History of the Church: Early Middle Ages - Notre Dame

The Iron Age

[Illustration] from Church - Early Middle Ages by Notre Dame

I. Evils of the Age

The three hundred years which followed the brilliant reign of Charlemagne were some of the saddest the Catholic Church has ever seen. This was owing chiefly to the quarrels among the successors of Charlemagne, to foreign invasions, to ecclesiastical disputes between the Eastern and Western sections of the Church, and to the interference of temporal rulers in the affairs of the Church.

The son and immediate successor of Charlemagne, Louis the Mild, was a good man, but a weak Prince. He divided his vast Empire among his three sons during his own lifetime. The various nations of which it was composed took advantage of the incessant quarrels among these Princes to try to recover their independence. After thirty years of civil strife the Treaty of Verdun, A D. 843, divided the Empire into three parts, which corresponded roughly to France, Germany, and Italy; but peace did not follow. Sometimes one of the Kings and sometimes another claimed the title of Emperor, with jurisdiction over the others. The Princes who ruled were nearly all of the same royal family, the German Karlings, and once, for the short space of three years, the kingdoms were reunited under one Sovereign, Charles the Fat. In A.D 887, however, he was deposed, and the three chief States each chose a separate Prince.

Exactly one hundred years later France passed out of the hands of the Karling family by the accession of Hugh Capet. This, the commencement of the, Capetian dynasty, marks the real beginning of the kingdom of France. which from this time never again formed a province of the Empire. But Italy, which had been an independent kingdom for one hundred and fifty years, was reunited to Germany under Otho I., or Otto the Great, a Saxon Prince, who raised his country once more to the power and rank of an Empire, but with more limited possessions than that of Charlemagne.

While these civil strifes were desolating the great kingdoms, hordes of barbarians were attacking Europe on every side. The last wave of Teutonic invasion was breaking over the land. On the north it was composed of Scandinavians, better known as Normans and Danes; and on the east of Slavonians and Lithuanians. But these were not all. Two Asiatic peoples strove with the occupants of the southern provinces for possession of these fertile lands.

From the shores of the North Sea and the Baltic fleets of small war crafts, or "keels," commanded by daring Vikings, covered all the neighbouring seas and mounted the great river mouths at flood-tides. Thence they made sudden descents on the coast countries, even passing the Straits of Gibraltar and attacking Italy, harrying the land, burning, destroying towns and churches, carrying off captives and goods, and turning fertile plains into deserts. From the ninth to the eleventh century these piratical incursions continued to be the terror of maritime countries. In many places permanent settlements were made. Thus, the Northmen became peaceful subjects of the French King in A.D. 911, by the grant of Charles the Simple to Rollo the Ganger of a large tract of land round Rouen, later on known as Normandy. In England the Danes obtained such power that they ruled as Sovereigns for a quarter of a century, A.D. 1016–1042.

[Illustration] from Church - Early Middle Ages by Notre Dame

The last band of Teutonic invaders were the Slavs, a brave and warlike people descended from the Scythians and Sarmatians of Roman times. They had long occupied the extensive plains which form the Russia of to-day, but in the tenth century, without abandoning their old home, they pressed west and south, and added to their extensive territory all land up to the frontier provinces of the Germanic Empire.

The kingdoms of Bohemia and Poland were founded at this time, the latter by a particular tribe called Lithuanians. The Slavs also occupied some of the northern provinces of the Greek Empire, Servia and Dalmatia being settled. A tribe from the Volga advanced into the plain of the Lower Danube, took possession without driving out the original people, and gave their name to the land—Vulgaria, now Bulgaria.

Constant warfare was kept up on the borders between the Germanic and Slavonic peoples, and so great was the number of the latter who were taken captive and sold to Western masters that the name Slav, which in their tongue meant "speaker," has given us the word slave, the proper title of one who is sold into bondage as the property of another.

On the Mediterranean shores the Saracens still endeavoured to extend their conquests. They repeatedly attacked Italy without any permanent results, but in Spain they were losing ground. The Christians there had regained several districts, and the kingdoms of Navarre, Aragon, and Castile were founded about the middle of the eleventh century. At this time also the Western caliphate came to an end; but the Moorish dominion in Spain, though not so extensive in territories as formerly, lasted yet five centuries longer. About this time occurred a terrible persecution of the Catholics in Spain by the Moors.

