October 19, 1745
Swift Death Mask
Jonathan Swift's death mask
Photo by Becky Garrison

Lemuel Gulliver, I.P. Bickerstaff, and M.B. Drapier, all names used to disguise the identity of Anglican priest Jonathan Swift as he lurched from woman to woman and parish to parish, were all laid to rest at St. Patrick’s Cathedral in Dublin when the world’s foremost Christian satirist (our favorite kind) expired at the age of 77.

June 30, 153

Baby Shop - Nazareth
Baby shop in Nazareth
Photo by Becky Garrison

Within three generations of the crucifixion, the town of Nazareth discovered Jesus Tourism.

June 20, 1157

The assembled clerics at the Council of Reims determined that the only sure way to deal with suspected heretics was by facial branding. Ouch.

June 19, 1637

pulpit rock
Photo by Becky Garrison.

Baptist preacher Roger Williams, seeking land where free-thinking Christians could live in peace, purchased Prudence Island (part of modern-day Rhode Island) from Sachem Canonicus, chief of the Narragansett Indians, for 20 fathom of wampum and two coats. Even if the Indians knew they could one day own the bed-and-breakfasts on the island, they wouldn’t have sat through another sermon.

May 11, 1825

tract society
Woodcut by Anderson from
The American Tract Magazine, 1825.

American Tract Society, Garland, Texas.

The American Tract Society was founded in a four-story building at 87 Nassau Street in New York, quickly becoming America’s leading charity and distributing 35 million evangelical books and tracts in its first decade. The theory was that if we could wipe out vices like gambling and alcoholism and sexual license, all of which get in the way of conversion, then the nation would become overwhelmingly Christian and the passions of the underclasses could be kept under control. The society, after 183 years of continuous pamphleteering, is now based in Garland, Texas, and is on the verge of finally eliminating every vice.

June 27, 1844

smith lynch
Martyrdom of Joseph and Hiram Smith in Carthage Jail,
Tinted lithograph by Nagel & Weingaertner,
after C. G. Crehen, 1851 Library of Congress.

Joseph Smith, the founder of the Mormon Church, and his brother Hiram were killed by a lynch mob in Carthage, Illinois. The mob leader tried to behead Joseph, but was thwarted, so he shot him instead. Two years later the Mormons would abandon their settlement at Nauvoo, Illinois, and under the leadership of Brigham Young, migrate to Utah, where beheadings were less common. READ MORE...

11.21.2007 | Comments(1)

April 26, 1475

Three Jewish households in Trent, Italy, were accused of murdering a Christian boy named Simon, using his blood to make matzo, and drinking his blood at Passover. They were all imprisoned and then tortured with a device called the strappado, a pulley that could be used to raise a person to the ceiling and then drop him, making him “dance” at the end of a rope, dislocating his limbs and inflicting pain. The few who didn’t confess immediately then had onions and sulfur placed under their noses, and hot eggs held under their arms, as a stenographer recorded the proceedings. Eventually all the members of all three families confessed, named names, and told the torturers what they wanted to hear. They were then convicted and executed, after which the young boy Simon became a saint. For some reason the Catholic church annulled Simon’s sainthood in 1965, just ten years shy of the 500th anniversary of his martyrdom.

11.19.2007 | Comments(0)

March 14, 1859

Eleven-year-old Thomas Wall refused to read the Lord’s Prayer and the Ten Commandments during his weekly required exercises at a Boston public school, so his teacher, McLaurin F. Cooke, whipped the boy’s hands with a three-foot-long rattan stick, pausing occasionally to give him a chance to begin his recitations. The beating continued for 30 minutes, after which Wall agreed to read as instructed. The Wall family lodged a criminal complaint, but the judge said that the Bible exercises were required by law so that young children could learn “humanity, and a universal benevolence, sobriety, moderation and temperance.” Complaint dismissed. History does not record whether the boy developed a deep reverence for the Lord’s Prayer, or whether he became benevolent, sober, moderate and/or temperate.

11.16.2007 | Comments(0)

August 8, 1854

John Bapst, a Jesuit priest in Ellsworth, Maine, was set upon by a mob of Protestants who were angered about his legal complaints that the King James Bible was required in schools, even for Catholic children. Father Bapst was tarred and feathered, but none of the perpetrators were arrested, no doubt out of a sense of Christian mercy.

11.15.2007 | Comments(0)

July 4, 1844

Fearing violence from Catholic- hating Protestants on the national holiday, the Irish militia took up positions in front of the Catholic church in the Southwalk neighborhood of Philadelphia. READ MORE...

11.13.2007 | Comments(2)

May 8, 1844

Armed Protestant gangs, defeated two days' running by the more accurate musket fire of the Irish Catholics they were attempting to rout from the city of Philadelphia, turned to arson as their best weapon, torching St. Michael's Church and cheering as the steeple collapsed to the ground, bringing a cross with it. Then they burned the seminary of the Sisters of Charity and ransacked homes and stores, making a bonfire of books in the street. When Mayor John M. Scott stood on the steps of St. Augustine's Catholic Church and asked the crowd to disperse, someone knocked him down with a rock to the chest, then a new fire broke out, destroying St. Augustine's within half an hour. Martial law was declared, and the three days of violence ended with the Catholics leading by sheer body count, but the Protestants starting to make an impact with their ability to loot, pillage and burn.

11.12.2007 | Comments(2)

January 17, 897

Pope Stephen VI decided to dig up the corpse of Pope Formosus, who had been dead for eight months, so that Formosus could be put on trial before a synod of bishops. READ MORE...

10.15.2007 | Comments(27)