Christianization (or Christianisation) is the conversion of individuals to Christianity or the conversion of entire groups at once. Various strategies and techniques were employed in Christianization campaigns from Late Antiquity and throughout the Middle Ages. Often the conversion of the ruler was followed by the compulsory baptism of his subjects. Some were evangelization by monks or priests, organic growth within an already partly Christianized society, or by campaigns against paganism such as the conversion of pagan temples into Christian churches or the condemnation of pagan gods and practices. A strategy for Christianization was Interpretatio Christiana – the practice of converting native pagan practices and culture, pagan religious imagery, pagan sites and the pagan calendar to Christian uses, due to the Christian efforts at proselytism (evangelism) based on the Great Commission.
|History of religions|
Reformatting native religious and cultural activities and beliefs into a Christianized form was officially sanctioned; preserved in the Venerable Bede's Historia ecclesiastica gentis Anglorum is a letter from Pope Gregory I to Mellitus, arguing that conversions were easier if people were allowed to retain the outward forms of their traditions, while claiming that the traditions were in honor of the Christian God, "to the end that, whilst some gratifications are outwardly permitted them, they may the more easily consent to the inward consolations of the grace of God". In essence, it was intended that the traditions and practices still existed, but that the reasoning behind them was altered. The existence of syncretism in Christian tradition has long been recognized by scholars. Since the 16th century and till modern days, significant scholarship was devoted to deconstruction of interpretatio christiana, i.e., tracing the roots of some Christian practices and traditions to paganism. Early works of this type have tended to be downplayed and even dismissed as a form of Protestant apologetics aimed at "purification" of Christianity.
The Council of Jerusalem (around 50 AD), according to Acts 15, agreed that lack of circumcision could not be a basis for excluding Gentile believers from membership in the Jesus community. Rather, they instructed new believers to avoid "pollution of idols, fornication, things strangled, and blood" (KJV, Acts 15:20-21), expecting them to hear Moses read on the Sabbath days. These clarifications were put into writing, distributed (KJV, Acts 16:4-5) by messengers present at the Council, and were received as an encouragement to the growth of these gentiles' trust in the God of Israel as revealed in the Gospel. The Apostolic Decree thus helped to establish nascent Christianity as a unique alternative among the forms of Judaism for prospective Proselytes. The Twelve Apostles and the Apostolic Fathers initiated the process of transforming the originally Jewish sect into a diaspora of communities composed of both Jews and gentiles, united by their trust in Jesus.
The Armenian, Georgian and Ethiopian churches are the only instances of imposition of Christianity by sovereign rulers predating the council of Nicaea. The initial conversion of the Roman Empire occurred mostly in urban areas of Europe, where the first conversions were sometimes among members of the Jewish population. Later conversions happened among the Grecian-Roman-Celtic populations over centuries, often initially among its urban population, with rural conversions taking place some time later. The term "pagan" is from Latin and means "villager, rustic, civilian." It is derived from this historical transition. The root of that word is present in today's word "paisan" or "paisano".
The Christianization of the Roman Empire is typically divided into two phases, before and after the year 312, which marked the momentous conversion (sincere or not debated for centuries) of Constantine. By this date, Christianity had already converted a significant but unknown proportion of at least the urban population of the empire including a small number of the elite classes. Constantine ended the intermittent persecution of Christianity with the Edict of Milan, in fact a quote from a letter of the emperor Licinius by Eusebius, which granted tolerance to all religions, but specifically mentions Christianity. Under Constantine's successors, Christianization of Roman society proceeded by fits and starts, as John Curran documented in detail.
Constantine's sons banned pagan state religious sacrifices in 341, but did not close the temples. Although all state temples in all cities were ordered shut in 356, there is evidence that traditional sacrifices continued. Under Julian, the temples were reopened and state religious sacrifices performed once more. When Gratian, emperor 376-383, declined the office and title of Pontifex Maximus, his act effectively brought an end to the state religion due to the position's authority and ties within the Imperial administration. Again, however, this process ended state official practices but not private religious devotion. As Christianity spread, many of the ancient pagan temples were defiled, sacked, destroyed, or converted into Christian sites by such figures as Martin of Tours, and in the East often by militant monks. However, many temples remained open until Theodosius I's edict of Thessalonica in 381 banned haruspices and other pagan religious practices. From 389 to 393 he issued a series of decrees which led to the banning of pagan religious rites, and the confiscation of their property and endowments. The Olympic Games were banned in 392 because of their association with the old religion. Further laws were passed against remaining pagan practices over the course of the following years. The effectiveness of these laws empire-wide is debatable. Christianization of the central Balkans is documented at the end of the 4th century, where Nicetas the Bishop of Remesiana brought the gospel to "those mountain wolves", the Bessi. Reportedly his mission was successful, and the worship of Dionysus and other Thracian gods was eventually replaced by Christianity.
A turning point came after the Battle of the Frigidus of 395, ending the last serious attempt at a pagan revival in the now Christianized Roman Empire. After the defeat of Eugenius, the conservative pagan families of Rome gave up their resistance to Christianity and began to re-invent themselves to maintain their social leadership. By this time the Christian hierarchy had adopted classical education and culture as the marks of the civilized person, thus bringing the two social groups into alliance. Under the regency of Stilicho (395-408), some paganism was still tolerated, but later in the 5th century, legislation against pagan possessions, and other pagan practices, became increasingly strict. There appear to have been later attempts at a pagan revival, in 456 in circles surrounding the general Marcellinus and under Anthemius (r. 467-472), but these came to nothing. Marcian in 451 put the death penalty on the practice on pagan rites, and Leo I in 472 reinforced this by penalizing anyone who was aware that pagan rites were performed on his property.