But by far the fiercest of all these invaders were the Magyars, a Turanian people, akin to the Tartars, which from the plains of Asia crossed over into Central Europe, and in A.D. 896 first settled on the plains of Hungary. They were heathens, and until A.D. 1033 were the terror of the Western States; but they were kept from further incursions westward by the establishment of a border State, or Mark, as it was called. As this was the most easterly of the provinces of the German kingdom, it was called the Eastern Mark, in Old German Oesterreich—a name which has become the modern Austria.

During the centuries of constant warfare we have been studying, it is not surprising that a military system of holding lands should have been prevalent. Every Sovereign must have felt the need of as many helpers as he could get. Therefore, when he granted a tract of the conquered land to one of his followers, it was on condition that the tenant should pay for it by military service, while the lord engaged to protect his subject. When the tenant, who with regard to his chief lord or suzerain was called a "vassal," gave lesser grants to his own followers, he did so on the same conditions. Lands so held were called "fiefs," or "feuds." Hence, this way of holding property is called the "feudal system."

This system was at first of great benefit to both rulers and people. By attaching the invading bands to the conquered soil, it helped to put a stop to their roving life and thieving expeditions; by binding lord and vassal together with mutual obligations, it established ideas of law and responsibility. The right of ownership and the love of home and family brought a taste for peaceful pursuits, and made men unwilling to risk their little all by continuing a life of warfare.

As time went on, however, the system fostered a continual succession of petty wars between neighbouring lords, for the love of fighting in which these men had been nurtured was not so easily got rid of. Every noble, entrenched in his own feudal castle, issued at will from within its fortifications to wage war against some neighbouring lord, devastate his lands, plunder his tenants, and return laden with booty. Harmless travellers were often waylaid and carried off to the castle dungeons, from which they emerged only when torture had wrung from them all their possessions, or at least a promise of heavy ransom which was always sternly exacted. To avenge such injuries was considered a matter of honour. Human laws were powerless to check the thirst of these fierce combatants for revenge and so-called glory, and the wretched peasantry, who were the chief sufferers, pleaded in vain for peace.

A Norman Keep:


But this was not all. When lands were granted to the Church, it was on the same terms as when given to lay lords. The Bishop or the Abbot Vassal had to pay homage for his possessions, receive investiture from and become the "man" of his suzerain, and provide soldiers for his lord. Sometimes, even, we find that prelates headed these troops themselves. But, worse still, the lords came to interfere in the election of ecclesiastical superiors, and too often chose some member of their own family for the post, whether they had any religious vocation or not. At times the Bishop or Abbot named was not even a priest or a monk. Then he simply kept the title and money, and named some one in his stead as Bishop or Abbot, paying him a small sum for his services. It can easily be imagined what kind of care such people would take of the souls committed to their charge. Thus, the feudal system led to another evil, the decay of monastic fervour. The rich gifts made in feudal times to monasteries also became a source of danger. Monks and nuns lost the love and practice of poverty which had kept them so holy and hard-working in the earlier days. Learning, too, was neglected, and this is regarded by some good authorities as one of the principal causes of loss of fervour. Little by little, all kinds of relaxation crept into many religious houses, and destroyed their power for good.

The state of the Church in the East was at least as sad as that in the West. A new difficulty arose towards the end of the ninth century, which had the most disastrous results—the complete severance of the faithful of the Greek Empire from the unity of the Catholic Church. As at first no point of doctrine was attacked, the disputes did not end in producing a heresy, but a schism—that is, a breaking away from Catholic unity, not on a matter of faith, but of Church government.

Many causes prepared the sad event. During the repeated heresies to which the East gave birth, great ill-feeling grew up in the Greeks against the Holy See. This was because in these contests the Popes always opposed the error, whatever it was, while the Eastern prelates too often defended it. Then several of the Patriarchs of Constantinople thought it hard to have to regard the Bishop of Rome as Head of the Church. They said that, since Constantinople was the chief city of the Empire (as it was until the separation of the Eastern and Western Empires), the chief Pastor of the Church ought to preside over it rather than over Rome. Or they asked that at least Constantinople might be equal or second only to Rome. The Popes, with great foresight, opposed all these pretensions, and the jealousy of the Greeks grew stronger. When the Western Empire was restored by the coronation of Charlemagne by Pope Leo III., another cause of animosity was added to those already existing. Finally, both Rome and Constantinople claimed jurisdiction over Bulgaria, which had recently received the faith. This was a very difficult question to settle, as the Bulgarian Prince, Bogoris, changed his mind on the subject more than once, sometimes wanting to be subject to Rome and sometimes to the Patriarch of Constantinople.

