Christianity’s criminal history, 128

For the context of these translations see here

 

VOLUME IV, CHAPTER 1

THE CHRISTIANISATION OF THE GERMANS

‘The introduction of Christianity among the Germans was the most precious gift from heaven’. —Pastoral letter from the German episcopate, June 7, 1934

 

The spread of Christianity in the West

At the end of Antiquity and during the succeeding centuries, Christianity conquered the Germanic world. By armies and merchants it had spread beyond northern Gaul to the Rhine. In the old Rhineland provinces probably there were Christian communities as early as the end of the 3rd century; churches were erected from Constantinian times in Bonn, Xanten, Cologne and, especially, in Trier: the official residence of Caesar since 293. At the end of the 4th century, Christianity was already the dominant religion in some Rhineland areas because ‘the laws of Theodosius, Gratian and Valentinian II imposed its entry into those lands…’

In the late 5th century evangelisation of the Franks began; at the end of the 6th century that of the Anglo-Saxons and the Lombards; in the 9th century the Christianisation of northern Europe was undertaken and, at the end of the millennium, that of the Czechs, Poles, and Hungarians. Since Christianity was no longer a despised religion as it had been in pre-Constantinian times, but the official religion of an empire, the popes no longer trapped some individuals but entire peoples in their net. They also annihilated entire towns ‘leaving neither green nor withered’, as the father of the Church, Isidore, boasts. Such was the case, for example, with the Ostrogoths and the Vandals, of whom the Marseillaise monk Prosperus Tironis provided an insightful picture of the Middle Ages, and who were often the subject of ‘cruel propaganda’ (Diesner).

Conversion methods

The Christianisation of the Germanic peoples—designated in the sources as nationes, gentes, populi, civitates, etc.—not only took place at very different times but also in very different ways. Two typical Christian activities converged in the Germanic mission: preaching and destruction. In Merovingian times, preaching was not the primary instrument of mission. There was a more eloquent method to demonstrate to the pagans the impotence of their Gods and the supreme power of the Christian god: the destruction of the Gentile sanctuaries… Of course it was not only destroyed; often, the so-called Christianisations were ‘simply’ arrived at. In other words, Gentile temples were transformed into Christian churches, expelling evil spirits through rites of exorcism and re-consecrating the buildings. The church transformed and incorporated everything that seemed useful, destroying everything else as a nefarious work of the devil.

An important motive in the conversion of the pagans, and also in the mentoring of those already converted, was without a doubt the constant infiltration of scruples and fears in an alarmist attitude that sowed fear for centuries. Fear, in effect, was ‘the characteristic state of the common man in the Middle Ages: fear of the plague, fear of invasion by foreign armies, fear of the tax collector, fear of witchcraft and magic and, above all, fear of the unknown’ (Richards). The priests of many religions feed on the fear of those whom they lead, and especially Christian priests. It is very significant that St. Caesarius of Arles (died in 542), an archbishop absolutely faithful to Rome, in almost all his propaganda interventions, which number more than two hundred, scares the readers with ‘the final judgment’. Whatever the occasion of his homiletical effusions, he rarely fails to insistently evoke the ‘court of Christ’, the ‘eternal judge’, his ‘harsh and irrevocable sentence’, etc.

The conversions of pagan Germans to Christianity were frequently due to purely material motives, already acting for ‘reasons of prestige’, especially when they came under the tutelage of Christian neighbours. Illustrious Gentiles could be chased ‘like dogs’ from the banquets of their princely courts, because Christians were forbidden to sit at the same table with pagans. It is symptomatic that also among Bavarians, Thuringians and Saxons, the nobility was the first to immediately prostrate themselves before the cross…

Jesus becomes the Germanic broadsword

With its acceptance by the Germans, Christianity was also nationalised and Germanised from the beginning. And not only in epic poems did Christ appear to German eyes as a kind of popular and cantonal king. The Franks were immediately seen as his special courtship, his chosen and preferred people. Warriors clustered around him, just as they clustered around princes. The saint is also now felt as the herald of Christ and god. Traditional Christian concepts are filled ‘with totally new content: Germanic, aristocratic and warrior content’ (Zwolfer). ‘From the religion of patience and suffering, from the flight and denial of the world, the medieval Germans made a warlike religion; and of the Man of Sorrows a Germanic king of the armies, who with his heroes travels and conquers the lands and who must be served through struggle. The German Christian fights for his Lord Christ, as he fights for the landlord he follows; even the monk in his cell feels like a member of the militia Christi’ (Dannenbauer). And naturally the clergy knew how to make the Germans proud of having converted to the Roman cross. In the prologue to the Salic law, the oldest hereditary right of the Franks, the fact of conversion is thus exalted:

Unclean people of the Franks, created by God himself, brave with arms, firm in the covenant of peace, profound in counsel, of great corporal nobility, of uncontaminated purity and superior complexion, bold, prompt and fiery—become to the Catholic faith, free from heresy.

