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Learner Reviews & Feedback for A Journey through Western Christianity: from Persecuted Faith to Global Religion (200 - 1650) by Yale University

621 ratings

About the Course

This course follows the extraordinary development of Western Christianity from its early persecution under the Roman Empire in the third century to its global expansion with the Jesuits of the early modern world. We explore the dynamic and diverse character of a religion with an enormous cast characters. We will meet men and women who tell stories of faith as well as of violence, suppression, and division. Along the way, we encounter Perpetua and her martyrdom in Carthage; the struggles of Augustine the bishop in North Africa; the zeal of Celtic monks and missionaries; the viciousness of the Crusades; the visions of Brigit of Sweden; and the fracturing of Christianity by Martin Luther’s protest. We hear the voices of great theologians as well as of those branded heretics by the Church, a powerful reminder that the growth of Christianity is a story with many narratives of competing visions of reform and ideals, powerful critiques of corruption and venality, and exclusion of the vanquished. The troubled history of Christian engagement with Jews and Muslims is found in pogroms and expulsions, but also in the astonishing ways in which the culture of the West was transformed by Jewish and Islamic learning. We shall explore the stunning beauty of the Book of Kells, exquisitely prepared by monks as the Vikings terrorized the coast of England. We will experience the blue light of the windows of Chartres, and ponder the opening questions of Thomas Aquinas’ great Summa. We will read from the Gutenberg Bible of the fifteenth century, which heralded the revolution brought by the printing press. We will travel from Calvin’s Geneva to Elizabeth’s England to Trent, where a Catholic Council met to inaugurate a modern, missionary Catholic church. We will walk through the great Escorial of Philip II of Spain, hear the poetry of John of the Cross, and follow the Jesuits to Brazil and China. Christianity in the West was forged in the fires of conflict and tumult, and it brought forth both creativity and violence. It echoed with calls for God’s world to be transformed, it inspired the most sublime art and architecture, yet it also revealed the power of the union of cross and sword to destroy. The course is a journey through the formation of the West as one strand of Christianity, as one chapter in a global story. It is a journey that has shaped our world....

Top reviews


Jun 5, 2020

A very comprehensive, cohesive and resourceful overview of all the crucial events, main characters and key ecclesiastical developments that consolidated the Catholic Church in Europe and the Americas.


Mar 22, 2018

A great journey! Lots of information and bonus material! I'm very thankful for the course. It might be that the professor's speech is sometimes a bit difficult to follow, but it's a minor drawback

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1 - 25 of 192 Reviews for A Journey through Western Christianity: from Persecuted Faith to Global Religion (200 - 1650)

By Michael X

Jan 8, 2019

If you want a course super biased towards Catholicism, by all means, take this course. Completely glosses over the faults of Catholicism in history, like the failings of the peasant crusade, which is actually the 1st crusade. He named the 1st successful crusade as the 1st crusade. Just listen to the language and content. If you really know history, you'll know he skips over ugly stuff and tries to paint everything in a positive light.

By Walter C U

Jul 29, 2017

This course provided a good overview of the development of Christianity, warts and all, from the 3rd century to the middle of the 17th century. It provided a good outline for further specialized reading. One piece of specialized reading, The Romance of the Rose, probably should be eliminated from the course. To little was said about the shoddy behavior of Christians, especially by Theodosius in the late 4th century, by Charlemagne, by the Crusaders and by the Inquisitors. Was the deep faith held by medieval Christians a cause or effect of such great violence? Or both? While taking this course, I supplemented the required lectures and reading with the following books: Christianity: The First Three Thousand Years, by Diarmaid MacCulloch; Thomas Aquinas: A Portrait, by Denys Turner; God's Crucible: Islam and the Making of Europe, 570-1215; and Erasmus and the Age of Reformation, by Johan Huizinga.

By Qin L

Dec 30, 2018

Distinctive Christian scholarship is demonstrated throughout this course. A wealth of information is presented. Professor Bruce Gordon knows the things he teaches really well. His sincerity towards knowledge, combined with his cooperation with Nazanin and Maximilian, makes the course an enriching and inspirational experience.

