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


Posted in History by patriciahysell on July 6, 2015
Pope Clement VI

Pope Clement VI

July 6, 1348: Pope Clement VI issues a papal bull. A papal bull is a type of letters patent issued by the Pope of the Roman Catholic Church. Letters patent are published legal instruments which issue orders from a leader to those under his/her command. The papal portion indicates the leader issuing the orders while the bull is named for the lead seal (bulla) attached at the end of the document to ensure its authenticity. They first saw use in the 6th century but the term was not used until the end of the 13th century. They begin with a formalized statement with the Pope’s name and title as well as Latin words indicating the title of the document. Following that is the text of the order and then it is formally signed and sealed with the papal seal or bulla. This was usually lead but for special and important cases, could be made of gold.

The papal bull issued on this day was sent out to Europeans to help protect Jews from persecution. The Black Death was one of the most devastating pandemics to ever strike humankind. There were an estimated 75 to 200 million deaths in Europe due to the plague which peaked between 1346 and 1353. This resulted in a third to two-thirds of Europe’s population wiped out. Pope Clement had only recently risen to his position and sought out the help of “experts” to determine the cause of these devastating losses. Unfortunately, the science of the time was not up to the task and so he was given bad advice. Popular opinion was as erroneous as the expert opinion, but with a different causative agent. The Jews were accused of purposely contaminating water supplies. Since they were often sequestered in their own parts of town and their kosher lifestyle demanded more cleanliness, they were often able to remain healthy. So they were blamed.

Clement issued his first papal bull protecting the Jews on this day without stopping the persecution. He reiterated the protection of the Church on September 26. He condemned the violence against Jews and said that the perpetrators had been “seduced by that liar, the Devil”. His orders were to local clergy who were urged to protect Jews, just as the Pope himself had done. Although he was warned to not minister to the sick, he ignored his experts and continued his practice or blessing the sick and those who had died. Although surrounded by death, the pontiff never contracted the disease.

Analysis of DNA from victims of the disease was published in 2010 and 2011 and the pathogen responsible was the Yersinia pestis bacterium. It caused several different forms of what was known as Black Death. Overall world population fell by an estimated 450 million or 30-60% of the total population in the 14th century. The loss of such a great number of people caused upheavals in all aspects of life: economic, religious, and social. It had a profound effect on the civilized world of the time and it took almost 150 years for Europe’s population to recover. The disease was thought to have originated in the arid plains of Central Asia and traveled via the Silk Road to reach the Crimea in 1347 and then spread throughout Europe with small pockets of lands untouched by Death.

We all live in the protection of certain cowardices which we call our principles. – Mark Twain

Freedom is not an ideal, it is not even a protection, if it means nothing more than freedom to stagnate, to live without dreams, to have no greater aim than a second car and another television set. – Adlai Stevenson

Pessimism: A valuable protection against quackery. – John Ralston Saul

To have faith in Divine protection is good, but even better if backed by the practical assistance heaven has a right to expect from sensible mortals. – Edith Pargeter

Also on this day: The Greatest Show on Earth – In 1944, the Hartford Circus Fire killed over 100 attendees at the circus.
Dirigible – In 1919, the first east to west Atlantic crossing in an airship successfully concluded.
Rabidly Scientific – In 1885, Louis Pasteur began the first series of rabies shots.
Homestead Strike – In 1892, violence broke out during the strike.
Piper Alpha – In 1988, the oil platform exploded.