Timeline of Church History

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The History of the Church is a vital part of the Orthodox Christian faith. Orthodox Christians are defined significantly by their continuity with all those who have gone before, those who first received and preached the truth of Jesus Christ to the world, those who helped to formulate the expression and worship of our faith, and those who continue to move forward in the unchanging yet ever-dynamic Holy Tradition of the Orthodox Church.

Apostolic era (33-100)

Ante-Nicene era (100-325)

Nicene era (325-451)

Byzantine era (451-843)

  • 451 Fourth Ecumenical Council meets at Chalcedon, condemning Eutychianism and Monophysitism, affirming that Christ has two natures; this eventually led to a schism, with the Church of Alexandria being divided into Chalcedonian and non-Chalcedonian factions, with a similar schism occurring in the Church of Antioch along with it.
  • 452 Proterios, who was appointed Pope and Patriarch of Alexandria to replace Dioscuros (who had been deposed at the Council of Chalcedon) convened a synod in Alexandria to try to reconcile the Chalcedonian and non-Chalcedonian groups.
  • 466 Church of Antioch elevates the bishop of Mtskheta to the rank of Catholicos of Kartli, thus rendering the Church of Georgia autocephalous.
  • 477 Bishop Timothy ("the Wild Cat") of Alexandria, who opposed the Council of Chalcedon, exiled the Orthodox bishops from Egypt.
  • 484 Founding of the Monastery of St. Sabbas in the Judean wilderness; Synod of Beth Papat in Persia declares the Nestorian doctrine as the official theology of the Assyrian Church of the East, centered in Edessa.
  • 488 Death of Peter the Fuller, the non-Chalcedonian Patriarch of Antioch.
  • 490 St. Brigid founds the monastery of Kildare in Ireland.
  • 521 St. Columba is born.
  • 529 The pagan University of Athens is closed, and replaced by a Christian university in Constantinople.
  • 529 St. Benedict of Nursia founds the monastery of Monte Cassino and codifies Western monasticism; Council of Orange condemns Pelagianism.
  • 533 Mercurius is elected Pope of Rome and takes the name of John II, the first pope to change his name upon election.
  • 533 Foundation of the Diocese of Selefkia in Central Africa by the Emperor Justinian.
  • 534 Roman Empire destroys the Arian kingdom of the Vandals.
  • 537 Construction of Hagia Sophia in Constantinople begun by Emperor St. Justinian the Great.
  • 541 Jacob Baradeus, bishop of Edessa, organizes the Non-Chalcedonian Church in western Syria (the "Jacobites"), which spreads to Armenia and Egypt (the "Copts").
  • 544 Founding of the monastery at Clonmacnoise in Ireland by St. Ciaran.
  • 546 St. Columba founds the monastery of Derry in Ireland.
  • 553 Fifth Ecumenical Council held in Constantinople in an attempt to reconcile the Chalcedonians with the non-Chalcedonians— the Three Chapters of Theodore of Mopsuestia, Theodoret of Cyrrhus, and Ibas of Edessa are condemned for their pro-Nestorian nature, and Origen and his writings are also condemned.
  • 556 St. Columba founds the monastery of Durrow in Ireland.
  • 563 Consecration of Hagia Sophia in Constantinople; St. Columba arrives on Iona and establishes his monastery there.
  • 569 Final schism between the Chalcedonians and non-Chalcedonians in Egypt. Henceforth there were two Popes and Patriarchs of Alexandria: the Greek Orthodox Patriarch and the Coptic Orthodox Patriarch. The Coptic Patriarch later moved to Cairo. The Chalcedonians (Greek Orthodox) were also called "Melkites".
  • 570 Birth of Mohammed, founder of Islam.
  • 580 Monte Cassino is sacked by the Lombards and the monks flee to Rome.