Indeed, according to Christian doctrine, all peoples have been created by god; but flattery is always greatest where it is most needed. In this way the Franks appear here occupying the place of the chosen people of the Bible, of the people of Israel. And in a more recent prologue to the aforementioned Salic law, Christ also appears as the legitimate sovereign of the gens Francorum. He appears ‘personally before the Franks’. He loves those who are far superior to the old world power, ‘the chosen people of a new alliance’. ‘They have defeated the Romans and they have broken the Roman yoke’…

Undoubtedly, many German princes converted for purely political reasons. They worshiped in Christ the ‘strong God’, and especially the superior captain, to whom he granted victory. Thus the Frankish Clovis, Edwin of Northumbria and the Vikings converted—all of whom were baptised after having cast a vow and carried out a slaughter. And just as old Odin was considered a ‘God and lord of victory’ and Wotan (Odin’s name in the south) was considered a warrior God, so Christ is now seen as the same. He occupies the place of the ancient Gods of battle, he is politicised and mythologised, presenting him ‘almost as a national God’ (Heinsius). And from now on it will be a matter of honour for each Christian king to fight ‘the barbarians, who by their very condition as pagans are out of the order of the world’.

The Franks, educated in believing fanaticism, considered it their duty and right to ‘fight for Christ’ (Zollner). And still in the 7th and 8th centuries the Frankish Christians had themselves buried with their weapons, under the old pagan belief of survival after death. On a tombstone found in the Frankish cemetery of Niederdollendorf, near Bonn there is even a risen Christ holding in his right hand the spear, the Germanic sign of sovereignty, instead of the staff of the cross.

It is understandable that the Old Testament, often so bloody, was in tune with the men of the Middle Ages better than the partly pacifist New Testament; and it is understood that the Old Testament kings were exalted by proposing them as models of the Frankish princes, who liked to compare themselves with them. For the historian Ewig, this constitutes a new stage ‘in the Christianisation of the idea of the king’…

Among the Carolingians, decisive victories were frequently attributed to the attendance of St. Peter. ‘But now rest assured’, declares Pepin to the papal legate Serge in the battle against the Bavarians, ‘because due to the intervention of St. Peter, Prince of the Apostles, by divine decree Bavaria and the Bavarians belong to the sovereignty of the Franks’. Even minor achievements, such as the conquest of a fortress or even the discovery of a fountain during the war against the Saxons in 772 are presented as great divine miracles. But when misfortune befell—and it happened so often!—the priests were never troubled. Then the misfortune, the catastrophe, was a punishment from god for little faith and the overflow of vices. With this theology the Church has been deceiving itself until today through vicissitudes of all kinds…
The weed of the past

As a rule the Germans did not convert individually, but rather in a cooperative and tribal way. And that because, unlike the Greeks and educated Romans, the ‘barbarians’ easily accepted the Church’s tutoring without the cultural and historical-religious depth with which their Christian ‘converters’ presented the stories… In a not excessively laborious way, a great many ‘barbarians’ were subdued, who soon revered respectfully all the ‘holy’ priests and monks and were deeply impressed by exorcisms, ceremonies and miracles. With faith they welcomed such strange mysteries, dogmas and with fearful devotion put themselves at the service of that arrogant southern shamanism, seemingly animated only by the desire to make the Church rich and powerful, for the salvation of their souls, out of the horror of fire from hell and longing for paradise.

______ 卐 ______

Editor’s interpolated note: For a clip within a movie
depicting the baptism of an ancient Germanic see: here.

______ 卐 ______

Evangelism took place unevenly, outside the cities at a slower pace, for although the pagan Franks did not usually put up much resistance, from time to time, and especially in the countryside, they stubbornly indulged in the destruction of their town idols. In the religious field, man is especially conservative. And just as the peasants still do today—the inhabitants of the towns remain more firmly in Christianity—, so also at the end of Antiquity and the beginning of the Middle Ages it was the peasants who persisted the longest in paganism. The Germans were mostly peasants, and in Austria the pagan Franks and Germans were more numerous than the native Christians. This religion was an urban religion and since it became a state religion it was also the religion of the feudal and ruling circles, who sought above all their own benefit. For a long time the peasants persisted in their traditional beliefs, in their divinities, and above all in their Gallic triad: the cult of Jupiter, Mercury and Apollo. And even after they had ‘converted’ they returned again and again to the veneration—undoubtedly much more beautiful and coherent—of trees, stones and fountains.

