Online Encyclopedia

THE MEDIEVAL

Online Encyclopedia
Originally appearing in Volume V18, Page 585 of the 1911 Encyclopedia Britannica.
Spread the word: del.icio.us del.icio.us it!
THE MEDIEVAL PERIOD With the 5th century the Church was confronted with number-less hordes, which were now precipitated over the entire face of Europe. Having for some time learnt to be aggressive, she girded herself for the difficult work of 'teaching the nations a higher faith than a savage form of nature-worship; and of fitting them to become members of an enlightened Christendom. (a) The Celtic Missionaries.—The first pioneers who went forth to engage in this difficult enterprise came from the secluded Celtic Churches of Ireland and the Scottish Highlands. Of many who deserve mention in connexion with this period, the most prominent were: Columba, the founder of the famous monastery of Iona in 563 and the evangelizer of the Albanian Scots and northern Picts; Aidan, the apostle of Northumbria; Columbanus, the apostle of the Burgundians of the Vosges (590); Callich or Gallus (d. 646), the evangelizer of north-eastern Switzerland and Alemannia; Kilian, the apostle of Thuringia; and Trudpert, the martyr of the Black Forest. The zeal of these- men seemed to take the world by storm. Travelling generally in companies, and carrying a simple outfit, these Celtic pioneers flung themselves on the continent of Europe, and, not content with reproducing at Annegray or Luxeuil the willow or brushwood huts, the chapel and the round tower, which they had left behind in Derry or in the island of Hy (Iona), they braved the dangers of the northern seas, and penetrated as far as the Faroes and even far distant Iceland.4 "Their zeal and success," to quote the words of Kurtz, " are witnessed to by the fact that at the beginning of the 8th century, throughout all the district of the Rhine, as well as Hesse, Thuringia, Bavaria and Alemannia, we find a network of flourishing churches bearing the impress of Celtic institutions." (b) The English Missionaries.—Thus they laid the foundations, aweing the heathen tribes by their indomitable spirit of self-sacrifice and the sternness of their rule of life. But, marvellous as it was, their work lacked the element of permanence; and it 1 Socrates, H.E. i. 15; Sozomen ii. 24; Theodoret i. 22. 2 Socrates, H.E. i. 20; Sozomen ii. 7; Theodoret i. 24. Theodoret, H.E., v. 30. 4 See A. W. Haddan, " Scots on the Continent," Remains, p. 256.[MEDIEVAL became clear that a more practical system must be devised and carried out. The men for this work were now ready, and the sons of the newly evangelized English Churches were ready to go forth. The energy which warriors were accustomed to put forth in their efforts to conquer was now " exhibited in the enterprise of conversion and teaching " 5 by Wilfrid on the coast of Friesland,6 by Willibrord (658–715) in the neighbourhood of Utrecht,' by the martyr-brothers Ewalct er Hewald amongst the " old " or continental Saxons,5 by Swidbert the apostle of the tribes between the Ems and the Yssel, by Adelbert, a prince of the royal house of Northumbria, in the regions north of Holland, by Wursing, a native of Friesland, and one of the disciples of Willibrord, in the same region, and last, not least, by the famous Winfrid or Boniface, the " apostle of Germany " (68o-755), who went forth first to assist Willibrord at Utrecht, then to labour in Thuringia and Upper Hessia, then with the aid of his kinsmen Wunibald and Willibald, their sister Walpurga, and her thirty companions, to consolidate the work of earlier missionaries, and finally to die a martyr on the shore of the Zuider Zee. (c) Scandinavian Missions.—Devoted, however, as were the labours of Boniface and his disciples, all that he and they and the emperor Charlemagne after them achieved for the fierce untutored world of the 8th century seemed to have been done in vain when, in the 9th " on the north and north-west the pagan Scandinavians were hanging about every coast, and pouring in at every inlet; when on the east the pagan Hungarians were swarming like locusts and devastating Europe from the Baltic to the Alps; when on the south and south-east the Saracens were pressing on and on with their victorious hosts. It seemed then as if every pore of life were choked, and Christendom must be stifled and smothered in the fatal embrace." 9 But the devoted Anskar (8or–865) went forth and sought out the Scandinavian viking, and handed on the torch of self-denying zeal to others, who saw, after the lapse of many years, the close of the monotonous tale of burning churches and pillaged monasteries, and taught the fierce Northman to learn respect for civilized institutions.10 The gospel was first introduced into Norway in the loth century by an Englishman named Hacon, though the real conversion of the country was due to Olaf Tryggvason. About the same time, and largely owing to the exertions of Olaf, Iceland, Greenland and the Orkney and Shetland islands were also evangelized. (d) Slavonic Missions.—Thus the " gospel of the kingdom" was successively proclaimed to the Roman, the Celtic, the Teutonic and the Scandinavian world. A contest still more stubborn remained with the Slavonic tribes, with their triple and many-headed divinities, their powers of good and powers of evil, who could be propitiated only with human sacrifices. Mission work commenced in Bulgaria during the latter part of the 9th century; thence it extended to Moravia, where in 863 two Greek missionaries—Cyril and Methodius-provided for the people a Slavonic Bible and a Slavonic Liturgy; thence to Bohemia and Poland, and so onwards to the Russian kingdom of Ruric the Northman, where about the close of the loth century the Eastern Church " silently and almost unconsciously bore into the world her mightiest offspring." 