The last time a pope abdicated was when Pope Celestine V stepped down.

In December 1294.


How long ago is that?

Seven hundred and nineteen years ago.

But how do we even understand that span of time?

It was only three years had passed since the Crusades had ended

It was only 79 years had gone by since King John of England signed the Magna Carta. In 1215.

It was the same year that same year, Kubla Khan, the last of the great Mongol rulers, died.

The year after Celestine’s abdication, Marco Polo returned from China, introducing Europe to spices like pepper and cinnamon, the idea of paper money, coal (a magic burning rock) and eyeglasses.

What didn’t exist yet? Well, almost everything that we know today.

It would be another 30 years before iron cannons were first forged in France.

It would be 31 until the Aztecs settled their capital in Tenochtitlan.

The Black Death wouldn’t hit Europe – for the first time – for another 51 years.

It would be another 74 years until the Ming Dynasty in China, whose objects we now consider almost unfathomably old.

In 1294, no one in Europe knew America existed, except for some Vikings.

It would be 157 years until the birth of Christopher Columbus, 158 to Leonardo DaVinci and 181 til Michelangelo was born and then 9 more to Martin Luther, who would eventually split the Roman Catholic church during the Protestant Reformation.

Interesting trivia that will make you smarter and much more likely to get a date: Pope is Latin for “papa”. Also note: 8 of the first 16 were martyred, meaning killed for their faith. some in gruesome ways. Celestine V, the 1294 abdication, is seen as the inspiration for Dante’s scolding verses in The Divine Comedy.

Want more info? List of popes. History of the papacy. Where does a retired pope go? Not far, apparently. Vatican City photos.

Fact list via NBC News