The actual cause of the schism was the question, Who was the lawful Patriarch of Constantinople? The dispute arose in the following manner:

The court of Michael III. ( A.D. 856–867) was the scene of most shocking misconduct; every evil was practised with the approbation of the Emperor, the principal leader in iniquity being the young Sovereign's uncle, Bardas. In order to have more freedom for wickedness, this man persuaded Michael to force his mother, the Empress, and his own sister into a convent. The Patriarch of Constantinople, St. Ignatius, son of a deposed Emperor, refused to receive the vows of these ladies, saying that they were not free in the matter; and he excommunicated Bardas, publicly refusing him Holy Communion. Bardas determined on revenge. He induced the weak Emperor to imprison Ignatius, and to name Photius, a clever but wicked layman, in his place. This man consented to the crime and received Orders, each degree on a successive day, the sixth seeing him consecrated Patriarch. This in itself was contrary to the laws of the Church, which does not allow of such hasty proceedings. Photius, though Patriarch, was afraid that St. Ignatius would tell the Pope how things had gone, and in order to force him to resign his see, he caused the old man to be shamefully ill-treated in his prison, but in vain. Ignatius escaped, and both parties appealed to Pope Nicholas I. Photius said he was lawfully elected, Ignatius having voluntarily resigned, and he sent a forged document to this effect. Ignatius, on his side, explained the violence he had under-gone. The Pope sent Legates to Constantinople to see who was in the right. Photius bribed the Legates, who declared for him. As soon as the Pope learned what had passed, he excommunicated the Legates, condemned Photius, and commanded that Ignatius should be restored.

On this Photius called a Synod, and declared himself against the Pope. Ignatius was not allowed to come back, and the wrongful Patriarch was supported by the Emperor and by some of the Greek Bishops. Then Photius framed a list of accusations against the Holy See and the Western Church, and entered with bitterness into the Bulgarian dispute. The charges which he made against the Latin Church were most insignificant. They could only have been made by one who was determined to raise a quarrel on any pretext. For example, he objected to the practice of fasting on Saturdays, of using milk on fasting days, complained that priests were not allowed to give the Sacrament of Confirmation, and revived an old ground of dispute—namely, that the Latin Church had added the word Filioque to the Nicene Creed. The Orientals supported Photius in this open opposition to the Holy See, not because they really attached much importance to his charges against the Latin Church, but because of the bitter feeling against the supremacy of the Pope. The schism was spreading rapidly, when the career of Photius was stopped for a time. Michael III. died, and was succeeded by a man, not of the royal family, named Basil the Macedonian, who from political motives turned out Photius and brought back St. Ignatius.

The new Emperor asked the Pope for a General Council to terminate the disputes and settle the differences between Greeks and Latins. Pope Hadrian II. gladly consented, and Constantinople was chosen as the place of meeting. The prelates assembled in A.D. 869. It was the fourth and last General Council held in that city. The principal points settled were—That Ignatius was lawful Patriarch, Photius was to be deprived and degraded, and Constantinople was recognized as second in rank after Rome. Eight years later St. Ignatius died.

Photius, meanwhile, had been working at gaining the favour of the Emperor, and succeeded. On the death of St. Ignatius, Basil raised Photius to the patriarchate, and wrote begging the Pope (John VIII.) to agree to his nomination. Rather than risk fresh troubles and reopen the schism, the Pope said that, provided certain conditions were observed—one of which was that Photius should in Synod ask pardon for his misdeeds and acknowledge the authority of the Holy See, especially in the still unfinished Bulgarian dispute—he would acknowledge him. Photius, deceitful as ever, knowing that the Legates did not understand Greek, had the Pope's letters mistranslated, the conditions put to him being carefully omitted. He then took possession of the patriarchate. The Pope, informed of what had happened, excommunicated all concerned. For a few years Photius continued to occupy the See of Constantinople, doing his utmost to increase ill-feeling towards Rome. But when Leo the Wise succeeded to the throne, he was deposed and exiled, dying impenitent about two years later.