The early Christianization of the various Germanic peoples was achieved by various means, and was partly facilitated by the prestige of the Christian Roman Empire amongst European pagans. The early rise of Germanic Christianity was, thus, mainly due to voluntary conversion on a small scale. In the 4th century some Eastern Germanic tribes, notably the Goths, an East Germanic tribe, adopted Arianism. From the 6th century, Germanic tribes were converted (and re-converted) by Catholic missionaries, firstly among the Franks, after Clovis I's conversion to Catholicism in 496. Christianity at this time then constituted of a mix of Arian Christianity, Catholic Christianity, and Christianized Germanic paganism. The Lombards adopted Catholicism as they entered Italy, also during the 6th century. Conversion of the West and East Germanic tribes sometimes took place "top to bottom", in the sense that missionaries sometimes aimed at converting Germanic nobility first, after which time their societies would begin a gradual process of Christianization that would generally take a matter of centuries, with some traces of earlier beliefs remaining. The Franks were converted in the 5th century, after Clovis I's conversion to Catholic Christianity. In 498 (497 or 499 are also possible) he let himself be baptized in Rheims. With this act, the Frankish Kingdom became Christian, although it would take until the 7th century for the population to abandon some of their pagan customs. Christian beliefs and a remnant of pagan practices branded as superstitions existed side by side for many centuries
In most of Britain, the native Britons were already partly Christianized by the time of the Anglo-Saxon settlement of Britain; it is not clear how thorough this process had been. Ireland, and parts of Scotland, had been converted by the Romano-British Christians, led by Saint Patrick. However, ecclesiastics of the time such as the British Gildas and later Anglo-Saxon Bede, criticized them for generally refusing to work at all for the conversion of the Anglo-Saxons, in fact many were absorbed into the religion and culture of the new settlers.
The conversion of the Anglo-Saxons was begun at about the same time at the far north and south of the Anglo-Saxon kingdoms in two unconnected initiatives. Irish missionaries led by Saint Columba based in Iona (from 563) and elsewhere, converted many Picts. The court of Anglo-Saxon Northumbria, and the Gregorian mission, who landed in 596, did the same to the Kingdom of Kent. They had been sent by Pope Gregory I and were led by Augustine of Canterbury with a mission team from Italy. In both cases, and in other kingdoms, the conversion was generally "top down", with the royal family and nobility adopting the new religion first.
The Viking invasions of Britain and Ireland destroyed many monasteries and new Viking settlers restored paganism—though of a different variety to the Saxon or classical religions—to areas such as Northumbria and Dublin for a time before their own conversion.
The Germanic peoples underwent gradual Christianization in the course of the Early Middle Ages, resulting in a unique form of Christianity known as Germanic Christianity that was frequently some blend of Arian Christianity and Germanic paganism. The Eastern and Western tribes were the first to convert through various means. However, it would not be until the 12th century that the North Germanic peoples had Christianized.
In the polytheistic Germanic tradition, it was possible to worship Jesus next to the native gods like Woden and Thor. Before a battle, a pagan military leader might pray to Jesus for victory, instead of Odin, if he expected more help from the Christian God. According to legend, Clovis had prayed thus before a battle against one of the kings of the Alemanni, and had consequently attributed his victory to Jesus. The Christianization of the Franks laid the foundation for the further Christianization of the Germanic peoples.
The next impulse came from the edge of Europe. Although Ireland had never been part of the Roman Empire, Christianity had come there and developed, largely independently, into Celtic Christianity. The Irish monks had developed a concept of peregrinatio. This essentially meant that a monk would leave the monastery and his Christian country to proselytize among the heathens. From 590 onwards, Irish missionaries were active in Gaul, Scotland, Wales and England. During the Saxon Wars, Charlemagne, King of the Franks, Christianized the Saxons by way of warfare and law upon conquest.
Great Moravia and its successor state Duchy of Bohemia were founded by West Slavs in Central Europe in 9th century. The territory of Great Moravia was originally evangelized by missionaries coming from the Frankish Empire or Byzantine enclaves in Italy and Dalmatia since the early 8th century and sporadically earlier. The first Christian church of the Western and Eastern Slavs known to the written sources was built in 828 by Pribina, the ruler and Prince of the Principality of Nitra, although probably still a pagan himself, in his possession called Nitrava (today Nitra, Slovakia). The first Moravian ruler known by name, Mojmír I, was baptized in 831 by Reginhar, Bishop of Passau. Despite the formal endorsement by the elites, the Great Moravian Christianity was described as containing many pagan elements as late as in 852.
The Church organization in Great Moravia was supervised by the Bavarian clergy until the arrival of the Byzantine missionaries Saints Cyril and Methodius in 863, upon Prince Rastislav's request. Cyril developed the first Slavic alphabet and translated the Gospel into the Old Church Slavonic language. Foundation of the first Slavic bishopric (870), archbishopric (880), and monastery was the politically relevant outcome of the Byzantine mission. In 880, Pope John VIII issued the bull Industriae Tuae, by which he set up an independent ecclesiastical province in Great Moravia with Archbishop Methodius as its head. He also named the German cleric Wiching the Bishop of Nitra, and Old Church Slavonic was recognized as the fourth liturgical language, along with Latin, Greek and Hebrew.
