The following people are considered by Pantheon to be the top 10 most legendary Italian Religious Figures of all time. This list of famous Italian Religious Figures is sorted by HPI (Historical Popularity Index), a metric that aggregates information on a biography’s online popularity. Visit the rankings page to view the entire list of Italian Religious Figures.
With an HPI of 88.40, Francis of Assisi is the most famous Italian Religious Figure. His biography has been translated into 96 different languages on wikipedia.
Francis of Assisi (born Giovanni di Pietro di Bernardone; Italian: Francesco d'Assisi; Latin: Franciscus Assisiensis; 1181 or 1182 – 3 October 1226), venerated as Saint Francis of Assisi, also known in his ministry as Francesco, was an Italian Catholic friar, deacon, mystic, and preacher. He founded the men's Order of Friars Minor, the women's Order of Saint Clare, the Third Order of Saint Francis and the Custody of the Holy Land. Francis is one of the most venerated religious figures in Christianity.Pope Gregory IX canonized Francis on 16 July 1228. Along with Saint Catherine of Siena, he was designated patron saint of Italy. He later became associated with patronage of animals and the natural environment, and it became customary for churches to hold ceremonies blessing animals on or near his feast day of 4 October. In 1219, he went to Egypt in an attempt to convert the Sultan to put an end to the conflict of the Crusades. By this point, the Franciscan Order had grown to such an extent that its primitive organizational structure was no longer sufficient. He returned to Italy to organize the Order. Once his community was authorized by the Pope, he withdrew increasingly from external affairs. Francis is known for his love of the Eucharist. In 1223, Francis arranged for the first Christmas live nativity scene. According to Christian tradition, in 1224 he received the stigmata during the apparition of Seraphic angels in a religious ecstasy, which would make him the second person in Christian tradition after St. Paul (Galatians 6:17) to bear the wounds of Christ's Passion. He died during the evening hours of 3 October 1226, while listening to a reading he had requested of Psalm 142 (141).
With an HPI of 85.55, Pope John Paul I is the 2nd most famous Italian Religious Figure. His biography has been translated into 105 different languages.
Pope John Paul I (Latin: Ioannes Paulus I; Italian: Giovanni Paolo I; born Albino Luciani [alˈbiːno luˈtʃaːni]; 17 October 1912 – 28 September 1978) was head of the Catholic Church and sovereign of the Vatican City from 26 August 1978 to his death 33 days later. He was the first pope to have been born in the 20th century. His reign is among the shortest in papal history, resulting in the most recent year of three popes and the first to occur since 1605. John Paul I remains the most recent Italian-born pope, the last in a succession of such popes that started with Clement VII in 1523. He was declared a servant of God by his successor, John Paul II, on 23 November 2003, the first step on the road to sainthood. Pope Francis confirmed his heroic virtue on 8 November 2017 and named him as venerable. Before the papal conclave that elected him, he expressed his desire not to be elected, telling those close to him that he would decline the papacy if elected, but, upon the cardinals' electing him, he felt an obligation to say yes. He was the first pontiff to have a double name, choosing "John Paul" in honour of his two immediate predecessors, John XXIII and Paul VI. He explained that he was indebted to John XXIII and to Paul VI for naming him a bishop and a cardinal, respectively. Furthermore, he was the first pope to add the regnal number "I", designating himself "the First". His two immediate successors, John Paul II and Benedict XVI, later recalled the warm qualities of the late pontiff in several addresses. In Italy, he is remembered with the appellatives of "Il Papa del Sorriso" (The Smiling Pope) and "Il Sorriso di Dio" (The smile of God). Time magazine and other publications referred to him as "The September Pope". He is also known in Italy as "Papa Luciani". In his hometown of Canale d'Agordo a museum built and named in his honor is dedicated to his life and brief papacy.
With an HPI of 85.39, Pope Pius XII is the 3rd most famous Italian Religious Figure. His biography has been translated into 92 different languages.
