Talk:Germanic Christianity

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I could not find a reference in for adowed or adow. I believe this should say endowed.

Gothic Conversion[edit]

Several accounts make clear that this was bottom-to-top. Jacob Haller 16:52, 12 July 2007 (UTC)

That is possible. However, in the case of the Franks, it was top-to-bottom. Depending on how fast I can work on this, I should get to that point in a few days... You are welcome to add a source for the Christianization of the Goths. -Zara1709 02:59, 13 July 2007 (UTC)
I've started that. I'll try to do more soon. Jacob Haller 13:55, 13 July 2007 (UTC)
If you want to work on the conversion of the Goths in depth, please go to Gothic Christianity first and work your way back here. Thanks. Aryaman (☼) 22:40, 27 March 2008 (UTC)

be gentle[edit]

I am glad to see this article getting some attention after lying idle for such a long time. But please respect what you've found. It won't do to simply change a sentence to its opposite because it is missing immediate citation. This might not belong in the intro, but there are, very much, people who have argued that "Germanic Christianity" has a quality of its own (to every nation its own church). I daresay as an innocent general statement this is a truism. More particularly, Tolkien was very fond of what he considered an optimal mixture of Christian and "Northern" virtues (e.g. in Finn and Hengest). I am referring to Tolkien because that's the author I know best, not because nobody else has argued along these lines. dab (𒁳) 20:22, 13 July 2007 (UTC)

I'm sorry, the reason that I am drawn to this article now is that I am arguing with Liftarn about the Persecution of Germanic Pagans article again. I am in quite a bad mood, and until that is sorted out I don't feel capable of discussion other questions. -Zara1709 17:00, 14 July 2007 (UTC)
I didn't have a question, and I am quite happy to assist you in the "persecution" issue. dab (𒁳) 15:16, 15 July 2007 (UTC)

I'm just interested in improving the coverage of the Gothic conversion. I'm not convinced it has much to do with the western conversions. Jacob Haller 19:51, 15 July 2007 (UTC)

I agree with you on this. dab (𒁳) 06:01, 16 July 2007 (UTC)


In case anybody questions ...

I just eliminated most of the references to "Catholic", "Roman Catholic", and "Eastern Orthodox" from the history These terms have very strong connotations associated with the modern churches that formed following the Great Schism and as such are confusing and misleading if used in reference to events that took place long before the Schism.

Similarly it is severely misleading to discuss "Arianism" vs. "Catholicism". At the time the original German tribes were being converted to Christianity the "orthodox" or "catholic" faith was still being defined and Arianism was still a popular viewpoint within the Empire. Indeed during the whole 4th century the Arianism vs. Trinitarianism (or perhaps Athanasianism) debate was raging and it would be unfair and historically inaccurate to treat either viewpoint as being THE proper viewpoint of the Roman Church. One could argue that there was not even a genuine consensus at the time Rome fell.

--Mcorazao 17:49, 6 September 2007 (UTC)

At one point, I hoped to remove the ambiguous references to Arianism. We know that the Wulfilan school was not Athanasianism and was not Arianism strictu sensu - it was non-Nicaean, it may have been Lucianism, but it was not derived from Arius' particular school.
  • Photius, in his epitome of Philostorgius, states that "Philostorgius is loud in his praises of this Urphilas; and asserts that both he and the Goths who were under his spiritual rule, were followers of his own heretical opinions." (book 2, chapter 5) which would make Wulfila an Anomoean.
  • Socrates of Constantinople, in his Church History, states that "The last was that of Constantinople, containing the prohibitory clause respecting the mention of `substance' or `subsistence' in relation to God. To this creed Ulfilas bishop of the Goths gave his assent, although he had previously adhered to that of NicÊa; for he was a disciple of Theophilus bishop of the Goths, who was present at the Nicene council, and subscribed what was there determined. Let this suffice on these subjects." (book 2, chapter 41) which would mean that Wulfila had supported a Homoian creed.
  • Auxentius of Durostorum states that "the odious and execrable, depraved and perverse profession of the homousians [homoousians] he trampled underfoot as the invention of the devil and the doctrine of demons ... and he further shunned and deplored the error and impiety of the homoeusians [homoiousians]."
Heather and Matthews, Goths in the Fourth Century, pp. 126ff discuss Wulfila's position as follows:
  • Ulfila opposed the Homousian and Homoeusian positions pp. 128-29
  • Ulfila emphasizes roles (as in economic trinitarianism) over substance p. 129
  • Ulfila avoided the debate until 359/360 pp. 130-131
  • Ulfila supported the Homoean compromise in 360 pp. 130-131
  • Ulfila's own creed does not use the Homoean terms pp. 130-131
  • Ulfila entered the debate as an opponent of the Homousian and Homoeusian factions. p. 131
We'd be hard-pressed to find scholarly consensus on Wulfila's affiliation, or to attribute party/denomination affiliation to later Gothic Christianity. Jacob Haller 19:10, 6 September 2007 (UTC)

You are right. As with most things there is the question of how precisely accurate to be before one is going into too much detail or otherwise confusing the novice reader. "Arianism" has been used by the churches for centuries to describe any beliefs inconsistent with the Trinitarian "orthodox" creeds that originated in 4th century and won out over time. But this, of course, is strictly-speaking inaccurate. I focused here on the use of "Catholicism" because this terminology was so grossly misleading that it seemed to me to be screaming to be changed. The "Arian" label is also misleading although arguably Wulfila and Arius had more similar philosophies to each other than to Athanasius and his supporters. "Non-Nicean" is probably more accurate but less common among scholars in describing the German faiths. So the question becomes "Is it more confusing to use non-standard terminology or to use terminology that is not precisely accurate?" In this particular context I don't know that I have a strong opinion.