No fresh disturbances arose for one hundred and fifty years; but the old jealousy of the Holy See and of the Latin Church subsisted. In the middle of the eleventh century, Michael Cerularius, Patriarch of Constantinople, revived the old charges against Rome and renewed the schism. The attempt made by Pope St. Leo IX. to settle the dispute

failed, and the schism has continued till the present day, nearly all the Russian and Greek provinces still remaining severed from the unity of the Church and the jurisdiction of the Holy See.

The worst evil of this sad period was the state of servitude to which the Sovereign Pontiffs were reduced. Charlemagne and his immediate successors called themselves, and acted as, Protectors of the Holy See. But it was not long before the rulers of Italy came to regard themselves as masters instead of subjects of the Popes. The Treaty of Verdun, A.D. 843, made Italy an independent kingdom. After the death of its second Sovereign, Italy, like the rest of Europe, was a scene of constant warfare for upwards of one hundred years. She was attacked by invaders from without and torn by contending factions within. The chief Italian nobles struggled amongst themselves for the crown. Rome fell into the hands of first one party and then another. It happened more than once that the section which held Rome named one of its members Pope, in hopes of rendering its hold on the city more secure. As often as not the opposing party caused the election of an Antipope, and Rome was the scene of constant strife between the rival powers. At last the Counts of Tusculum triumphed over the other nobles, and for fifty years held Rome in captivity and determined the choice of each Pope.

The supremacy of Germany in Italy was restored about A.D. 950. Adelaide, widow of the murdered Lothaire, King of Italy, appealed to Otho I., of Germany, against Berengarius, who had usurped the throne and was besieging her at Canossa. The German monarch went to her assistance and overthrew Berengarius. He afterwards married Adelaide, and in A.D. 961 was crowned King of Italy. The great duchies were bestowed on German nobles. The position of the Popes was hardly improved. Though the Sovereign Pontiff was no longer chosen from one princely family only, Papal elections were not free; the Emperors claimed and exercised considerable power in Rome, so that many of the Popes were named through their influence, and it came to be considered necessary that the election of a Pope should be confirmed by the German Emperor. But the Roman nobles opposed the jurisdiction claimed by the Emperor over Roman affairs, and the clergy and people of the city also asserted their rights, saying that it was by them that the Popes should be elected. Many violent quarrels resulted.

After forty years of struggle respecting the papacy between the German Emperor and the Romans, two Italian noble families again came into power—first the Crescentii, and once again the Counts of Tusculum. Their dominion lasted from A.D. 1002–1048, during which time every Papal election was determined by them. Some historians have spoken strongly against the character of two or three of the Popes named during this period, especially of Benedict IX., son of one of the Tusculum Counts, but all agree that even this Pontiff was orthodox in his teaching.

It may readily be imagined that Popes who were forced into the Holy See by political influence would not be loyally obeyed—at least, by their opponents' party. Thus it happened that the state of the clergy grew daily worse, and a general decline of religion was the result. This time of the degradation of the Papacy was one of the greatest trials to which the Church of God has been exposed. But the infallible promise of our Lord was to have one verification the more. Neither persecution nor heresy had prevailed against the Church, and from the greatest danger of all, the servitude of the Popes to temporal rulers and the presence of bad men in the Chair of St. Peter, the Church was to come out victorious. When the storm was over, the Holy See was enabled, by the remembrance of the very evils through which it had passed, to attain to a power and independence unknown before.

In the middle of the eleventh century a heresy arose in the Western Church, which, for a short time, attracted much attention, though it made but few converts. The doctrine attacked was the Real Presence of our Lord Jesus Christ in the Blessed Sacrament of the Altar. This truth, the central doctrine of Catholic worship, so clearly taught by our Divine Master Himself at the Last Supper, had escaped attack for the thousand years following its promulgation In A.D. 1050, Berengarius, Archdeacon of Angers, Master in the Ecclesiastical School of Tours, publicly maintained that our Lord is present only in figure in the Holy Eucharist, and that the Sacrament produces its effects only in virtue of the faith of the receiver, and not from the real, true, and substantial presence of our Lord Jesus Christ.