Pope Pius XII (Italian: Pio XII), born Eugenio Maria Giuseppe Giovanni Pacelli (Italian pronunciation: [euˈdʒɛːnjo maˈriːa dʒuˈzɛppe dʒoˈvanni paˈtʃɛlli]; 2 March 1876 – 9 October 1958), was head of the Catholic Church and sovereign of the Vatican City State from 2 March 1939 to 1958 when he died. Before his election to the papacy, he served as secretary of the Department of Extraordinary Ecclesiastical Affairs, papal nuncio to Germany, and Cardinal Secretary of State, in which capacity he worked to conclude treaties with European and Latin American nations, such as the Reichskonkordat with Nazi Germany.Pope Pius XII sent a radio message of congratulations to the Spanish dictatorship, clerics and people on April 16, 1939 after the conclusion of the Spanish Civil War. The Catholic Church openly supported the nationalists during the conflict. While the Vatican was officially neutral during World War II, the Reichskonkordat and his leadership of the Catholic Church during the war remain the subject of controversy—including allegations of public silence and inaction about the fate of the Jews. Pius employed diplomacy to aid the victims of the Nazis during the war and, through directing the Church to provide discreet aid to Jews and others, saved hundreds of thousands of lives. Pius maintained links to the German Resistance, and shared intelligence with the Allies. His strongest public condemnation of genocide was, however, considered inadequate by the Allied Powers, while the Nazis viewed him as an Allied sympathizer who had dishonoured his policy of Vatican neutrality. After the war, he advocated peace and reconciliation, including lenient policies towards former Axis and Axis-satellite nations.During his papacy, the Church issued the Decree against Communism, declaring that Catholics who profess Communist doctrine are to be excommunicated as apostates from the Christian faith. The Church experienced severe persecution and mass deportations of Catholic clergy in the Eastern Bloc. He explicitly invoked ex cathedra papal infallibility with the dogma of the Assumption of Mary in his Apostolic constitution Munificentissimus Deus. His magisterium includes almost 1,000 addresses and radio broadcasts. His forty-one encyclicals include Mystici corporis, the Church as the Body of Christ; Mediator Dei on liturgy reform; and Humani generis, in which he instructed theologians to adhere to episcopal teaching and allowed that the human body might have evolved from earlier forms. He eliminated the Italian majority in the College of Cardinals in 1946. After he died in 1958, Pope Pius XII was succeeded by John XXIII. In the process toward sainthood, his cause for canonization was opened on 18 November 1965 by Paul VI during the final session of the Second Vatican Council. He was made a Servant of God by John Paul II in 1990 and Benedict XVI declared Pius XII Venerable on 19 December 2009.
With an HPI of 84.62, Pope Gregory I is the 4th most famous Italian Religious Figure. His biography has been translated into 88 different languages.
Pope Gregory I (Latin: Gregorius I; c. 540 – 12 March 604), commonly known as Saint Gregory the Great, was the bishop of Rome from 3 September 590 to his death. He is known for instigating the first recorded large-scale mission from Rome, the Gregorian Mission, to convert the then-pagan Anglo-Saxons in England to Christianity. Gregory is also well known for his writings, which were more prolific than those of any of his predecessors as pope. The epithet Saint Gregory the Dialogist has been attached to him in Eastern Christianity because of his Dialogues. English translations of Eastern texts sometimes list him as Gregory "Dialogos", or the Anglo-Latinate equivalent "Dialogus".A Roman senator's son and himself the prefect of Rome at 30, Gregory tried living in a monastery but soon returned to active public life, ending his career and the century as pope. Although he was the first pope from a monastic background, his prior political experiences may have helped him to be a talented administrator. During his papacy, he greatly surpassed with his administration the emperors in improving the welfare of the people of Rome, and he challenged the theological views of Patriarch Eutychius of Constantinople before the emperor Tiberius II. Gregory regained papal authority in Spain and France and sent missionaries to England, including Augustine of Canterbury and Paulinus of York. The realignment of barbarian allegiance to Rome from their Arian Christian alliances shaped medieval Europe. Gregory saw Franks, Lombards, and Visigoths align with Rome in religion. He also combated the Donatist heresy, popular particularly in North Africa at the time.Throughout the Middle Ages, he was known as "the Father of Christian Worship" because of his exceptional efforts in revising the Roman worship of his day. His contributions to the development of the Divine Liturgy of the Presanctified Gifts, still in use in the Byzantine Rite, were so significant that he is generally recognized as its de facto author. Gregory is one of the Latin Fathers and a Doctor of the Church. He is considered a saint in the Catholic Church, Eastern Orthodox Church, Anglican Communion, various Lutheran denominations, and other Protestant denominations. Immediately after his death, Gregory was canonized by popular acclaim. The Protestant reformer John Calvin admired Gregory greatly and declared in his Institutes that Gregory was the last good Pope. He is the patron saint of musicians, singers, students, and teachers.
