The Year was 1380

Twins Catherine and Giovanna were the 23rd and 24th children of Giacomo de Benincasa, a cloth dyer, and his wife, Lapa. Giovanna soon died. At seven, Catherine made a vow to remain a virgin for life. As a teenager, she advised, “Build a cell inside your mind, from which you can never flee.” When Catherine…

The Year was 1118

Canon Fulbert of Notre Dame wanted an excellent education for his brilliant teenage niece, Heloise. Who better than the most preeminent and respected scholar in the land, the monk Peter Abelard? At 39, Abelard was a famed philosopher and teacher, handsome and regal. Not only was Heloise brilliant, she was also strikingly beautiful. Shockingly, Abelard…

The year was 1163

That was the year a fateful progression of events began with a single act: a priest in England was accused of a murder. The king, the powerful Henry II, demanded that the priest be tried for the crime in his secular court system. The Archbishop of Canterbury, Thomas Becket, who was Henry’s good friend and…

The Year was 1492

No one died from gout – the Disease of Kings. So the doctor was not particularly worried about his patient, Lorenzo de’ Medici, called Lorenzo the Magnificent, one of the richest men in the world. But because Lorenzo was suffering from a pretty bad episode, the doctor changed the treatment. To the usual ground-up pearls,…

The Year was 432

Six years a slave. Irish pirates stole the 16-year-old Brit, calling him Padraig, making him take care of pigs. He escaped, made it back home, and became a cleric and then Padraig did a strange thing – he returned to Ireland in 432 AD. Everything about Padraig, Saint Patrick, the patron saint of Ireland, is…

The Year was 1415

Roman Emperor Claudius the Cruel needed Roman soldiers, but they were not volunteering. Why not? Claudius thought the reason was that they wanted to stay home with their wives. His solution? Ban marriage. A Catholic priest, Valentine, disobeyed him, marrying young lovers in secret. Off with his head! The priest was beaten and beheaded in…

The year was 1978

This was a Year of Three Popes. In a mere 53 days, there were three popes. But this was not the Middle Ages, it was 1978. Pope Paul VI died on August 25th. The new pope, elected on August 26th, was John Paul I, was an Italian, Albino Luciani, born in 1912. He was a…

The year was 1492

Who could beat the Gonzaga horses? No one. Gonzaga himself had bred his Italian horses with Arabians. Gonzaga’s controlling wife, the snooty Isabella d’Este, had a burning desire to be the best at everything. Always. No one dared go up against her. But she met her match in the teenage son of Pope Alexander VI….

The year was 964

As Pope, the teenager would be a disaster. He was the pampered son of Alberic, princeps (head) of Rome. Octavian would inherit his father’s title. But Alberic had wanted more for his favorite son. He wanted Octavian to be the next Pope. The nobles swore an oath to Alberic in St. Peter’s Basilica that they would…

The year was 800

Who ruled their world? Charlemagne? The Pope? The Pope was Leo III. He was certain it was him – because he represented God – even though he had needed Charlemagne to take his side against those who wanted him out of St. Peter’s chair. In typical fashion, the Romans had been accusing Leo of their…