After its establishment under Khan Asparukh in 681, Bulgaria retained the traditional Bulgar religion Tengriism and the pagan beliefs of the local Slavic population. In the mid-9th century, Boris I decided to establish Christianity as a state religion in Bulgaria. In 864, he was baptized in the capital Pliska by Byzantine priests. After prolonged negotiations with both Rome and Constantinople, he managed to create an autocephalous Bulgarian Orthodox Church and used the newly created Cyrillic script to make the Bulgarian language the language of the Church.
Christianity was challenged during the rule of his first-born son, Vladimir-Rasate (889-893), who decided to return to the old Bulgarian religion. Boris I, who had previously retired to a monastery, led a rebellion against his son and defeated him. At the counsel of Preslav in 893, his third son, Simeon I who was born after the Christianization, was installed on the throne and the capital was moved from Pliska to Preslav as a symbol of the abolition of the old religion. Simeon I led a series of wars against the Byzantines to gain official recognition of his Imperial title and the full independence of the Bulgarian Church. As a result of his victories in 927, the Byzantines finally recognized the Bulgarian Patriarchate.
The establishment of Christianity as state religion dates to the time of Eastern Orthodox missionaries Saints Cyril and Methodius during Basil I (r. 867–886), who baptised the Serbs sometime before sending imperial admiral Nikita Orifas to Knez Mutimir for aid in the war against the Saracens in 869, after acknowledging the suzerainty of the Byzantine Empire. The fleets and land forces of Zahumlje, Travunia and Konavli (Serbian Pomorje) were sent to fight the Saracens who attacked the town of Ragusa (Dubrovnik) in 869, on the immediate request of Basil I, who was asked by the Ragusians for help. A Serbian bishopric (Diocese of Ras) may have been founded in Stari Ras in 871 by Serbian Knez Mutimir, confirmed by the Council of Constantinople in 879–80.
The adherence is evident in the tradition of theophoric names in the next generation of Serbian monarchs and nobles; Petar Gojniković, Stefan Mutimirović, Pavle Branović. Mutimir maintained the communion with the Eastern Church (Constantinople) when Pope John VIII invited him to recognize the jurisdiction of the bishopric of Sirmium. The Serbs adopt the Old Slavonic liturgy instead of the Greek.
The "Baptism of Poland" (Polish: Chrzest Polski) in 966, refers to the baptism of Mieszko I, the first ruler of a future united Polish state. His baptism was followed by the building of churches and the establishment of an ecclesiastical hierarchy. Mieszko saw baptism as a way of strengthening his hold on power, with the active support he could expect from the bishops, as well as a unifying force for the Polish people. Mieszko's action proved highly successful because by the 13th century, Roman Catholicism had become the dominant religion in Poland.
In the Middle Ages, the Kingdom of Hungary (which was larger than modern day Hungary) was Christianized initially by Greek monks sent from Constantinople to convert the pagan Hungarians. In 950, the tribal chief, Gyula II of Transylvania, visited Constantinople and was baptized. Gyula also had his officers and family baptized under the Orthodox confession. The conversion of the Hungarian people was not completed until the reign of Gyula's grandson, King Stephen I of Hungary. Stephen was the son of Grand Prince Géza of Hungary and Sarolt, the daughter of Gyula II. His authority as leader of the Hungarian tribal federation was recognized with a crown from Pope Sylvester II. King Stephen converted the nomadic barbarian tribes of the Hungarians and induced them to sedentary culture. The conversion of Hungary is said to have been completed by the time of Stephen's death in 1038.
Soon the Hungarian Kingdom counted with two archbishops and 8 bishops, a defined state structure with province governors that answered to the King. In the other hand, Saint Stephen opened the frontiers of his Kingdom in 1016 to the pilgrims that traveled by land to the Holy Land, and soon this route became extremely popular, being used later in the Crusades. Saint Stephen was the first Hungarian monarch that was elevated to the sanctity for his Christian characteristics and not because he suffered a martyr death.
Between the 8th and the 13th century, the area of what now is European Russia, Belarus and Ukraine was settled by the Kievan Rus'. An attempt to Christianize them had already been made in the 9th century, with the Christianization of the Rus' Khaganate. In the 10th century, around 980, the efforts were finally successful when Vladimir the Great was baptized at Chersonesos. To commemorate the event, Vladimir built the first stone church of Kievan Rus', called the Church of the Tithes, where his body and the body of his new wife were to repose. Another church was built on top of the hill where pagan statues stood before.
The Christianization of Scandinavia started in the 8th century with the arrival of missionaries in Denmark and it was at least nominally complete by the 12th century, although the Samis remained unconverted until the 18th century. In fact, although the Scandinavians became nominally Christian, it would take considerably longer for actual Christian beliefs to establish themselves among the people. The old indigenous traditions that had provided security and structure since time immemorial were challenged by ideas that were unfamiliar, such as original sin, the Immaculate Conception, the Trinity and so forth. Archaeological excavations of burial sites on the island of Lovön near modern-day Stockholm have shown that the actual Christianization of the people was very slow and took at least 150–200 years, and this was a very central location in the Swedish kingdom. Thirteenth-century runic inscriptions from the bustling merchant town of Bergen in Norway show little Christian influence, and one of them appeals to a Valkyrie. At this time, enough knowledge of Norse mythology remained to be preserved in sources such as the Eddas in Iceland.