For centuries synods lashed out at pagan customs, from the Council of Valence (374) until well into the 9th century. Only between the synod of Orleans (511) and that of Paris (829) did the canons of at least nineteen episcopal assemblies launched diatribes against the beliefs and practices of peasant paganism, which preserved the tradition with much greater tenacity than the accommodative nobility. The Germans had a natural piety, so to speak, not camouflaged or imposed, but identical to their lifestyle. They had a natural religion with clearly pantheistic features, marked by the worship of the Gods of the forest, the mountain, the fountains, the rivers and the sea, the veneration of the Sun, light, water, trees and springs; deep down, as it has been known today, a thousand times more coherent veneration than the Christian faith in spirits, at whose dictates a technocratic and hypertrophic civilisation has brought nature almost to ruin…
‘Demonstrative destruction’

During the Merovingian period certain problems of the power of the Christian god often came to the fore in evangelisation: on the one hand, ‘miracles’; on the other, the destruction of pagan places of worship. The images of the Gods—through unpunished annihilation—were easily demonstrated as the powerless work of man, while the ‘spiritual’ Christian god reigned untouchable over the clouds of heaven. Besides, the pagan Franks were generally tolerant and did not have a priestly caste as they faced a fanatical ecclesiastical organisation, which did not back down from forced baptisms, although it is true that at least in the beginning it was fair enough for the church that a formal condemnation of the old beliefs was uttered with a confession from the lips of the new faithful. R. W. Southern accurately describes medieval Europe as a coercive society, in which each person triumphed by baptism. But that was not all; soon the demolition of pagan temples and altars began as well…

St. Gal, an uncle of Saint Gregory of Tours and later Bishop of Clermont-Ferrand, being a priest and ‘companion’ of Theuderic I, the eldest son of Clovis, reduced to ashes in Cologne a pagan temple with all the ‘idols’, and only with great difficulty could the king save him from the fury of the peasants… Around 550 Deacon Wulflaicus induced the peasants of the city of Trier to demolish an imposing statue of Diana (originally no doubt of Ar-duinna, the Celtic Goddess), whom the people adored. As he was too weak the peasants did it for him, after he had ceaselessly weakened the will of ordinary people. ‘Well, the other images, which were smaller, he had already smashed them personally’. Without a doubt, miracles also happened there.

Some of the Christian saints known in the fight against paganism became arsonists and robbers. In Tyrol St. Vigilius, Bishop of Trent, worked ‘with fervent zeal for the spread of Christianity’ (Sparber) until one day he destroyed in Rendenatal a highly revered one, which stood on a steep rock, a statue of Saturn. About four-hundred irritated peasants, ‘heathen, stubborn and ferocious’ stoned him. In Italy many dozen churches are dedicated to him. In Monte Cassino St. Benedict (died 543), the ‘father of the western monasticism’, and whose severity caused several assassination attempts against him by his first monks and a Florentine priest, went on rage against the ancient temple of Apollo, the last temple of that God that history remembers. Benedict still found pagans there, cut down their sacred groves and destroyed the sculpture and the altar; but still in 1964 Pope Paul VI named him patron of Europe…

One of the fiercest fighters against paganism in Western Europe was Martin of Tours (died 397). Despite the stubborn resistance sometimes manifested by the peasants, with the help of his henchmen of his monastic horde he razed the temples, tore down the stones of the Druids and cut down sacred oaks, often viciously defended. ‘He trampled on altars and idols’ according to Sulpicius Severus. And yet the saint was ‘a man of admirable meekness and patience; from his eyes radiated a gentle serenity and an imperturbable peace…’ (Walterscheid, with imprimatur). This champion of faith undoubtedly had the best requirements for the annihilation of paganism. He had crowned a storming career in the Roman army (Julian being the emperor) and had started his Christian career as an ejector of demons. Significantly, he believed he saw the devil in the figure of Jupiter, Mercury and even Venus and Minerva, having otherwise the firm conviction that Satan was hiding in the ‘idols’.

Due to his ‘resurrections of the dead’ Martin of Tours became a bishop, later becoming the saint of the Merovingian kings and Carolingian emperors, to end up being the patron saint of the French. Even today 425 villages in France bear his name. The name of an arsonist, a thief, who ruined what was holiest and destroyed all the temples, became the ‘symbol of the Frankish imperial church’ and, even more, ‘an integral part of the imperial culture of the Franks’ (Bosi).

His international fame was owed to the murderous king Clovis, who had enormous veneration for Martin; for his cause he beat a soldier of his own to death, who had caught some hay in the fields of the man of god: ‘Where are our prospects of victory if we offend Saint Martin?’ On their military expeditions the Merovingian princes wore this man’s legendary cloak as a holy relic. Oaths were formulated on it and alliances were made. The place in which the cloak was kept was called capella (diminutive of cape), and the clerical who watched over it capellanus. Such is the origin of the words ‘chapel’ and ‘chaplain’, that with small variations have entered all modern languages… And, as in all the places where Martin of Tours had razed pagan centres of worship he immediately had Christian buildings built on the ruins, including the first Gallic monastery (Ligugé), still considered today as ‘the precursor of Western monasticism’ (Viller Rahner). The destruction of Gentile temples is certified by many ecclesiastical sources.

