|III. THE CONVERSION 0F SCANDINAVIA.
I. Scandinavia before Christianity.
The Eddas, edit. Rask (Copenhagen, 1818); A. Munch (Christiania, 1847); Möbius (Leipzig, 1860).
N. M. Petersen: Danmarks Historie i Hedenold. Copenhagen, 1834–37, 3 vols.; Den Nordiske Mythologie, Copenhagen, 1839.
N. F. S. Grundtvig: Nordens Mythologie. Copenhagen, 1839.
Thorpe: Northern Mythology. London, 1852, 3 vols.
Rasmus B. Anderson: Norse Mythology; Myths of the Eddas systematized and interpreted. Chicago, 1875.
II. The Christianization of Scandinavia.
Claudius Oernhjalm: Historia Sueonum Gothorumque Ecclesiae. Stockholm, 1689, 4 vols.
E. Pontoppidan: Annales Ecclesiae Danicae. Copenhagen, 1741.
F. Münter: Kirchengeschichte von Dänmark und Norwegen. Copenhagen and Leipzig, 1823–33, 3 vols.
R. Reuterdahl: Svenska kyrkans historia. Lund, 1833, 3 vols., first volume translated into German by E. T. Mayerhof, under the title: Leben Ansgars.
Fred Helweg: Den Danske Kirkes Historie. Copenhagen, 1862.
A. Jorgensen: Den nordiske Kirkes Grundloeggelse. Copenhagen, 1874.
Neander: Geschichte der christlichen Kirche, Vol. IV., pp. 1–150
§ 28. Scandinavian Heathenism.
Wheaton: History of the Northmen. London 1831.
Depping: Histoire des expeditions maritimes des Normands. Paris, 1843. 2 vols.
F. Worsaae: Account of the Danes in England, Ireland, and Scotland. London, 1852; The Danish Conquest of England and Normandy. London, 1863. These works are translated from the Danish.
Scandinavia was inhabited by one of the wildest and fiercest, but also one of the strongest and most valiant branches of the Teutonic race, a people of robbers which grew into a people of conquerors. Speaking the same language—that which is still spoken in Iceland—and worshipping the same gods, they were split into a number of small kingdoms covering the present Denmark, Sweden, and Norway. Every spring, when the ice broke in the fjords, they launched their boats or skiffs, and swept, each swarm under the leadership of its own king, down upon the coasts of the neighboring countries. By the rivers they penetrated far into the countries, burning and destroying what they could not carry away with them. When autumn came, they returned home, loaded with spoil, and they spent the winter round the open hearth, devouring their prey. But in course of time, the swarms congregated and formed large armies, and the robber-campaigns became organized expeditions for conquest; kingdoms were founded in Russia, England, France, and Sicily. In their new homes, however, the Northern vikings soon forgot both their native language and their old gods, and became the strong bearers of new departures of civilization and the valiant knights of Christianity.
In the Scandinavian mythology, there were not a few ideas which the Christian missionary could use as connecting links. It was not absolutely necessary for him to begin with a mere negation; here, too, there was an "unknown God" and many traits indicate that, during the eighth and ninth centuries, people throughout Scandinavia became more and more anxious to hear something about him. When a man died, he went to Walhall, if he had been brave, and to Niflheim, if he had been a coward. In Walhall he lived together with the gods, in great brightness and joy, fighting all the day, feasting all the night. In Niflheim he sat alone, a shadow, surrounded with everything disgusting and degrading. But Walhall and Niflheim were not to last forever. A deep darkness, Ragnarokr, shall fall over the universe; Walhall and Niflheim shall be destroyed by fire; the gods, the heroes, the shadows, shall perish. Then a new heaven and a new earth shall be created by the All-Father, and he shall judge men not according as they have been brave or cowardly, but according as they have been good or bad. From the Eddas themseIves, it appears that, throughout Scandinavian heathendom, there now and then arose characters who, though they would not cease to be brave, longed to be good. The representative of this goodness, this dim fore-shadowing of the Christian idea of holiness, was Baldur, the young god standing on the rainbow and watching the worlds, and he was also the link which held together the whole chain of the Walhall gods; when he died, Ragnarokr came.
A transition from the myth of Baldur to the gospel of Christ cannot have been very difficult to the Scandinavian imagination; and, indeed, it is apparent that the first ideas which the Scandinavian heathens formed of the "White Christ" were influenced by their ideas of Baldur. It is a question, however, not yet settled, whether certain parts of the Scandinavian mythology, as, for instance, the above myths of Ragnarokr and Baldur, are not a reflex of Christian ideas; and it is quite probable that when the Scandinavians in the ninth century began to look at Christ under the image of Baldur, they had long before unconsciously remodeled their idea of Baldur after the image of Christ.
Another point, of considerable importance to the Christian missionary, was that, in Scandinavian heathendom, he had no priesthood to encounter. Scandinavian paganism never became an institution. There were temples, or at least altars, at Leire, near Roeskilde, in Denmark; at Sigtuna, near Upsall, in Sweden, and at Moere, near Drontheim, in Norway; and huge sacrifices of ninety-nine horses, ninety-nine cocks, and ninety-nine slaves were offered up there every Juul-time. But every man was his own priest. At the time when Christianity first appeared in Scandinavia, the old religion was evidently losing its hold on the individuals and for the very reason, that it had never succeeded in laying hold on the nation. People continued to swear by the gods, and drink in their honor; but they ceased to pray to them. They continued to sacrifice before taking the field or after the victory, and to make the sign of the cross, meaning Thor’s hammer, over a child when it was named; but there was really nothing in their life, national or individual, public or private, which demanded religious consecration. As, on the one side, characters developed which actually went beyond the established religion, longing for something higher and deeper, it was, on the other side, still more frequent to meet with characters which passed by the established religion with utter indifference, believing in nothing but their own strength.
The principal obstacle which Christianity had to encounter in Scandinavia was moral rather than religious. In his passions, the old Scandinavian was sometimes worse than a beast. Gluttony and drunkenness he considered as accomplishments. But he was chaste. A dishonored woman was very seldom heard of, adultery never. In his energy, he was sometimes fiercer than a demon. He destroyed for the sake of destruction, and there were no indignities or cruelties which he would not inflict upon a vanquished enemy. But for his friend, his king, his wife, his child, he would sacrifice everything, even life itself; and he would do it without a doubt, without a pang, in pure and noble enthusiasm. Such, however, as his morals were, they, had absolute sway over him. The gods he could forget, but not his duties. The evil one, among gods and men, was he who saw the duty, but stole away from it. The highest spiritual power among the old Scandinavians, their only enthusiasm, was their feeling of duty; but the direction which had been given to this feeling was so absolutely opposed to that pointed out by the Christian morality, that no reconciliation was possible. Revenge was the noblest sentiment and passion of man; forgiveness was a sin. The battle-field reeking with blood and fire was the highest beauty the earth could show; patient and peaceful labor was an abomination. It was quite natural, therefore, that the actual conflict between Christianity and Scandinavian paganism should take place in the field of morals. The pagans slew the missionaries, and burnt their schools and churches, not because they preached new gods, but because they "corrupted the morals of the people" (by averting them from their warlike pursuits), and when, after a contest of more than a century, it became apparent that Christianity would be victorious, the pagan heroes left the country in great swarms, as if they were flying from some awful plague. The first and hardest work which Christianity had to do in Scandinavia was generally humanitarian rather than specifically religious.
§ 29. The Christianization of Denmark. St. Ansgar.
Ansgarius: Pigmenta, ed. Lappenberg. Hamburg, 1844. Vita Wilehadi, in Pertz: Monumenta II.; and in Migne: Patrol. Tom. 118, pp. 1014–1051.
Rimbertus: Vita Ansgarii, in Pertz: Monumenta II., and in Migne, l.c. pp. 961–1011.
Adamus Bremensis (d. 1076): Gesta Hamenburgensis Eccl. pontificum (embracing the history of the archbishopric of Hamburg, of Scandinavia, Denmark, and Northwestern Germany, from 788–1072); reprinted in Pertz: Monumenta, VII.; separate edition by Lappenberg. Hanover, 1846.