  • 589 At the Council of Toledo in Spain, the Filioque is added to the Nicene-Constantinopolitan Creed in an attempt to combat Arianism.
  • 590 Irish missionary St. Columbanus founds monasteries in France (Luxeuil in Burgundy).
  • 596 St. Gregory the Dialogist sends St. Augustine along with forty other monks to southern Britain to convert the pagans.
  • 601 Augustine of Canterbury converts King St. Ethelbert of Kent and establishes the see of Canterbury.
  • 615 Death of Columbanus in Italy.
  • 627 Pope St. Gregory the Dialogist sends Paulinus to found the see of York and convert King St. Edwin of Northumbria.
  • 635 Lindisfarne sees the establishment of the monastery that would convert northern England by the missionary saint Aidan, a monk from Iona; Cynegils, king of Wessex, converts to Christianity.
  • 636 Capture of Jerusalem by the Muslim Arabs.
  • 638 Arabs allow Jews to return to Jerusalem.
  • 639 Muslim conquest of Syria.
  • 641 The capture of the great city of Alexandria by Muslim Arabs.
  • 642 Muslim conquest of Egypt.
  • 650 Final defeat of Arianism as Lombards convert to Orthodox Christianity.
  • 657 Founding of Whitby Abbey in Yorkshire, England.
  • 662 Death of St Maximus the Confessor.
  • 663 Emperor Constans II is the last Eastern emperor to set foot in Rome.
  • 664 Synod of Whitby held in northern England, harmonizing Celtic and Roman liturgical practices in England; Ionian monk Wilfrid appointed as Archbishop of York.
  • 668 St. Theodore of Tarsus is appointed as archbishop of Canterbury.
  • 670 Composition of Caedmon's Hymn by St. Caedmon of Whitby.
  • 680-681 Sixth Ecumenical Council is held in Constantinople, condemning Monothelitism and affirming the Christology of St. Maximus the Confessor, affirming that Christ has both a natural (human) will and a divine will. Patriarch Sergius of Constantinople and Pope Honorius of Rome are both explicitly anathematized for their support of the Monothelite heresy.
  • 685 First monastics come to Mount Athos.
  • 687 Destruction of Whitby Abbey by Danish raiders.
  • 692 Quinisext Council (also called the Penthekte Council or the Council in Trullo) is held in Constantinople, issuing canons which are seen as completing the work of the Fifth and Sixth Ecumenical Councils, and declaring the Church of Jerusalem to be a patriarchate.
  • 698 Muslim conquest of Carthage.
  • 716 Monastery at Iona conforms to Roman liturgical usage.
  • 716 St Boniface's first missionary journey to Frisia.
  • 726 Emperor Leo the Isaurian starts his campaign against the icons.
  • 731 The Venerable Bede completes the Ecclesiastical History of the English People.
  • 732 Muslim invasion of Europe is stopped by the Franks at the Battle of Tours.
  • 754 Iconoclastic Council is held in Constantinople under the authority of Emperor Constantine V Copronymus, condemning icons and declaring itself to be the Seventh Ecumenical Council.
  • 754 Death of St Boniface, the Apostle of Germany.
  • 780 Death of St John of Damascus.
  • 787 Seventh Ecumenical Council is held in Nicea, condemning Iconoclasm and affirming the veneration of the holy icons, declaring that worship is due to God alone, and that the honor paid to icons passes to its prototype.
  • 800 Charlemagne is crowned as Holy Roman Emperor by Leo III of Rome on Christmas day.
  • 793 Sack of Lindisfarne. Viking attacks on England begin.
  • 826 St. Ansgar arrives in Denmark and begins preaching; King Harald Klak of Denmark converts to Christianity.
  • 836 Death of St Theodore the Studite.
  • 843 The Triumph of Orthodoxy occurs on the first Sunday of Great Lent, restoring the icons to the churches.

