Christianity in Europe

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Christianity is the largest religion in Europe. Christianity has been practiced in Europe since the 1st century, and a number of the Pauline Epistles were addressed to Christians living in Greece, as well as Rome. According to a survey by the Pew Research Center in 2011, found that 75% of Europeans considered themselves Christians.[2]

Catholics were at the time of the survey the largest Christian group in Europe, accounting for more than 48% of European Christians.[2] The second-largest Christian group in Europe were the Orthodox, who made up 32% of European Christians.[2] Although the Protestant Reformation began in Europe, only about 19% of European Christians were part of the Protestant tradition.[2] Russia is the largest Christian country in Europe by population, followed by Germany and Italy.[2]

For at least a millennium and a half, Europe has been nearly equivalent to Christian culture, even though the religion was inherited from West Asia.[3] Christian culture was the predominant force in western civilization, guiding the course of philosophy, art, and science.[4][5]

Europe has a rich Christian culture, especially as numerous saints, martyrs and popes were European themselves. All of the popes from 741 to 2013 were from Europe.[6] Europe brought together many of the Christian holy sites and heritage and religious centers.[7]


Main article: Christendom

Early history[edit]

Historians believe that St. Paul probably wrote his first epistle to the Christians of Thessaloniki (Thessalonians) around AD 52.[8] His Epistle to the Galatians was perhaps written even earlier, between AD 48 and 50.[9] Other epistles written by Paul were directed to Christians living in Greece (1 Corinthians, 2 Corinthians, Philemon, Philippians, 2 Thessalonians) and Rome (Romans) between the 50s and 70s of the first century.

The Record of Saint Dorotheus Bishop of Tyre is that the Church at Tyre sent Saint Aristobulus (of the seventy) to Britain as bishop in AD 37. The Church seems to have been begun by him around the Bristol Channel area and 150 years later we have names of bishops recorded. By AD 550 there are recorded 120 bishops spread throughout the British Isles.

Armenia was the first country in the world to adopt Christianity as its state religion in AD 301. The oldest state-built church in the world, Etchmiadzin Cathedral, was built between AD 301-303. It is the seat of the Armenian Apostolic Church. The Roman Empire officially adopted Christianity in AD 380. During the Early Middle Ages, most of Europe underwent Christianisation, a process essentially complete with the Christianisation of Scandinavia in the High Middle Ages. The emergence of the notion of "Europe" or the "Western World" is intimately connected with the idea of "Christendom", especially since Christianity in the Middle East was marginalized by the rise of Islam from the 7th century, a constellation that led to the Crusades, which although unsuccessful militarily were an important step in the emergence of a religious identity of Europe. At all times, traditions of folk religion existed largely independent from official denominations or dogmatic theology.

From the Middle Ages onwards, as the centralized Roman power waned in southern and central Europe, the dominance of the Catholic Church was the only consistent force in Western Europe.[4]

Movements in art and philosophy, such as the Humanist movement of the Renaissance and the Scholastic movement of the High Middle Ages, were motivated by a drive to connect Catholicism with Greek thought imported by Christian pilgrims.[10][11][12]

East–West Schism and Protestant Reformation[edit]

The East–West Schism of the 11th century and the Protestant Reformation of the 16th tore "Christendom" into hostile factions. Following the Age of Enlightenment of the 18th century, atheism and agnosticism became widespread in Western Europe. 19th century Orientalism contributed to a certain popularity of Buddhism, and the 20th century brought increasing syncretism, New Age and various new religious movements divorcing spirituality from inherited traditions for many Europeans. The latest history brought increased secularisation, and religious pluralism.[13]

Cultural influences[edit]

Notes Towards the Definition of Culture

I am talking about the common tradition of Christianity which has made Europe what it is, and about the common cultural elements which this common Christianity has brought with it. If Asia were converted to Christianity tomorrow, it would not thereby become a part of Europe. It is in Christianity that our arts have developed; it is in Christianity that the laws of Europe have--until recently--been rooted. It is against a background of Christianity that all our thought has significance. An individual European may not believe that the Christian Faith is true, and yet what he says, and makes, and does, will all spring out of his heritage of Christian culture and depend upon that culture for its meaning. Only a Christian culture could have produced a Voltaire or a Nietzsche. I do not believe that the culture of Europe could survive the complete disappearance of the Christian Faith.[. . .] The Western World has its unity in this heritage, in Christianity and in the ancient civilisations of Greece, Rome, and Israel, from which, owing to two thousand years of Christianity, we trace our descent.

Thomas Stearns Eliot[14]

Western culture, throughout most of its history, has been nearly equivalent to Christian culture, and many of the population of the Western hemisphere could broadly be described as cultural Christians. The notion of "Europe" and the "Western World" has been intimately connected with the concept of "Christianity and Christendom" many even attribute Christianity for being the link that created a unified European identity.[15]

Though Western culture contained several polytheistic religions during its early years under the Greek and Roman empires, as the centralized Roman power waned, the dominance of the Catholic Church was the only consistent force in Europe.[16] Until the Age of Enlightenment,[17] Christian culture guided the course of philosophy, literature, art, music and science.[16][18] Christian disciplines of the respective arts have subsequently developed into Christian philosophy, Christian art, Christian music, Christian literature etc.