Laurent: Leben der Erzb. Ansgar und Rimbert. 1856.
A. Tappehorn: Leben d. h. Ansgar. 1863.
G. Dehio: Geschichte d. Erzb. Hamburg-Bremen. 1877.
H. N. A. Jensen: Schleswig-Holsteinische Kirchengeschichte, edit. A. L. J. Michelsen (1879).
During the sixth and seventh centuries the Danes first came in contact with Christianity, partly through their commercial intercourse with Duerstede in Holland, partly through their perpetual raids on Ireland; and tales of the "White Christ" were frequently told among them, though probably with no other effect than that of wonder. The first Christian missionary who visited them and worked among them was Willebrord. Born in Northumbria and educated within the pale of the Keltic Kirk he went out, in 690, as a missionary to the Frises. Expelled by them he came, about 700, to Denmark, was well received by king Yngrin (Ogendus), formed a congregation and bought thirty Danish boys, whom he educated in the Christian religion, and of whom one, Sigwald, is still remembered as the patron saint of Nuremberg, St. Sebaldus. But his work seems to have been of merely temporary effect.
Soon, however, the tremendous activity which Charlemagne developed as a political organizer, was felt even on the Danish frontier. His realm touched the Eyder. Political relations sprang up between the Roman empire and Denmark, and they opened a freer and broader entrance to the Christian missionaries. In Essehoe, in Holstein, Charlemagne built a chapel for the use of the garrison; in Hamburg he settled Heridock as the head of a Christian congregation; and from a passage in one of Alcuin’s letters7it appears that a conversion of the Danes did not lie altogether outside of his plans. Under his successor, Lewis the Pious, Harald Klak, one of the many petty kings among whom Denmark was then divided, sought the emperor’s support and decision in a family feud, and Lewis sent archbishop Ebo of Rheims, celebrated both as a political negotiator and as a zealous missionary, to Denmark. In 822 Ebo crossed the Eyder, accompanied by bishop Halitgar of Cambray. In the following years he made several journeys to Denmark, preached, baptized, and established a station of the Danish mission at Cella Wellana, the present Welnau, near Essehoe. But he was too much occupied with the internal affairs of the empire and the opportunity which now opened for the Danish mission, demanded the whole and undivided energy of a great man. In 826 Harald Klak was expelled and sought refuge with the emperor, Ebo acting as a mediator. At Ingelheim, near Mentz, the king, the queen, their son and their whole retinue, were solemnly baptized, and when Harald shortly after returned to Denmark with support from the emperor, he was accompanied by that man who was destined to become the Apostle of the North, Ansgar.
Ansgar was born about 800 (according to general acceptation Sept. 9, 801) in the diocese of Amiens, of Frankish parents, and educated in the abbey of Corbie, under the guidance of Adalhard. Paschasius Radbertus was among his teachers. In 822 a missionary colony was planted by Corbie in Westphalia, and the German monastery of Corwey or New Corwey was founded. Hither Ansgar was removed, as teacher in the new school, and he soon acquired great fame both on account of his powers as a preacher and on account of his ardent piety. When still a boy he had holy visions, and was deeply impressed with the vanity of all earthly greatness. The crown of the martyr seemed to him the highest grace which human life could attain, and he ardently prayed that it might be given to him. The proposition to follow king Harald as a missionary, among the heathen Danes he immediately accepted, in spite of the remonstrances of his friends, and accompanied by Autbert he repaired, in 827, to Denmark, where he immediately established a missionary station at Hedeby, in the province of Schleswig. The task was difficult, but the beginning was not without success. Twelve young boys were bought to be educated as teachers, and not a few people were converted and baptized. His kindness to the poor, the sick, to all who were in distress, attracted attention; his fervor as a preacher and teacher produced sympathy without, as yet, provoking resistance. But in 829 king Harald was again expelled and retired to Riustri, a possession on the mouth of the Weser, which the emperor had given to him as a fief. Ansgar was compelled to follow him and the prospects of the Danish mission became very dark, the more so as Autbert had to give up any further participation in the work on account of ill health, and return to New Corwey. At this time an invitation from the Swedish king, Björn, gave Ansgar an opportunity to visit Sweden, and he stayed there till 831, when the establishment of an episcopal see at Hamburg, determined upon by the diet of Aix-le-chapelle in 831, promised to give the Danish mission a new impulse. All Scandinavia was laid under the new see, and Ansgar was consecrated its first bishop by bishop Drago of Metz, a brother of the emperor, with the solemn assistance of three archbishops, Ebo of Rheims, Hetti of Treves and Obgar of Mentz. A bull of Gregory IV. 128 confirmed the whole arrangement, and Ansgar received personally the pallium from the hands of the Pope. In 834 the emperor endowed the see with the rich monastery of Thorout, in West Flanders, south of Bruges, and the work of the Danish mission could now be pushed with vigor. Enabled to treat with the petty kings of Denmark on terms of equality, and possessed of means to impress them with the importance of the cause, Ansgar made rapid progress, but, as was to be expected, the progress soon awakened opposition. In 834 a swarm of heathen Danes penetrated with a fleet of six hundred small vessels into the Elb under the command of king Horich I., and laid siege to Hamburg. The city was taken, sacked and burnt; the church which Ansgar had built, the monastery in which he lived, his library containing a copy of the Bible which the emperor had presented to him, etc., were destroyed and the Christians were driven away from the place. For many days Ansgar fled from hiding-place to hiding-place in imminent danger of his life. He sought refuge with the bishop of Bremen, but the bishop of Bremen was jealous, because Scandinavia had not been laid under his see, and refused to give any assistance. The revenues of Thorout he lost, as the emperor, Charles the Bald, gave the fief to one of his favorites. Even his own pupils deserted him.
In this great emergency his character shone forth in all its strength and splendor; he bore what God laid upon him in silence and made no complaint. Meanwhile Lewis the German came to his support. In 846 the see of Bremen became vacant. The see of Hamburg was then united to that of Bremen, and to this new see, which Ansgar was called to fill, a papal bull of May 31, 864, gave archiepiscopal rank. Installed in Bremen, Ansgar immediately took up again the Danish mission and again with success. He won even king Horich himself for the Christian cause, and obtained permission from him to build a church in Hedeby, the first Christian church in Denmark, dedicated to Our Lady. Under king Horich’s son this church was allowed to have bells, a particular horror to the heathens, and a new and larger church was commenced in Ribe. By Ansgar’s activity Christianity became an established and acknowledged institution in Denmark, and not only in Denmark but also in Sweden, which he visited once more, 848–850.
The principal feature of his spiritual character was ascetic severity; he wore a coarse hair-shirt close to the skin, fasted much and spent most of his time in prayer. But with this asceticism he connected a great deal of practical energy; he rebuked the idleness of the monks, demanded of his pupils that they should have some actual work at hand, and was often occupied in knitting, while praying. His enthusiasm and holy raptures were also singularly well-tempered by good common sense. To those who wished to extol his greatness and goodness by ascribing miracles to him, he said that the greatest miracle in his life would be, if God ever made a thoroughly pious man out of him. 129 Most prominent, however, among the spiritual features of his character shines forth his unwavering faith in the final success of his cause and the never-failing patience with which this faith fortified his soul. In spite of apparent failure he never gave up his work; overwhelmed with disaster, he still continued it. From his death-bed he wrote a letter to king Lewis to recommend to him the Scandinavian mission. Other missionaries may have excelled him in sagacity and organizing talent, but none in heroic patience and humility. He died at Bremen, Feb. 3, 865, and lies buried there in the church dedicated to him. He was canonized by Nicholas I.