Late Byzantine era (843-1453)

  • 846 Muslim raid of Rome.
  • 852 St. Ansgar founds the churches at Hedeby and Ribe in Denmark.
  • 858 St. Photius the Great becomes patriarch of Constantinople.
  • 861 Ss. Cyril and Methodius depart from Constantinople to missionize the Slavs; council presided over by papal legates held in Constantinople which confirms St. Photius the Great as patriarch.
  • 862 Ratislav of Moravia converts to Christianity.
  • 863 First translations of Biblical and liturgical texts into Church Slavonic by Ss. Cyril and Methodius.
  • 863 The Venetians steal relics of St Mark from Alexandria.
  • 864 Prince Boris of Bulgaria is baptized.
  • 867 Council in Constantinople held, presided over by Photius, which anathematizes Pope Nicholas I of Rome for his attacks on the work of Greek missionaries in Bulgaria and the use by papal missionaries of the heretical Filioque; Pope Nicholas dies before hearing the news of his excommunication; Basil the Macedonian has Emperor Michael III murdered and usurps the Imperial throne, reinstating Ignatius as patriarch of Constantinople.
  • 869-870 The Robber Council of 869-870 is held, deposing St. Photius the Great from the Constantinopolitan see and putting the rival claimant Ignatius on the throne, declaring itself to be the "Eighth Ecumenical Council."
  • 870 Conversion of Serbia.
  • 877 Death of St. Ignatius I of Constantinople, who appoints St. Photius to succeed him.
  • 879-880 The Eighth Ecumenical Council is held in Constantinople, confirming Photius as Patriarch of Constantintople, anathematizing additions to the Nicene-Constantinopolitan Creed, and declaring that the prerogatives and jurisdiction of the Roman pope and the Constantinopolitan patriarch are essentially equal; this council is reluctantly accepted by Pope John VIII of Rome.
  • 883 Muslims burn the monastery of Monte Cassino.
  • 885 Mount Athos gains political autonomy.
  • 885 Death of St Methodius, apostle to the Slavs.
  • 911 Russian envoys visit Constantinople to ratify a treaty, sent by Oleg, Grand Prince of Rus'.
  • 912 Normans become Christian.
  • 957 St Olga is baptised in Constantinople.
  • 962 Denmark becomes a Christian nation with the baptism of King Harald Blaatand ("Bluetooth").
  • 963 St. Athanasius of Athos establishes the first major monastery on Mount Athos, the Great Lavra.
  • 973. Moravia assigned to the Diocese of Prague, putting the West Slavic tribes under the jurisdiction of the German Church.
  • 988 Baptism of Rus' begins with the conversion of St. Vladimir of Kiev.
  • 995 St. Olaf of Norway proclaims Norway to be a Christian kingdom.
  • 1000 Christianization of Greenland and Iceland.
  • 1008 Conversion of Sweden.
  • 1009 Patriarch Sergius II of Constantinople removes the name of Pope Sergius IV of Rome from the diptychs of the Church of Constantinople, because the pope had written a letter to the patriarch including the Filioque; Muslims destroy the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem.
  • 1014 Filioque used for the first time in Rome by Pope Benedict VIII at the coronation of Henry II, Holy Roman Emperor.
  • 1015 Death of St Vladimir of Kiev, Prince of Rus', apostle of the Russians and Ruthenians.
  • 1017 Danish king Canute converts to Christianity.
  • 1022 Death of St Simeon the New Theologian.
  • 1051 Monastery of the Kiev Caves founded.
  • 1054 Cardinal Humbert excommunicates Michael Cerularius, Patriarch of Consantinople, a major centerpoint in the formation of the Great Schism between East and West.
  • 1059 Errors of Berengar of Tours conemned in Rome. The term "transsubstantiation" begins to come in to use, ascribed to Peter Damian (1007-1072).
  • 1066 Normans invade England flying the banner of the Pope of Rome, defeating King Harold of England at the Battle of Hastings, beginning the reformation of the church and society there to align with Latin continental ecclesiology and politics.
  • 1071 Turkish capture of Jerusalem.
  • 1073 Hildebrand becomes Pope Gregory VII and launches the "Gregorian" reforms (celibacy of the clergy, primacy of the papacy over the empire, right of the Pope to depose emperors).
  • 1075 Seljuk Turks capture Jerusalem.
  • 1088 Founding of monastery of St. John the Theologian on Patmos.
  • 1095 Launching of the First Crusade.
  • 1096 Persecution of Jews by Crusaders.
  • 1098 Anselm of Canterbury completes his "Cur Deus homo", marking a radical divergence of Western theology of the atonement from that of the East.
  • 1098 Crusaders capture Antioch.
  • 1099 Crusaders capture Jerusalem.
  • 1144 Bernard of Clairvaux calls for a Second Crusade to rescue the besieged Latin kingdom of Jerusalem, and Louis VII of France and Konrad III of Germany join the Crusaders, but they are defeated by the Muslims.
  • 1180 Last formal, canonical acceptance of Latins to communion at an Eastern altar in Antioch.
  • 1187 Saladdin retakes Jerusalem.
  • 1189 Third Crusade is led by King Richard the Lion-Hearted of England, King Philip Augustus II of France, and Emperor Frederick Barbarossa.
  • 1204 Crusaders of the Fourth Crusade sack Constantinople, laying waste to the city and stealing many holy relics and other items; Great Schism generally regarded as having been completed by this act.
  • 1268 Egyptian Mamelukes capture Antioch.
  • 1336 Meteora in Greece is established as a center of Orthodox monasticism.
  • 1341-1351 Three sessions of the Ninth Ecumenical Council held in Constantinople, affirming the hesychastic theology of St. Gregory Palamas and condemning the rationalistic philosophy of Barlaam of Calabria.
  • 1379 Western "Great Schism" ensues, seeing the simultaneous reign of three Popes of Rome.
  • 1389 Serbs are defeated by Ottoman Turks of Sultan Murad I.
  • 1396 First English Bible translated by John Wyclif.
  • 1417 End of Western "Great Schism" at the Council of Constance.
  • 1439 Ecclesiastical reunion with the West is attempted at the Council of Florence, where only St. Mark of Ephesus refuses to capitulate to the demands of the delegates from Rome.
  • 1448 Church of Russia declares its independence from the Church of Constantinople.
  • 1453 Constantinople falls to the invasion of the Ottoman Turks.