The monasteries were preferably built on the ruins of destroyed pagan temples. Thus arose, for example, Saint Bavo Church in Ghent, Saint Médard in Cambrai, the monastery of Wulfilaic in Eposium or Fleury-sur-Loire, which occupied the place of an ancient Druid sanctuary of the Gauls. The Martyrium of St. Vincent de Agen, erected as early as the 4th century, evidently stood on a pagan plot of consecrated ground. In Cologne, where perhaps Irenaeus of Lyons preached Christianity, a vast pagan necropolis has been found under the church of Saint Ursula.

Although in the West many temples and many altars were simply removed, among Franks, Saxons and Friesians the Church burned or completely destroyed the pagan sanctuaries, turned the places of sacrifice into cattle gullies and cut down sacred trees… Together, State and Church promoted the spread of the new faith and the annihilation of the old beliefs. Thus King Childebert I states, in a constitution of the year 554 ‘in agreement, no doubt, with the bishops’ (A. Hauck): ‘The pagan idols of the fields and the images dedicated to the demons must be removed immediately, and no one can prevent bishops from destroying them’.

In the following century Pope Boniface V (619-625) spread Christianity throughout England and wrote to Edwin, King of the Angles, in these terms: ‘You should destroy those whom you have hitherto considered Gods, being made of earthly material, with all zeal they must be smashed and shattered to pieces’. And so, shortly thereafter, in 627, Coifi, converted archpriest of Northumbria, broke a spear in a temple.

(Left, the high priest Coifi profanes ‘the Temple of the Idols’, from James William Edmund Doyle’s A Chronicle of England.)

The Concilium Germanicum, the first council convened in 742-743 in the Germanic territory of the Frankish empire, also provided that ‘the people of God should not promote anything pagan, but reject and abhor all filthiness of the Gentiles’.

Christianity’s Criminal History, 126

For the context of this translation see
the previous instalment of this series.

Volume 4. Early Middle Ages

From King Clovis (ca. 500) to the
death of Charles ‘the Great’ (814)

‘For a long time Christ had already taken a look at the Germanic peoples… A new spring dawned on the sky of the Church’. —Leo Rüger, Catholic theologian

‘The life of medieval Christianity is impregnated, and even completely saturated, in its relations by religious conceptions. There is no thing or action that is not constantly related to Christ and the faith. Everything is built on a religious conception of reality, and we find ourselves before an incredible development of inner faith’. —Johan Huizinga

 

PANORAMIC VIEW

The divisions in historical times are not fixed in advance. They were not decreed in a ‘higher’ place, to be carried out later by humanity. Rather, the history of man is an unheard-of chaos of stories, and later he tries to put a certain order in the zigzagging course of events and the bewildering diversity of tendencies, reducing everything to perfectly clear schemes. It introduces structures and caesuras, and thus the whole appears as an expression of forces that act coherently, and in this way everything is presented as if it had to be that way and could not have been otherwise; as if, for example, the Roman Empire would only have occurred so that Europe could inherit it. That is a vision that favours our taste for periodisation, and that can undoubtedly also encourage it. In reality, all this delimitation and temporal ordering, all these supposed fixed points, indicative data and evolution lines are nothing more than the result of certain—or, better to say, very uncertain—points of view, of precarious attempts at orientation: pure constructions to which people have accommodated, either by giving them meaning or not.

The ‘High Middle Ages’, a period that runs from approximately the 6th to the 10th centuries, is a period of violent change and transformation. But it is also a time of compromises or, to put it more elegantly, of assimilation, of continuity, a period of decadence and transition, of old heritage and a new beginning: in it the constitution of the West, of Europe, takes place, and of Germany, the intertwining of ancient Christian and Germanic traditions, the separation of Byzantium, the Eastern Church, and the arrival of Islam. And it is an age in which politics and religion are inseparable.

The alliances of the popes with the states also change. But, as always when they turn and change direction with time, Rome continually seeks to cling to the strongest power: Byzantium, the Ostrogoths, the Lombards, the Franks, and it takes advantage of them…
 
From convinced subjects to convinced lords

In Rome the temples collapsed, the imperial palace collapsed, in the theatres and the gigantic baths the ruins piled up and the weeds and ivy grew. And the priests took advantage. The old bath chairs became Episcopal chairs, the sumptuous alabaster and porphyry bathtubs became baptismal fonts and dubious urns of martyrs. Marble wall coverings, precious mosaic floors, beautiful columns, and stones were removed from ancient villas to enrich Christian temples. The pagan temples became Christian churches and the Rome of the Caesars became a clerical city, in which the religious (or what was considered as such) prevailed; and in which all civil festivals disappeared in favour of ecclesiastical festivities. The belief in the imminent end of the world was generalised to such an extent, and such proportions acquired the privileges of the priests, that Emperor Maurice forbade in 592 the entry of soldiers into monasteries and civil servants into the clerical state.

