The Carolingian Renaissance and The Spread of Christianity in England

1) What was the Carolingian Renaissance, and why was it significant?

The Carolingians were a family that ruled the Franks beginning in 751, in the region that is now modern-day France.  Lead by the Carolingians, the Franks accepted orthodox Christianity which built the foundation of a trustworthy alliance between the church and the Franks.  The Carolingians; in particular, Charlemagne, wanted to do something significant, something that would give them a memorable position in European history.  This motivation bore the Carolingian renaissance.

The word “renaissance” actually means a revival, or restoration of a culture.  The aim of the Carolingian renaissance was to restore the culture of Rome, but with a Christian emphasis.  The Frankish government would now carry out tasks, that in previous cultures, the emperor had been responsible.  As a result of this renaissance, there was an outpour of cultural improvement, including aspects of Christianity, literature, art, and the judicial system.

The Carolingian renaissance was significant because it revived the culture of ancient Rome, with an emphasis on Christianity.  It revived many of the characteristics of Roman culture and put them in a position to be preserved and passed down through history.
2) Describe the process by which Christianity was spread in England.

In the early 400’s, Roman troops who were defending Britain, had to be withdrawn to defend their own land against barbaric invasion.  This left the Celts weak, so they hired mercenaries to help them defend their land, among these were the Anglo-Saxons.  The Anglo-Saxons took advantage of this deal by driving the natives to small territory, and keeping lands for themselves.  Due to the Anglo-Saxons taking advantage of them, and being brutal towards them, the Celtic people had no motivation to spread Christianity to these people.  It had to be done by someone else because these people were not willing.

Pope Gregory the Great develops an interest to convert England before he even became pope.  After becoming pope, he arranges missionaries to convert England.  He was assisted by St. Augustine of Canterbury.  Pope Gregory sent 40 monks, lead by Augustine, to King Ethelbert of Kent, who was actually married to a Frankish Catholic.  Augustine spoke to the king about Christ, and the king allows them to spread their message.

Gregory the Great instructed the missionaries and gave them ways to present the message gradually.  And as a result, there were substantial conversions amongst the Anglo-Saxon people.  King Ethelbert, himself, actually converted in 597.

There was still conflict between the Anglo-Saxons and the Celts.  The death of Ethelbert triggered a reaction against Christianity, and this reduced the cooperation of Augustine’s companions, in fact, they wanted to flee.  The Celtic people would not have anything to do with the Anglo-Saxons.  It was a mess.  The Irish monks had to step in, which created more confusion because their way of practicing the Faith was different and unique, which posed more conflict.

In 626, Edwin became king and converts to Catholicism, as a result of marrying a Catholic.  At the defeat of Edwin, the whole idea of missionary work was a disaster.  Then, in 634, Oswald, nephew of Edwin, comes to power.  He had been converted by Irish monks, not the Benedictines sent from Rome.  The confusion between the two groups of Christians, was cleared in the Synod of Whitby in 664, where the Irish-Benedictine interaction bore the  Northumbrian renaissance, and the issues were settled.

 

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