11 But, though the baptism of Vladimir (c. 956–1015) was a heavy blow to Slavonic idolatry, mission work was carried on with but partial success; and it taxed all the energies of Adalbert, bishop of Bremen, of Vicilin, bishop of Oldenburg, of Bishop Otto of Bamberg the apostle of the Pomeranians, of Adalbert the martyr-apostle of Prussia, to spread the word in that country, in Lithuania, and in the territory of the Wends. It was not till 1168 that the gigantic four-headed image of Swantevit was destroyed at Arcona, the capital of the island of Riigen, and this Mona of Slavonic superstition was included in the advancing circle of Christian 5 Church, Gifts of Civilization, p. 330. ° Bede, H.E. v. 19. 1 " Annal. Xantenses," Pertz, Mon. Germ. ii. 220. 8 Bede, H.E. v. To. 9 See Lightfoot, Ancient and Modern Missions. to See Hardwick, Middle Ages, pp. 109-114. 11 Stanley, Eastern Church, p. 294. civilization. As late as 3230 human sacrifices were still being offered up in Prussia and Lithuania, and, in spite of all the efforts of the Teutonic Knights, idolatrous practices still lingered amongst the people, while amongst the Lapps, though successful missions had been inaugurated as early as 1335, Christianity cannot be said to have become the dominant religion till at least two centuries later. (e) Moslem Missions.—The mention of the order of the Teutonic Knights reminds us how the crusading spirit had affected Christendom. Still even then Raimon Lull protested against propagandism by the sword, urged the necessity of missions amongst the Moslems, and sealed his testimony with his blood outside the gates of Bugiah in northern Africa (June 30, 1315). Out of the crusades, however, arose other efforts to develop the work which Nestorian missionaries from Bagdad, Edessa and Nisibis had already inaugurated along the Malabar coast, in the island of Ceylon, and in the neighbourhood of the Caspian Sea. In 1245 the Roman pontiff sent two embassies—one, a party of four Dominicans, sought the commander-in-chief of the Mongol forces in Persia; the second, consisting of Franciscans, made their way into Tartary, and sought to convert the successor of Oktai-Khan. Their exertions were seconded in 1253 by the labours of another Franciscan whom Louis IX. of France sent forth from Cyprus,' while in 1274 the celebrated traveller Marco Polo, accompanied by two learned Dominicans, visited the court of .Kublai-Khan,, and at the commencement of the 14th century two Franciscans penetrated as far as Peking, even translating the New Testament and the Psalter into the Tatar language, and training youths for a native ministry? (f) Missions to India and the New World.—These tentative missions were now to be supplemented by others on a larger scale. In 1488 the Cape of Good Hope was rounded by Diaz, and in 1508 the foundations of the Portuguese Indian empire were laid by Albuquerque. Columbus also in 1492 had landed on San Salvador, and the voyages of the Venetian Cabot along the coast of North America opened up a new world to missionary enterprise, Thus a grand opportunity was given to the churches of Portugal and Spain. But the zeal of the Portuguese took too often a one-sided direction, repressing the Syrian Christians on the Malabar coast, and interfering with the Abyssinian Church,3 while the fanatic temper of the Spaniard consigned, in Mexico and Peru, multitudes who would not renounce their heathen errors to indiscriminate massacre or abject slavery.4. Las Casas has drawn a terrible picture of the oppression he strove in vain to prevent .° Some steps indeed were taken for disseminating Christian principles, and the pope had induced a band of missionaries, chiefly of the mendicant orders, to go forth to this new mission field.° But only five bishoprics had been established by 1520, and the number of genuine converts was small. However, every vestige of the Aztec worship was banished from the Spanish settlements.' (g) The Jesuit Missions.—It was during this period that the Jesuits came into existence. One of the first of Loyola's associates, Francis Xavier, encouraged by the joint co-operation of the pope and of John III. of Portugal, disembarked at Goa on the 6th of May 1542, and before his death on the Isle of St John (Hiang-Shang), on the 2nd of December 1552, roused the European Christians of Goa to a new life, laboured with singular success amongst the Paravars, a fisher caste near Cape Comorin, gathered many converts in the kingdom of Travancore, visited Malacca, and fqunded a mission in Japan. The successor of Xavier, Antonio Criminalis, was regarded by the ,Jesuits as the first martyr of their society (1562). Matteo Ricci, an Italian by birth, was also an indefatigable missionary in China for twenty-seven years, while the unholy compromise ' Neander vii. 69 ; Hakluyt 171; Huc i. 207. 2 Neander vii. 79; Gieseler iv. 259, 260; Hardwick, Middle Ages, P. 337• a Geddes, History of the Church of Malabar, p. 4; Neale, Easternwith Brahminfsm in India followed by Robert de' Nobili was fatal to the vitality of his own and other missions. Others of the same order evangelized Paraguay in 1582, while the Huguenots sent forth under a French knight of Malta a body of devoted men to attempt the formation of a Christian colony at Rio Janeiro. By the close of the 16th century a committee .of cardinals was appointed under the name of the " Congregatio de propaganda fide," to give unity and solidity to the work of missions. The scheme originated with Gregory XIII., but was not fully organized till forty years afterwards, when Gregory XV. gave it plenary authority by a bull dated the 2nd of June 1622. Gregory's successor, Urban VIII., supplemented the establishment of the congregation by founding a great missionary college, where Europeans might be trained for foreign labours, and natives might be educated to undertake mission work. At this college is the missionary printing-press of the Roman Church, and its library contains an unrivalled collection of literary treasures bearing on the work.
End of Article: THE MEDIEVAL
[back]
THE LYRIC AND DRAMATIC OR
[next]
THE MIDDLE HIGH GERMAN

Additional information and Comments

There are no comments yet for this article.
» Add information or comments to this article.
Please link directly to this article:
Highlight the code below, right click and select "copy." Paste it into a website, email, or other HTML document.