Engraving of John Wyclif

31 December

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John Wyclif (pictured above), radical church reformer, died of a stroke today in 1384. It was a shrewd move. Thirty-one years later, condemned by the Council of Constance for teaching that the Pope was the Antichrist, his body was dug up, burned and thrown into the River Swift, a tributary of the River Avon.

‘They burnt his bones to ashes and cast them into the Swift, a neighboring brook running hard by. Thus the brook hath conveyed his ashes into Avon, Avon into Severn; Severn into the narrow seas; and they into the main ocean. And thus the ashes of John Wycliffe are the emblem of his doctrine which now is dispersed the world over.’ Thomas Fuller

Today in 1930 Pope Pius XI thundered against the Anglican Church, which had recently approved the use of artificial birth control. Appropriately, his encyclical, Casti Connubii (‘Of Chaste Wedlock’), depicted the Catholic Church as ‘standing erect in the midst of the moral ruin which surrounds her…’

Robert Boyle, the natural philosopher who is considered the first modern chemist, died today in 1691. Aside from producing Boyle’s Law, about the pressure of gases, he also wrote several books of practical theology, and personally financed the translation of the Bible into the Irish language.

The French revolutionary calendar was scrapped by Napoleon today in 1809 – or Year 17, as it had been known until then. It was a calendar in honour of reason, with 10-day weeks, 30-day months, and the leftover days celebrated as holidays called Virtue, Labour, Opinion, etc. Popular saints’ days had been replaced with fruit and flower days. But in 1809, Napoleon returned the calendar to the good old days, weeks and months, just in time for New Year’s Eve.

Image: Wikimedia Commons

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