From Paganism to Christianity

J. M. Wallace‐Hadrill

in The Frankish Church

Published in print December 1983 | ISBN: 9780198269069
Published online November 2003 | e-ISBN: 9780191600777 | DOI:

Series: Oxford History of the Christian Church

 From Paganism to Christianity

Show Summary Details


The Franks, or any other Germanic people, were not pagan one day and Christian the next; this simple solution does no justice to the texts and is overthrown by archaeological evidence. Fifth‐century Gaul was Christian and mostly Catholic in a formal sense, but behind the forms lay a scarcely converted countryside where Celtic and other pagan beliefs still worried the clergy, and remained active in the 6th and 7th centuries, not only in indigenous peoples, but also in the various settler enclaves; these pagan beliefs also affected the way the Franks accepted Christianity. This is one side of the picture; the other is the nature of Germanic paganism — no sense can be made of Frankish Christianity, when it comes, unless allowance is first made for the fact that all Germans were religious people, conditioned by the sense they had of good and evil, life and death, gods and demons. This can best be seen in the archaeological evidence from their remote homeland in a more distant time, and much can be inferred from later literary evidence. This chapter discusses Frankish (Germanic) interest in and worship of pagan gods and heroes (Woden, in particular), Frankish grave gods (and the grave gods of settlers, with which they can be easily confused), the new religion the Franks found and were converted to under Clovis (or Chlodovech), their conqueror from northern Gaul, who was himself a convert to Catholicism, and the difficulties in converting the people in the countryside, where there had been a fusion of Germanic and Celtic paganism.

Keywords: archaeological evidence; Catholicism; Celtic paganism; Christianity; Clovis; conversion; Frankish Christianity; Frankish grave gods; Gaul; Germanic paganism; grave gods; history; literary evidence; pagan gods; pagan heroes; paganism; religious history; Woden

Chapter.  9919 words. 

Subjects: History of Christianity

Full text: subscription required

How to subscribe Recommend to my Librarian

Buy this work at Oxford University Press »

Users without a subscription are not able to see the full content. Please, subscribe or login to access all content.