By George

Jun 21, 2017

I thought the historical presentation was of great value, and I am confident it with be of assistance in my spiritual endeavors going forward. If I have a criticism, it is just that sometimes I thought that the course presented a little more of a faith-based presentation rather than a more strict historical perspective. All in all, however, it was fascinating and I learned a great deal.

By Rafael M

Jun 3, 2018

The course brings up a great and unknown view of Christianity throughout history. It was an execellent opportunity to take it.

By Greg C

Jan 30, 2018

I enjoyed the course and learned a lot. I was somewhat familiar with the big themes of the course when I started so that made it a bit easier than coming in cold, but there is still lots to learn. I would recommend it to anyone who is interested in the topic of church history. I hope they make a part 2 someday, from 1650 to the present. The reason I gave it 4 stars instead of 5 is that the transcriptions are poor, I assume being done by a generic speech to text program, and this will be a problem for people either totally unfamiliar with the material, or perhaps have English as a second language. Often the names of historical names and places and people are incorrect in the transcriptions, and if you are not sure what the instructor said, it could get confusting. For example when the instructor said "Constantine" in one place it was transcribed as constant time. Not a big deal for some, but for others could be very confusing. I would offer to volunteer for some transcribing but there doesn't seem to be a way to convenientally contact anyone at Coursera.

By Stephen C

Oct 22, 2020

I should not have to upgrade to buying a certificate in order to complete what is supposedly a free online course

By Márcio M R

Jun 8, 2021

Dear friends of the course

“A Journey through Western Christianity: from Persecuted Faith to Global Religion (200 - 1650)”

I want to express my deep gratitude for this incredible opportunity to participate in the course “A Journey through Western Christianity: from Persecuted Faith to Global Religion (200 - 1650)”, ministrated by Dr. Bruce Gordon, Professor of Ecclesiastical History at Titus Street - Yale Divinity School. I would also like to thank Nazanin Sullivan, PhD in History from Yale University, and Maximilian Scholz, PhD in history from Yale University, for the extremely high level of instruction offered in this course.I also thank all the employees at Yale Divinity School & Coursera who worked together to make this partnership a true learning base, so important and meaningful for the present time.

Brotherly hug!

Márcio Monteiro Rocha

By Gabriel P

Oct 26, 2020

Es un excelente curso con instructores de alto nivel. Hay áreas temáticas que podrían discutirse un poco más, aunque entiendo las limitaciones de tiempo que tienen las grabaciones de video. Por ej., en el caso de la reforma inglesa, no queda clara la controversia con relación a la autoridad papal y los intereses personales de Eduardo VIII: la tradición histórica dice que el problema que conllevó a la ruptura con el papado fue la negativa de permitir el divorcio del rey con Catalina de Aragón. El papa impidió el dejar sin efecto el matrimonio de los reyes ingleses para favorecer que Eduardo pudiera casarse con Ana Bolena. Queda en el aire la interrogante: ¿La iglesia anglicana surge como contraposición a un interés personal o no? Felicito a estos docentes e investigadores de primera línea.

By Molly B

Nov 13, 2020

A great course and very interesting if you want to learn Theology and its history into further education. It covers a wide range of knowledge and history and helped me to realize what pre-20th century Christianity was like in detail. I also found the information useful in my extended project qualification I did and also helped me to get ready for university.

I found it hard to keep up to lessons due to school work, however, Cursera allows you to update deadlines which can mean you don't feel stressed about doing it in time.

By Lester K

Sep 17, 2020

I want to thank all the professors included in this course for their time and attention to detail. i finished this 12 week course in 10 days Because of them. The stories along with explanations of paintings and relics during the course had me hooked and wanting to continue to hear and see what was next. this was better than binge watching a tv show or netflix... thank you for this online course and the privilege to have the opportunity to take it.I am looking forward to the next course..

By Yannis K

Jun 21, 2017

The course was very good. I understand that describing the history of Christianity from the first century until the 16th is a great task. However as a theologian I would like to learn more facts about the recent history of christianity and especially the modern period Enlightenment and the 20th century. I understand that something like this requires even more work,but it would be great to learn about the modern history of Christianity too! Thank you for the graet course!