--Mcorazao 16:36, 7 September 2007 (UTC)


There are a few "dubious" tags surrounding the mention of the "top-to-bottom" conversion strategy. I have at least one source on this (R. Simek, Religion und Mythologie der Germanen (2003) in the chapter Der Glaubenswechsel und seine Phasen, pg. 228-262), but hesitate to add it due to the "dubious-discuss" tag. What exactly needs to be discussed here? Aryaman (☼) 13:28, 27 March 2008 (UTC)

Just rewrite the section based on your source. Articles on religion and ethnicity tend to attract drive-by taggers, who actually have little interest in the articles.--Berig (talk) 13:30, 27 March 2008 (UTC)
there is nothing dubious about it, but it is fair enough to note it could do with some specific reference. The (earliest, 1st to 2nd century) spread of Christianity in Rome was indeed bottom-to-top. It took nearly 400 years to reach the top. Conversion of the Franks, otoh, meant you merely had to baptize the king, and voila, the Franks were (nominally) a Christian people. Actual Christianization of the lower strata then followed gradually, by imitation of the upper class. dab (𒁳) 13:35, 27 March 2008 (UTC)
As noted, the material I have is in German. Two passages in Simek's book are relevant here:
"Zwar wissen wir zu wenig über die Details der früher Christianisierung dieser germanischen Stämme vor und während der Völkerwanderungszeit, aber wenigstens bei den Goten dürfte die Christianisierung "von unten" erfolgt sein und stellt somit einen Sonderfall der Bekehrungsgeschichte dar. Für die anderen Stämme wird man - schon wegen des starken Einflusses des Arianismus - auch mit gotischen Missionaren zu rechnen haben, aber welchen Rang innerhalb der Bekehrung hier die Missionare, das Vorbild des römischen Imperiums und die Überlegungen einzelner Fürsten gehabt haben, lässt sich nur schwer bestimmen. Auf jeden Fall ging die Christianisierung in allen genannten Fällen erstaunlich schnell vor sich, selbst bei den Goten, wo die Christianisierung "von oben" weitgehend ausgeschlossen werden kann." (pp. 229-30)
"Die Bekehrungsgeschichte des europäischen Festlandes zeigt zwei deutliche Tendenzen in diesem kurz angerissenen Zeitraum von 500 Jahren: zum einen den Übergang von der Bekehrung "von unten" im Südosteuropa der frühen nachchristlichen Jh.e zur Bekehrung "von oben", zum anderen eine fortschreitende Tendenz von der Wortmission früher Christen und Missionare zur wenigstens punktuellen Tatmission der späteren Glaubensboten bis hin zur Schwertmission im Rahmen der Sachsenkriege und teilweise auch in der norwegischen Bekehrungsgeschichte." (pg. 234)
I'm posting this here in full, as I want everything to remain transparent as we work on this. One of you fellows might be better suited for translation and paraphrasing, however. I'll put this on my list of things to do, but you are welcome to take a run at it before me. Aryaman (☼) 14:08, 27 March 2008 (UTC)

ok, so what I said above needs the qualification that the Goths are an exception. We can cite your source to state that the Germanic peoples were mostly converted "top-to-bottom" except for the Goths, who were converted "bottom-to-top". We might add that in early times (say, 300 to 600), missionary activity was mostly restricted to preaching (Wortmission), ideally preaching to kings. Later (600 to 900?), missionaries actively participated in their target communities (Tatmission), and in the latest phase (800 to 1100?), there was even forced conversion (Schwertmission). This debunks the popular "neopagan" myth that the noble Germanics were converted by the Roman sword. In fact, they were talked into baptism by early missionaries, and things only got ugly from the moment Germanic warlords tried to "convert" other Germanic warlords (Charlemagne, Harald I of Denmark, Inge I of Sweden). dab (𒁳) 15:16, 27 March 2008 (UTC)

