Within 400 years after Jesus' passion, Christianity developed from an illegal, persecuted, and underground religion into the official, only, and dominating faith of the Roman Empire. Roman Catholicism was the Western expression of that faith.
Schisms and Sects
Catholicism experienced intermittent theological heresies and three major schisms: the Great Schism between east and west, the Great Western Schism of rival papacies, and the Protestant Reformation.
Missions and Expansion
Roman Catholicism has often tried to adapt itself to the cultures her missionaries have encountered while attempting to centralize the Church under an increasingly monarchical papal bureaucracy.
Exploration and Conquest
Before and after Columbus's voyages starting in 1492, Catholicism's expansion was marked not only by growth and innovation, but also sometimes by violence, persecution, and imperialistic tendencies.
Roman Catholicism responded to the Scientific Revolution, Enlightenment, and modernity's push to democracy first by closing its doors to the world, but then by opening its windows.