Henry Chadwick

in The Church in Ancient Society

Published in print December 2001 | ISBN: 9780199246953
Published online November 2003 | e-ISBN: 9780191600463 | DOI:

Series: Oxford History of the Christian Church


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The Donatist schism in North Africa had its origins in protests against compromise with the orders of Diocletian and centred on the validity of the clergy and sacraments of the compromising Church. Donatists were alternately harassed and tolerated by imperial governments, but were convinced that they were the true persecuted body of Christ. Donatist militants engaged in violent actions against pagan shrines. Opposition to Donatism was mobilized by Augustine and the Donatists were weakened by their support for imperial pretenders and by internal divisions. After a meeting at Carthage in 411, many Donatist laity moved towards the Catholic body. Controversy with the Donatists helped Augustine in defining his own concept of the Church.

Keywords: Augustine; Donatism; North Africa

Chapter.  5156 words. 

Subjects: History of Christianity

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