The Northern Crusades (or "Baltic Crusades") were crusades undertaken by the Catholic kings of Denmark and Sweden, the German Livonian and Teutonic military orders, and their allies against the pagan peoples of Northern Europe around the southern and eastern shores of the Baltic Sea. Swedish and German campaigns against Russian Eastern Orthodox Christians are also sometimes considered part of the Northern Crusades. Some of these wars were called crusades during the Middle Ages, but others, including most of the Swedish ones, were first dubbed crusades by 19th-century romantic nationalist historians. Lithuania and Samogitia were ultimately Christianized from 1386 until 1417 by the initiative of the Grand Duke of Lithuania Jogaila and his cousin Vytautas.
Between 711–718 the Iberian peninsula had been conquered by Muslims in the Umayyad conquest of Hispania. Between 722 (see: Battle of Covadonga) and 1492 (see: the Conquest of Granada) the Christian Kingdoms that later would become Spain and Portugal reconquered it from the Moorish states of Al-Ándalus. The notorious Spanish Inquisition and Portuguese Inquisition were not installed until 1478 and 1536 when the Reconquista was already (mostly) completed.
The expansion of the Catholic Portuguese Empire and Spanish Empire with a significant role played by Catholic missionaries led to the Christianization of the indigenous populations of the Americas such as the Aztecs and Incas. A large number of churches were built.
Later waves of colonial expansion such as the Scramble for Africa or the struggle for India, by the Netherlands, Britain, France, Germany and Russia led to Christianization of other native populations across the globe such as the Indigenous peoples of the Americas, Filipinos, Indians and Africans led to the expansion of Christianity eclipsing that of the Roman period and making it a truly global religion.
The colonies which later became the United States were largely colonized by England, and therefore their colonists were predominantly Protestant. Even colonists with non-English backgrounds—Scots, Scotch Irish, Germans, Dutch, French, and Swedes—were mostly from Protestant countries in Northern Europe. Thus Protestantism as a religious force shaped the mind of pre-independence colonial America.
By the 1790 Census, the total immigration over the approximately 130-year span of colonial existence of the U.S. colonies was summarized as: 3.9 million total, comprising 2.56 million British, 0.76 million African, and 0.58 million "other" who probably included a large proportion of people with poorly recorded English ancestry. It was not until the nineteenth century that Roman Catholics became a numerically significant segment of American life, mainly due to large-scale immigration from Ireland (driven by the Great Famine from 1845 onward) and countries in Southern Europe (partly due to farming improvements which created surplus labor), and absorption of territories originally colonized or influenced by Catholic countries such as Spain.
In 1908 Pope Pius X declared that the United States was no longer a missionary territory for Roman Catholicism. By this time the Roman Catholic church was well established enough to stake a place for itself in the American religious landscape. It was about 15 million strong by 1901. Thus, the church adopted a mission to Christianize other cultures. On November 16, 1908, a missionary conference was held in Chicago to mark the transition from becoming a church that received missionary help to a church that sends it. Attendees included Boston's Archbishop William H. O'Connell and Chicago's Archbishop James Edward Quigley, who called attention to the "new era" into which the church in America now entered.
Many Christian churches were built upon sites already consecrated as pagan temples or mithraea, the church of Santa Maria sopra Minerva (literally Saint Mary above Minerva) in Rome being simply the most obvious example, though a period of about 350 years of abandonment intervened between temple and church in this case. Sulpicius Severus, in his Vita of Martin of Tours, a dedicated destroyer of temples and sacred trees, remarks "wherever he destroyed heathen temples, there he used immediately to build either churches or monasteries", and when Benedict took possession of the site at Monte Cassino, he began by smashing the sculpture of Apollo and the altar that crowned the height.
The British Isles and other areas of northern Europe that were formerly druidic are still densely punctuated by holy wells and holy springs that are now attributed to some saint, often a highly local saint unknown elsewhere; in earlier times many of these were seen as guarded by supernatural forces such as the melusina, and many such pre-Christian holy wells appear to survive as baptistries. Not all pre-Christian holy places were respected enough for them to survive, however, as most ancient European sacred groves, such as the pillar Irminsul, were destroyed by Christianizing forces.
During the Reconquista and the Crusades, the cross served the symbolic function of possession that a flag would occupy today. At the siege of Lisbon in 1147, when a mixed group of Christians took the city, "What great joy and what a great abundance there was of pious tears when, to the praise and honor of God and of the most Holy Virgin Mary the saving cross was placed atop the highest tower to be seen by all as a symbol of the city's subjection."
The historicity of several saints has often been treated sceptically by most academics, either because there is a paucity of historical evidence for them, or due to striking resemblances that they have to pre-Christian deities. In 1969 the Roman Catholic Church removed some Christian Saints from its universal calendar and pronounced the historicity of others to be dubious. Though highly popular in the Middle Ages, many of these saints have since been largely forgotten, and their names may now seem quite unfamiliar. The most prominent amongst these is Saint Eustace, who was extremely popular in earlier times, but whom Laura Hibberd sees as a chimera composed from details of several other Saints. Many of these figures of dubious historicity appear to be based on figures from pre-Christian myth and legend, Saint Sarah, for example, also known as Sarah-la-Kali, is thought by Ronald Lee to be a Christianization of Kali, a Hindu deity.
