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Fifteenth Century
The Great Western Schism


Three historical high points define this century.

The Western Schism

In 1409 the Council of Pisa attempted to end the Schism that occurred in the latter part of the 14th century. The two popes - Benedict XIII and Gregory XII - were asked to attend the Council but both refused. Therefore, the Council elected another pope, Alexander V. Christendom now had three popes. The Schism finally came to an end at the Council of Constance (1414-1418). The Council requested the resignation of all three popes, and elected Pope Martin V (1417-1431) to be the rightful successor of St. Peter.

St. Joan of Arc

As a young peasant girl, Joan of Arc (1412-1430) received messages from St. Michael the Archangel, St. Margaret and St. Catherine. The messages she received inspired her to lead a small French army against the English who occupied certain geographical locations within France. Joan successfully defeated the English at Orleans and obtained several other military victories. Eventually, Joan was captured by the English, no thanks to the French King Charles and his court who did nothing to save her, and was put on trial. She was found guilty of being a heretic and was later executed. In 1456 the Church declared her innocent of all charges.

The Mendicant Orders

For centuries the monasteries were considered the spiritual backbone of the Church. Over time this slowly changed. By the fourteenth century the monastery was no longer the Church's primary instrument of evangelization. Instead, the Church's missionary outreach came through the Franciscans, Dominicans and Carmelites. The mendicant orders embraced a life of "poverty, contemplation and evangelization" which bore great fruit for Christ and His Church.