With an HPI of 84.37, Romulus Augustulus is the 5th most famous Italian Religious Figure. His biography has been translated into 71 different languages.
Romulus Augustus (c. 460 – after 476, possibly still alive as late as 507), known derisively and historiographically as Romulus Augustulus, was Roman emperor of the West from 31 October 475 until 4 September 476. He is often described as the last Western Roman emperor, though some historians consider this to be Julius Nepos. Romulus's deposition by Odoacer traditionally marks the end of the Roman Empire in the West, the end of Ancient Rome, and the beginning of the Middle Ages in Western Europe. Although he, as all other emperors, adopted the name Augustus upon his accession, he is better remembered by his derisive nickname Augustulus. The Latin suffix -ulus is a diminutive, hence Augustulus effectively means "Little Augustus". The name Romulus was also changed derisively to Momyllus meaning "little disgrace".The historical record contains few details of Romulus's life. He was the son of Orestes, a Roman who once served as a secretary in the court of Attila the Hun before coming into the service of the Western Roman emperor Julius Nepos in AD 475. In the same year he was promoted to the rank of magister militum, but then led a military revolt that forced Nepos to flee into exile. With the capital of Ravenna under his control, Orestes appointed his son Romulus to the throne despite the lack of support from the eastern court in Constantinople. Romulus, however, was little more than a child and figurehead for his father's rule. After ten months in power, during which time his authority and legitimacy were disputed beyond Italy, Romulus was forced to abdicate by Odoacer, a Germanic foederatus officer who defeated and executed Orestes. After seizing control of Ravenna, Odoacer sent the former emperor to live in the Castellum Lucullanum in Campania, after which he disappears from the historical record.
With an HPI of 84.23, Benedict of Nursia is the 6th most famous Italian Religious Figure. His biography has been translated into 72 different languages.
Benedict of Nursia (Latin: Benedictus Nursiae; Italian: Benedetto da Norcia; Vulgar Latin: *Benedectos; Gothic: Benedikt; c. 2 March 480 – c. 21 March 547 AD) is a Christian saint venerated in the Catholic Church, the Eastern Orthodox Church, the Oriental Orthodox Churches, the Anglican Communion and Old Catholic Churches. He is a patron saint of Europe.Benedict founded twelve communities for monks at Subiaco, Lazio, Italy (about 65 kilometres (40 mi) to the east of Rome), before moving to Monte Cassino in the mountains of southern Italy. The Order of Saint Benedict is of later origin and, moreover, not an "order" as commonly understood but merely a confederation of autonomous congregations.Benedict's main achievement, his "Rule of Saint Benedict", contains a set of rules for his monks to follow. Heavily influenced by the writings of John Cassian, it shows strong affinity with the Rule of the Master, but it also has a unique spirit of balance, moderation and reasonableness (ἐπιείκεια, epieíkeia), which persuaded most Christian religious communities founded throughout the Middle Ages to adopt it. As a result, his Rule became one of the most influential religious rules in Western Christendom. For this reason, Giuseppe Carletti regarded Benedict as the founder of Western Christian monasticism.
With an HPI of 84.19, Pope Clement VII is the 7th most famous Italian Religious Figure. His biography has been translated into 71 different languages.
