About this Course
4.7
178 ratings
64 reviews
This course follows the extraordinary development of Western Christianity from its early persecution under the Roman Empire in the third century to its global expansion with the Jesuits of the early modern world. We explore the dynamic and diverse character of a religion with an enormous cast characters. We will meet men and women who tell stories of faith as well as of violence, suppression, and division. Along the way, we encounter Perpetua and her martyrdom in Carthage; the struggles of Augustine the bishop in North Africa; the zeal of Celtic monks and missionaries; the viciousness of the Crusades; the visions of Brigit of Sweden; and the fracturing of Christianity by Martin Luther’s protest. We hear the voices of great theologians as well as of those branded heretics by the Church, a powerful reminder that the growth of Christianity is a story with many narratives of competing visions of reform and ideals, powerful critiques of corruption and venality, and exclusion of the vanquished. The troubled history of Christian engagement with Jews and Muslims is found in pogroms and expulsions, but also in the astonishing ways in which the culture of the West was transformed by Jewish and Islamic learning. We shall explore the stunning beauty of the Book of Kells, exquisitely prepared by monks as the Vikings terrorized the coast of England. We will experience the blue light of the windows of Chartres, and ponder the opening questions of Thomas Aquinas’ great Summa. We will read from the Gutenberg Bible of the fifteenth century, which heralded the revolution brought by the printing press. We will travel from Calvin’s Geneva to Elizabeth’s England to Trent, where a Catholic Council met to inaugurate a modern, missionary Catholic church. We will walk through the great Escorial of Philip II of Spain, hear the poetry of John of the Cross, and follow the Jesuits to Brazil and China. Christianity in the West was forged in the fires of conflict and tumult, and it brought forth both creativity and violence. It echoed with calls for God’s world to be transformed, it inspired the most sublime art and architecture, yet it also revealed the power of the union of cross and sword to destroy. The course is a journey through the formation of the West as one strand of Christianity, as one chapter in a global story. It is a journey that has shaped our world....
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Beginner Level

Beginner Level

Clock

Approx. 30 hours to complete

Suggested: 5 hours/week...
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English

Subtitles: English, Spanish...
Globe

100% online courses

Start instantly and learn at your own schedule.
Calendar

Flexible deadlines

Reset deadlines in accordance to your schedule.
Beginner Level

Beginner Level

Clock

Approx. 30 hours to complete

Suggested: 5 hours/week...
Comment Dots

English

Subtitles: English, Spanish...

Syllabus - What you will learn from this course

Week
1
Clock
1 hour to complete

Welcome to A Journey through Western Christianity: from Persecuted Faith to Global Religion (200 - 1650)

Learn what this course is about, who's teaching it, and other ways you can explore this topic. Meet and greet your peers as well!...
Reading
1 video (Total 2 min), 4 readings
Video1 video
Reading4 readings
Course Description5m
Precourse Survey10m
Meet Your Instructional Team5m
Bonus course resources10m
Clock
2 hours to complete

Introduction: From Persecution to Empire

“From Persecution to Empire,” explores the interaction between the second-century Christian Church and the Roman Empire in which it existed. After the faith’s birth in Palestine, Christianity spread throughout the Roman Empire with a rapidity that alarmed many Roman rulers. Persecution of Christians became common, and the experience of persecution shaped the Church. In 313 AD, the Roman Emperor Constantine ended persecution and Christianity transformed once more to become a pillar of Roman society....
Reading
6 videos (Total 57 min), 3 readings, 1 quiz
Video6 videos
Diversity in the Year 200: Dura Europos (c. 240), with Dr. Lisa Brody [Yale University Art Gallery]10m
The Conversion of Constantine8m
The Arian-Nicene Controversy11m
The Nature of Christ8m
The Rise of Rome8m
Reading3 readings
The Creed of Nicaea15m
Conversion of Constantine20m
Yale University Art Gallery—Dura-Europos: Excavating Antiquity10m
Quiz1 practice exercise
From Persecution to Empire20m
Week
2
Clock
3 hours to complete

