Overview of Bible Study

Dark Ages


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A Beacon in the Dark Ages

In the latter days of the Roman Empire, it had become friendly to the Christian Church, but its fall certainly didn't mean the end of Christianity.

As barbarians invaded and occupied areas of the Roman Empire, Christians fought back, winning new lands and gaining new converts.

Invading tribes came from the north and from the east, lured by the riches of Rome. From Britain came the Picts and the Scots; from the Black Sea came Goths; from the north, Danes, Vandals, Angles, Lombards, Jutes, and Burgundians; and from the east Teutons and Huns. Each brought their own peculiar beliefs, some worshipping animals, others a multitude of gods.

Conversions in Ireland and Scotland

Christianity not only survived the onslaught, but fought back. Gregory the Great, pope from 590-604, set out to convert the newcomers, and earned his place in Christian history for his success in southern England.

Pope Gregory sent Augustine with 40 monks to England, winning over first the King of Kent, and then his people, establishing the center of Anglican Christianity, with its cathedral at Canterbury.

The Celts

As with other parts of the Roman Empire, England had been partially converted under the Romans, although barbarian invaders had eradicated most outward signs of Christianity.

St. Patrick was not actually Irish. Born in Britain around AD 385, he was sold into slavery in Ireland. Later escaping to Europe, he studied at the Monastery of St. Martin of Tours, where he was ordained as a priest.

With missionary zeal, he returned to Ireland to undertake the conversion of the Celtic pagans and their Druid priests. Arriving in Ireland in AD 432, Patrick spent nearly 30 years establishing churches and monasteries on Druid sacred sites.

Following Patrick's conversion of Ireland, the Church turned its sight on Scotland. Born in Ireland, Columba was of royal blood, and may have been in line to become King of Ireland had he not chosen to become a priest. It seems likely he left Ireland as an act of penance, perhaps connected to a copy of the Gospels he had made, a dispute that led to a bloody battle.

From Ireland, he moved to Scotland, where he founded a monastery on Iona in AD 563. Among other accomplishments, Columba was a sailor, allowing him to sail far among the islands, and sailing deep inland, making converts and founding small churches along the way.

Conversions in Europe

A native of England, Boniface studied at the monastery of Adescancastre, on the site of the present city of Exeter. Later he went to the Abbey of Nhutscelle, between Winchester and Southampton, where he rapidly advanced in his understanding of the Scriptures. He made his profession as a member of the Benedictine Order and was put in charge of the monastic school. He was ordained priest at the age of 30.

In AD 716, he undertook a mission to Friesland, north of Germany. As Christianity had already been preached there by Wigbert, Willibrord, and others, Boniface expected to find already established a strong base for his teaching, but what he found instead was that Christian teachings had become intermingled with pagan customs and heretical tenets.

He spent his life traveling throughout Friesland, and into Germany, founding churches and building monasteries, working to convert pagans and to restore orthodox Christian beliefs in converts. In AD 754, he was attacked and killed by heathens as he was continuing his work.

Further north, it was Ansgar who consolidated the Christianization of Denmark before going on to establish the first Christian church in Sweden, a short-lived success. It took the conversion of of King Cnut of Denmark to make a lasting impact. Similarly, Norway turned to Christianity under King Olaf Tryggvissen in AD 1000 and King Olaf Haraldsson in AD 1050, both of whom saw political benefits to their decision.

In turn, Sweden, Iceland, Greenland, and the northern islands were converted to Christianity by their Scandinavian invaders.

Eastern Expansion of Christianity

As Europe extended east, Christianity was carried to these new territories. King Stephen made Christianity the state religion amongst the Magyars. King Wenceslas brought Christianity to Bohemia, and King Bloeslaw Chrobry to Poland, the pattern being that the conversion of the king was followed by Christianization of his subject people, with greater or lesser emphasis.

























Overview of Bible Study