Sounds good. I just added a few notes one the Origins of Gothic Christianity which mentions the role of Christian female captives taken by Goths in the raids on Moesia and Thrace in 251. Simek claims this is probably the first real contact the Goths had with Christians - which seems to be an theme given comparatively little attention: that of the role played by women in the overall conversion. A similar raid (264 in Asia Minor) resulted in the capturing of the woman who would be the grandmother of Wulfila. Interesting stuff... Aryaman (☼) 16:31, 27 March 2008 (UTC)
Just to let you know: I've turned my attention for the time being to Gothic Christianity, as it is more or less a spin-off of this article. You can check my changes so far here [1]. Aryaman (☼) 22:43, 27 March 2008 (UTC)
interesting thought. Perhaps we should add raptio to the Category:History of the Germanic peoples and Category:Conversion to Christianity categories :) dab (𒁳) 13:58, 29 March 2008 (UTC)
That seems to be pretty much what was going on. And one is tempted to speculate whether (Gallo-Roman?) Caretena, wife of Chilperic II and mother of Clotilde, had been 'won' in a similar, if not as violent, manner. Aryaman (☼) 14:49, 29 March 2008 (UTC)


I beefed up the first and added the second para; see Franks. Some might work over here as well.


Statue in the Cathedral of Reims depicting the baptism of Clovis I by Saint Remi there around 496.

Some Franks converted early to Christianity, like the usurper Silvanus in the 4th century. In 496, Clovis I, who had married a Burgundian Catholic named Clotilda three years earlier, was baptised into the (Trinitarian) Catholic faith by Saint Remi after a decisive victory over the Alemanni at the Battle of Tolbiac. According to Gregory of Tours, over 3000 of his soldiers were baptized alongside him.[1] Clovis' conversion to Catholicism would prove to have an enormous effect on the course of European history, for at the time the Franks were the only major Christianized Germanic tribe without a predominantly Arian aristocracy (their contemporary rivals, the Ostrogoths, Visigoths, Burgundians and Lombards, had converted to Arian Christianity), and this led to a naturally amicable relationship between the Church of Rome and the increasingly powerful Franks.

Though a sizable portion of the Frankish aristocracy quickly followed Clovis in converting to Christianity, the conversion of the whole of the people under Frankish rule required a considerable amount of time and effort - in some places two centuries or more.[2] Early efforts towards organized resistance were quickly squelched: the Chronicle of St. Denis relates that, following Clovis' conversion, a number of devout pagans, unhappy with this turn of events, rallied around Ragnachairus (or Ragnachar), a powerful figure who had played an important role in Clovis' initial rise to power. Though the text remains unclear as to the precise pretext, Clovis soon had Ragnachairus thrown in chains and then executed.[3] As for the remaining pockets of resistance, they were overcome region by region - primarily due to the work of the quickly expanding network of monasteries.[4]

I have more stuff, if you're interested in fleshing it out to a more substantial section for inclusion here, or even considering an eventual spinoff into Frankish Christianity (not unlike Gothic Christianity). Thanks. Aryaman (☼) 03:14, 1 April 2008 (UTC)


There should probably be more discussion of Boniface in the article; the brief reference to him doesn't properly emphasize his role in early German Christian history.- (talk) 18:34, 26 July 2012 (UTC)

--- good old Winfrid, so true. What a shame Winfrid is seemingly collateral-damage thanks to whomever on this wiki are trying to lessen England's role in converting so many to Christianity within the 'Germanic world' — Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 18:41, 30 July 2015 (UTC)

What's this about the Geats?[edit]

As it is, the Gothic section claims that the Geats were ancestors of the Goths, and were from Romania and Bessarabia. I'm not sure where this claim is coming from. There are suggestions that the Peucini and other Bastarnae may have been East Germanic peoples before the Goths, but that doesn't explain the Geats. Ananiujitha (talk) 18:33, 1 September 2013 (UTC)

The Geats were incontrovertibly a Germanic people from Geatland, now southern Sweden, but they did quite a lot of moving around Romania in their wider range since they are basically the Goths. You may be thinking of the term Getae, more controversial since the Latin term referred to the Geats, and earlier to peoples in Romania / Dacia whose connection with the Geats is more controversial. Til Eulenspiegel /talk/ 18:49, 1 September 2013 (UTC)
Well, if you equate the Geats with the Goths, then you can explain them in Romania, but not being in Romabia long before the Goths. Of course the Getae weren't Goths. Ananiujitha (talk) 01:10, 2 September 2013 (UTC)
I'm not sure why it was added here anyway, but as it seems like a side observation even if correct, I've gone ahead and removed it. Til Eulenspiegel /talk/ 02:33, 2 September 2013 (UTC)

Characteristics section looks like improper synthesis[edit]

It ties together several sources to try to make an argument about the characteristics of Germanic Christianities. It is quite questionable whether there are many shared characteristics. It would help to have better sourcing for the characteristics of specific branches. Ananiujitha (talk) 18:39, 1 September 2013 (UTC)

  1. ^ Gregory of Tours. "Book II, 31". History of the Franks. 
  2. ^ Sönke Lorenz (2001), Missionierung, Krisen und Reformen: Die Christianisierung von der Spätantike bis in Karolingische Zeit in Die Alemannen, Stuttgart: Theiss; ISBN: 3-8062-1535-9; pp.441-446
  3. ^ The Chronicle of St. Denis, I.18-19, 23
  4. ^ Lorenz (2001:442)