The civil power of the popes—which was the basis of the future pontifical state or the Church—sprouted from ruins: from the rubble of the Western Roman Empire, thanks to the impotence of Byzantium and an ever-growing curial ambition for dominance. Already in the 5th century the bishops of Rome, supposed successors of Jesus who did not want any kingdom of this world or that his disciples carry money in the bag, were the largest landowners of the Roman Empire. And the collapse of that empire only accelerated the rise of the bishops of Rome inheriting entirely the decadent imperial structure.

Under the Merovingians, in the early days of the Byzantine Empire, bishops gained power and influence also in ‘worldly’ or civil affairs, throughout the communal sphere. They control state jobs and trades, urban fortifications, the supply of troops; moreover, they intervene in the appointment of provincial governors.

All disgrace and decay are transformed by the Roman bishops into their prosperity, each failure is turned into a personal advantage, whether it is a disaster in the kingdom of Caesar or the kingdom of God. And even from the misery of the Longobard invasion they know how to make a fortune. First they distance themselves from Byzantium with the help of the Longobard swords—and Byzantium was weakened by the multiple pressure of the ‘barbarians’—; later they will destroy the Lombards thanks to the Franks… always on the side of the robbers, with a parasitic strategy, such as the world had never known.

It is true that even up to 787 the popes date their letters by the years of the reign of the Byzantine emperors, but already under Gregory II (715-731) the Byzantine governor was expelled from Rome on the occasion of the ‘Roman revolution’, just as the Byzantine army of Benevento and Spoleto was expelled with the help of course of the Lombard troops. After the Lombards had contributed to the excessive power of the popes, they used the Franks to annihilate them. From then on they collaborated and prospered with the Frankish emperors. And when they felt strong enough, they wanted to be the lords of the empire too.

Until 753 the Roman pope was a devoted subject (to a greater or lesser degree) of Constantinople. But soon in Rome time is no longer counted for the emperor’s years, imperial coins are no longer minted, imperial images are removed from churches, and the emperor’s name is no longer mentioned in liturgical service. The pope, on the contrary, allies himself with the Germanic king against those who had hitherto been his sovereigns. And to the Germanic king the pope confers imperial privileges, among which there are some completely new ones, and even offers him the imperial crown. It is a policy that benefits the pope above all, since it almost makes him the ‘father of the ruling family’.

The imperial coronation of Charles in 800 in Rome by Pope Leo III was an unlawful act, a provocation to the Byzantine emperor, until then the only legal supreme head of the Christian world, and in Constantinople it could only be interpreted as a rebellion. In fact, the turn of the popes towards the Franks caused the definitive break with Byzantium.

And although in 812 Emperor Michael I Rhangabe recognised Charles ‘the Great’ as imperator of the West and as a peer sovereign, deep down Byzantium always considered the Western empire as a usurpation. At Lothair’s coronation in 823, the pope gave him the sword for the defence and protection of the Church: and gradually Rome brought the Roman-Germanic kings under his influence. Indeed, after the fall of the western Roman monarchs, new symbioses were introduced with the new rulers, with Theodoric, Clovis, Pepin, and Charles. But also the future great Germanic empires of Alfred (871-899), Otto I (936- 973) and Olaf the Saint (1015-1028), who promoted the spread of Christianity with barbaric methods, could only be established on a Christian basis, not to mention the medieval Germanic empire.

That Holy Roman Empire certainly had hardly anything Roman and absolutely nothing sacred and holy, unless (with good reason) like Helvétius, Nietzsche and others the compendium of the criminal is seen in the sacred. Be that as it may, by liquidating the relative achievements of Arians and pagans and by obtaining a state of its own, the papacy achieved the constant enlargement of both its power and its possessions.

Especially at the beginning of the Middle Ages the chaining of State and Church was very close. Not only did civil and canon law have the same basis, but clerical wishes and demands also found expression in civil law. The decrees of the ‘mixed council’ were valid for the State and the Church alike.

The bishops also came from the aristocracy and were related to it as brothers, nephews and children of the civic nobility. And with it they shared the same political and economic interests. Consequently, throughout the Middle Ages they were also drawn into the struggle of the lords, they fought with the kings against the emperor and with the emperor against the pope, and with one pope against the other for 171 years. They fought with the diocesan clergy against the monks and also against their colleagues, giving them battle in the field, in the streets and the churches with the dagger and with the poison and in every imaginable way. High treason and rebellion were for the clergy, according to the Catholic theologian Kober, ‘a completely common phenomenon’.