The cross is currently the most common symbol of Christianity, and has been for many centuries, coming to prominence during the 4th century (301 to 400 AD).
The predecessor of the cross as the main Christian symbol was the labarum, a symbol formed by overlaying the first two letters of the Greek word for Christ in the Greek alphabet. Constantine I is widely considered to have introduced the symbol into Christianity, but the symbol itself predates this.
Although Christian tradition argues that Constantine chose the labarum because he had a vision that led him to convert to Christianity, Constantine's conversion is disputed by some historians, who see Constantine's motive for choosing the labarum as political, with him deliberately making his banner one which could be interpreted as supporting either of the two major religions of the Roman Empire at the time.
Prior to the labarum, the main Christian symbol, and the earliest, was a fish-like symbol now known as Ichthys (the Greek word for fish); the Greek word ιχθυς is an acronym for the phrase transliterated as "Iesou Christos Theou Yios Sotiras", that is, "Jesus Christ, God's Son, the Savior". There are several other connections with Christian tradition relating to this choice of symbol: that it was a reference to the feeding of the multitude; that it referred to some of the apostles having previously been fishermen; or that the word Christ was pronounced by Jews in a similar way to the Hebrew word for fish (though Nuna is the normal Aramaic word for fish, making this seem unlikely).
The Arsacid dynasty or Arshakuni (Armenian: Արշակունի Arshakuni), ruled the Kingdom of Armenia from 54 to 428. The dynasty was a branch of the Arsacid dynasty of Parthia. Arsacid Kings reigned intermittently throughout the chaotic years following the fall of the Artaxiad dynasty until 62 when Tiridates I secured Arsacid dynasty of Parthia rule in Armenia. An independent line of Kings was established by Vologases II (Vagharsh II) in 180. Two of the most notable events under Arsacid rule in Armenian history were the conversion of Armenia to Christianity by Gregory the Illuminator in 301 and the creation of the Armenian alphabet by Mesrop Mashtots in c. 405.Basque mythology
The mythology of the ancient Basques largely did not survive the arrival of Christianity in the Basque Country between the 4th and 12th century AD. Most of what is known about elements of this original belief system is based on the analysis of legends, the study of place names and scant historical references to pagan rituals practised by the Basques.
One main figure of this belief system was the female character of Mari. According to legends collected in the area of Ataun, the other main figure was her consort Sugaar. However, due to the scarcity of the material it is difficult to say if this would have been the "central pair" of the Basque pantheon. Based on the attributes ascribed to these mythological creatures, this would be considered a chthonic religion as all its characters dwell on earth or below it, with the sky seen mostly as an empty corridor through which the divinities pass.Christianisation of Anglo-Saxon England
The Christianisation of Anglo-Saxon England was a process spanning the 7th century.
It was essentially the result of the Gregorian mission of 597, which was joined by the efforts of the Hiberno-Scottish mission from the 630s. From the 8th century, the Anglo-Saxon mission was, in turn, instrumental in the conversion of the population of the Frankish Empire.
Æthelberht of Kent was the first king to accept baptism, circa 601. He was followed by Saebert of Essex and Rædwald of East Anglia in 604. However, when Æthelberht and Saebert died, in 616, they were both succeeded by pagan sons who were hostile to Christianity and drove the missionaries out, encouraging their subjects to return to their native paganism. Christianity only hung on with Rædwald, who was still worshiping the pagan gods alongside Christ.
The first Archbishops of Canterbury during the first half of the 7th century were members of the original Gregorian mission. The first native Saxon to be consecrated archbishop was Deusdedit of Canterbury, enthroned in 655. The first native Anglo-Saxon bishop was Ithamar, enthroned as Bishop of Rochester in 644.
The decisive shift to Christianity occurred in 655 when King Penda was slain in the Battle of the Winwaed and Mercia became officially Christian for the first time. The death of Penda also allowed Cenwalh of Wessex to return from exile and return Wessex, another powerful kingdom, to Christianity. After 655, only Sussex and the Isle of Wight remained openly pagan, although Wessex and Essex would later crown pagan kings. In 686 Arwald, the last openly pagan king was slain in battle and from this point on all Anglo-Saxon kings were at least nominally Christian (although there is some confusion about the religion of Caedwalla who ruled Wessex until 688).