Ansgar’s successor in the archiepiscopal see of Hamburg-Bremen was his friend and biographer, Rimbert, 865–888. In his time all the petty kingdoms into which Denmark was divided, were gathered together under one sceptre by King Gorm the Old; but this event, in one respect very favorable to the rapid spread of Christianity, was in other respects a real obstacle to the Christian cause as it placed Denmark, politically, in opposition to Germany, which was the basis and only support of the Christian mission to Denmark. King Gorm himself was a grim heathen; but his queen, Thyra Danabod, had embraced Christianity, and both under Rimbert and his successor, Adalgar, 888–909, the Christian missionaries were allowed to work undisturbed. A new church, the third in Denmark, was built at Aarhus. But under Adalgar’s successor, Unni, 909–936, King Gorm’s fury, half political and half religious, suddenly burst forth. The churches were burnt, the missionaries were killed or expelled, and nothing but the decisive victory of Henry the Fowler, king of Germany, over the Danish king saved the Christians in Denmark from complete extermination. By the peace it was agreed that King Gorm should allow the preaching of Christianity in his realm, and Unni took up the cause again with great energy. Between Unni’s successor, Adaldag, 936–988, and King Harald Blue Tooth, a son of Gorm the Old, there grew up a relation which almost might be called a co-operation. Around the three churches in Jutland: Schleswig, Ribe and Aarhus, and a fourth in Fünen: Odense, bishoprics were formed, and Adaldag consecrated four native bishops. The church obtained right to accept and hold donations, and instances of very large endowments occurred.
The war between King Harald and the German king, Otto II., arose from merely political causes, but led to the baptism of the former, and soon after the royal residence was moved from Leire, one of the chief centres of Scandinavian heathendom, to Roeskilde, where a Christian church was built. Among the Danes, however, there was a large party which was very ill-pleased at this turn of affairs. They were heathens because heathenism was the only religion which suited their passions. They clung to Thor, not from conviction, but from pride. They looked down with indignation and dismay upon the transformation which Christianity everywhere effected both of the character and the life of the people. Finally they left the country and settled under the leadership of Palnatoke, at the mouth of the Oder, where they founded a kind of republic, Jomsborg.
From this place they waged a continuous war upon Christianity in Denmark for more than a decade, and with dreadful effect. The names of the martyrs would fill a whole volume, says Adam of Bremen. The church in Roeskilde was burnt. The bishopric of Fünen was abolished. The king’s own son, Swen, was one of the leaders, and the king himself was finally shot by Palnatoke, 991. Swen, however, soon fell out with the Joms vikings, and his invasion of England gave the warlike passions of the nation another direction.
From the conquest of that country and its union with Denmark, the Danish mission received a vigorous impulse. King Swen himself was converted, and showed great zeal for Christianity. He rebuilt the church in Roeskilde, erected a new church at Lund, in Skaane, placed the sign of the cross on his coins, and exhorted, on his death-bed, his son Canute to work for the Christianization of Denmark. The ardor of the Hamburg-Bremen archbishops for the Danish mission seemed at this time to have cooled, or perhaps the growing difference between the language spoken to the north of the Eyder and that spoken to the south of that river made missionary work in Denmark very difficult for a German preacher. Ansgar had not felt this difference; but two centuries later it had probably become necessary for the German missionary to learn a foreign language before entering on his work in Denmark.
Between England and Denmark there existed no such difference of language. King Canute the Great, during whose reign (1019–1035) the conversion of Denmark was completed, could employ English priests and monks in Denmark without the least embarrassment. He re-established the bishopric of Fünen, and founded two new bishoprics in Sealand and Skaane; and these three sees were filled with Englishmen consecrated by the archbishop of Canterbury. He invited a number of English monks to Denmark, and settled them partly as ecclesiastics at the churches, partly in small missionary stations, scattered all around in the country; and everywhere, in the style of the church-building and in the character of the service the English influence was predominating. This circumstance, however, did in no way affect the ecclesiastical relation between Denmark and the archiepiscopal see of Hamburg-Bremen. The authority of the archbishop, though not altogether unassailed, was nevertheless generally submitted to with good grace, and until in the twelfth century an independent Scandinavian archbishopric was established at Lund, with the exception of the above cases, he always appointed and consecrated the Danish bishops. Also the relation to the Pope was very cordial. Canute made a pilgrimage to Rome, and founded several Hospitia Danorum there. He refused, however, to permit the introduction of the Peter’s pence in Denmark, and the tribute which, up to the fourteenth century, was annually sent from that country to Rome, was considered a voluntary gift.
The last part of Denmark which was converted was the island of Bornholm. It was christianized in 1060 by Bishop Egius of Lund. It is noticeable, however, that in Denmark Christianity was not made a part of the law of the land, such as was the case in England and in Norway.
§ 30. The Christianization of Sweden.
Rimbertus: Vita Ansgarii, in Pertz: Monumenta II.
Adamus Bremensis: Gesta Ham. Eccl. Pont., in Pertz: Monumenta VII; separate edition by Lappenberg. Hanover, 1846.
Historia S. Sigfridi, in Scriptt. Rer. Suec. Medii-oevi, T. II.
Just when the expulsion of Harald Klak compelled Ansgar to give up the Danish mission, at least for the time being, an embassy was sent by the Swedish king, Björn, to the emperor, Lewis the Pious, asking him to send Christian missionaries to Sweden. Like the Danes, the Swedes had become acquainted with Christianity through their wars and commercial connections with foreign countries, and with many this acquaintance appears to have awakened an actual desire to become Christians. Accordingly Ansgar went to Sweden in 829, accompanied by Witmar. While crossing the Baltic, the vessel was overtaken and plundered by pirates, and he arrived empty handed, not to say destitute, at Björkö or Birka, the residence of King Björn, situated on an island in the Maelarn. Although poverty, and misery were very poor introduction to a heathen king in ancient Scandinavia, he was well received by the king; and in Hergeir, one of the most prominent men at the court of Birka, he found a warm and reliable friend. Hergeir built the first Christian chapel in Sweden, and during his whole life he proved an unfailing and powerful support of the Christian cause. After two years’ successful labor, Ansgar returned to Germany; but he did not forget the work begun. As soon as he was well established as bishop in Hamburg, he sent, in 834, Gautbert, a nephew of Ebo, to Sweden, accompanied by Nithard and a number of other Christian priests, and well provided with everything necessary for the work. Gautbert labored with great success. In Birka he built a church, and thus it became possible for the Christians, scattered all over Sweden, to celebrate service and partake of the Lord’s Supper in their own country without going to Duerstede or some other foreign place. But here, as in Denmark, the success of the Christian mission aroused the jealousy and hatred of the heathen, and, at last, even Hergeir was not able to keep them within bounds. An infuriated swarm broke into the house of Gautbert. The house was plundered; Nithard was murdered; the church was burnt, and Gautbert himself was sent in chains beyond the frontier. He never returned to Sweden, but died as bishop of Osnabrück, shortly before Ansgar. When Ansgar first heard of the outbreak in Sweden, he was himself flying before the fury of the Danish heathen, and for several years he was unable to do anything for the Swedish mission. Ardgar, a former hermit, now a priest, went to Sweden, and in Birka he found that Hergeir had succeeded in keeping together and defending the Christian congregation; but Hergeir died shortly after, and with him fell the last defence against the attacks of the heathen and barbarians.
Meanwhile Ansgar had been established in the archiepiscopal see of Hamburg-Bremen. In 848, he determined to go himself to Sweden. The costly presents he gave to king Olaf, the urgent letters he brought from the emperor, and the king of Denmark, the magnificence and solemnity of the appearance of the mission made a deep impression. The king promised that the question should be laid before the assembled people, whether or not they would allow Christianity to be preached again in the country. In the assembly it was the address of an old Swede, proving that the god of the Christians was stronger even than Thor, and that it was poor policy for a nation not to have the strongest god, which finally turned the scales, and once more the Christian missionaries were allowed to preach undisturbed in the country, . Before Ansgar left, in 850, the church was rebuilt in Birka, and, for a number of years, the missionary labor was continued with great zeal by Erimbert, a nephew of Gautbert, by Ansfrid, born a Dane, and by Rimbert, also a Dane.
