This Week in Christian History: A Major Battle, Influential Treaty, and 'Great Disappointment'

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(Photo: Wikimedia Commons)A 17th century artist's rendering of the October 28, 312 battle of Milvian Bridge.

Christianity is a faith with a long and detailed history, with numerous events of lasting significance occurring throughout the ages.

Each week brings the anniversaries of great milestones, horrid tragedies, amazing triumphs, and everything in between.

Here are just a few things that happened this week, Oct. 22-28, in Church history. They include an ancient battle that was crucial to Christianity's survival, a peace treaty between Catholics and Protestants, and a nineteenth failed End Times prophecy.

The Battle of Milvian Bridge — October 28, 312

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(Photo: Wikimedia Commons)Roman Emperor Constantine the Great, as depicted in a Medieval mosaic at Hagia Sophia in Istanbul, Turkey.

This week marks the anniversary of one of the most important battles in the survival of Christianity in Europe.

At the Battle of Milvian Bridge, Roman leader Flavius Valerius Constantinus successfully defeated his imperial rival Maxentius.

Just before the battle, Constantinus purportedly saw a bright cross in the sky with a message that translated into English as "In This Sign Conquer."

"He was so impressed that he had the Christian symbol marked on his soldiers' shields and when the Milvian Bridge battle gave him an overwhelming victory he attributed it to the god of the Christians," noted

Constantinus later became Emperor Constantine the Great. Inspired by the sign and the victory, he legalized Christianity in the Roman Empire and later became a Christian himself.

'The Great Disappointment' End Times Prophecy Fails — October 22, 1844

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(Photo: Public Domain)Nineteenth century preacher William Miller, (1782-1849).

This week marks the anniversary of the failure of a widely-publicized end times prophecy made in the United States in the nineteenth century.

Amateur preacher William Miller had gained a strong following in the Antebellum United States, forming a movement that later spawned modern churches like the Seventh-Day Adventists.

Miller's preaching stressed the imminent return of Jesus and at one point the Millerist Movement claimed that Oct. 22, 1844 was going to be the date of the Rapture.

"By the time October 23, 1844, dawned, Miller's followers were disillusioned and soon scattered," noted a 2011 Religion Dispatches article.

"Miller himself died lonely and forgotten in 1849, five years after the 'end of the world.' October 22, 1844 is still known in Adventist circles as the 'Great Disappointment' — capital G, capital D."

The Peace of Westphalia Signed — October 24, 1648

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(Photo: Public Domain)The victory of Swedish King Gustavus Adolphus at the Battle of Breitenfeld, a major engagement of the Thirty Years' War (1618-1648)

This week marks the anniversary of an important treaty that helped end the Thirty Years' War, a major European conflict fought between Catholics and Protestants.

Signed in the city of Munster, which was located in the province Westphalia in modern day Germany, the treaty ended a conflict begun in 1618 when the Catholic Holy Roman Emperor Ferdinand II tried to curb the rights of Protestants in his territory.

"That there shall be a Christian and Universal Peace, and a perpetual, true, and sincere Amity, between his Sacred Imperial Majesty, and his most Christian Majesty ... but chiefly between the Electors, Princes, and States of the Empire on the one side; and all and each of the Allies of his said Christian Majesty, and all their Heirs and Successors, chiefly between the most Serene Queen and Kingdom of Swedeland, the Electors respectively, the Princes and States of the Empire, on the other part," read the Peace of Westphalia.

"... all Partys in this Transaction shall be oblig'd to defend and protect all and every Article of this Peace against any one, without distinction of Religion; and if it happens any point shall be violated, the Offended shall before all things exhort the Offender not to come to any Hostility, submitting the Cause to a friendly Composition, or the ordinary Proceedings of Justice."

Westphalia is seen by many scholars as a milestone in diplomacy and religious tolerance, being viewed as the first step towards the modern political idea of national sovereignty.

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