Domenico Scandella, also known as Mennochio, was an Italian peasant who lived during the 1500s. He knew how to read a little, so was considered semi-educated, and it is known that he read a number of contemporary histories and religious works. The Roman Inquisition branded him a heretic for teaching a version of unorthodox Christianity to his fellow peasants -- twice.
The first time he was accused, Mennochio abjured, and claimed to have reformed. He was sent home in 1586 but had to wear a burning cross on his clothing as a visible symbol of what he had done. In 1598 he was re-arrested for preaching, again, his own beliefs. At his questioning, he gave his rendition of Creation as he thought the Church had taught him. Taken from The Cheese and the Worms by Carlo Ginzburg (1976):
"I have said that, in my opinion, all was chaos, that is, earth, air, water, and fire were mixed together; and out of that bulk a mass formed – just as cheese is made out of milk – and worms appeared in it, and these were the angels. The most holy majesty decreed that these should be God and the angels, and among that number of angels there was also God, he too having been created out of that mass at the same time, and he was named lord with four captains, Lucifer, Michael, Gabriel, and Raphael."
Unfortunately this was considered blasphemy in the eyes of the Catholic Church. It did not help that at his trial Mennocchio also spoke out against masses helping the dead get out of purgatory, against the sacraments including baptism against Latin as the language of religion and the courts, and against the Church hierarchy's wealth and abuse of the peasantry. He was burned at the stake in 1599.
India Has Been a Pluralistic Society for Centuries, Meaning Governing India Has Been Difficult for Centuries
Emperor Akbar ruled the Mughal Empire from 1556 to 1605. When he came to the throne, he confronted a problem that had plagued his predecessors: how to be a Muslim ruler over a majority-Hindu nation, that also had substantial numbers of various other religions including Buddhism and Jainism. He eventually came to believe that no religion could have pre-eminence. In fact, he was not even sure that any religion was "the truth" but were all humanity's imperfect interpretations. The logical conclusion is that all subjects of his empire should be free to practice whatever religion they wished.
Akbar began to hold conferences weekly, with wise men from all faiths (no known women, though). He would apply their wisdom to questions of state. He slowly took over spiritual leadership, even getting the Muslim clergy to pronounce a fatwa (judgement) that as emperor, Akbar could adjudicate any dispute between religious authorities -- even overruling the Qur'an if necessary for the public interest.
Legally, Akbar made two big changes. He abolished the hated tax levied on the Hindu majority, the jizya, the "contribution for not being put to death". He also created a private faith for the elite. It was not a new religion, per se. It was a kind of Sufi system for the rulers, with 10 cardinal virtues, the essence of which was promoting tolerance. Akbar combined aspects of different faiths, borrowing from all the religions of his empire, to create an ethical code that he wished his inner circle to follow. He called this the Din i-Ilahi, or "Worship of God." While it has been accused of being a pick-and-mix religion, Akbar did not proclaim it a religion, and he remained a Muslim all his life. The Din i-Ilahi died with Akbar in 1605, and the jizya was reintroduced by Akbar's great-grandson Aurangzeb in 1679.
Anne of Denmark, wife of James VI and I of Scotland and England, was a renowned beauty who gave her (famously unfaithful) husband three children. She was also a secret Catholic. Her husband was a great Reformist, aka a Protestant, whose Catholic subjects frequently plotted against. Anne's background was also Protestant; her grandfather had heard Martin Luther speak, and made Denmark and Norway officially Lutheran. Yet despite all this, Queen Anne had decided Catholic sympathies.
While it is unknown if she officially converted -- if she did, it was of course a secret -- Queen Anne had gathered about her an enclave of intimate Roman Catholic bedchamber attendants. Among their number was Jane Drummond who facilitated the queen’s private Catholic worship. This included smuggling priests into court and disguising them as her personal attendants. The Spanish ambassador reported that “Mass was being said by a Scottish priest, who was simply called a ‘servant’ of [the queen’s] lady-in-waiting, Lady Drummond.”
Click through the image gallery to see more photographs. The Saadi were a dynasty which ruled Morocco from 1549 to 1659. Their royal tombs were forgotten and lost after the dynasty declined, until being rediscovered in 1917.
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By Lillian Audette
This blog is a collection of the interesting, the weird, and sometimes the need-to-know about history, culled from around the internet. It has pictures, it has quotes, it occasionally has my own opinions on things. If you want to know more about anything posted, follow the link at the "source" on the bottom of each post. And if you really like my work, buy me a coffee or become a patron!