Nevertheless, although the persecutions ceased, Christianity made little progress, and when, in 935, Archbishop Unni himself visited Birka, his principal labor consisted in bringing back to the Christian fold such members as had strayed away among the heathen, and forgotten their faith. Half a century later, however, during the reign of Olaf Skotkonge, the mission received a vigorous impulse. The king himself and his sons were won for the Christian cause, and from Denmark a number of English missionaries entered the country. The most prominent among these was Sigfrid, who has been mentioned beside Ansgar as the apostle of the North. By his exertions many were converted, and Christianity became a legally recognized religion in the country beside the old heathenism. In the Southern part of Sweden, heathen sacrifices ceased, and heathen altars disappeared. In the Northern part, however, the old faith still continued to live on, partly because it was difficult for the missionaries to penetrate into those wild and forbidding regions, partly because there existed a difference of tribe between the Northern and Southern Swedes, which again gave rise to political differences.
The Christianization of Sweden was not completed until the middle of the twelfth century.
§ 31. The Christianization of Norway and Iceland.
Snorre Sturleson (d. 1241): Heimskringla (i.e. Circle of Home, written first in Icelandic), seu Historia Regum Septentrionalium, etc. Stockholm, 1697, 2 vols. The same in Icelandic, Danish, and Latin. Havn., 1777–1826; in German by Mohnike, 1835; in English, transl. by Sam. Laing. London, 1844, 3 vols. This history of the Norwegian kings reaches from the mythological age to a.d. 1177.
N. P. Sibbern: Bibliotheca Historica Dano-Norvegica. Hamburg, 1716. Fornmanna-Sögur seu Scripta Hist. Islandorum. Hafniae, 1828.
K. Maurer: Bekehrung des Norwegischen Stammes zum Christenthum. München, 1855–56, 2 vols.
Thomas Carlyle: Early Kings of Norway. London and N. York, 1875.
G. F. Maclear: The Conversion of the Northmen. London, 1879.
Christianity was introduced in Norway almost exclusively by the exertions of the kings, and the means employed were chiefly violence and tricks. The people accepted Christianity not because they had become acquainted with it and felt a craving for it, but because they were compelled to accept it, and the result was that heathen customs and heathen ideas lived on in Christian Norway for centuries after they had disappeared from the rest of Scandinavia.
The first attempt to introduce Christianity in the country was made in the middle of the tenth century by Hakon the Good. Norway was gathered into one state in the latter part of the ninth century by Harald Haarfagr, but internal wars broke out again under Harald’s son and successor, Eric. These troubles induced Hakon, an illegitimate son of Harald Haarfagr and educated in England at the court of king Athelstan, to return to Norway and lay claim to the crown. He succeeded in gaining a party in his favor, expelled Eric and conquered all Norway, where he soon became exceedingly popular, partly on account of his valor and military ability, partly also on account of the refinement and suavity of his manners. Hakon was a Christian, and the Christianization of Norway seems to have been his highest goal from the very first days of his reign. But he was prudent. Without attracting any great attention to the matter, he won over to Christianity a number of those who stood nearest to him, called Christian priests from England, and built a church at Drontheim. Meanwhile he began to think that the time had come for a more public and more decisive step, and at the great Frostething, where all the most prominent men of the country were assembled, he addressed the people on the matter and exhorted them to become Christians. The answer he received was very characteristic. They had no objection to Christianity itself, for they did not know what it meant, but they suspected the king’s proposition, as if it were a political stratagem by means of which he intended to defraud them of their political rights and liberties. Thus they not only refused to become Christians themselves, but even compelled the king to partake in their heathen festivals and offer sacrifices to their heathen gods. The king was very indignant and determined to take revenge, but just as he had got an army together, the sons of the expelled Eric landed in Norway and in the battle against them, 961, he received a deadly wound.
The sons of Eric, who had lived in England during their exile, were likewise Christians, and they took up the cause of Christianity in a very high-handed manner, overthrowing the heathen altars and forbidding sacrifices. But the impression they made was merely odious, and their successor, Hakon Jarl, was a rank heathen. The first time Christianity really gained a footing in Norway, was under Olaf Trygveson. Descended from Harald Haarfagr, but sold, while a child, as a slave in Esthonia, he was ransomed by a relative who incidentally met him and recognized his own kin in the beauty of the boy, and was educated at Moscow. Afterwards he roved about much in Denmark, Wendland, England and Ireland, living as a sea-king. In England he became acquainted with Christianity and immediately embraced it, but he carried his viking-nature almost unchanged over into Christianity, and a fiercer knight of the cross was probably never seen. Invited to Norway by a party which had grown impatient of the tyranny of Hakon Jarl, he easily made himself master of the country, in 995, and immediately set about making Christianity its religion, "punishing severely," as Snorre says, "all who opposed him, killing some, mutilating others, and driving the rest into banishment." In the Southern part there still lingered a remembrance of Christianity from the days of Hakon the Good, and things went on here somewhat more smoothly, though Olaf more than once gave the people assembled in council with him the choice between fighting him or accepting baptism forthwith. But in the Northern part all the craft and all the energy of the king were needed in order to overcome the opposition. Once, at a great heathen festival at Moere, he told the assembled people that, if he should return to the heathen gods it would be necessary for him to make some great and awful sacrifice, and accordingly he seized twelve of the most prominent men present and prepared to sacrifice them to Thor. They were rescued, however, when the whole assembly accepted Christianity and were baptized. In the year 1000, he fell in a battle against the united Danish and Swedish kings, but though he reigned only five years, he nevertheless succeeded in establishing Christianity as the religion of Norway and, what is still more remarkable, no general relapse into heathenism seems to have taken place after his death.
During the reign of Olaf the Saint, who ruled from a.d. 1014–’30, the Christianization of the country was completed. His task it was to uproot heathenism wherever it was still found lurking, and to give the Christian religion an ecclesiastical organization. Like his predecessors, he used craft and violence to reach his goal. Heathen idols and altars disappeared, heathen customs and festivals were suppressed, the civil laws were brought into conformity with the rules of Christian morals. The country was divided into dioceses and parishes, churches were built, and regular revenues were raised for the sustenance of the clergy. For the most part he employed English monks and priests, but with the consent of the archbishop of Hamburg-Bremen, under whose authority he placed the Norwegian church. After his death, in the battle of Stiklestad, July 29, 1030, he was canonized and became the patron saint of Norway.
To Norway belonged, at that time, Iceland. From Icelandic tradition as well as from the "De Mensura Orbis" by Dicuilus, an Irish monk in the beginning of the ninth century, it appears that Culdee anchorites used to retire to Iceland as early as the beginning of the eighth century, while the island was still uninhabited. These anchorites, however, seem to have had no influence whatever on the Norwegian settlers who, flying from the tyranny of Harald Haarfagr, came to Iceland in the latter part of the ninth century and began to people the country. The new-comers were heathen, and they looked with amazement at Auda the Rich, the widow of Olaf the White, king of Dublin, who in 892 took up her abode in Iceland and reared a lofty cross in front of her house. But the Icelanders were great travellers, and one of them, Thorvald Kodranson, who in Saxony had embraced Christianity, brought bishop Frederic home to Iceland. Frederic stayed there for four years, and his preaching found easy access among the people. The mission of Thangbrand in the latter part of the tenth century failed, but when Norway, or at least the Norwegian coast, became Christian, the intimate relation between Iceland and Norway soon brought the germs which Frederic had planted, into rapid growth, and in the year 1000 the Icelandic Althing declared Christianity to be the established religion of the country. The first church was built shortly after from timber sent by Olaf the Saint from Norway to the treeless island.
IV. THE CHRISTIANIZATION OF THE SLAVS.
§ 32. General Survey.
A. Regenvolscius: Systema Hist. chronol. Ecclesiarum Slavonic. Traj. ad Rhen., 1652.
A. Wengerscius: Hist. ecclesiast. Ecclesiarum Slavonic. Amst., 1689.
Kohlius: Introductio in Hist. Slavorum imprimis sacram. Altona, 1704.
