The last pope to resign was Pope Gregory XII, who stepped down in 1415 to end the Great Western Schism, a nearly 40-year split over leadership of Christendom. The disagreement was a major political struggle since the Church played a central role in politics, art and daily life in much of Europe, which was slowly transitioning into the Renaissance.
During that era:
--Heretics were burned at the stake, including Bohemian-born Jan Hus, a priest considered an inspiration for the Protestant Reformation, in 1415. Joan of Arc, who fought for France in the Hundred Years War against England, died at the stake in 1431.
--The Medicis were building the banking empire that would turn them into a political dynasty, make them influential art benefactors and eventually produce four popes, the first in 1513.
--Early Renaissance artists like Donatello were playing with perspective in sculptures of saints that adorned his country's ornate churches.
-- Matt Surman -- Twitter http://twitter.com/apsurman
"Pope Live" follows the events of the final day of Pope Benedict XVI's papacy as seen by journalists from The Associated Press around the world. It will be updated throughout the day with breaking news and other items of interest. Follow AP reporters on Twitter where available.