This Week In History: April 16-22


This week in history: One of the most famous basilica is erected, the American revolution begins, and Rome is (allegedly) founded by twins raised by wolves. Read more below and dive deeper with The Great Courses Plus.

April 18, 1506 – First brick laid for St. Peter’s Basilica

Commissioned by Pope Julius II, the modern-day St. Peter’s Basilica was intended to replace an older version of the church that dated to the 4th century AD. Construction would begin on this day in 1506 but wouldn’t be completed until November 18, 1626 -120 years later! Originally designed by Donato Bramante, the church’s construction would also be overseen by Michelangelo and other architects, but eventually would be completed by Gian Lorenzo Bernini. Today, St. Peter’s is a major pilgrimage site for the Catholic church and is one of the Vatican’s crown jewels of architecture. In addition to being one of only four churches in the world with the designation of Grand Basilica, St. Peter’s is home to many Renaissance masterworks, including Michelangelo’s sculpture the Pietà (1498-1499).
Learn more about St. Peter’s Basilica in The World’s Greatest Churches

April 19, 1775 – The American Revolution Begins

The infamous “Shot Heard ‘Round the World” was fired on this day in 1775 in, Massachusetts, thus marking the beginning of the American Revolution. Nearly 700 British soldiers were given orders to capture rebel weapons supply stores allegedly stored in Concord, though Colonial reconnaissance learned of this plan and moved the stores to other locations before the soldiers arrived. As the soldiers marched to Concord, they were confronted by armed militiamen in Lexington. No one is quite sure who fired the first shot, and reports from the time are conflicted, but the ramifications of the skirmish were far-reaching. The thirteen colonies would officially declare independence from England in 1776, marking the beginning of the country that would eventually become the United States.

Learn more about Lexington and Concord in A History of the United States 2nd Edition

April 21, 753 BC – Alleged Founding of the City of Rome 

While Rome was purportedly founded by the mythological twins Romulus and Remus, the actual founding of the city is still shrouded in mystery. In fact, the exact date is unknown; April 21st was regarded by most ancient Romans as the day, though no documentation exists to corroborate this. Ancient historians frequently debated the year, but 753 BC is the most widely-used for the city’s foundation and was originally put forth by Titus Pomponius Atticus and adopted by Plutarch and other subsequent historians. Archaeological evidence suggests that human occupation of the area stretches as far back as 14,000 years, though the bulk of artifacts date from roughly 10,000 years ago. Recently, a section of wall was unearthed on the north slope of the Palatine Hill that dated back to the 8th century BC, nearly 100 years older than Romulus and Remus’s alleged arrival in the area.

Learn more about the founding of Rome in The Mysterious Etruscans