Lingering paganism among the common population gradually became English folklore.Christianisation of the Germanic peoples
The Germanic peoples underwent gradual Christianization in the course of late antiquity and the Early Middle Ages. By AD 700, England and Francia were officially Christian, and by 1100 Germanic paganism had also ceased to have political influence in Scandinavia.Christianization of Bohemia
The Christianization of Bohemia refers to the spread of the Christian religion in the lands of medieval Bohemia. As in many other countries, Christianity was related to the establishment of a new state (first the Duchy of Bohemia, later the Kingdom of Bohemia), and was implemented from the top down.The process began with the conversion of Bořivoj I, Duke of Bohemia, the founder of the Přemyslid dynasty, in 884. It was an outgrowth of the Christianization of Moravia, traditionally attributed to the Greek missionaries, Saints Cyril and Methodius, in 863. At first, the Christian rite in Bohemia was the Slavic one of the Eastern Orthodox Church, but it was soon replaced by the Roman Catholic rite, introduced due to Western influences, and also tensions between the Bohemians and the Moravians. In 895, Prague became part of the Bavarian Roman Catholic Diocese of Regensburg. In 973 a bishopric was established in Prague.By the 10th century, several native saints emerged in Bohemia: Saint Ludmila of Bohemia (wife of Bořivoj I), their grandson Saint Wenceslas and Saint Adalbert, Bishop of Prague. Saint Wenceslas is said to have completed the Christianization of Bohemia in the early 10th century, shortly before his assassination in 935 by his own brother, Boleslav the Cruel. Boleslav's daughter, Dobrawa of Bohemia, married Mieszko I of Poland, and became instrumental in converting him, his court, and Poland itself to the Christian religion.By the early 11th century, Bohemia gained an upper hand over Moravia, which was annexed to Bohemia. Moravians were allowed to practice their Slavic Orthodox rites, but eventually they were replaced by Franco-Latin Catholic practices. A parish network was created around the 13th century.Christianization of Bulgaria
The Christianization of Bulgaria was the process by which 9th-century medieval Bulgaria converted to Christianity. It reflected the need of unity within the religiously divided Bulgarian state as well as the need for equal acceptance on the international stage in Christian Europe. This process was characterized by the shifting political alliances of Boris I of Bulgaria (ruled 852-889) with the kingdom of the East Franks and with the Byzantine Empire, as well as his diplomatic correspondence with the Pope.
Because of Bulgaria's strategic position, the churches of both Rome and Constantinople each wanted Bulgaria in their sphere of influence. They regarded Christianization as a means of integrating Slavs into their region. After some overtures to each side, the Khan adopted Christianity from Constantinople in 870. As a result, he achieved his goal of gaining an independent Bulgarian national church and having an archbishop appointed to head it.Christianization of Iberia
The Christianization of Iberia (Georgian: ქართლის გაქრისტიანება kartlis gakrist'ianeba) refers to the spread of Christianity in the early 4th century by the sermon of Saint Nino in an ancient Georgian kingdom of Kartli, known as Iberia in classical antiquity, which resulted in declaring it as a state religion by then-pagan King Mirian III of Iberia. Per Sozomen, this led the king's "large and warlike barbarian nation to confess Christ and renounce the religion of their fathers". The king would become the main sponsor, architect, initiator and an organizing power of all building processes. Per Socrates of Constantinople, the "Iberians first embraced the Christian faith" alongside the Abyssinians, but most probably Kartli would become a second state after the Kingdom of Armenia, its longtime southern neighbor, that officially embraced the new religion. The Georgian and Armenian monarchs were among the first anywhere in the world to convert to a Christian faith. Prior to the Christological controversies their Caucasian Christianity was extraordinarily inclusive, pluralistic and flexible that only saw the rigid ecclesiological hierarchies established much later, particularly as "national" churches crystallized from the 6th century. Despite the tremendous diversity of the region, the Christianization process was a pan-regional and a cross-cultural phenomenon in the Caucasus. The Jews of Mtskheta, the royal capital of Kartli, that did play a significant role in the Christianization of the kingdom, would give a strong impetus to deepen the ties between the Georgian monarchy and the Holy Land leading to an increasing presence of Georgians in Palestine, as the activities of Peter the Iberian confirm, including the oldest attested Georgian Bir el Qutt inscriptions found in the Judaean Desert.Iberia was a factor in a competitive diplomacy of the Roman and Sasanian Empires, and on occasion became a major player in proxy wars between the two empires. Iberia, a Georgian monarchy, that shared many institutions and concepts with the neighboring Iranians, being physically connected to their "Iranian Commonwealth" since the Achaemenid period through commerce, war or marriage, its adoption of Christianity meant that King Mirian III made a cultural and historical choice with profound international implications, though his decision was never tied with the Roman diplomatic initiatives. Iberia, from its Hellenistic-era establishment to the conversion of the crown, embarked on a new multi-phased process that took centuries to complete, resulting in the emergence of a strong Georgian identity.Christianization of Iceland
Iceland was Christianized in the AD 1000, when Christianity became the religion by law. In Icelandic, this event is known as the kristnitaka (literally, "the taking of Christianity").
The vast majority of the initial settlers of Iceland during the settlement of Iceland in the 9th and 10th centuries AD were pagan, worshipping the Æsir (the Norse gods). Beginning in 980, Iceland was visited by several Christian missionaries who had little success; but when Olaf Tryggvason (who had converted around 998) ascended to the Norwegian throne, there were many more converts, and the two rival religions soon divided the country and threatened civil war.