Such an impious novelty raised an outburst of indignation. Bishops and theologians, among whom the most celebrated was Lanfranc, at that time Abbot of Bee, wrote against the heresy, and proved to Berengarius that his doctrine was contrary to the unanimous teaching of the Catholic Doctors. Several Synods were held, in which the tenets of Berengarius were examined and condemned The King of France (Henry I.), the nobles, and the people, all opposed him, as well as the clergy; but Berengarius was too proud to yield. He was then summoned to Rome, where a Council was held. The error was condemned, and Berengarius recanted and signed an orthodox declaration of faith. But no sooner had he returned to France than he began to teach as of old. Twice again called to Rome, he repeated the same conduct, recanting when condemned, and yet directly he found himself at home beginning anew to defend his impious heresy. However, in A.D. 1078 he abjured his errors, and, retiring to an island monastery in the Loire, he spent the ten remaining years of his life, it is believed, in sincere penitence.

We hear of no spread of this false teaching. It appears to have died out with its author, and would not have been mentioned had it not been that this long-forgotten heresy was revived by the pretended Reformers of the sixteenth century, and honoured with a place in the catalogue of errors out of which they compiled their creed.

II. Religious and Social Reforms

We have seen the dark side of the ninth, tenth, and eleventh centuries. There is a brighter one, which we have now to study—the efforts of the Church to combat the various evils of the day, and the measure of success with which God blessed her labours. The first attempt at bringing about a better state of things began in the monasteries, which themselves in many cases needed reform.

Up to the time of which we are speaking there was but one great monastic Rule observed in Europe, the Benedictine. Even those Orders which had been founded by other Saints gradually adopted St. Benedict's laws for religious life. But as each abbey was independent of all others, many differences had grown up in their various observances. This did not tend to lessen the abuses spoken of already.

Louis the Mild, Emperor of the West, saw the necessity of putting an end to these troubles, and begged St. Benedict of Aniane to try and remedy them in A.D. 817.

St. Benedict of Aniane was a monk of extraordinary holiness. He had distinguished himself by his bravery as a soldier in the armies of Charlemagne. One day, in saving his brother from drowning, he almost perished himself. The danger he had run made him conceive so grand an idea of the duty of saving his soul that he gave up everything the world could offer to lead a life of humble penitence. He became a monk, and his example led many others to follow him. Later on he became Superior, and the fervour which reigned in his monastery caused King Louis to form the project of putting all the abbeys in his dominions under the government of St. Benedict of Aniane. The Saint undertook the work. He made incessant journeys from one end of the Empire to the other, and succeeded by his gentle firmness in introducing a thorough change in the way. of living of the monks, and in establishing the same observances in all the monasteries.

But a still greater service was done to the Church by the foundation of the Congregation of Cluny, about one hundred years later, by St. Bernon, Abbot of the famous monastery of La Baume, near Marseilles, in which the reformed Rule of St. Benedict of Aniane was observed in all its strictness. Some officers of the pious Duke William of Aquitaine had received hospitality in this monastery, and had told their lord of the wonderful holiness of the monks. The nobleman at once made up his mind to have a community in his domains, and begged St. Bernon to come and choose a site for the monastery. The Abbot selected the magnificent wooded valley of Cluny; but it was the favourite hunting-ground of the Duke, who said that the noise of the dogs would disturb the monks at their prayers. "Well, my lord," answered St. Bernon, "turn out the dogs and bring in the monks!" The Duke agreed to the sacrifice, and the abbey and church which were raised on the spot became renowned alike for the magnificence of their buildings and for the sanctity of the religious. Many who could not entirely forsake the world retired there for a time to escape from the turmoil of business. Nobles, Sovereigns, and Popes, even, could be named among such guests, and the monastery became a centre of religious fervour whose holy influence spread far and wide. Most of the abbeys of France, Italy, and Spain submitted themselves to the rule of the Abbots of Cluny, of whom the first six were afterwards raised to the altar as canonized Saints. A large proportion of the Bishops of France and Italy in the succeeding century were Cluniac monks, who laboured with great zeal at the general renovation of society.

