Little Bits of History

February 24

Posted in History by patriciahysell on February 24, 2017

1582: Inter gravissimas is issued. The papal bull was written in Latin and Pope Gregory XIII was setting forth the way to realign the calendar with the actual orbit of the planet. The Catholic calendar used older methods to determine the dates for some feasts, most notably – Easter. In order to accurately place the celebration for Christ’s triumph over death, there were three things that needed to be restored. The first of these was the correct placement of the northern vernal equinox or the first day of spring. The next calculation needed was the proper identification of the “14th day of the moon” or as we would call it, the full moon. After these two pieces of information were available, the next Sunday after this full moon after the vernal equinox would be Easter.

The Council of Nicaea was held in summer of 325. At that time, March 21 was when the sun was aligned with the equator as it moved northward into the summer solstice. Since a year is not actually 365 days long, calculations had been made by the older calendar to create a more accurate time table. But the year is also not exactly 365.25 days long either and the planet had drifted away from the original location over 1200 years earlier. Not only is there a problem with the Earth’s orbit around the Sun, but the Moon’s orbit around the Earth isn’t exact either. So the new calendar would make the full moon actually occur at the time of the full moon which removed “four days and more” of further drift. This would realign Easter with where it was originally found in 325.

The new calendar would simply change the numbers of the date. Pope Gregory had no authority over the entire globe, but Catholic countries were mandated to update their calendars in October of 1582. Thursday, October 4 was followed by Friday, October 15. This realigned the old style calendar with the solar year. However, other countries/places around the world were using a variety of other calendars. In fact, even today, there are many different ways to compute the date and many places have more than one calendar in use. The Gregorian calendar is almost universally recognized as the most accurate, but religious and national calendars remain in use for internal reasons, as well.

The longer it took to accept the new solar calendar, the greater the change in the dates. Between the years 1900 and 2100, a change of 13 days would be needed to upgrade a Julian calendar to a Gregorian. Russia finally accepted the “new” calendar in 1918 although they had changed their new year’s day to January 1 in 1700 whereas Great Britain and the British Empire took until 1752 for that to take place (it had been on March 25 prior to that). Even now, there is some confusion when giving a date. Some places add OS or NS to the date, to let the reader know if the Julian (OS) calendar or the Gregorian (NS) date is being used. Extending the dates backwards creates a proleptic calendar and is confusing so should be used only with great caution.

Don’t be fooled by the calendar. There are only as many days in the year as you make use of. – Charles Richards

Tomorrow is only found in the calendar of fools. – Og Mandino

I don’t wait for the calendar to figure out when I should live life. – Gene Simmons

Ethics and equity and the principles of justice do not change with the calendar. – D. H. Lawrence


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