The matter was submitted to arbitration at the Althing, with law speaker Thorgeir Thorkelsson, himself a pagan, pronouncing after a day and a night of contemplation that Iceland would become Christian.Christianization of Kievan Rus'
The Christianization of Kievan Rus' took place in several stages. In early 867, Patriarch Photius of Constantinople announced to other Orthodox patriarchs that the Rus', baptised by his bishop, took to Christianity with particular enthusiasm. Photius's attempts at Christianizing the country seem to have entailed no lasting consequences, since the Primary Chronicle and other Slavonic sources describe the tenth-century Rus' as firmly entrenched in paganism. Following the Primary Chronicle, the definitive Christianization of Kievan Rus' dates from the year 988 (the year is disputed), when Vladimir the Great was baptized in Chersonesus and proceeded to baptize his family and people in Kiev. The latter events are traditionally referred to as baptism of Rus' (Russian: Крещение Руси, Ukrainian: Хрещення Русі) in Russian and Ukrainian literature.Christianization of Lithuania
The Christianization of Lithuania (Lithuanian: Lietuvos krikštas) occurred in 1387, initiated by King of Poland and Grand Duke of Lithuania Władysław II Jagiełło and his cousin Vytautas the Great. It signified the official adoption of Christianity by Lithuanians, the last pagan nation in Europe. This event ended one of the most complicated and lengthiest processes of Christianization in European history.Christianization of Moravia
The Christianization of Moravia refers to the spread of the Christian religion in the lands of medieval Moravia (Great Moravia).
What modern historians designate as Great Moravia was a Slavic state that existed in Central Europe from around 830 to the early 10th century. The territory of Great Moravia was originally evangelized by missionaries coming from the Frankish Empire or Byzantine enclaves in Italy and Dalmatia since the early 8th century and sporadically earlier. The diocese of Passau was charged with establishing a church structure in Moravia. The first Christian church of the Western and Eastern Slavs known to the written sources was built in 828 by Pribina, the ruler and Prince of the Principality of Nitra, although probably still a pagan himself, in his possession called Nitrava (today Nitra, Slovakia). The first Moravian ruler known by name, Mojmír I, was baptized in 831 by Reginhar, Bishop of Passau. Due to internal struggles between Moravian rulers, Mojmir was deposed by Rastislav in 846; as Mojmir was aligned with Frankish Catholicism, Rastislav asked for support from the Byzantine Empire and aligned himself with Eastern Orthodoxy.Despite the formal endorsement by the elites, the Great Moravian Christianity was described as containing many pagan elements as late as in 852. The major milestone in the Christianization of Moravia is traditionally attributed to the influence of Greek missionary brothers, Saints Cyril and Methodius, who arrived in Moravia in the year 863. Cyril translated the liturgy and the pericopes into the regional Slavic language (their translation became the foundation of the Old Church Slavonic language), giving rise to the popular Slavic church, quickly surpassing the previously struggling Roman Catholic missions with their foreign German priests and Latin liturgy. A few years later, the nearby Duchy of Bohemia was also converted, with its ruler baptised in 867. (the christianization of Moravia would also affect Poland, which was christianized a century later, and where Moravian missionaries were among the early evangelizers). Soon Ratislav succeeded in created a church independent of both the Germans and Constantinople, subordinated directly to the See of Rome. New diocese of Pannonia was inaugurated, with Methodius as its first archbishop.After the death of Ratislav successor, Svatopluk I, Moravia was mostly partitioned between its neighbours (Germany, Bohemia and Hungary) and the Slavic church went into decline, replaced by the churches better established in those other territories. A number of expelled Slavic church priests found refuge in Bulgaria, where a number of their traditions became incorporated into the early Bulgarian Orthodox Church.Christianization of Poland
The Christianization of Poland (Polish: chrystianizacja Polski) refers to the introduction and subsequent spread of Christianity in Poland. The impetus to the process was the Baptism of Poland (Polish: chrzest Polski), the personal baptism of Mieszko I, the first ruler of the future Polish state, and much of his court. The ceremony took place on the Holy Saturday of 14 April 966, although the exact location is still disputed by historians, with the cities of Poznań and Gniezno being the most likely sites. Mieszko's wife, Dobrawa of Bohemia, is often credited as a major influence on Mieszko's decision to accept Christianity.
While the spread of Christianity in Poland took centuries to finish, the process was ultimately successful, as within several decades Poland joined the rank of established European states recognised by the papacy and the Holy Roman Empire. According to historians, the baptism of Poland marks the beginning of Polish statehood. Nevertheless, the Christianization was a long and arduous process, as most of the Polish population remained pagan until the pagan reaction during the 1030s.Christianization of Pomerania
Medieval Pomerania was converted from Slavic paganism to Christianity by Otto von Bamberg in 1124 and 1128 (Duchy of Pomerania), and in 1168 by Absalon (Principality of Rügen).