One of the greatest benefits conferred upon Europe was the "Peace of God," that wonderful institution which was the means of putting an end to the continual strife between the feudal nobles, the cause of so much misery. The Bishops and Abbots of Aquitaine, Burgundy, and France united under the leadership of Odilo, Abbot of Cluny, and Richard, Abbot of Verdun, and succeeded in inducing many of the nobles to promise under oath not to strike a blow in a merely private quarrel, or to attack an unarmed person, or to permit violence or injustice. This attempt at putting an end to warfare was not, however, very successful. Some years later, by asking less from the war-loving knights, the prelates gained much more in the end. They promulgated the "Truce of God," which only permitted fighting on certain days and under certain conditions. By the provisions of the truce the nobles were bound, under pain of excommunication, not to fight in private quarrels, or on any festival, nor during the whole of Lent and Advent, nor from the Wednesday night until the Monday morning of every week during the year. Moreover, all persons were declared sacred from attack whose condition or profession forbade them to carry arms—namely, priests, pilgrims, the aged, and women and children; besides which, churches, burial-grounds, and monasteries were regarded as sanctuaries, which it was sacrilege to violate, for all who took refuge therein were under the protection of the Church.

When the free exercise of fighting was thus limited, the taste for it slowly diminished, and men had time to feel how much better was a state of peace and security than that of continual warfare. Thus, by the wise action of the Church, the scourge of the early Middle Ages ceased, and respect for law prevailed. More humane feelings gained ground, the weak and unfortunate were protected against the strong hand of injustice, and the institution of chivalry, one of the greatest glories of medieval Europe, grew out of the combined influence of a chastened love of military glory and of Christian charity. Though chivalry did not attain its full development till the twelfth and succeeding centuries, its origin can be traced back to the beneficial influence of the "Truce of God."

During the Teuton invasions, slavery, that worst evil of pagan times, which had begun to die out under Christian Roman rulers, reappeared with many of its horrors. Slave-markets existed in almost all great maritime cities. Captives taken in war were nearly always sold into bondage, while in some places the peasantry, at least, were reduced to slavery by the conquering race. The feudal system tended to diminish the number of slaves, and the Church worked steadily against the crying evil, and by framing laws in favour of slaves gradually raised their condition, until the peasant, who had been the absolute property of his master, became a serf, tied, it is true, to the land on which he was born, but secured in possession of his little holding of cottage and land. He had his flock, his poultry, his harvest, all his own, out of which, however, a small rent in kind had to be paid to the lord in return for his protection. On certain days in the year he was also bound to bring his tools, or his ox and cart, and labour on the estate of his lord. His children might attend the neighbouring abbey school, and he himself, in sickness or in want, was sure of assistance from the friendly monks.

In some lands, household servants continued to be slaves, even when all living outside the castle were serfs. Italy and Spain were the last European nations to give up slavery, which they did in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries.

III. Conversion of Invaders

Nothing contributed so much to the establishment of peace and order in Europe as the conversion of the pagan nations which had been settling down within her borders.

The conversion of the Teutons, already far advanced by the labours of St. Boniface and the conquests of Charlemagne, was carried out by the zealous prelates of the frontier dioceses, who, aided by fresh bands of English missionaries, worked long and earnestly, but with very varying success, to win to the faith the pagans of tnie eastward-lying States. The Benedictine monastery of New Corvey, on the Weser, was the principal centre from which, in the ninth and tenth centuries, went forth those intrepid missionary monks who were to win the North Teutons to the faith.

The most famous of these was St. Anschar, the Boniface of Scandinavia, who worked from A.D. 826 to 865 at the conversion of these people. The piratical habits of the Scandinavians made them most difficult to gain to Christianity. Every summer was spent in predatory excursions, and each winter was passed in living on the spoils of former raids and in preparing for new. But St. Anschar, undismayed, toiled unceasingly at softening the barbarism of these fierce pirates, and at implanting the true faith among them. His first field of labour was in Denmark, where SS. Willibrord, Willehad, and Wilfrid had striven with scant success to convert the people.

The Danish Sovereign, Harold Klak, driven out of his kingdom by the Northmen, had become a Christian at the court of Louis the Mild of France. When he was able to return and claim his kingdom he desired to take some missionaries with him. St. Anschar and another monk were named to accompany him ( A.D. 829). Conversions were very numerous. In order to provide a supply of priests and missionaries, St. Anschar formed a school for ecclesiastics, who became the first Bishops of Denmark and Sweden. But he was soon called to another field of labour.

Biorn of Sweden asked for preachers, and St. Anschar was placed at the head of the missionary band. Again wonderful success attended hi3 efforts, so much so that the monks could not suffice to instruct all who presented themselves. Those, however, who did not embrace the faith persecuted those who did, so that the work of conversion was frequently interrupted both in Sweden and Denmark by revolutions against Christian Sovereigns, and by persecutions when pagans were in power. The converts were so fervent that they remained firm in their new faith in spite of all the obstacles they met with.