J. Ch. Jordan: Origines Slavicae. Vindob., 1745.
S. de Bohusz: Recherches hist. sur l’origine des Sarmates, des Esclavons, et des Slaves, et sur les époques de la conversion de ces peuples. St. Petersburg and London, 1812.
P. J. Schafarik: Slavische Alterthümer. Leipzig, 1844, 2 vols.
Horvat: Urgeschichte der Slaven. Pest, 1844.
W. A. Maciejowsky: Essai Hist. sur l’église ehrét. primitive de deux rites chez les Slaves. Translated from Polish into French by L. F. Sauvet, Paris, 1846.
At what time the Slavs first made their appearance in Europe is not known. Latin and Greek writers of the second half of the sixth century, such as Procopius, Jornandes, Agathias, the emperor Mauritius and others, knew only those Slavs who lived along the frontiers of the Roman empire. In the era of Charlemagne the Slavs occupied the whole of Eastern Europe from the Baltic to the Balkan; the Obotrites and Wends between the Elbe and the Vistula; the Poles around the Vistula, and behind them the Russians; the Czechs in Bohemia. Further to the South the compact mass of Slavs was split by the invasion of various Finnish or Turanian tribes; the Huns in the fifth century, the Avars in the sixth, the Bulgarians in the seventh, the Magyars in the ninth. The Avars penetrated to the Adriatic, but were thrown back in 640 by the Bulgarians; they then settled in Panonia, were subdued and converted by Charlemagne, 791–796, and disappeared altogether from history in the ninth century. The Bulgarians adopted the Slavic language and became Slavs, not only in language, but also in customs and habits. Only the Magyars, who settled around the Theiss and the Danube, and are the ruling race in Hungary, vindicated themselves as a distinct nationality.
The great mass of Slavs had no common political organization, but formed a number of kingdoms, which flourished, some for a shorter, and others for a longer period, such as Moravia, Bulgaria, Bohemia, Poland, and Russia. In a religious respect also great differences existed among them. They were agriculturists, and their gods were representatives of natural forces; but while Radigost and Sviatovit, worshipped by the Obotrites and Wends, were cruel gods, in whose temples, especially at Arcona in the island of Rügen, human beings were sacrificed, Svarog worshipped by the Poles, and Dazhbog, worshipped by the Bohemians, were mild gods, who demanded love and prayer. Common to all Slavs, however, was a very elaborate belief in fairies and trolls; and polygamy, sometimes connected with sutteeism, widely prevailed among them. Their conversion was attempted both by Constantinople and by Rome; but the chaotic and ever-shifting political conditions under which they lived, the rising difference and jealousy between the Eastern and Western churches, and the great difficulty which the missionaries experienced in learning their language, presented formidable obstacles, and at the close of the period the work was not yet completed.
§ 33. Christian Missions among the Wends.
ADAM Of BRENEN (d. 1067): Gesta Hammenb. (Hamburgensis) Eccl. Pont., in Pertz: Monumenta Germ., VII.
Helmoldus (d. 1147) and Arnoldus Lubecensis: Chronicon Slavorum sive Annales Slavorum, from Charlemagne to 1170, ed. H. Bangert. Lubecae, 1659. German translation by Laurent. Berlin, 1852.
Spieker: Kirchengeschichte der Mark Brandenburg. Berlin, 1839.
Wiggers: Kirchengeschichte Mecklenburgs. Parchim, 1840.
Giesebrecht: Wendische Geschichten. Berlin, 1843.
Charlemagne was the first who attempted to introduce Christianity among the Slavic tribes which, under the collective name of Wends, occupied the Northern part of Germany, along the coast of the Baltic, from the mouth of the Elbe to the Vistula: Wagrians in Holstein, Obotrites in Mecklenburg, Sorbians on the Saxon boundary, Wilzians in Brandenburg, etc. But in the hands of Charlemagne, the Christian mission was a political weapon; and to the Slavs, acceptation of Christianity became synonymous with political and national subjugation. Hence their fury against Christianity which, time after time, broke forth, volcano-like, and completely destroyed the work of the missionaries. The decisive victories which Otto I. gained over the Wends, gave him an opportunity to attempt, on a large scale, the establishment of the Christian church among them. Episcopal sees were founded at Havelberg in 946, at Altenburg or Oldenburg in 948, at Meissen, Merseburg, and Zeitz in 968, and in the last year an archiepiscopal see was founded at Magdeburg. Boso, a monk from St. Emmeran, at Regensburg, who first had translated the formulas of the liturgy into the language of the natives, became bishop of Merseburg, and Adalbert, who first had preached Christianity in the island of Rügen, became archbishop.
But again the Christian church was used as a means for political purposes, and, in the reign of Otto II., a fearful rising took place among the Wends under the leadership of Prince Mistiwoi. He had become a Christian himself; but, indignant at the suppression which was practiced in the name of the Christian religion, he returned to heathenism, assembled the tribes at Rethre, one of the chief centres of Wendish heathendom, and began, in 983, a war which spread devastation all over Northern Germany. The churches and monasteries were burnt, and the Christian priests were expelled. Afterwards Mistiwoi was seized with remorse, and tried to cure the evil he had done in an outburst of passion. But then his subjects abandoned him; he left the country, and spent the last days of his life in a Christian monastery at Bardewick. His grandson, Gottschalk, whose Slavic name is unknown, was educated in the Christian faith in the monastery of St. Michael., near Lüneburg; but when he heard that his father, Uto, had been murdered, 1032, the old heathen instincts of revenge at once awakened within him. He left the monastery, abandoned Christianity, and raised a storm of persecution against the Christians, which swept over all Brandenburg, Mecklenburg, and Holstein. Defeated and taken prisoner by Bernard of Lower Saxony, he returned to Christianity; lived afterwards at the court of Canute the Great in Denmark and England; married a Danish princess, and was made ruler of the Obotrites. A great warrior, he conquered Holstein and Pommerania, and formed a powerful Wendish empire; and on this solid political foundation, he attempted, with considerable success, to build up the Christian church. The old bishoprics were re-established, and new ones were founded at Razzeburg and Mecklenburg; monasteries were built at Leuzen, Oldenburg, Razzeburg, Lübeck, and Mecklenburg; missionaries were provided by Adalbert, archbishop of Hamburg-Bremen; the liturgy was translated into the native tongue, and revenues were raised for the support of the clergy, the churches, and the service.
But, as might have been expected, the deeper Christianity penetrated into the mass of the people, the fiercer became the resistance of the heathen. Gottschalk was murdered at Lentz, June 7, 1066, together with his old teacher, Abbot Uppo, and a general rising now took place. The churches and schools were destroyed; the priests and monks were stoned or killed as sacrifices on the heathen altars; and Christianity, was literally swept out of the country. It took several decades before a new beginning could be made, and the final Christianization of the Wends was not achieved until the middle of the twelfth century.
§ 34. Cyrillus and Methodius, the Apostles of the Slavs. Christianization of Moravia, Bohemia and Poland.
F. M. Pelzel et J. Dobrowsky: Rerrum Bohemic. Scriptores. Prague.
Friese: Kirchengeschichte d. Konigreichs Polen. Breslau, 1786.
Franz. Palacky: Geschichte von Böhmen. Prague, 3d ed., 1864 sqq., 5 vols. (down to 1520).
Wattenbach: Geschichte d. christl. Kirche in Böhmen und Mähren. Wien, 1849.
A. Friud: Die Kirchengesch. Böhmens. Prague, 1863 sqq.
Biographies of Cyrillus and Methodius, by J. Dobrowsky (Prague, 1823, and 1826); J. A. Ginzel (Geschichte der Slawenapostel und der Slawischen Liturgie. Leitmeritz, 1857); Philaret (in the Russian, German translation, Mitau, 1847); J. E. Biley (Prague, 1863); Dümmler and F. Milkosisch (Wien, 1870).
