Kabir was an Indian saint and mystic poet whose works influenced Hinduism's Bhakti movement, which in turn played a key role in the formation of Sikhism, the fifth-largest organized religion in the world. Kabir is an important figure in both Hinduism and Islam and his legacy continues to live through a religious community known as the Kabir panth.
Chaitanya Mahaprabhu was a 15th-century Indian saint. Some of his disciples consider him to be the combined avatar of Radha and Krishna. His mode of worship characterized by ecstatic song and dance rituals had a deep influence on Vaishnavism in Bengal. He expounded Bhakti yoga and founded Gaudiya Vaishnavism. His birthday is celebrated as Gaura-Purnima by his disciples.
Guru Nanak was the founder of one of the most popular monotheistic religions of the Indian subcontinent, Sikhism. Widely regarded as the first of the ten Sikh Gurus, Nanak contributed 974 hymns to the religion's sacred scripture Guru Granth Sahib. Guru Nanak is worshipped by Sikhs around the world and his birth is celebrated as Guru Nanak Gurpurab.
Saint Ignatius of Loyola was a Spanish Basque Catholic priest and theologian in the 16th century. He was one of the founders of the religious order called the Society of Jesus and served as its first Superior General at Paris. He was an inspired spiritual director and the founder of what is today known as "Ignatian spirituality."
Born as an illegitimate child of a priest from Rotterdam, Desiderius Erasmus later grew up to be a significant figure of the northern Renaissance. He is remembered for his research on free will and for being the first to edit the New Testament, replacing traditional elements with new-age humanism.
Pope Clement VII was head of the Catholic Church from 1523 to 1534. He also served as the ruler of the Papal States and is considered the most unfortunate of the popes as his reign was marked by military, political, and religious struggles. Despite his troubled papacy, Pope Clement left a remarkable cultural legacy, having commissioned artworks by personalities like Michelangelo.
Pope Julius II served as the ruler of the Papal States and head of the Catholic Church from 1503 until his death in 1513. One of the most influential and powerful popes, Julius II left a significant political and cultural legacy. He commissioned a series of architecture and art projects, which beautified and improved the city to a great extent.
John of the Cross was a Spanish Catholic priest, mystic, and Carmelite friar. One of the 36 Doctors of the Church, he is a major figure of the Counter-Reformation in Spain. He was a prolific writer and poet, and his writings are counted among the greatest works of all Spanish literature. He was beatified in 1675 by Pope Clement X.
Pope Alexander VI served as the pope from 1492 to 1503. Due to his involvement with several mistresses, Alexander is regarded as one of the most controversial popes of the Renaissance. However, during his papacy, a new architectural era surfaced in Rome as he encouraged the development of fine arts; famous personalities like Pinturicchio, Raphael, and Michelangelo worked for him.
Roman Catholic cardinal Reginald Pole had been the archbishop of Canterbury. Half of his education expenses was covered by fellowships from King Henry VII. A prominent member of the government under Mary Tudor, he re-established many monasteries and also let the burnings of Protestants continue.
French theologian, pastor, and reformer John Calvin was a major figure during the Protestant Reformation in the 16th century. He was influential in the development of the system of Christian theology later called Calvinism. Originally trained as a humanist lawyer, he broke from the Roman Catholic Church to embrace Protestantism. As an apologetic writer, he generated much controversy.
Katharina von Bora was a former nun, whose marriage with German professor of theology, priest, Augustinian monk, author and composer Martin Luther, a seminal figure of the Protestant Reformation, set a model for clerical marriage, permitting Protestant clergy to marry. She is often regarded to have played a key role in Reformation as she helped in defining Protestant family life.
A cardinal of the Catholic Church of Italy and the archbishop of Milan, Charles Borromeo was a major figure of the Italian Counter-Reformation. He gained a lot of respect with his charitable work during the plague of 1576–78. He is revered as the patron saint of cardinals, bishops, and spiritual leaders.
Teresa of Ávila, also known as Saint Teresa of Jesus, was a Spanish noblewoman who later turned into a Carmelite nun. She was posthumously named a Doctor of the Church. She co-established the Discalced Carmelite Order. Her written works include The Interior Castle and her own autobiography.
Vincent de Paul was a 17th-century Catholic saint who established the Congregation of the Mission, whose followers are also known as Lazarists, or Vincentians. Known for his charity toward the peasant community and the poor, he also formed associations of women who helped and nursed the sick.
Ravidas was an Indian mystic, social reformer, poet-saint, and spiritual figure. An influential personality, Ravidas taught his followers to disregard social divisions of gender and caste that were prevalent in India at that time. The Ravidassia sect, a religious sect of Vaishnavism, is based on Ravidas' teachings. Ravidas is revered even today as a saint by his followers.
Sixteenth-century pope Adrian VI remains the only Dutch to have been a pope and was the last non-Italian pope till John Paul II’s election after over 400 years. He wished to reform the Church but wasn’t able to do much, as he was strongly opposed by many, including Italian cardinals.
Isaac Luria was a rabbi and Jewish mystic in the community of Safed in Ottoman Syria, now Israel. He is considered the father of contemporary Kabbalah, and his teachings are referred to as Lurianic Kabbalah. He wrote only a few poems and was known to deliver his lectures spontaneously. The Ari Ashkenazi Synagogue was built in his memory.
Born to a yeoman farmer, Hugh Latimer later studied at the University of Cambridge and became a Roman Catholic preacher. However, he later converted to Protestantism and became a major figure of the Reformation in England. He was burned at the stake after Mary Tudor took over the throne.
English Jesuit priest Henry Garnet was initially an Anglican but later converted to Roman Catholicism. After teaching Hebrew at a college in Rome, he went back to England as a missionary. Accused of being involved in the Gunpowder Plot against King James I, he was hanged to death in 1606.
Elizabeth Barton was an English Catholic nun best remembered for her prophecies. Although her prophecies, which were fairly accurate, made her popular, they eventually led to her death. Her prophecy against Henry VIII was deemed fake and she was executed for treason. Barton continues to be revered by churches like the Anglican Catholic Church.
Thomas Hooker was an English colonial leader. Hooker is credited with founding the Colony of Connecticut and is hence referred to as the Father of Connecticut. Thomas Hooker, who played a major role in the development of colonial New England, was one of the founders of the state of Connecticut as well as the city of Hartford.
Son of a tax collector, Francisco Jiménez de Cisneros spent 6 years in prison only because he wouldn’t give up on his claim to a rightful benefice. Part of the Spanish Inquisition, he opted for forced conversions of Muslims to Christianity, which caused the Moorish revolt of Moriscos.
Spanish priest Diego de Landa was one of the most significant Mayan researchers. A Franciscan missionary to Mexico, he initially helped the Mayan people through his charitable efforts and conversions. However, he later inflicted a lot of torture and brutality on them and also burned most of the Mayan manuscripts.