After some years passed in Sweden, St. Anschar was named Archbishop of Hamburg. He then went to Rome to give Pope Gregory IV. an account of the state of religion among the Scandinavians. The Holy Father made him Papal Legate, not only for all the lands round and in the Baltic, but also for the Faroe Isles, Iceland, and other lands discovered about this time. St. Anschar was indefatigable in establishing churches throughout all the lands over which his legatine authority extended. At this time immense numbers of young slaves captured by the Danes during their piratical excursions used to be exposed for sale. It was a favourite act of charity of St. Anschar to purchase as many as he could, to teach them Christianity, and either to send them to their own lands or to train for the priesthood such as were fit for it.

The important seaport town of Bremen was added to the diocese of St. Anschar, which hereafter bore the name of Bremen-Hamburg. The Saint thus became the first pastor of these two important towns, which were afterwards to become so famous in the commercial history of Europe.

A second time St. Anschar went throughout Denmark and Sweden, encouraging his converts and and receiving many new members into the Church. Denmark, however, only became a really Catholic land under the renowned King Canute the Great, whom we shall meet in the history of England. It was long, too, before the opposition of the pagan Swedes was overcome. Three centuries of patient toil did the work, and early in the eleventh century Olaf the Saint ruled over a Catholic people.

After a life of extraordinary holiness, heroic charity, and continual toil, borne with intrepid courage, St. Anschar died in A.D. 865. He was honoured through North Germany and Scandinavia as the principal patron until the Protestant revolt withdrew these peoples from their allegiance to the true faith.

Piratical incursions from Norway into England were not infrequent during the ninth and tenth centuries. To two, at least, of the Norwegian chieftains these invasions brought the blessing of conversion to the Catholic faith. Harold Haarfager and his son, Hakon the Good, who was brought up at the Court of Athelstan, were both baptized in England, and, returning to Norway, sought to win their people to their own new-found faith. They met with a certain measure of success, and were aided by monks both from England and Germany. But when Harold Haarfager conquered the neighbouring chieftains and endeavoured to introduce the feudal system and make them his vassals, the independent spirit of the Norwegians would not brook his superiority, and though they had accepted the true faith at his hands, they would not submit to his government. Large numbers preferred to emigrate. They directed their ships northwards and settled in the newly discovered Iceland. There they founded several flourishing colonies, which became the home of some of the most famous of the Scandinavian poets and historians. In A.D. 1000, missionaries followed the emigrants, and by the middle of the eleventh century that desolate land had two important bishoprics and several monasteries of Augustinian and Benedictine monks.

The Icelanders pushed further north and discovered Greenland, where a Catholic settlement was founded with sixteen churches and two monasteries. An old tradition claims for these adventurous mariners the glory of the discovery of America and the establishment on its north eastern shores of a bishopric in A.D. 1121.

The Scandinavian pirates who settled in Catholic lands very speedily gave up paganism. Thus, we find Guthrum the Dane accepting the terms offered to him by Alfred the Great, and being baptized with all his followers. In France the Northmen had acquired many small tracts of land on the Loire before A.D. 911, when Charles the Simple granted a vast territory round Rouen to Rollo and his pirates on condition of their becoming Catholics. The offer was accepted, and Normandy, as the newly settled country came to be called, was celebrated for its fervent Church and learned clergy.

The nations of Slavonic origin, who to-day are the most numerous section of the European peoples, were converted partly by missionaries from the Western States and partly by Eastern monks.

Two Macedonian brothers, SS. Cyril and Methodius both religious, and later on Bishops, in the latter half of the ninth century converted nearly all the Slavonic tribes of South-Eastern Europe. Starting from Constantinople, they first evangelized the Chazars of the South of Russia, then they passed into Bulgaria, where they were invited by Prince Bogoris, whose sister had become a Catholic at the Court of Constantinople, whither she had been carried prisoner in her childhood. She had been sent back to her brother, had spoken to him of the Christian faith, and the Prince had listened with attention to the instructions of the two missionaries, but his conversion was brought about in a singular way. He was building a magnificent palace, and having it decorated with pictures He asked St. Methodius, who, like many a Greek monk in those days, was a good artist, to paint him a subject that should inspire terror. The Saint complied, and drew the Last Judgment. When the picture was shown to Bogoris and its meaning explained, the Prince was seized with awe, and declared he must be a Christian. He was baptized, and though his people at first revolted, he soon reduced them to order, and they followed him into the Church.

