The History of the Church in One Page

A partial timeline of church history

A screen grab of the time-line. Click to download the full thing in PDF format.

I’ve been working on a bit of software to draw timelines for a while. It is nowhere near finished, there are all sorts of things I’d like to add, plus some minor bugs. But the test case I’ve been using it for is a course on church history.

I’ve decided to attach it to see if anyone can make any sense of it. Get it here.

Some things to note.

  1. It is a switchback chart to get everything on one page. I’ve not seen this structure done in this way before, but I can’t believe I’m the first to think of it. The software can do any shape, which is neat. That’s the bit I’m proudest of 🙂
  2. In some parts of the chart I’ve had to edit who I included quite heavily. In others I’ve been searching around for additions. That’s particularly evident in the Reformation where I could have added far more.  That may be a side-effect of the protestant bias in teaching church history in the UK.
  3. There isn’t a key on the diagram yet. (One of the features I’m getting to!). The color scheme is pretty simple though:
    • Red – A key person in Christian theology. Note that in the timeline of people I’ve picked a set of likely dates. I’ve not tried to show where unknowns are. Showing uncertainty is a graphical feature I’d like to add later.
    • Mauve – A key person with a non-Christian or heretical theology (this is somewhat arbitrary, so the early church heretics are in this color, as are key figures in other religions, but I haven’t put atheistic/agnostic philosophers in this color, nor separated out non-orthodox recent Christian movements such as Mormonism).
    • Blue – Councils of the church. Followed by (C) for Catholic and (O) for Orthodox. Most councils that were later repudiated are omitted.
    • Black – Persecutions. No indication of the severity or organization is given.
    • Deep Purple – Crusades.
    • Green – Major writings or bible editions. The dates show approximate date of composition.
    • Bright Purple – Other events.

It goes without saying that I’d love to hear about any errors or obvious omissions. It covers the content of the course, plus some extras, but it would be good to know where I’ve been particularly remiss about extras.



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8 responses to “The History of the Church in One Page

  1. atimetorend

    Just gave it a quick look for now, only have a moment, but it looks great. A very general observation, the switchbacks are very helpful. I think it is much easier to see the time frame (the whole point of a time line) than when you have to flip multiple pages, especially on a computer screen. Very impressive.

  2. ian

    Thanks. I do think that being able to see the scale of something in one glance is really important. Several laypeople who’ve seen it have commented how it made then realise just how recent the reformation is. Its very easy to see the past through a wide angle lens, where distances appear compressed the farther back you go.

  3. Impressive. Heavy amount of data and names on one page are hard on my brain.
    I prefer simple outlines and then I can open a piece of info on the simple outline and see its complexity. This model could allow that — Hyperlinking to a deeper level diagram.

  4. ian

    @sabio Yes, there is a lot. But looking at the page with detail like that also tells you things. Blur your vision a bit and you see the busy bits. The reformation and the 300-400 period. The smattering of persecutions, and the nothing of the dark ages.

    It obviously shows a difference in our thinking styles: from your systematic organization and my love of messyness 🙂

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  7. This is a great chart. Thanks for it.

    If you’re still looking for additions to it, I can suggest a couple of examples during the sparse period from 600-1000:
    – the iconoclasm controversy in the East (and maybe John Damascene)
    – siege of Jerusalem
    – inauguration of the Papal States
    – Cyril and Methodius
    – founding of the monastery at Cluny

    I’m not sure if those all rise to the level of significance you’ve established, but they would help counteract the suggestion of a “blank spot” in Church history.

    Towards the end, the Protestant bias becomes somewhat more noticeable. It might be biased coming from a Jesuit, but Karl Rahner occupies a Catholic position somewhat analogous to Karl Barth, and important to the development of Vatican II. Of course, in general the whole

  8. Ian

    Sam, thanks so much for the feedback. Yes, good suggestions. You’re right on the protestant bias towards the end (and the bias towards schism and sects more generally). I’ll try to rejig things and repost.

    I’m not sure how soon I’ll get to that, but I definitely will.

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