Pope Clement VII (Italian: Papa Clemente VII; Latin: Clemens VII) (26 May 1478 – 25 September 1534), born Giulio de' Medici, was head of the Catholic Church and ruler of the Papal States from 19 November 1523 to his death on 25 September 1534. “The most unfortunate of the popes,” Clement VII’s reign was marked by a rapid succession of political, military, and religious struggles—many long in the making—which had far-reaching consequences for Christianity and world politics.Elected in 1523 at the end of the Italian Renaissance, Clement came to the papacy with a high reputation as a statesman. He had served with distinction as chief advisor to Pope Leo X (1513–1521), Pope Adrian VI (1522–1523), and commendably as gran maestro of Florence (1519–1523). Assuming leadership at a time of crisis, with the Protestant Reformation spreading; the Church nearing bankruptcy; and large, foreign armies invading Italy, Clement initially tried to unite Christendom by making peace among the many Christian leaders then at odds. He later attempted to liberate Italy from foreign occupation, believing that it threatened the Church's freedom.The complex political situation of the 1520s thwarted Clement's efforts. Inheriting daunting challenges, including Martin Luther’s Protestant Reformation in Northern Europe; a vast power struggle in Italy between Europe’s two most powerful kings, Holy Roman Emperor Charles V and Francis I of France, each of whom demanded that the Pope choose a side; and Turkish invasions of Eastern Europe led by Suleiman the Magnificent, Clement's problems were exacerbated by King Henry VIII of England’s contentious divorce, resulting in England breaking away from the Catholic Church; and in 1527, souring relations with Emperor Charles V, leading to the violent Sack of Rome, during which Clement was imprisoned. After escaping confinement in the Castel Sant'Angelo, Clement—with few economic, military, or political options remaining—compromised the Church's and Italy's independence by allying with his former jailor, Charles V.In contrast to his tortured Papacy, Clement was personally respectable and devout, possessing a “dignified propriety of character,” “great acquirements both theological and scientific,” as well as “extraordinary address and penetration—Clement VII, in serener times, might have administered the Papal power with high reputation and enviable prosperity. But with all of his profound insight into the political affairs of Europe, Clement does not seem to have comprehended the altered position of the Pope” in relation to Europe’s emerging nation-states and Protestantism.Clement left a significant cultural legacy in the Medici tradition. He commissioned iconic artworks by Raphael, Benvenuto Cellini, and Michelangelo, including the latter’s ‘’The Last Judgment’’ in the Sistine Capel. In matters of science, Clement is best known for approving, in 1533, Nicolaus Copernicus’s theory that the Earth revolves around the Sun—99 years before Galileo Galilei’s heresy trial for similar ideas. Ecclesiastically, Clement is remembered for orders protecting Jews from the Inquisition, approving the Capuchin Franciscan Order, and securing the island of Malta for the Knights of Malta.
With an HPI of 84.03, Pope John XXIII is the 8th most famous Italian Religious Figure. His biography has been translated into 105 different languages.
Pope John XXIII (Latin: Ioannes; Italian: Giovanni; born Angelo Giuseppe Roncalli, Italian pronunciation: [ˈandʒelo dʒuˈzɛppe roŋˈkalli]; 25 November 1881 – 3 June 1963) was Bishop of Rome and hence head of the Catholic Church and sovereign of the Vatican City State from 28 October 1958 to his death in 1963. Angelo Giuseppe Roncalli was one of thirteen children born to a family of sharecroppers who lived in a village in Lombardy. He was ordained to the priesthood on 10 August 1904 and served in a number of posts, as nuncio in France and a delegate to Bulgaria, Greece and Turkey. In a consistory on 12 January 1953 Pope Pius XII made Roncalli a cardinal as the Cardinal-Priest of Santa Prisca in addition to naming him as the Patriarch of Venice. Roncalli was unexpectedly elected pope on 28 October 1958 at age 76 after 11 ballots. Pope John XXIII surprised those who expected him to be a caretaker pope by calling the historic Second Vatican Council (1962–1965), the first session opening on 11 October 1962. John XXIII made many passionate speeches during his pontificate. His views on equality were summed up in his statement, "We were all made in God's image, and thus, we are all Godly alike." He made a major impact on the Catholic Church, opening it up to dramatic unexpected changes promulgated at the Vatican Council and by his own dealings with other churches and nations. In Italian politics, he prohibited bishops from interfering with local elections, and he helped the Christian Democratic Party to cooperate with the socialists. In international affairs, his "Ostpolitik" engaged in dialogue with the Communist countries of Eastern Europe. He especially reached out to the Eastern Orthodox churches. His overall goal was to modernize the Church by emphasizing its pastoral role, and its necessary involvement with affairs of state. He dropped the traditional rule of 70 cardinals, increasing the size to 85. He used the opportunity to name the first cardinals from Africa, Japan, and the Philippines. He promoted ecumenical movements in cooperation with other Christian faiths. In doctrinal matters, he was a traditionalist, but he ended the practice of automatically formulating social and political policies on the basis of old theological propositions.He did not live to see the Vatican Council to completion. His cause for canonization was opened on 18 November 1965 by his successor, Pope Paul VI, who declared him a Servant of God. On 5 July 2013, Pope Francis – bypassing the traditionally required second miracle – declared John XXIII a saint, based on his virtuous, model lifestyle, and because of the good which had come from his having opened the Second Vatican Council. He was canonised alongside Pope John Paul II on 27 April 2014. John XXIII today is affectionately known as the "Good Pope" and in Italian, "il Papa buono".