By Judi B

Nov 23, 2017

This is an outstanding course! Following the development of Christianity along its historical timeline within the regional and political context of each period clarifies the "hows" and "whys" of why it developed as it did. I've studied church history in "chunks" before, but this course made its historical development and sequence logical for me. I greatly enjoyed the course and have learned a lot. Thank you so much for creating it and making it available to us!

By Anna L

Jul 31, 2019

This is an amazing course: it contains a wealth of information, and it's very well-presented. I needed some time to get accustomed to Professor Gordon's style, but afterwards, I greatly enjoyed listening to him: he is a very engaging lecturer and, seemingly, a very kind person. It's not an easy course to follow, especially with all the additional reading, but it's totally worth it.

Thank you, Professor Gordon, Max, Nazanin, and the entire team behind this course!

By Frank

Sep 4, 2018

Very good introduction (or re-introduction) to Christianity in the early world up until the Colonial Era. The instructors skillfully brought in elements from the arts, primary sources, and on-site visits to paint a cohesive image of Christianity through this time. The discussions between the staff were also very good in bringing out more subtle differences in some areas where opinion still differs.

By Evgeniia S

Mar 23, 2018

A great journey! Lots of information and bonus material! I'm very thankful for the course. It might be that the professor's speech is sometimes a bit difficult to follow, but it's a minor drawback

By Melody L

Aug 14, 2020

Recommend to anyone wanting to expand their knowledge on the growth of Christianity. The subtitles are a bit iffy at times, but if English is your first language you should be fine.

By Iain M

May 9, 2020

I enjoyed the course and found it both interesting and stimulating. The reason I did not give it 5stars was two-fold. Firstly the written copy of the speeches of the presenters needs to be proof read. There were numerous spelling and grammar errors. There were omissions and inappropriate substitutions. This seems like use was made of a program to change speech into text which was good for the vast majority of text but not all of the text. I expect higher standards from Yale university., I felt it spend too much time on the catholic reformation and not enough on the Protestant reformation. The Catholic Church has reformed itself many time but the most important religious event of the 15th and 16th centuries was the Protestant reformation which resulted in a major schism in Christianity. In addition very little time was spent on the abuses in the Catholic Church which was a major cause of the schism. I am not saying that time should not be spent on the catholic reformation

By Jacqueline C

Feb 19, 2020

Sorry but I just could not jump in. I kept trying until week 3 but then I realized that most of the time I was not really listening. So I left the virtual class.

By Linda B

Aug 12, 2017

This was the most interesting course on early Christianity, followed with beautiful pictures of religious art from the time period we were discussing. The lectures were very easy to understand and I felt this course was a "real eye opener" for me. We hear words like Reformation, Jesuits, monks, etc but usually do not know any history behind the words. This course was very enlightening.


Jun 8, 2020

Hola. Me pareció excelente este curso. Era un tema que siempre quize conocer o mas bien repasar. Si bien como catolico que soy, y haber estudiado en la Unviersidad Catolica de Buenos Aires, sabia algunos temas, me permitió volver a leer y entender mas las distintas epocas que vivió el cristianismo a lo largo de su vida.

Los felicito realmente. Me encantó.

By Kristi D

Nov 14, 2018

I have enjoyed Professor Gordon's class so much and could repeat it several times and still not absorb the vast amount of information that he has spent so many hours sharing with us.

Loved it!

Thank you Dr. Gordon, Nazanin and Max, for your time and talent.

By Hugo C U

Jun 6, 2020

A very comprehensive, cohesive and resourceful overview of all the crucial events, main characters and key ecclesiastical developments that consolidated the Catholic Church in Europe and the Americas.

By Stephanie N

May 27, 2019

I enjoyed this course so much!! I learned a lot about history and the church. It has kept me looking for more courses and books to learn more!!!!!

Thank you so much for offering this!

By Fernando G

Aug 12, 2017

As a christian I learned the roots of my faith. Also the role of christianity in international relations, other cultures and religions. I recommend highly. Fernando González Davison