Faced with the States and the so-called authorities, the great Christian Church had in practice no other principle than this: it always pacts with the most profitable power. In all its state contacts the Church was only guided by taking advantage of the situation (in her language, guided by ‘God’). Opportunism was always the supreme principle. Only when that Church achieved what it wanted was it also willing to give something and naturally as little as possible, even if it promised a lot. ‘You annihilate the heretics with me, and I will annihilate the Persians with you’, the patriarch Nestorius invited the emperor in his inauguration speech in 428 without imagining that he himself would soon be condemned as a ‘heretic’…

And with their sights set on their own power, the fought Catholic emperors and princes also kept Church and State closely united, despite tensions, conflicts and confrontations of all kinds, from the end of the Old Age to the time of the Protestant Reformation. Throughout more than a millennium the history of the two institutions could not be separated. Furthermore, ‘At the epicentre of all interests, whether they were spiritual or political, was the Church; to her belonged the action and omission, politics and legislative power, all the driving forces of the world were at her service and from her they derived their prerogatives. The culture and history of the Middle Ages are confused with the Church’.

With its powerful material protection, its organisational strength and participation in the legal and political-state life, its influence grew continuously. The pre-Constantinian Catholic Church strictly forbade clergymen to accept public office; but already in late antiquity a bishop of Gaul was entrusted with certain military options, such as building a fortress. And what was lost in the south to the Arabs, the ‘infidels’, was offset by the spread of Christianity northward.

Under the Merovingians, Christianity became the ideological deciding power. There were almost formal dynasties of bishops, to the point that Chilperic I famously uttered the phrase: ‘No one governs more than the bishops; that is our glory’.

Also among the Arian Ostrogoths the episcopate assumed state functions. In early Middle Ages England, ecclesiastical prelates are members of the diets, statesmen, and field marshals. Together with the regent they define the law, they are his first advisers; they elect the kings, overthrow them and raise them. Also in Italy bishops and abbots acted, along with the counts, as administration officials and, together with the lords of the civil aristocracy, acted as legislators. It is evident that from the middle of the 6th century to the end of the 7th century, public life there was totally marked and dominated by the Church.

Also later, if we look beyond the period to which we are referring, the Church survived its allies and overcame all the collapses. One power was sinking, and she was already rising with the next; or at least she was prepared for it. It was indeed only a state together with other states, but her ‘metaphysics’ was ahead of all of them. And while she always pretended the religious, the spiritual visions while proclaiming to the whole world, she aspired to the political dominion of the world.

Relatively early, popes and bishops had already tried to make the state their bailiff, submitting it to themselves. Some Church Fathers, such as Ambrose or John Chrysostom make it clear that way. But it is Pope Gelasius I (492-496) who only a few generations later proclaims with the greatest arrogance his ‘doctrine of the two powers’, which was to have such relevance in world history. Shortly after, the royal power will have to ‘piously submit the neck’ to the sacred authority of the bishops.

Augustine, however, does not yet know the doctrine of subordination of the State. At a time when the Church lived in harmony with it, the saint was able to assure—heaven knows how many times—that the Christian faith reinforced the loyalty of citizens to the state and that it created obedient and willing subjects. It was totally indifferent about who the ruler was. ‘What does it matter which government man lives under, who must die anyway? The only thing that matters is that the rulers do not induce him to impiety and injustice!’ It is true that if ‘justice’ was lacking, and that means here the Church, the bishop, for Augustine governments were hardly anything other than ‘great gangs of robbers’.

But in the Middle Ages the ambition of the clergy to dominate grew along with their power… If at the beginning the papacy defended the doctrine of the two powers or authorities, the auctoritas sacra pontificum and the regalis potestas which complemented each other, then the doctrine of the ‘two swords’ was later introduced (duo gladii). According to the Roman affirmation, Christ would have granted to the papacy the two swords, the spiritual and civil power; in a word, it would have given her hegemony. For when the Roman pontiffs seized power and became sovereigns of a State, they no longer needed a strong hereditary Germanic monarchy, nor did they need the monarchical unity of Italy, which for the same reason they fought with all means to its scope, even by force of arms.

The objective of the papacy was then the political domination of the world under spiritual slogans. While it exercised a spiritual guardianship over the masses and while it referred the whole of life to a future kingdom of God and the obtaining of eternal happiness, it did not stop pursuing more and more material interests. The papacy emancipated itself from the western empire and in a secular struggle it made the Hohenstaufen bite the dust to become sovereign of everyone and everything. A true parasite, who after having drunk the blood of others, after having perched on high with lies and falsehoods and after having been eliciting more and more rights and powers, stripped them and even took up arms, and with celestial speeches continued to worry about its earthly power in an extremely brutal way.