The Moravian Slavs were subjugated by Charlemagne, and the bishop of Passau was charged with the establishment of a Christian mission among them. Moymir, their chief, was converted and bishoprics were founded at Olmütz and Nitra. But Lewis the German suspected Moymir of striving after independence and supplanted him by Rastislaw or Radislaw. Rastislaw, however, accomplished what Moymir had only been suspected of. He formed an independent Moravian kingdom and defeated Lewis the German, and with the political he also broke the ecclesiastical connections with Germany, requesting the Byzantine emperor, Michael III., to send him some Greek missionaries.
Cyrillus and Methodius became the apostles of the Slavs. Cyrillus, whose original name was Constantinus, was born at Thessalonica, in the first half of the ninth century, and studied philosophy in Constantinople, whence his by-name: the philosopher. Afterwards he devoted himself to the study of theology, and went to live, together with his brother Methodius, in a monastery. A strong ascetic, he became a zealous missionary. In 860 he visited the Chazares, a Tartar tribe settled on the North-Eastern shore of the Black Sea, and planted a Christian church there. He afterward labored among the Bulgarians and finally went, in company with his brother, to Moravia, on the invitation of Rastislaw, in 863.
Cyrillus understood the Slavic language, and succeeded in making it available for literary purposes by inventing a suitable alphabet. He used Greek letters, with some Armenian and Hebrew, and some original letters. His Slavonic alphabet is still used with alterations in Russia, Wallachia, Moldavia, Bulgaria, and Servia. He translated the liturgy and the pericopes into Slavic, and his ability to preach and celebrate service in the native language soon brought hundreds of converts into his fold. A national Slavic church rapidly arose; the German priests with the Latin liturgy left the country. It corresponded well with the political plans of Rastislaw, to have a church establishment entirely independent of the German prelates, but in the difference which now developed between the Eastern and Western churches, it was quite natural for the young Slavic church to connect itself with Rome and not with Constantinople, partly because Cyrillus always had shown a kind of partiality to Rome, partly because the prudence and discrimination with which Pope Nicholas I. recently had interfered in the Bulgarian church, must have made a good impression.
In 868 Cyrillus and Methodius went to Rome, and a perfect agreement was arrived at between them and Pope Adrian II., both with respect to the use of the Slavic language in religious service and with respect to the independent position of the Slavic church, subject only to the authority of the Pope. Cyrillus died in Rome, Feb. 14, 869, but Methodius returned to Moravia, having been consecrated archbishop of the Pannonian diocese.
The organization of this new diocese of Pannonia was, to some extent, an encroachment on the dioceses of Passau and Salzburg, and such an encroachment must have been so much the more irritating to the German prelates, as they really had been the first to sow the seed of Christianity among the Slavs. The growing difference between the Eastern and Western churches also had its effect. The German clergy considered the use of the Slavic language in the mass an unwarranted innovation, and the Greek doctrine of the single procession of the Holy Spirit, still adhered to by Methodius and the Slavic church, they considered as a heresy. Their attacks, however, had at first no practical consequences, but when Rastislaw was succeeded in 870 by Swatopluk, and Adrian II. in 872 by John VIII., the position of Methodius became difficult. Once more, in 879, he was summoned to Rome, and although, this time too, a perfect agreement was arrived at, by which the independence of the Slavic church was confirmed, and all her natural peculiarities were acknowledged, neither the energy of Methodius, nor the support of the Pope was able to defend her against the attacks which now were made upon her both from without and from within. Swatopluk inclined towards the German-Roman views, and Wichin one of Methodius’s bishops, became their powerful champion.
After the death of Swatopluk, the Moravian kingdom fell to pieces and was divided between the Germans, the Czechs of Bohemia, and the Magyars of Hungary; and thereby the Slavic church lost, so to speak, its very foundation. Methodius died between 881 and 910. At the opening of the tenth century the Slavic church had entirely lost its national character. The Slavic priests were expelled and the Slavic liturgy abolished, German priests and the Latin liturgy taking their place. The expelled priests fled to Bulgaria, whither they brought the Slavic translations of the Bible and the liturgy.
Neither Charlemagne nor Lewis the Pious succeeded in subjugating Bohemia, and although the country was added to the diocese of Regensburg, the inhabitants remained pagans. But when Bohemia became a dependency of the Moravian empire and Swatopluk married a daughter of the Bohemian duke, Borziwai, a door was opened to Christianity. Borziwai and his wife, Ludmilla, were baptized, and their children were educated in the Christian faith. Nevertheless, when Wratislav, Borziwai’s son and successor, died in 925, a violent reaction took place. He left two sons, Wenzeslav and Boleslav, who were placed under the tutelage of their grandmother, Ludmilla. But their mother, Drahomira, was an inveterate heathen, and she caused the murder first of Ludmilla, and then of Wenzeslav, 938. Boleslav, surnamed the Cruel, had his mother’s nature and also her faith, and he almost succeeded in sweeping Christianity out of Bohemia. But in 950 he was utterly defeated by the emperor, Otto I., and compelled not only to admit the Christian priests into the country, but also to rebuild the churches which had been destroyed, and this misfortune seems actually to have changed his mind. He now became, if not friendly, at least forbearing to his Christian subjects, and, during the reign of his son and successor, Boleslav the Mild, the Christian Church progressed so far in Bohemia that an independent archbishopric was founded in Prague. The mass of the people, however, still remained barbarous, and heathenish customs and ideas lingered among them for more than a century. Adalbert, archbishop of Prague, from 983 to 997, 130preached against polygamy, the trade in Christian slaves, chiefly carried on by the Jews, but in vain. Twice he left his see, disgusted and discouraged; finally he was martyred by the Prussian Wends. Not until 1038 archbishop Severus succeeded in enforcing laws concerning marriage, the celebration of the Lord’s Day, and other points of Christian morals. About the contest between the Romano-Slavic and the Romano-Germanic churches in Bohemia, nothing is known. Legend tells that Methodius himself baptized Borziwai and Ludmilla, and the first missionary, work was, no doubt, done by Slavic priests, but at the time of Adalbert the Germanic tendency was prevailing.
Also among the Poles the Gospel was first preached by Slavic missionaries, and Cyrillus and Methodius are celebrated in the Polish liturgy 131as the apostles of the country. As the Moravian empire under Rastislaw comprised vast regions which afterward belonged to the kingdom of Poland, it is only natural that the movement started by Cyrillus and Methodius should have reached also these regions, and the name of at least one Slavic missionary among the Poles, Wiznach, is known to history.
After the breaking up of the Moravian kingdom, Moravian nobles and priests sought refuge in Poland, and during the reign of duke Semovit Christianity had become so powerful among the Poles, that it began to excite the jealousy of the pagans, and a violent contest took place. By the marriage between Duke Mieczyslav and the Bohemian princess Dombrowka, a sister of Boleslav the Mild, the influence of Christianity became still stronger. Dombrowka brought a number of Bohemian priests with her to Poland, 965, and in the following year Mieczyslav himself was converted and baptized. With characteristic arrogance he simply demanded that all his subjects should follow his example, and the pagan idols were now burnt or thrown into the river, pagan sacrifices were forbidden and severely punished, and Christian churches were built. So far the introduction of Christianity among the Poles was entirely due to Slavic influences, but at this time the close political connection between Duke Mieczyslav and Otto I. opened the way for a powerful German influence. Mieczyslav borrowed the whole organization of the Polish church from Germany. It was on the advice of Otto I. that he founded the first Polish bishopric at Posen and placed it under the authority of the archbishop of Magdeburg. German priests, representing Roman doctrines and rites, and using the Latin language, began to work beside the Slavic priests who represented Greek doctrines and rites and used the native language, and when finally the Polish church was placed wholly under the authority of Rome, this was not due to any spontaneous movement within the church itself, such as Polish chroniclers like to represent it, but to the influence of the German emperor and the German church. Under Mieczyslav’s son, Boleslav Chrobry, the first king of Poland and one of the most brilliant heroes of Polish history, Poland, although christianized only on the surface, became itself the basis for missionary labor among other Slavic tribes.
