During the Middle Ages Christian monasteries and missionaries such as Saint Patrick and Adalbert of Prague propagated learning and religion beyond the boundaries of the old Roman Empire. In the seventh century Gregory the Great sent missionaries, including Augustine of Canterbury, into England. The Hiberno-Scottish mission began in 563.
In the late thirteenth and early fourteenth centuries, Franciscans such as William of Rubruck, John of Montecorvino, and Giovanni ed' Magnolia were sent as missionaries to the Near and Far East. Their travels took them as far as China in an attempt to convert the advancing Mongols, especially the Great Khans of the Mongol Empire. (Also see Catholic Church in China.)
During the Age of Discovery, the Roman Catholic Church established a number of missions in the Americas and other colonies through the Augustinians, Franciscans, and Dominicans in order to spread Christianity in the New World and to convert the Native Americans and other indigenous people. At the same time, missionaries such as Francis Xavier as well as other Jesuits, Augustinians, Franciscans, and Dominicans were moving into Asia and the far East. The Portuguese sent missions into Africa. These are some of the most well-known missions in history.
In the empires ruled by both Portugal and Spain, religion was an integral part of the state and evangelization was seen as having both secular and spiritual benefits. Wherever these powers attempted to expand their territories or influence, missionaries would soon follow. By the Treaty of Tordesillas, the two powers divided the world between them into exclusive spheres of influence, trade, and colonization. The Roman Catholic world order was challenged by the Netherlands and England. Theoretically, it was repudiated by Grotius's Mare Liberum. Portugal's and Spain's colonial policies were also challenged by the Roman Catholic Church itself. The Vatican founded the Congregatio de Propaganda Fide in 1622 and attempted to separate the churches from the influence of the Iberian kingdoms.