With an HPI of 83.94, Saint Valentine is the 9th most famous Italian Religious Figure. His biography has been translated into 57 different languages.
Saint Valentine (Italian: San Valentino, Latin: Valentinus) known as Saint Valentine of Rome was a widely recognized 3rd-century Roman saint, commemorated in Christianity on February 14. From the High Middle Ages his Saints' Day has been associated with a tradition of courtly love. He is also a patron saint of epilepsy.Saint Valentine was a clergyman – either a priest or a bishop – in the Roman Empire who ministered to persecuted Christians. He was martyred and his body buried at a Christian cemetery on the Via Flaminia close to the Ponte Milvio to the north of Rome, on February 14, which has been observed as the Feast of Saint Valentine (Saint Valentine's Day) since 496 AD. Relics of him were kept in the Church and Catacombs of San Valentino in Rome, which "remained an important pilgrim site throughout the Middle Ages until the relics of St. Valentine were transferred to the church of Santa Prassede during the pontificate of Nicholas IV". His skull, crowned with flowers, is exhibited in the Basilica of Santa Maria in Cosmedin, Rome; other relics of him were taken to Whitefriar Street Carmelite Church in Dublin, Ireland, where they remain; this house of worship continues to be a popular place of pilgrimage, especially on Saint Valentine's Day, for those seeking love. For Saint Valentine of Rome, along with Saint Valentine of Terni, "abstracts of the acts of the two saints were in nearly every church and monastery of Europe", according to Professor Jack B. Oruch of the University of Kansas.Saint Valentine is commemorated in the Anglican Communion and the Lutheran Churches on February 14. In the Eastern Orthodox Church, he is recognized on July 6; in addition, the Eastern Orthodox Church observes the feast of Hieromartyr Valentine, Bishop of Interamna, on July 30. In 1969, the Roman Catholic Church removed his name from the General Roman Calendar, leaving his liturgical celebration to local calendars, though use of the pre-1970 liturgical calendar is also authorized under the conditions indicated in the motu proprio Summorum Pontificum of 2007. The Roman Catholic Church continues to recognize him as a saint, listing him as such in the February 14 entry in the Roman Martyrology, and authorizing liturgical veneration of him on February 14 in any place where that day is not devoted to some other obligatory celebration, in accordance with the rule that on such a day the Mass may be that of any saint listed in the Martyrology for that day.
With an HPI of 83.68, Pope Julius II is the 10th most famous Italian Religious Figure. His biography has been translated into 78 different languages.
