Miloš Mišković

The Mission of Anglo-Saxon monks Willehad and Alcuin on the Continent in the last quarter of the 8th century

pages: 269-284


This research aims to present the Christian missions of the Anglo-Saxon monks Willehad and Alcuin, conducted on the Continent in the last quarter of the 8th century. Their peculiarity was reflected in the fact that Willehad was a missionary bishop in Saxony, and Alcuin was the head of the court school in Aachen. Willehad preached Christianity to the conquered peoples, while Alcuin, who was not a missionary, gave his contribution to the mission by influencing state and church authority and demanding that the king and bishops who were missionaries in the conquered lands preach Christianity in an apostolic way, without forcing the conquered peoples to accept Christianity.

The Frankish state actively helped the process of the Christianization of conquered tribes. The conquest of Saxony opened the space for the political and religious integration of the Saxons into the Frankish state. Charlemagne assigns Willehad as a missionary in Wigmodia, one of the Saxon regions. After the suppression of the Saxon revolt in 785, Willehad returned to Wigmodia where he rebuilt the Christian communities destroyed during the Widukind uprising. Wanting to religiously integrate the Saxons into the Christian commonwealth, Charlemagne issued the Capitulary, which forbade polytheism and the practice of Saxon religious rites under the pain of death.

In a letter to Charlemagne, Alcuin points out that his approach to the Christianization of the conquered peoples is wrong, and that the ideal way of preaching Christianity would be the apostolic way of preaching. A year after Alcuin’s letter, in 797, Charlemagne issued the second Capitulary, which was much milder than the previous one, and tolerated the faith of the conquered Saxons, introducing monetary instead of the death penalty. It is not known whether Alcuin had an influence on Charlemagne’s religious policy or whether Charlemagne saw that it was in the interest of the state to grant religious and civil liberties to the conquered Saxons. Saxony and the Avar Khaganate had Christian communities, even before the conquest of those lands by the Frankish state.

In 796, a council of Frankish bishops held a synod on the banks of the Danube, with the main concern of preaching Christianity in the former Avar Khaganate. The participants in the council issued a document prescribing the process of converting pagans to Christianity. Alcuin was acquainted with the situation in the Avar Khaganate and maintained correspondence with Bishop Arn of Salzburg. Eventually, Alcuin’s strategy failed — he states that the failure of the Christianization of the Avars was caused by the negligence of the missionaries, and if the missionaries had invested more effort, they would have achieved greater success and received a reward from God.


27-36 Вилехад, свети

27-76 Алкуин


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