared him a heretic, banned his writings, burned his works, exhumed his body, defrocked him, and burned him at the stake. Writings include The Lord’s SupperDe civili dominio, and De potentate papae in which he opposes the position that the Church consists only of the clergy

Jan Hus (1369-1415). Often referred to in English as John Hus or John Huss. A professor at the Charles University in Prague. He tried to reform the Church by delineating the moral failings of clergy, bishops, and even the papacy from his pulpit. At the Council of Constance, he was imprisoned in a dungeon. Later, at the cathedral parish, he was condemned and burned at the stake. Writings include De Ecclesia (1413 AD).

And now, here are key figures and events of the pre-Reformation:

Pragmatic Sanction of Bourges (1438). It required a general church council to be held every ten years. Its authority was to be superior to a pope. Such a notion was called the Conciliar Movement.

Council of Basel in Ferrara and in Florence in 1438-1445. It declared the authority of the Pope to be superior to that of a General Council. This killed off the Conciliar Movement. It has 220 pages (73 reading days).

Nicholas of Cusa (1401 to 1464 AD). Noted for his deeply mystical writings about the possibility of knowing God with the divine human mind — not possible through mere human means — via “learned ignorance.” Writings include On Learned Ig­no­rance and De pace fidei (On the Peace of Faith).

The Tribunal of the Holy Office of the Inquisition. It was established in 1478 to enforce Catholic orthodoxy. Estimates of the number of persons charged with crimes by the Inquisition range up to 150,000, with 2,000 to 5,000 people executed.

Fifth Council of the Lateran in Rome in 1512-1514. Declared that the teachings of the Council of Pisa were invalid since it did not have the Pope’s approval. Expressed concern for abuses in the Church, and pointed out the need for reform. It has 144 pages (48 reading days).

b. The Reformation
1517-1648 AD

Ulrich Zwingli (1484-1531). Together with Luther and Calvin, Ulrich Zwingli is one of the three key figures of the Reformation. He lived in Switzerland. His  legacy lives on in the Reformed churches of today.

Martin Luther (1483-1546). He expressed doubts over the legitimacy of indulgences and the plenitudo potestatis of the pope. The Reformation was born of Luther’s dual declaration – first, the discovering of Jesus and salvation by faith alone; and second, identifying the papacy as the Antichrist.

On October 31, 1517, in Wittenberg, Luther nailed The Ninety-Five Theses to the door of the Castle Church. The theses debated and criticized the Church and the papacy, but concentrated upon the selling of indulgences and doctrinal policies about purgatory, particular judgment, and the authority of the pope.

Writings include The Ninety-Five Theses, On the Bondage of the Will, Smalcald Articles, On the Freedom of a Christian, and many others.

The Diet of Worms. Tried Martin Luther for heresy in 1521.

Pope Leo X. Excommunicated Martin Luther on January 3, 1521. Writings include Decet Romanum Pontificem.

Philip Melanchthon. Died 1560 AD.

John Calvin (1509-1564). Together with Luther and Zwingli, John Calvin is one of the three key figures of the Reformation. He was a principal figure in the development of Calvinism, which is most famous for its doctrines on predestination and the absolute sovereignty of God in salvation and damnation.

John Knox (1514-1572). A Scottish clergyman and writer who was a leader of the Protestant Reformation and is considered the founder of the Presbyterian denomination in Scotland.

Thirty Years’ War. From 1618 to 1648 the Roman Catholic House of Habsburg and its allies fought against the Protestant princes of Germany, killing between 25 and 40% of its population.

The Peace of Westphalia, which ended the Thirty Years’ War.

René Descartes (1596 to 1650). French philosopher, mathematician, and scientist. His best known philosophical statement is “Cogito ergo sum” (I think, therefore I am).

Dubbed the father of modern western philosophy. Much of subsequent Western philosophy is a response to his writings. Writings include the “Discourse on the Method” (1637). It is one of the most influential works in the history of modern philosophy, and important to the development of natural sciences.

c. The Counter-Reformation
1545 to 1648 AD

We call this era: The Empire Strikes Back

Johann Eck (1486 to 1543). A German scholastic theologian. He defended the doctrines of the Mass, Purgatory, and auricular confession. He condemned Luther, Zwingli and others. Later in life, he became a papal emissary and Inquisitor. Writings include the 404 Theses.

Council of Trent in Italy in 1545-1563. It clarified Catholic teaching, refuted the Protestant Reformers (Luther, Calvin, Zwingli), and set Catholic reform in motion. It was more about theology and church practices. It was less about church politics than the two councils that came before it.

Rules on Prohibited Books.

Index of Prohibited Books

Missale Romanum (1570)

The Galileo Trial (1616). It captures the mindset of the Inquisition. They had a systematic procedure. The Galileo Trial had a profound effect upon the progress of science for the next 200 years. It drove science out of Italy and north to the Netherlands.

d. Private reforms
1545 to 1648 AD

Ignatius of Loyola (1491 to 1556). Writings include Spiritual Exercises.

Francis Xavier (1506 to 1552). Saint, missionary.

Teresa of Jesus (1515 to 1582). Also known as Teresa of Avila. Saint, Doctor of the Church. Writings include AutobiographyWay of PerfectionThe Interior CastleMeditations on the CanticleThe Foundations, and Visitation of the Discalced Nuns.