Pope Julius II (Italian: Papa Giulio II; Latin: Iulius II; born Giuliano della Rovere; 5 December 1443 – 21 February 1513) was head of the Catholic Church and ruler of the Papal States from 1503 to his death in 1513. Nicknamed the Warrior Pope or the Fearsome Pope, he chose his papal name not in honour of Pope Julius I but in emulation of Julius Caesar. One of the most powerful and influential popes, Julius II was a central figure of the High Renaissance and left a significant cultural and political legacy.Julius II became Pope in the context of the Italian Wars, a period in which the major powers of Europe fought for primacy in the Italian peninsula. Louis XII of France controlled the Duchy of Milan, previously held by the Sforzas, and French influence had replaced that of the Medici in the Republic of Florence. The Kingdom of Naples was under Spanish rule, and the Borja family from Spain was a major political faction in the Papal States following the reign of Alexander VI. The Archduke of Austria Maximilian I was hostile to France and Venice, and desired to descend in Italy in order to obtain the Papal coronation as Holy Roman Emperor. The conclave capitulation preceding his election included several terms, such as the opening of an ecumenical council and the organization of a crusade against the Ottoman Turks. Once crowned, Julius II proclaimed instead his goal to centralize the Papal States (in large part a patchwork of communes and signorie) and "free Italy from the barbarians".In his early years as Pope, Julius II removed the Borjas from power and exiled them to Spain. Cesare Borgia, Duke of Romagna, shared the same fate and lost his possessions. In 1506, Julius II established the Vatican Museums and initiated the rebuilding of the St. Peter's Basilica. The same year he organized the renowned Swiss Guards for his personal protection and commanded a successful campaign in Romagna against local lords. The interests of Julius II lay also in the New World as he ratified the Treaty of Tordesillas, establishing the first bishoprics in the Americas and beginning the catholicization of Latin America. In 1508, he commissioned the Raphael Rooms and Michelangelo's paintings in the Sistine Chapel. He also joined an anti-Venetian league formed in Cambrai between France, Spain, and Austria, with the goal of capturing the coast of Romagna from the Venetian Republic. Having achieved this goal, he formed an anti-French "Holy League" with Venice following the defeat of the latter at the Battle of Agnadello. His main goal was now again to "expel the barbarians" (Fuori i Barbari!). Julius II brought the Catholic Ferdinand II of Aragon into the alliance, declaring Naples a papal fief and promising a formal investiture. Having previously declared that the Imperial election was sufficient for Maximilian to style himself as Holy Roman Emperor, he later obtained Habsburg support against France as well. Julius II personally led the Papal armed forces at the victorious Siege of Mirandola and, despite subsequent defeats and great losses at the Battle of Ravenna, he ultimately forced the French troops of Louis XII to retreat behind the Alps after the arrival of Swiss mercenaries from the Holy Roman Empire.At the Congress of Mantua in 1512, Julius II ordered the restoration of Italian families to power in the vacuum of French rule: the Imperial Swiss led by Massimiliano Sforza restored Sforza rule in Milan, and a Spanish army led by Giovanni de Medici restored Medici rule in Florence. The Kingdom of Naples was recognized as a papal fief. The Venetians regained their territories lost to France, and the Papal States annexed Parma and Modena. The conciliarist movement promoted by foreign monarchs was crushed, and Julius II affirmed ultramontanism at the Fifth Lateran Council. This is often presented in traditional historiography as the moment in which Renaissance Italy came the closest to unification after the end of the Italic League of the 15th century. However, Julius II was far away from the possibility to form a single Italian kingdom, if that was his goal at all, since foreign armies were largely involved in his wars and the French were preparing new campaigns against the Swiss for Milan. Naples, even if recognized as a papal fief, was still under Spain and in fact Julius II was planning to end Spanish presence in the south. Nevertheless, by the end of his pontificate, the papal objective to make the Church the main force in the Italian Wars was achieved. At the Roman Carnival of 1513, Julius II presented himself as the "liberator of Italy".Julius planned to call for a crusade against the Ottoman Empire in order to retake Constantinople, but died before making official announcements. His successor, Pope Leo X, along with Emperor Maximilian, would re-establish the status quo ante bellum by ratifying the treaties of Brussels and Noyon in 1516; France regained control of Milan after the victory of Francis I at the Battle of Marignano, and Spain was recognized as the direct ruler of Naples. However, the Papal States remained independent and centralized as a result of Julius' policies and the office of the papacy would remain crucial, diplomatically and politically, during the entirety of the 16th century in Italy and Europe. Julius II was described by Machiavelli in his works as the ideal prince. Pope Julius II allowed people seeking indulgences to donate money to the Church which would be used for the construction of Saint Peter's Basilica. In his Julius Excluded from Heaven, the scholar Erasmus of Rotterdam described a Pope Julius II in the afterlife planning to storm Heaven when he is denied entry.
Pantheon has 482 people classified as religious figures born between 1 and 1971. Of these 482, 55 (11.41%) of them are still alive today. The most famous living religious figures include Tarcisio Bertone, Angelo Sodano, and Giovanni Battista Re. The most famous deceased religious figures include Francis of Assisi, Pope John Paul I, and Pope Pius XII. As of October 2020, 24 new religious figures have been added to Pantheon including Praxedes, Andrew Corsini, and Enrico Dante.
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Which Religious Figures were alive at the same time? This visualization shows the lifespans of the 25 most globally memorable Religious Figures since 1700.