In theory, the Pauline doctrine of the divine institution of authority and the duty of general submission became fundamental for relations with the State. The obedience that is preached there, the absolute docility of the subjects, contrasts openly with the hatred against the State so widespread among the first Christians, but it has continued to be decisive to this day. In this way the Church wins over the respective rulers, with whom it has to collaborate to keep itself in power.

With Gregory VII (author of the Dictatus papae), who in 1076 began the fight against the emperor, who claimed rights over Corsica and Sardinia, over the Norman kingdom of southern Italy, over France, Hungary, Dalmatia, Denmark and Russia, there are already perceived certain resonances of a theory, according to which the pope has all power, including the right to dispose of the States. Gregory and his successors claim at least one indirect potestas indirecta in temporalice that the bull Unam sanctam (1302) of Boniface VIII raises to a potestas directa in temporalia on which the Lateran Council of 1517 still insists, and from which only in 1885 will Leo XIII officially distance himself.

According to Gregory VII and his successors in the late Middle Ages, and always in connection with Augustine’s thought, imperial power has its origin in the devil. It is a ‘carnal’ power as are generally all worldly principalities. But the diabolical power can be turned into blessing through the forgiving, healing and saving power of the papacy, through subordination to the Priest-King. Furthermore, the founding of every new state in this world tyrannised by the devil is only legitimised by papal recognition. The pope appears there as the sole supporter of truth and justice, as the sovereign lord and judge of the world. Everything must render obedience to the successor of Peter. This is how the pope wrote:

Whoever is separated from Peter cannot obtain any victory in the struggle or any happiness in the world, for with rigour as hard as the steel he destroys and smashes everything that comes his way. Nobody and nothing escapes its power.

Why Europeans must reject Christianity, 9

by Ferdinand Bardamu

 
Section III: Censorship and the Christian War on Western Culture

The ecclesiastical decision to censor and suppress classical literature was influenced by militant Christian “fundamentalists,” bigoted anti-intellectuals like Ambrose and John Chrysostom. These men, because of their prominence in ecclesiastical affairs and importance for the patristic canon, were able to aggressively push for an agenda calling for the eradication of all pagan artistic, cultural and scientific achievement. The patristic attack on the intellectual foundations of the ancient world was continued by the medieval church. Isidore of Seville, the most influential and widely read author of the Dark Ages, repeatedly warned his flock of the spiritual dangers posed by reading secular philosophy and science. The canon law of the church had long prohibited Christians from reading secular literature, excluding clergy who consulted these writings to combat heresy and paganism.

The Christianization of 4th century Rome made the church sole inheritor of the great storehouses of ancient wisdom that had been accumulated throughout the centuries. As pagans dwindled in numbers and influence, the monastic scriptoria came to dominate textual transmission, especially after 400. Guided by ecclesiastical censure and canon law, the scriptoria, with few exceptions, ceased copying secular writings for over 300 years, severing medieval Europe from the great scientific and technological achievements of the ancient past. During the Dark Ages, nearly all Greco-Roman literature was removed from circulation and replaced with patristic, biblical and liturgical writings. Works of science and philosophy, some well ahead of their time, were discarded by ecclesiastical officials as rubbish. Sometimes they were re-used for mundane purposes; relics were once found wrapped in the pages of Livy’s Histories. Italian Renaissance scholar Pietro Bembo estimated that less than 1% of all Greek literature survived the turmoil and chaos of the Dark Ages. Modern scholars have made similar estimates for the survival of Latin literature.

Christian religionists allege barbarian invasion as a significant factor in the loss of Western scientific and technical knowledge; they neglect to mention that the barbarians who terrorized the western half of the empire were also Christians. At any rate, barbarian invasion played virtually no role in the destruction of the West’s literary heritage; the majority of Greek and Latin literature was still extant by 500 AD, as the age of Germanic migration was drawing to a close. Although there is no evidence of barbarians burning books or libraries, there is an abundance of evidence implicating Christians in the active destruction and censorship of an entire civilization’s repository of secular knowledge. After the Christian destruction of the Library of Alexandria, the second most destructive act of Christian literary vandalism was the burning of over 120,000 manuscripts by crusaders during the sack of Constantinople in 1204.

