This lesson concerns the 15th Century and the time in the 16th Century until the year 1517 when Martin Luther nailed his 95 thesis to the door of the church in Wittenburg. First, let’s look at why the church had its headquarters in Avignon in Southern France. At the conclusion of a war between the King of France, Philip the Fair and the Pope, the Pope was captured by the King and deposed from the Holy See. Following this, for 70 years, the Roman See resided in Avignon and was subject to the King of France.
The extension of Christianity was very limited during this century. In the latter part of the century, in 1492, Ferdinand, King of Spain, finally drove the remainder of the Saracens out of Spain. For this, he was given the name of Ferdinand the Catholic. The many Saracens who remained scattered throughout Spain were solicited to be Christian, but when they still held on to their religion, they were persecuted with force and arms, but still most of them held on to their own religion.
About this same time, Ferdinand issued a sentence of banishment against all the Jews in Spain. In order to avoid being banished, many Jews feigned to accept Christianity, and we’re told that for many centuries there were Jews who lived in Spain who pretended to be Christians, both to save being banished and to promote their worldly interest. In 1491, the Portuguese, who had ventured far on the high seas, attempted to convert the people of the Congo region of Africa. We are told that the whole people with its King was converted at once. We wonder what happened to all those Christians. In 1492, America had also been discovered and Pope Alexander VI divided all of America between the Spanish and the Portuguese, and exhorted them to reach the gospel in those lands. Consequently, great numbers of Franciscan and Dominican monks were sent with the armies and colonists to America.
In the east, Christianity continued to lose ground, for the Turks extended their holdings from Asia Minor into Europe. Finally, in 1453, the Turks captured Constantinople, which had been one of the Christian strongholds in the East for centuries. The Turks captured by force one part of Constantinople and the other part surrendered. consequently, in the first part, Christianity was eradicated, but in the second part, which had surrendered, it was allowed to exist, although with gradually lessened luster.
The people of Europe were greatly afraid of the Turks, and the church bells rang everyday in Germany to remind the people to pray for deliverance from the Turks, who had extended themselves as far as Bohemia and Hungary. It is said that one of the Turkish rulers said that his horse would eat oats off the altar of the Church in Rome.