Christianity had a significant impact on education and science and medicine as the church created the bases of the Western system of education,[19] and was the sponsor of founding universities in the Western world as the university is generally regarded as an institution that has its origin in the Medieval Christian setting.[20][21] Many clerics throughout history have made significant contributions to science and Jesuits in particular have made numerous significant contributions to the development of science.[22][23][24] The Civilizing influence of Christianity includes social welfare,[25] founding hospitals,[26] economics (as the Protestant work ethic),[27][28] politics,[29] architecture,[30] literature[31] and family life.[32]

Although the Protestant reformation was a religious movement, it also had a strong impact on all other aspects of European life: marriage and family, education, the humanities and sciences, the political and social order, the economy, and the arts.[33]



  1. ^ Pew Forum, Religious Composition by Country, 2010-2050
  2. ^ a b c d e Christianity in Europe, including the Asian part of Russia, excluding the European part of Turkey
  3. ^ Dawson, Christopher; Glenn Olsen (1961). Crisis in Western Education (reprint ed.). p. 108. ISBN 978-0-8132-1683-6. 
  4. ^ a b Koch, Carl (1994). The Catholic Church: Journey, Wisdom, and Mission. Early Middle Ages: St. Mary's Press. ISBN 978-0-88489-298-4. 
  5. ^ Dawson, Christopher; Glenn Olsen (1961). Crisis in Western Education (reprint ed.). ISBN 978-0-8132-1683-6. 
  6. ^ "After Benedict: who will be the next Pope?". 12 February 2013. Retrieved 2013-03-12. 
  7. ^ Quoted in Robin Lane Fox, The Unauthorized Version, 1992:235.
  8. ^ Johannes Schade (2006), The Encyclopedia of World Religions, Foreign Media Books, ISBN 978-1-60136-000-7 
  9. ^ Howard Clark Kee, Franklin W. Young (1957), Understanding the New Testament, Prentice Hall, ISBN 978-0-13-948266-3 
  10. ^ Koch, Carl (1994). The Catholic Church: Journey, Wisdom, and Mission. High Middle Ages: St. Mary's Press. ISBN 9780884892984. 
  11. ^ Koch, Carl (1994). The Catholic Church: Journey, Wisdom, and Mission. Renaissance: St. Mary's Press. ISBN 9780884892984. 
  12. ^ Dawson, Christopher; Glenn Olsen (1961). Crisis in Western Education (reprint ed.). p. 25. ISBN 9780813216836. 
  13. ^ Henkel, Reinhard and Hans Knippenberg "The Changing Religious Landscape of Europe" edited by Knippenberg published by Het Spinhuis, Amsterdam 2005 ISBN 90-5589-248-3, pages 7-9
  14. ^ Selected T.S. Eliot on Tradition, Poetry, Faith, and Culture
  15. ^ Dawson, Christopher; Glenn Olsen (1961). Crisis in Western Education (reprint ed.). p. 108. ISBN 9780813216836. 
  16. ^ a b Koch, Carl (1994). The Catholic Church: Journey, Wisdom, and Mission. Early Middle Ages: St. Mary's Press. ISBN 978-0-88489-298-4. 
  17. ^ Koch, Carl (1994). The Catholic Church: Journey, Wisdom, and Mission. The Age of Enlightenment: St. Mary's Press. ISBN 978-0-88489-298-4. 
  18. ^ Dawson, Christopher; Olsen, Glenn (1961). Crisis in Western Education (reprint ed.). ISBN 978-0-8132-1683-6. 
  19. ^ Encyclopædia Britannica Forms of Christian education
  20. ^ Rüegg, Walter: "Foreword. The University as a European Institution", in: A History of the University in Europe. Vol. 1: Universities in the Middle Ages, Cambridge University Press, 1992, ISBN 0-521-36105-2, pp. XIX–XX
  21. ^ Verger, Jacques (1999). Culture, enseignement et société en Occident aux XIIe et XIIIe siècles (in French) (1st ed.). Presses universitaires de Rennes in Rennes. ISBN 286847344X. Retrieved 17 June 2014. 
  22. ^ Susan Elizabeth Hough, Richter's Scale: Measure of an Earthquake, Measure of a Man, Princeton University Press, 2007, ISBN 0691128073, p. 68.
  23. ^ Woods 2005, p. 109.
  24. ^ Encyclopædia Britannica Jesuit
  25. ^ Encyclopædia Britannica Church and social welfare
  26. ^ Encyclopædia Britannica Care for the sick
  27. ^ Encyclopædia Britannica Property, poverty, and the poor,
  28. ^ Weber, Max (1905). The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism. 
  29. ^ Encyclopædia Britannica Church and state
  30. ^ Sir Banister Fletcher, History of Architecture on the Comparative Method.
  31. ^ Buringh, Eltjo; van Zanden, Jan Luiten: "Charting the 'Rise of the West': Manuscripts and Printed Books in Europe, A Long-Term Perspective from the Sixth through Eighteenth Centuries", The Journal of Economic History, Vol. 69, No. 2 (2009), pp. 409–445 (416, table 1)
  32. ^ Encyclopædia Britannica The tendency to spiritualize and individualize marriage
  33. ^ Karl Heussi, Kompendium der Kirchengeschichte, 11. Auflage (1956), Tübingen (Germany), pp. 317-319, 325-326
  34. ^ a b c d Predominant Religions
  35. ^ [1]
  36. ^ (Dutch) roman catholic church 4 million members out of a total Dutch population of 16,5 million

See also[edit]