[LMB] Arthurian history and Christianity

Elizabeth Holden azurite at rogers.com
Wed Sep 24 17:07:43 BST 2008

--- On Wed, 9/24/08, Pat Mathews <mathews55 at msn.com> wrote:

> The Saxons were converted by the 8th Century, 

The Saxons in England AFAIK were converted by St. Columba of Iona in the north and St. Augustine of Canterbury in the south, and it all came to a head whent he two met at the Synod of Whitby in the 7th century. This is all long after the period I'm talking about, of the initial pagan invasions in the 4th, 5th and 6th centuries, at which time the natives were Celtic Christians converted long since via the Romans and/or the Irish.  And that would be the Arthurian period *if* one were to set the Arthurian stories among Christian Celts and pagan Saxons, which, as I've already said, I don't much like as a tradition of historical fiction, whatever the (feeble) historical justification for it might be.

In terms of "religious tolerance" in the English context, I was thinking of King Ethelbert of Kent who was converted to Christianity by Augustine, and who then added a shrine to Jesus in his church/temple alongside his altars to Thor, Odin, and other deities of choice.  Augustine felt that the king really hadn't grasped the point. 

My conclusion was that the pre-Christian Anglo-Saxons tended to simply add gods, creeds and religions to their growing pile, rather than to oppose the religions of others, or to persecute people on religous grounds. I can't think of any pre-Christian Anglo-Saxons wars which existed for the sake of religion or ideology; they were all for land and dynasties, whether defensive or offensive.


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