It was Boleslav who sent Adalbert of Prague among the Wends, and when Adalbert here was pitifully martyred, Boleslav ransomed his remains, had them buried at Gnesen (whence they afterwards were carried to Prague), and founded here an archiepiscopal see, around which the Polish church was finally consolidated. The Christian mission, however, was in the hands of Boleslav, just as it often had been in the hands of the German emperors, and sometimes even in the hands of the Pope himself, nothing but a political weapon. The mass of the population of his own realm was still pagan in their very hearts. Annually the Poles assembled on the day on which their idols had been thrown into the rivers or burnt, and celebrated the memory of their gods by dismal dirges, 132and the simplest rules of Christian morals could be enforced only by the application of the most barbarous punishments. Yea, under the political disturbances which occurred after the death of Mieczyslav II., 1034, a general outburst of heathenism took place throughout the Polish kingdom, and it took a long time before it was fully put down.
§ 35. The Conversion of the Bulgarians.
Constantinus Porphyrogenitus: Life of Basilius Macedo, in Hist. Byzant. Continuatores post Theophanem. Greek and Latin, Paris, 1685.
Photii Epistola, ed. Richard. Montacutius. London, 1647.
Nicholas I.: Responsa ad Consulta Bulgarorum, in Mansi: Coll. Concil., Tom. XV., pp. 401–434; and in Harduin: Coll. Concil., V., pp. 353–386.
A. Pichler: Geschichte der kirchlichen Trennung zwischen dem Orient und Occident. München, 1864, I., pp. 192 sqq.
Comp. the biographies of Cyrillus and Methodius, mentioned in § 34.
The Bulgarians were of Turanian descent, but, having lived for centuries among Slavic nations, they had adopted Slavic language, religion, customs and habits. Occupying the plains between the Danube and the Balkan range, they made frequent inroads into the territory of the Byzantine empire. In 813 they conquered Adrianople and carried a number of Christians, among whom was the bishop himself, as prisoners to Bulgaria. Here these Christian prisoners formed a congregation and began to labor for the conversion of their captors, though not with any great success, as it would seem, since the bishop was martyred. But in 861 a sister of the Bulgarian prince, Bogoris, who had been carried as a prisoner to Constantinople, and educated there in the Christian faith, returned to her native country, and her exertions for the conversion of her brother at last succeeded.
Methodius was sent to her aid, and a picture he painted of the last judgment is said to have made an overwhelming impression on Bogoris, and determined him to embrace Christianity. He was baptized in 863, and entered immediately in correspondence with Photius, the patriarch of Constantinople. His baptism, however, occasioned a revolt among his subjects, and the horrible punishment, which he inflicted upon the rebels, shows how little as yet he had understood the teachings of Christianity.
Meanwhile Greek missionaries, mostly monks, had entered the country, but they were intriguing, arrogant, and produced nothing but confusion among the people. In 865 Bogoris addressed himself to Pope Nicolas I., asking for Roman missionaries, and laying before the Pope one hundred and six questions concerning Christian doctrines, morals and ritual, which he wished to have answered. The Pope sent two bishops to Bulgaria, and gave Bogoris very elaborate and sensible answers to his questions.
Nevertheless, the Roman mission did not succeed either. The Bulgarians disliked to submit to any foreign authority. They desired the establishment of an independent national church, but this was not to be gained either from Rome or from Constantinople. Finally the Byzantine emperor, Basilius Macedo, succeeded in establishing Greek bishops and a Greek archbishop in the country, and thus the Bulgarian church came under the authority of the patriarch of Constantinople, but its history up to this very day has been a continuous struggle against this authority. The church is now ruled by a Holy Synod, with an independent exarch.
Fearful atrocities of the Turks against the Christians gave rise to the Russo-Turkish war in 1877, and resulted in the independence of Bulgaria, which by the Treaty of Berlin in 1878 was constituted into "an autonomous and tributary principality, under the suzerainty of the Sultan," but with a Christian government and a national militia. Religious proselytism is prohibited, and religious school-books must be previously examined by the Holy Synod. But Protestant missionaries are at work among the people, and practically enjoy full liberty.
§ 36. The Conversion of the Magyars.
Joh. de Thwrocz: Chronica Hungarorum, in Schwandtner: Scriptores Rerum Hungaricarum, I. Vienna, 1746–8.
Vita S. Stephani, in Act. Sanctor. September.
Vita S. Adalberti, in Monument. German. IV.
Horvath: History of Hungary. Pest, 1842–46.
Aug. Theiner: Monumenta vetera historica Hungariam sacram illustrantia. Rom., 1859, 1860, 2 Tom. fol.
The Magyars, belonging to the Turanian family of nations, and allied to the Finns and the Turks, penetrated into Europe in the ninth century, and settled, in 884, in the plains between the Bug and the Sereth, near the mouth of the Danube. On the instigation of the Byzantine emperor, Leo the Wise, they attacked the Bulgarians, and completely defeated them. The military renown they thus acquired gave them a new opportunity. The Frankish king Arnulf invoked their aid against Swatopluk, the ruler of the Moravian empire. Swatopluk, too, was defeated, and his realm was divided between the victors. The Magyars, retracing their steps across the Carpathian range, settled in the plains around the Theiss and the Danube, the country which their forefathers, the Huns, once had ruled over, the, present Hungary. They were a wild and fierce race, worshipping one supreme god under the guise of various natural phenomena: the sky, the river, etc. They had no temples and no priesthood, and their sacrifices consisted of animals only, mostly horses. But the oath was kept sacred among them, and their marriages were monogamous, and inaugurated with religious rites.
The first acquaintance with Christianity the Magyars made through their connections with the Byzantine court, without any further consequences. But after settling in Hungary, where they were surrounded on all sides by Christian nations, they were compelled, in 950, by the emperor, Otto I., to allow the bishop of Passau to send missionaries into their country; and various circumstances contributed to make this mission a rapid and complete success. Their prince, Geyza, had married a daughter of the Transylvanian prince, Gyula, and this princess, Savolta, had been educated in the Christian faith. Thus Geyza felt friendly towards the Christians; and as soon as this became known, Christianity broke forth from the mass of the population like flowers from the earth when spring has come. The people which the Magyars had subdued when settling in Hungary, and the captives whom they had carried along with them from Bulgaria and Moravia, were Christians. Hitherto these Christians had concealed their religion from fear of their rulers, and their children had been baptized clandestinely; but now they assembled in great multitudes around the missionaries, and the entrance of Christianity into Hungary looked like a triumphal march. 133
Political disturbances afterwards interrupted this progress, but only for a short time. Adalbert of Prague visited the country, and made a great impression. He baptized Geyza’s son, Voik, born in 961, and gave him the name of Stephanus, 994. Adalbert’s pupil, Rodla, remained for a longer period in the country, and was held in so high esteem by the people, that they afterwards would not let him go. When Stephanus ascended the throne in 997, he determined at once to establish Christianity as the sole religion of his realm, and ordered that all Magyars should be baptized, and that all Christian slaves should be set free. This, however, caused a rising of the pagan party under the head of Kuppa, a relative of Stephanus; but Kuppa was defeated at Veszprim, and the order had to be obeyed.
Stephanus’ marriage with Gisela, a relative of the emperor, Otto III., brought him in still closer contact with the German empire, and he, like Mieczyslav of Poland, borrowed the whole ecclesiastical organization from the German church. Ten bishoprics were formed, and placed under the authority of the archbishop of Gran on the Danube (which is still the seat of the primate of Hungary); churches were built, schools and monasteries were founded, and rich revenues were procured for their support; the clergy was declared the first order in rank, and the Latin language was made the official language not only in ecclesiastical, but also in secular matters. As a reward for his zeal, Stephanus was presented by Pope Silvester II. with a golden crown, and, in the year 1000, he was solemnly crowned king by the archbishop of Gran, while a papal bull conferred on him the title of "His Apostolic Majesty." And, indeed, Stephanus was the apostle of the Magyars. As most of the priests and monks, called from Germany, did not understand the language of the people, the king himself travelled about from town to town, preached, prayed, and exhorted all to keep the Lord’s Day, the fast, and other Christian duties. Nevertheless, it took a long time before Christianity really took hold of the Magyars, chiefly on account of the deep gulf created between the priests and their flocks, partly by the difference of language, partly by the exceptional position which Stephanus had given the clergy in the community, and which the clergy soon learned to utilize for selfish purposes. Twice during the eleventh century there occurred heavy relapses into paganism; in 1045, under King Andreas, and in 1060, under King Bela.
