• Lynch, 35-53

The Apostles' Creed & The Nicene Creed

The Conversion of Clovis

• Bede, On the Conversion of England

Life of St. Columban Chapters 6-22

St. Columban's Boat Song

• Jane Tibbets Schulenberg, Forgetful of Their Sex, 177-209 [blackboard]

Page from the Lindisfarne Gospels, 7th C.E.
(British Library, London)

The Lindisfarne Gospels are available to view on line at the British Library. Click on link for "Pinnacle of Anglo Saxon art"







Developed first in an urban/cosmopolitan context, Christianity necessarily changed as it became the religion of pagan peoples in rural Europe.This week's readings focus on the period of conversion that saw the formation of a distinctive western Christianity. The conversion of the Frankish king Clovis to Roman Christianity (rather than the Arian Christianity embraced by other barbarians and deemed heretical by the Council of Nicea in 325) was a critical moment in the development of Latin Christendom. Read the earlier Apostles' Creed alongside the Nicene Creed to get a sense of the theological issues at stake between Arianism and orthodox Roman Christianity. The differences between the two creeds point to the conflict over the understanding of God in the early Church, specifically over the relationship between the Father God and the Son in the Trinity. The Apostles' Creed was consistent with both forms of Christianity while the Nicene Creed was intended to separate (and reject) the Arian heresy from orthodox Christianity. Once you have looked at those brief texts, go on to the Conversion of Clovis. There are several questions at the top of the document which you ought to keep in mind as you do the reading. They point toward important elements within the text and within the historical moment the text describes. The readings on the conversion of England provide some insight into the method of the missionaries. England was converted by Roman missionaries moving from the south to the north and by Irish missionaries moving from the north and west to the south. The Venerable Bede (ca. 672 - 735) was raised from childhood in the monastery at Jarrow in Northumbria (near Lindisfarne where the famous Lindisfarne Gospels* were produced). He was a prolific author in Latin and English, and this text is part of a grand History of the Church in England.The Life of St. Columban (ca. 543-615) provides a look at the role of Irish missionaries across western Europe. Like the Life of St. Antony, this is a hagiographical text (hagiography=writing about saints) and you must understand that it was not intended as a historical record of events as we understand such records but was intended to demonstrate the saint's connection to God. Certain topoi (themes) are common to hagiographical literature, yet mixed in with those elements is material specific to a given saint's actual life. As you read, look between the miracles for insight into both the monastic life and the crucial participation of monks in the conversion process. Look also for the notion of exile as the highest form of renunciation (distinctive to the Irish missionaries) which is scattered throughout the text. The Boat Song beautifully conveys the spirit of the Irish missionaries as they pursued exile on behalf of Christ. Finally, the excerpt from Schulenberg's book looks at the critical role played by noblewomen in the conversion process--what she calls "domestic proselytization. It makes quite a contrast with the militaristic conversion narrative as seen in the Life of St. Columban.