Earlier attempts at Christianization, undertaken since the 10th century, failed or were short-lived. The new religion stabilized when the Pomeranian dukes founded several monasteries and called in Christian, primarily German settlers during the Ostsiedlung. The first Pomeranian abbey was founded in 1153 at the site where the first Christian duke of Pomerania, Wartislaw I, was slain by a pagan. The Duchy of Pomerania was organized by the Roman Catholic Church in the Bishopric of Cammin in 1140. Pomeranian areas not belonging to the duchy at this time were attached to the dioceses of Włocławek (East), Roskilde (Rügen) and Schwerin (West).Christianization of Scandinavia
The Christianization of Scandinavia as well as other Nordic countries and the Baltic countries, took place between the 8th and the 12th centuries. The realms of Scandinavia proper, Denmark, Norway and Sweden (Sweden is an 11th or 12th century merger of the former countries Götaland and Svealand), established their own Archdioceses, responsible directly to the Pope, in 1104, 1154 and 1164, respectively. The conversion to Christianity of the Scandinavian people required more time, since it took additional efforts to establish a network of churches. The Sami remained unconverted until the 18th century. Newer archaeological research suggests there were Christians in Götaland already during the 9th century, it is further believed Christianity came from the southwest and moved towards the north.Denmark was also the first of the Scandinavian countries which was Christianized, as Harald Bluetooth declared this around AD 975, and raised the larger of the two Jelling Stones. The oldest still-existing church built in stone, is found in (former) Denmark, Dalby Holy Cross Church from around AD 1040.Although the Scandinavians became nominally Christian, it took considerably longer for actual Christian beliefs to establish themselves among the people in some regions, while the people were Christianized before the king in other regions. The old indigenous traditions that had provided security and structure were challenged by ideas that were unfamiliar, such as original sin, the Incarnation, and the Trinity. Archaeological excavations of burial sites on the island of Lovön near modern-day Stockholm have shown that the actual Christianization of the people was very slow and took at least 150 to 200 years, and this was a very central location in the Swedish kingdom. Thirteenth-century runic inscriptions from the merchant town of Bergen in Norway show little Christian influence, and one of them appeals to a Valkyrie.During the Early Middle Ages the papacy had not yet manifested itself as the central Roman Catholic authority, so that regional variants of Christianity could develop. Since the image of a "victorious Christ" frequently appears in early Germanic art, scholars have suggested that Christian missionaries presented Christ "as figure of strength and luck" and that possibly the Book of Revelation, which presents Christ as victor over Satan, played a central part in the spread of Christianity among the Vikings.Christianization of the Rus' Khaganate
The Christianization of the Rus' people is supposed to have begun in the 860s and was the first stage in the process of Christianization of the East Slavs which continued well into the 11th century. Despite its historical and cultural significance, records detailing the event are frustratingly hard to come by, and it seems to have been forgotten by the time of Vladimir's Baptism of Kiev in the 980s.Christianization of the Slavs
The Slavs were Christianized in waves from the 7th to 12th century. Though the process of replacing old Slavic religious practices began as early as the 6th century. Generally speaking, the monarchs of the South Slavs adopted Christianity in the 9th century, the East Slavs in the 10th, and the West Slavs between the 9th and 12th century. Saints Cyril and Methodius (fl. 860–885) are attributed as "Apostles to the Slavs", having introduced the Byzantine-Slavic rite (Old Slavonic liturgy) and Glagolitic alphabet, the oldest known Slavic alphabet and basis for the Early Cyrillic alphabet.Dechristianization of France during the French Revolution
The dechristianization of France during the French Revolution is a conventional description of the results of a number of separate policies conducted by various governments of France between the start of the French Revolution in 1789 and the Concordat of 1801, forming the basis of the later and less radical laïcité policies. The goal of the campaign between 1793 and 1794 ranged from the public reclamation of the massive amounts of land, power, and money held by the Catholic Church in France to the termination of Catholic religious practice and of the religion itself. There has been much scholarly debate over whether the movement was popularly motivated.The French Revolution initially began with attacks on church corruption and the wealth of the higher clergy, an action with which even many Christians could identify, since the Roman Catholic church held a dominant role in pre-revolutionary France. During a two-year period known as the Reign of Terror, the episodes of anti-clericalism grew more violent than any in modern European history. The new revolutionary authorities suppressed the church; abolished the Catholic monarchy; nationalized church property; exiled 30,000 priests and killed hundreds more. In October 1793 the Christian calendar was replaced with one reckoning from the date of the Revolution, and Festivals of Liberty, Reason and the Supreme Being were scheduled. New forms of moral religion emerged, including the deistic Cult of the Supreme Being and the atheistic Cult of Reason, with the revolutionary government briefly mandating observance of the former in April 1794.History of Ireland (400–800)
The early medieval history of Ireland, often called Early Christian Ireland, spans the 5th to 8th centuries, from the gradual emergence out of the protohistoric period (Ogham inscriptions in Primitive Irish, mentions in Greco-Roman ethnography) to the beginning of the Viking Age. The period notably includes the Hiberno-Scottish mission of Christianised Ireland to regions of pagan Britain and the spread of Irish cultural influence to Continental Europe.Religion in Latvia
The main religion traditionally practiced in Latvia is Christianity. As of 2011, it is the largest religion (80%), though only about 7% of the population attends religious services regularly. Lutheranism is the main Christian denomination among ethnic Latvians due to strong historical links with the Nordic countries and Northern Germany (see Hanseatic League), while Catholicism is most prevalent in Eastern Latvia (Latgale), mostly due to Polish influence. The Latvian Orthodox Church is the third largest Christian church in Latvia, with adherents primarily among the Russian-speaking minority.
In a survey from 2015, the ISSP found that 62.6% of the Latvian population declared to belong to a Christian denomination, divided in 19.7% Russian Orthodox, 18.5% Roman Catholic, 17.8% Protestant, 6.1% Old Believers and 0.5% belonged to smaller christian denominations. A further 36.7% declared to have No Religion and 0.7% declared to belong to an other religion. In the same year the Eurobarometer survey by the European Commission found different results, with 76.7% of the Latvians regarding themselves as Christians, divided in 26.2% Catholics 24.0% Eastern Orthodox, 16.6% Protestants, and 9.9% other Christians. The unaffiliated people made up the 22.0% of the respondents and were divided in Atheists with 4.7% and Agnostics with 17.3%.