§ 37. The Christianization of Russia.
Nestor (monk of Kieff, the oldest Russian annalist, d. 1116): Annales, or Chronicon (from the building of the Babylonian tower to 1093). Continued by Niphontes (Nifon) from 1116–1157, and by others to 1676. Complete ed. in Russ by Pogodin, 1841, and with a Latin version and glossary by Fr. Miklosisch, Vindobon, 1860. German translation by Schlözer, Göttingen, 1802–’9, 5 vols. (incomplete).
J. G. Stritter: Memoriae Populorum olim ad Danubium, etc., incolentium ex Byzant. Script. Petropoli, 1771. 4 vols. A collection of the Byzantine sources.
N. M. Karamsin: History of Russia, 12 vols. St. Petersburg, 1816–29, translated into German and French.
Ph. Strahl: Beiträge zur russ. Kirchen-Geschichte (vol. I.). Halle, 1827; and Geschichte d. russ Kirche (vol. I.). Halle, 1830 (incomplete).
A. N. Mouravieff (late chamberlain to the Czar and Under-Procurator of the Most Holy Synod): A History of the Church of Russia (to the founding of the Holy Synod in 1721). St. Petersburg, 1840, translated into English by Rev. R. W. Blackmore. Oxford, 1862.
A. P. Stanley: Lectures on the Eastern Church. Lec. IX.-XII. London, 1862.
L. Boissard: L’église de Bussie. Paris, 1867, 2 vols.
The legend traces Christianity in Russia back to the Apostle St. Andrew, who is especially revered by the Russians. Mouravieff commences his history of the Russian church with these words: "The Russian church, like the other Orthodox churches of the East, had an apostle for its founder. St. Andrew, the first called of the Twelve, hailed with his blessing long beforehand the destined introduction of Christianity into our country. Ascending up and penetrating by the Dniepr into the deserts of Scythia, he planted the first cross on the hills of Kieff, and ’See you,’ said he to his disciples, ’those hills? On those hills shall shine the light of divine grace. There shall be here a great city, and God shall have in it many churches to His name.’ Such are the words of the holy Nestor that point from whence Christian Russia has sprung."
This tradition is an expansion of the report that Andrew labored and died a martyr in Scythia,4and nothing more.
In the ninth century the Russian tribes, inhabiting the Eastern part of Europe, were gathered together under the rule of Ruric, a Varangian prince, 135who from the coasts of the Baltic penetrated into the centre of the present Russia, and was voluntarily accepted, if not actually chosen by the tribes as their chief. He is regarded as the founder of the Russian empire, a.d. 862, which in 1862 celebrated its millennial anniversary. About the same time or a little later the Russians became somewhat acquainted with Christianity through their connections with the Byzantine empire. The Eastern church, however, never developed any great missionary activity, and when Photius, the patriarch of Constantinople, in his circular letter against the Roman see, speaks of the Russians as already converted at his time (867), a few years after the founding of the empire, he certainly exaggerates. When, in 945, peace was concluded between the Russian grand-duke, Igor, and the Byzantine emperor, some of the Russian soldiers took the oath in the name of Christ, but by far the greatest number swore by Perun, the old Russian god. In Kieff, on the Dniepr, the capital of the Russian realm, there was at that time a Christian church, dedicated to Elijah, and in 955 the grand-duchess, Olga, went to Constantinople and was baptized. She did not succeed, however, in persuading her son, Svatoslav, to embrace the Christian faith.
The progress of Christianity among the Russians was slow until the grand-duke Vladimir (980–1015), a grandson of Olga, and revered as Isapostolos ("Equal to an Apostle") with one sweep established it as the religion of the country. The narrative of this event by Nestor is very dramatic. Envoys from the Greek and the Roman churches, from the Mohammedans and the Jews (settled among the Chazares) came to Vladimir to persuade him to leave his old gods. He hesitated and did not know which of the new religions he should choose. Finally he determined to send wise men from among his own people to the various places to investigate the matter. The envoys were so powerfully impressed by a picture of the last judgment and by the service in the church of St. Sophia in Constantinople, that the question at once was settled in favor of the religion of the Byzantine court.
Vladimir, however, would not introduce it without compensation. He was staying at Cherson in the Crimea, which he had just taken and sacked, and thence he sent word to the emperor Basil, that he had determined either to adopt Christianity and receive the emperor’s sister, Anne, in marriage, or to go to Constantinople and do to that city as he had done to Cherson. He married Anne, and was baptized on the day of his wedding, a.d. 988.
As soon as he was baptized preparations were made for the baptism of his people. The wooden image of Perun was dragged at a horse’s tail through the country, soundly flogged by all passers-by, and finally thrown into the Dniepr. Next, at a given hour, all the people of Kieff, men, women and children, descended into the river, while the grand Duke kneeled, and the Christian priests read the prayers from the top of the cliffs on the shore. Nestor, the Russian monk and annalist, thus describes the scene: "Some stood in the water up to their necks, others up to their breasts, holding their young children in their arms; the priests read the prayers from the shore, naming at once whole companies by the same name. It was a sight wonderfully curious and beautiful to behold; and when the people were baptized each returned to his own home."
Thus the Russian nation was converted in wholesale style to Christianity by despotic power. It is characteristic of the supreme influence of the ruler and the slavish submission of the subjects in that country. Nevertheless, at its first entrance in Russia, Christianity penetrated deeper into the life of the people than it did in any other country, without, however, bringing about a corresponding thorough moral transformation. Only a comparatively short period elapsed, before a complete union of the forms of religion and the nationality took place. Every event in the history of the nation, yea, every event in the life of the individual was looked upon from a religious point of view, and referred to some distinctly religious idea. The explanation of this striking phenomenon is due in part to Cyrill’s translation of the Bible into the Slavic language, which had been driven out from Moravia and Bohemia by the Roman priests, and was now brought from Bulgaria into Russia, where it took root. While the Roman church always insisted upon the exclusive use of the Latin translation of the Bible and the Latin language in divine service, the Greek church always allowed the use of the vernacular. Under its auspices there were produced translations into the Coptic, Syriac, Armenian, and Slavic languages, and the effects of this principle were, at least in Russia, most beneficial. During the reign of Vladimir’s successor, Jaroslaff, 1019–1054, not only were churches and monasteries and schools built all over the country, but Greek theological books were translated, and the Russian church had, at an early date, a religious literature in the native tongue of the people. Jaroslaff, by his celebrated code of laws, became the Justinian of Russia.
The Czars and people of Russia have ever since faithfully adhered to the Oriental church which grew with the growth of the empire all along the Northern line of two Continents. As in the West, so in Russia, monasticism was the chief institution for the spread of Christianity among heathen savages. Hilarion (afterwards Metropolitan), Anthony, Theodosius, Sergius, Lazarus, are prominent names in the early history of Russian monasticism.
The subsequent history of the Russian church is isolated from the main current of histoy, and almost barren of events till the age of Nikon and Peter the Great. At first she was dependent on the patriarch of Constantinople. In 1325 Moscow was founded, and became, in the place of Kieff, the Russian Rome, with a metropolitan, who after the fall of Constantinople became independent (1461), and a century later was raised to the dignity of one of the five patriarchs of the Eastern Church (1587). But Peter the Great made the Northern city of his own founding the ecclesiastical as well as the political metropolis, and transferred the authority of the patriarchate of Moscow to the "Holy Synod" (1721), which permanently resides in St. Petersburg and constitutes the highest ecclesiastical judicatory of Russia under the caesaropapal rule of the Czar, the most powerful rival of the Roman Pope.