Augustine and the North African Church

“Augustine and the North African Church,” studies two areas of early and vibrant Christian growth: Egypt and North Africa. These areas responded to intense Roman persecution by developing a theology of martyrdom. Indeed, both areas became bastions of early Christian theological thinking, with the North African Church producing the most important Christian theologian ever: Augustine of Hippo....
Reading
6 videos (Total 69 min), 4 readings, 1 quiz
Video6 videos
North African Christianity15m
Martyrdom and Persecution14m
The Martyrdom of Perpetua (with Max & Nazanin)5m
Augustine14m
Islamic Invasion of North Africa7m
Reading4 readings
Martyrdom of Perpetua and Felicitas30m
Augustine on Donatists40m
A timeline of the Great Persecution10m
See the Coptic necropolis el Bagawat (Egypt), one of the earliest Christian cemeteries10m
Quiz1 practice exercise
Augustine and North African Church20m
Week
3
Clock
4 hours to complete

Monastic Lives: Desert Fathers to Celtic Christianity

“Monastic Lives: Desert Fathers to Celtic Christianity,” examines the origins of monasticism in Christianity. After the end of Roman persecution, some Christians chose to isolate themselves in the desert and deny themselves food, sleep, and material comforts. Why? And how did this movement develop into medieval monasticism? This module will explain the early roots and influence of monks and nuns in Christianity....
Reading
7 videos (Total 80 min), 5 readings, 1 quiz
Video7 videos
Saint Catherine’s (with Max)4m
Saint Benedict10m
Irish Monasticism15m
The Viking Age (with Nazanin)5m
Venerable Bede, Saint Cuthbert, and Northumbria14m
Alcuin and the Carolingian Renaissance15m
Reading5 readings
Life of St. Anthony10m
Benedict Rule10m
Explore the Gutenberg Bible and its history10m
Browse the Book of Kells medieval manuscript10m
View the Lindisfarne Gospels' early medieval illuminations10m
Quiz1 practice exercise
Monastic Lives, Desert Fathers to Celtic Christianity20m
Week
4
Clock
4 hours to complete

Reformers and Crusaders

“Reformers and Crusaders,” focuses on Christianity during the dawn of the medieval period. Here we ask: How did Christianity respond to the new feudal world of medieval Europe? Popes, monks, and knights became essential features of the Christian faith during this period, roughly 950 – 1350 AD....
Reading
8 videos (Total 68 min), 6 readings, 1 quiz
Video8 videos
Feudalism7m
Christian Reform12m
Bernard of Clairvaux (with Max)6m
Divided Christianity6m
Crusades14m
Innocent III10m
Cathar Heresy (with Nazanin)6m
Reading6 readings
Fulcher of Chartres, Speech of Urban II10m
The Capture of Jerusalem (1244)10m
Christian Attacks on Jews30m
Henry IV's letter to Gregory VII10m
The Romance of the Rose10m
Hagia Sophia's Christian mosaics10m
Quiz1 practice exercise
Reformers and Crusaders20m
4.7

Top Reviews

By ESMar 23rd 2018

A great journey! Lots of information and bonus material! I'm very thankful for the course. It might be that the professor's speech is sometimes a bit difficult to follow, but it's a minor drawback

By AWJun 20th 2017

Well developed and presented course.. It'll be good to have it continued from 1650 to where the Christian faith is today. I'll be very interested to be part of it if it is developed.

Instructor

Bruce Gordon

Titus Street Professor of Ecclesiastical History
Yale Divinity School

About Yale University

For more than 300 years, Yale University has inspired the minds that inspire the world. Based in New Haven, Connecticut, Yale brings people and ideas together for positive impact around the globe. A research university that focuses on students and encourages learning as an essential way of life, Yale is a place for connection, creativity, and innovation among cultures and across disciplines. ...

Frequently Asked Questions

  • Once you enroll for a Certificate, you’ll have access to all videos, quizzes, and programming assignments (if applicable). Peer review assignments can only be submitted and reviewed once your session has begun. If you choose to explore the course without purchasing, you may not be able to access certain assignments.

  • When you purchase a Certificate you get access to all course materials, including graded assignments. Upon completing the course, your electronic Certificate will be added to your Accomplishments page - from there, you can print your Certificate or add it to your LinkedIn profile. If you only want to read and view the course content, you can audit the course for free.

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