Post-Imperial era (1453-1821)

  • 1455 Gutenberg makes the first printed Bible.
  • 1480 Spanish Inquisition.
  • 1517 Martin Luther nails his Ninety-Five Theses to the door at Wittenburg, sparking the Protestant Reformation; Ottomans conquer Jerusalem, Antioch and Alexandria, when Joakim the Athenian was Pope and Patriarch of Alexandria.
  • 1534 King Henry VIII declares himself supreme head of the Church of England.
  • 1547 Council of Trent held to answer the Protestant Reformation.
  • 1575 Church of Constantinople grants autonomy to Church of Sinai.
  • 1582 Institution of the Gregorian Calendar by Pope Gregory XIII.
  • 1589 Autocephaly of the Church of Russia recognized; the primate of the Church of Russia is styled as "patriarch."
  • 1596 At the Union of Brest-Litovsk, several million Ukrainian and Byelorussian Orthodox Christians, living under Polish rule, leave the Church of Russia and recognize the Pope of Rome, without giving up their Byzantine liturgy and customs, creating the Uniate church.
  • 1627 Pope and Patriarch Cyril Lukaris of Alexandria presented the famous "Codex Alexandrinus" to King Charles I of England for "safe keeping".
  • 1642 The Council of Jassy (Iaşi) revises Peter Moghila's confession to remove overtly Roman Catholic theology. Also confirms the canonicity of certain of the deuterocanonical books.
  • 1652-1658 Patriarch Nikon of Moscow revises liturgical books to bring them into conformity with the Greek liturgical customes, leading to the excommunication of dissenters, who become known as the Old Believers.
  • 1647 An Orthodox Church is erected in Tunisia.
  • 1652 A school and hospital were established in Old Cairo by Patriarch Joannikios.
  • 1685 Orthodoxy introduced in Beijing, China by the Church of Russia.
  • 1715 Metropolitan Arsenios of Thebaid sent to England by Pope and Patriarch Samuel of Alexandria to negotiate with non-juror Anglican bishops (those who had refused to take the oath to William and Mary).
  • 1724 Melkite schism, many faithful from the Church of Antioch become Uniates.
  • 1767 A community of Orthodox Greeks establishes itself in New Smyrna, Florida.
  • 1768 Jews are massacred during riots in Russia-occupied Poland.
  • 1782 First publication of the Philokalia; autonomy of Church of Sinai confirmed by Church of Constantinople.
  • 1794 Missionaries, including St. Herman of Alaska, arrive at Kodiak Island, bringing Orthodoxy to Russian Alaska.
  • 1811 Autocephaly of the Church of Georgia revoked by the Russian imperial state after Georgia's annexation, making it subject to the Church of Russia.

Modern era (1821-present)


  • Some of these dates are necessarily a bit vague, as records for some periods are particularly difficult to piece together accurately.
  • The division of Church History into separate eras as we do here will always be to some extent arbitrary, though we have tried to group periods according to major watershed events.
  • This timeline is necessarily biased toward the history of the Orthodox Church, though a number of non-Orthodox events are mentioned for their importance in history related to Orthodoxy.

See also

External links

History of Orthodox Christianity

A 3-part series by GOTelecom - QuickTime format

  • Part 1: Beginnings - Journey begins with the founding of the Church, the spread of Christianity to "nations" by the Apostles, the Gospel and the institution of Sacraments
  • Part 2: Byzantium - After the stabilization of the Church, the journey continues through the period of the Nicene Creed, Patristic Scriptures, Divine Liturgy and Icons. During this same period, however, the official division of East and West is witnessed and concludes with a gradual rift in matters of faith, dogma, church customs, politics and culture
  • Part 3: A Hidden Treasure - The Church becomes the only institution perceived by Greeks as the preserver of their national identity during 400 years of Turkish rule. By the end of the 19th century, a worldwide Orthodox community is born and the Church expands its influence to major social and philanthropic concerns