Article

Christianity and the Church in Pre-Conquest England

Joel Rosenthal

in Medieval Studies

ISBN: 9780195396584
Published online December 2010 | | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/obo/9780195396584-0098
Christianity and the Church in Pre-Conquest England

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  • Medieval and Renaissance History (500 to 1500)
  • Literary Studies (Early and Medieval)
  • Medieval and Renaissance Philosophy
  • Byzantine and Medieval Art (500 CE to 1400)
  • Anglo-Saxon and Medieval Archaeology

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The history of the pre-Conquest Church can be roughly divided into three periods. In chronological order, at the very start is Roman Christianity, which we can think of as a sort of prehistoric period, followed by the age of missionary activity and conversion, running from the early 7th century up to the Viking invasions of the 9th century. Finally, there is the revival of monasticism and intellectual life covering the last two centuries of Anglo-Saxon times. The Roman period is mostly covered by the work of archaeologists and, as such, will only be treated briefly; the sources are very thin, being mainly material remains with some enlightened inferences about place names. No contemporary writer, neither Christian nor (Roman) pagan, and neither from the British Isles nor the Continent, said anything that has survived about the church in Roman Britain. There have been attempts to determine the beliefs and the adherence to pre-Christian “paganism,” though here too we have little in the written record. For the latter two chronological periods—from 597 to about 900 and then from 900 to the conquest in 1066—there is a wealth of contemporary materials (primary sources) as well as modern scholarly analysis and discussion. Both types of material will be explicated in this entry. Some basic reference tools, such as encyclopedias and biographical dictionaries, have been cited in the Oxford Bibliographies article on “Christianity and the Church in Post-Conquest England” and are omitted here unless they are vital for a focus on ecclesiastical history. The same is the case for the general bibliographies that appear in various annual guides. There are a number of Oxford Bibliographies articles that are relevant to this article. They are complementary or parallel, and can be used to cover aspects of religious life that are better treated as literature, that focus on individual figures such as “Alfred the Great” and Alcuin, and that indicate the extent to which the archaeological record reinforces (or runs counter to) an entry that relies on written materials. In addition, the Oxford Bibliographies article on “Pre-Conquest England” can be used to great advantage alongside this more specialized look at one aspect of the Anglo-Saxon world before 1066.

Article.  12385 words. 

Subjects: Medieval and Renaissance History (500 to 1500) ; Literary Studies (Early and Medieval) ; Medieval and Renaissance Philosophy ; Byzantine and Medieval Art (500 CE to 1400) ; Anglo-Saxon and Medieval Archaeology

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