Alright so you got through the last round of Catholic facts and yeah, maybe you knew one or two already. For Volume II we’ve got a whole new round-up of the freshest facts that you’ve probably (almost certainly) never heard before. Let’s get stuck in!
#1 - Pretzels were invented by Italian Monks.
Way back in 610 AD, some culinary pioneer monks apparently gave their students twisted baked dough as a treat in the shape of crossed arms, a prayer posture of the time. They became an official snack to ward off hunger for Catholics who were fasting during Lent. The three holes of the pretzels represent the Holy Trinity and became a Christian symbol as it spread through Europe. They were even featured in the prayer book used by Catherine of Cleves depicting St. Bartholemew surrounded by pretzels, in the year 1440.
You can read more about the Catholic history of Pretzels here
#2 - Some Cathedrals and Basilicas also act as Astronomical calendars
Okay I’m sorry to any astronomers out there because I only half understand this, but basically as a way to track the cycle of the year, Catholic astronomers built special features into some cathedrals to track the movement of the earth. Bologna’s Basilica of San Petronio and other Cathedrals have these things called meridian lines on the floor of the Cathedral that, in partnership with a specifically placed hole in roof, give us an incredibly accurate insight into the exact time of year it is. This was of utmost importance in 16th century when they were trying to figure out when exactly to celebrate Easter so that it would be at the same time every year.
The full story about this (with awesome pictures) is here.
#3 - The 1937 Papal encyclical damning the Nazis was smuggled into Germany
On Palm Sunday in 1937, Catholic Germans were the first to hear the courageous words issued by Pope Pius XI that were in total, clear opposition to Hitler and Nazism. It was no easy feat to get the document into the hands of German Catholic parishes, with the encyclical being smuggled into Germany and secretly mass-produced by Catholic printers. The encyclical titled Mit brennender Sorgepulled - “With burning anxiety” in English- pulled no punches in its searing criticism of Hitler’s regime, saying:
“None but superficial minds could stumble into concepts of a national God, of a national religion; or attempt to lock within the frontiers of a single people, within the narrow limits of a single race, God, the Creator of the universe…”
You can read more on this interesting story here
#4 - Catholic persecution in England led to the invention of ‘Priest-Holes’.
What do you do if you’re harbouring a priest in 16th Century England when the existence of Catholic Priests is forbidden? Well for many families who had priests living with them, they built secret rooms hidden behind fireplaces, bookcases and staircases for priests to hide when English ‘priest-hunters’ came raiding. Severe punishment would come to anyone who was found aiding a priest at this time, a crazy time to be a Catholic it seems.
You can read more about this here.