We have seen that Bulgaria became a subject of dispute between Constantinople and Rome. Many attribute the blame to the shifty conduct of Bogoris, who appealed to Rome against Constantinople, and then to Constantinople against Rome.

The saintly brothers, in their great missionary tour, passed on into Moravia, where conversions were numerous. Western priests had been preaching zealously for some time, but were almost ignorant of the language of the people, which SS. Cyril and Methodius knew thoroughly. This knowledge was the reason of their success. The two monks invented an alphabet for the Slavonic tongue, and translated the Bible and other books for the use of the people. About this time the brothers went to Rome, where St. Cyril died, A.D. 869. St. Methodius met with considerable opposition in his labours, especially from those who misunderstood the use he made of the Slavonic language in the Office of the Church, but the Pope supported him. On his return to Moravia, an incident occurred which led to the conversion of Bohemia.

The young Duke Borzivoy of Bohemia came to the Moravian Court, and was graciously received. But at a banquet given by the Sovereign, St. Methodius noticed that the Duke was not admitted to the table with the Christian nobles, but that he sat on the floor, as the pagans were wont to do, all by himself. The monk was touched with compassion at the slight put on the young Prince, and took the opportunity of speaking to him about Christianity. The gentle kindness of the Saint won Borzivoy, and he and his consort Ludmilla became Christians. They and their son and grandson (afterwards known as St. Wenceslas) zealously strove to introduce the true faith among their subjects. But the heathen party was strong, and had the support of Drahomira, mother of St. Wenceslas, and of his younger brother, Boleslas. When St. Wenceslas came to the ducal throne, the opposition was at its height, and the holy Duke and his grandmother St. Ludmilla were both assassinated by order of Drahomira and Boleslas. The Emperor, Otto I. of Germany, overthrew the heathen party, and kept Boleslas, who succeeded his brother, from open violence against the Catholics. Succeeding Sovereigns were Catholics, and forty years later heathenism was banished from the land. Bohemia was instrumental in converting the Lithuanians of Poland, but Russia received the faith from Constantinople, Vladimir the Saint being the first Christian ruler, A.D. 988.

Hungary also was converted by its Sovereigns. Duke Geisa and his wife became Christians about A.D. 972. They laboured until their death at this good work, which, however, was only completed by their son, St. Stephen. In order to have full leisure to attend to the conversion of his subjects, Stephen made peace with all the neighbouring Princes. He had also to put down a revolt of his pagan subjects, but his government was so wise and firm that peace prevailed through all his reign. It is said that the Pope sent him a royal crown, and gave him the privilege of having the cross borne before him. He was crowned King in A.D. 1000. When he died, in A.D. 1038, his kingdom was entirely Catholic.

The middle of the eleventh century thus found Europe Catholic from Spain to Russia, from Greenland to Italy and Greece. But the same epoch saw the severance of the Eastern patriarchates from the unity of the true Church. The northern plain of the Baltic was yet in pagan darkness, while Western Asia, Northern Africa, and part of Spain, were still in Moslem hands.

Such were the ninth, tenth, and eleventh centuries, a period of disorder in Church and State, not unmixed with the beginnings of better things. The most hopeful sign of brighter days was given by the change that towards the end of the period took place in the position of the Sovereign Pontiff. Two eminent Popes, Sylvester II. and St. Leo IX., laboured earnestly to restore order. The latter made a visitation for this end throughout Germany and France, as well as in Italy, and was received with the greatest reverence by the people. Succeeding Popes had the able assistance and strong support of SS. Peter Damian and Hildebrand, both filled with zeal for the restoration of virtuous living in clergy and people. During the last twenty years of this period another point was gained: the Popes declared that Papal elections must be reserved to the Cardinals only, though the right of the German Emperor to confirm the nomination was still admitted. These centuries are sometimes called the "Iron Age," because the power of the sword was dominant; but there have been historians whose attention had been so closely drawn to the study of the evil features of these times that they have called them the "Dark Ages." It would perhaps be more just to regard them as a time of struggle between the powers of good and of evil, of faith and of force, in which the former conquered, and from which broke, as from a dark and cloudy dawn, the glorious days of the "Ages of Faith."

[Illustration] from Church - Early Middle Ages by Notre Dame