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History of Christianity in Europe: Lesson for Kids

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Instructor: David Wilson

David has taught college history and holds an MA in history.

Christianity achieved a foothold in Europe when Emperor Constantine converted to the faith. Investigate the beginning of Christianity in Europe, compare and contrast Catholicism and Protestantism, and explore its impact on the continent. Updated: 01/04/2022

Catholic Europe Background

If all the stories from the Bible take place in the Middle East, why do so few Christians live in that region compared with Europe, North America, and South America?

The answer is that Europe adopted Christianity on a large scale beginning about 1700 years ago and then later spread it to their colonies in the Americas, while in the Middle East there was no moment where a large number of people converted to Christianity. In fact, the Pope, who is the head of the Catholic Church, is located in Vatican City in central Italy, which has been the center of the Catholic Christian faith for 2,000 years.

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  • 0:04 Catholic Europe Background
  • 0:41 Starting Christianity
  • 1:45 The Inquisition
  • 2:17 The Protestant Reformation
  • 3:35 Lesson Summary
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Starting Christianity

Christianity didn't become popular overnight. During the Roman Empire, Christians were punished because they refused to worship the Roman emperor as a god. It wasn't until the Roman Emperor Constantine claimed he had a vision of Jesus Christ and won a battle with the Christian cross on his army's flags that it became the official religion. Because the Roman Empire covered most of Europe, Constantine's conversion, or religious change, to Christianity meant that Europe and the religion would be together for the rest of history.

However, the Roman Empire split into two regions, East and West, and each had their own religious leadership. The Eastern Empire adopted Orthodox Christianity, while the Western Empire adopted Catholic Christianity. While both Orthodox Christians and Catholics believe in Jesus Christ, they have different beliefs about how he lived and how to worship him. However, Orthodox Christians and Catholics have had a peaceful coexistence, unlike Catholics and other Christian groups.

The Inquisition

Christianity in Europe experienced a number of challenges, including the belief that there were people who worked with the devil to defeat the faith. In response, the Church came down harshly on people believed to be enemies, witches, or magicians. This is called the Inquisition, which means a trial to determine if someone was of the true faith. The Inquisition tortured and killed many people, believing them to be evil. While it was most powerful in Spain, the Inquisition also functioned in other countries.

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