Charles Borromeo (1538 to 1584). Writings include Pastoral Letters.

Peter Canisius (1521 to 1597). Saint, Doctor of the Church.

John of the Cross (1542 to 1591). Saint, Doctor of Mystical The­ology. Died 1591 AD. Writings include The Ascent of Mt. CarmelThe Dark NightThe Spiritual Canticle,  and The Living Flame of Love.

Francis de Sales (1567 to 1622). Saint, Doctor of the Church. Died 1610 AD. Writings include In­tro­duction to the Devout Life and The Love of God.

Lawrence of Brindisi. Saint, Doctor of the Church. Died 1619 AD.

Paul Miki and Companions. Saint, martyrs.

Robert Bellarmine (1542 to 1621). Saint, Doctor of the Church. Writings include Controversies, and The Art of Dying Well.

Vincent de Paul (1581 to 1660). Saint.


1648 to 1962 AD

a. The Enlightenment
1648 to 1789 AD

Rene Descartes. Died 1650 AD. Writings include Dis­course on the Method.

Blaise Pascal. Died 1662 AD. Writings include Pensées.

Baruch Spinoza. Died 1677 AD. Writings include Ethics.

John Bunyan. Died 1688 AD. Writings include The Pilgrim’s Progress.

Brother Lawrence. Died 1691 AD. Writings include The Practice of the Presence of God.

Alphonsus Liguori. Saint, Doctor of the Church. Died 1787 AD. Writings include The­ologiae Moralis.

b. Revolution
1789 to 1870 AD

Immanuel Kant. Died 1804 AD. Writings include Religion Within the Limits of Reason

The Philokalia. By Makarios of Corinth (died 1805), and Nikodemos of the Holy Mountain (died 1809).

Andrew Dung-Lac. Saint, martyr. Died 1839.

Elizabeth Ann Seton. Saint. Died 1821. Writings include Conference to her spiritual daughters.

Friedrich Daniel Ernst Schleiermacher. Died 1834 AD. Writings include Religion: Speeches to Its Cultured Despis­ers.

John Henry Newman. Cardinal. Died 1845 AD. Writings include Lectures on Justification.

Søren Kierkegaard. Died 1855 AD. Writings include Fear and Trembling

First Council of the Vatican (1869-1870), Italy. About 700 prelates attended. Declared the infallibility of the pope, and reaffirmed traditional Catholic teachings.

c. Intransigence
1870 to 1962

Fyodor Mikhailovich Dostoyevsky. Died 1881 AD. Writings include The Brothers Karamazov.

The Way of a Pilgrim (1884). By an unknown author.

Gerard Manley Hopkins. Died 1889 AD. Writings include Poetry.

Teresa of Lisieux. Also known as the Little Flower. Saint, Mystic, Doctor of the Church. Died 1897 AD. Writings include The Story of a Soul.

Leo XIII. Saint, pope. Died 1903 AD. Writings include Rerum Novarum.

G. K. Chesterton. Died 1936 AD. Writings include Orthodoxy.

Thomas Raymond Kelly. Quaker mystic. Died 1941 AD. Writings include A Testament of Devotion.

Dietrich Bonhoeffer. Died 1945. Writings include The Cost of Discipleship.

Thomas Merton (died 1968). Writings include New Seeds of Contemplation and The Inner Experience: Notes on Contemplation


1962 AD to present

Second Council of the Vatican in Italy in 1962-1965). Attended by 2,540 prelates. One of the most important Councils. Its purpose was to renew and update the Catholic church, and promote unity among Christians.

C. S. Lewis. Died 1963 AD. Writings include Mere Christianity.

Paul Tillich. Died 1965. Writings include Systematic Theology.

Thomas Merton. Trappist monk. Died 1968. Writings include The Seven Storey Mountain.

Rudulf Bultmann. Founder of New Testament form criti­cism. Died 1976. Writings include Theology of the New Testament.

Karl Rahner. Died 1984.

Hans Urs Von Balthasar. Died 1988.

Henry de Lubac. French existentialist. Died 1991.

Yves Congar. Eccesiologist. Died 1995.

Henri J. M. Nouwen. Died 1996 AD. Writings include The Return of the Prodigal Son.

Meriol Trevor. Died 2000. Converted from agnostic to Roman Catholic. She was one of the most prolific Roman Catholic women writers of the twentieth century and won prestigious awards for her writing.  She wrote a two-volume biography of John Henry Newman.

Avery Dulles. Born 1918. Writings include Models of the Church, and Models of Revelation.

John Paul II, pope.

Jacques Maritan. Writings include Integral Humanism.


Unless otherwise noted, all Bible quotations on this page are from the World English Bible and the World Messianic Edition. These translations have no copyright restrictions. They are in the Public Domain.


Author: Todd Van Natta

I was given a great gift. It is to be passionate about Jesus Christ and the Bible and the spiritual life. I am a Christian believer. I believe in Jesus Christ. I’m in love with Jesus! I believe the Bible. I love the Bible. For decades, I've been reading it cover-to-cover, again and again and again. I’ve memorized a whole lot of Bible verses. Most of all, I want the Bible to help us fall more deeply in love with God the Father, with Jesus Christ, with the Holy Spirit, with other people, and with ourselves. And I've been reading the great writings from the entire Christian heritage for decades. At Explore the Faith, I share what I have discovered.