Apologists for Christianity emphasize the role of economic and material factors in the disappearance of Western culture during the Dark Ages. In their view, most pagan works simply disintegrated because they were written on papyrus, a fragile material. But this is a myth; papyrus is a highly durable medium, able to withstand the centuries under the right conditions. They cannot explain why the fragility of papyrus was never an issue for the transmission of classical texts until after late antiquity, when the Christian church was at the apogee of its power and influence in Europe. Other religionists speculate that the transition from papyrus to parchment in late antiquity made the copying of pagan literature a costly enterprise. This argument fails because the relative cost of papyrus and parchment cannot be ascertained from the available sources; cost is irrelevant anyway because parchment replaced papyrus in Egypt.

The Christian religionist unwittingly reveals another mode of ecclesiastical censorship and suppression: the refusal to recopy pagan works from papyrus to parchment, which happened during the large-scale replacement of papyrus with parchment in the early medieval period. Still, and embarrassingly enough for the Christian religionist, he cannot explain why Christian writings, whether patristic, liturgical or biblical, outnumber pagan writings by a staggering ratio of 25 to 1. Only widespread Christian censorship and suppression of pagan science and philosophy can adequately account for these glaring statistical discrepancies.

Apologists say Islamic conquest of Egypt in 642 disrupted trans-Mediterranean shipments of papyrus, which resulted in the loss of much ancient literature. However, the historical record reveals that the West’s barbarian rulers, as well as the Byzantine emperor, always had access to a steady supply of Egyptian papyrus. Although Egypt came under Moslem rule, papyrus manufacture remained a Christian enterprise, with Moslems now exporting it to Europe. The irony is that, although Byzantine rulers always had access to an abundant supply of papyrus, the Greek and Roman literature in their possession still gradually dropped out of circulation and vanished from library shelves.

In the Latin-speaking West, decline in papyrus as a writing material is related to large-scale abandonment of Roman forms of government. For example, the Code Justinian contains legislation mandating the use of papyrus for government documents. In keeping with Roman bureaucratic norms, the Merovingian chancery used papyrus until the late 7th century. This practice disappeared under the Carolingians, a dynasty originating in the Germanic east. Unlike the Romanized west, which was more urban and centrally administered, the Germanic east was decentralized and rural. For these reasons, parchment gradually supplanted papyrus in Europe.

In the Christian religious mind, Irish monasteries played an instrumental role in the “preservation” of Western scientific and technical knowledge, but this is a risible claim. What work of preservation was there when over 99% of all secular writings were either destroyed or suppressed by the Christian church? There was no preservation. What did manage to survive, did so in spite of Christianity, not because of it.

That almost nothing of this literature managed to survive shows that the Christian church conducted a remarkably successful campaign of censorship and suppression, the most successful in all history. This is further reinforced by statistical data on book production from 400 to 800 AD. In the fifth century, 27% of extant manuscripts copied were pagan, with the rest being works of a largely patristic, biblical or liturgical nature; this declined to 7% in the sixth century, 2% in the seventh century and 1% in the eighth century, out of a grand total of 834 extant Latin manuscripts.

Over a 400-year period, we see classical works being gradually removed from circulation. This is a pattern indicative of widespread and systematic literary censorship and suppression. If the steep decline in the number of classical texts copied had continued uninterrupted, all pagan scientific, technical and philosophical knowledge would have vanished from memory.

Contrary to the bigoted claims of Christian religionists, we do not see “preservation.” Careful examination of the historical record reveals that the Christian church bears sole responsibility for the destruction and suppression of over 99% of Greek and Latin literature.

Christianity’s eradication of the accumulated wisdom of the ages is one of the greatest crimes ever committed against the West. No act of censorship has been more destructive in world history than the one carried out by this institution. Without the life-giving knowledge of the ancient world, maintaining an advanced pre-industrial civilization became virtually impossible. Christian censorship and suppression of secular knowledge is the main reason behind Europe’s descent into the Dark Ages after the collapse of imperial rule in the West.

Apologists foolishly condemn all criticism of the church for suppressing the technical and scientific knowledge of antiquity as anachronistic. The fact of the matter is that progress, curiosity and reason are among Europeans’ most important inheritance from the classical world. Modern Western civilization would cease to exist without these values.

The decision of the scriptoria to discard works of science, mathematics, engineering and philosophy was a complete rejection of progress, intellectual curiosity and reason. It was the rejection of civilization in favor of a prehistoric existence as the Christian ideal. As a direct result of Christianization, the scriptoria nearly ceased copying the writings of antiquity for centuries; for the first time in history, Europe was in danger of losing her ancient storehouse of scientific, technical and philosophic knowledge that would be so crucial for the Renaissance and the Scientific Revolution.

Why Europeans must reject Christianity, 8

by Ferdinand Bardamu

 
Section II: Christian book burning and literary vandalism

There was widespread, active destruction of heretical and pagan writings through book burning. Although sometimes used by pagan magistrates to destroy subversive literature, it was only during the imperially coerced Christianization of Rome that book burning increased significantly in volume and frequency. Under the Nicene state religion, book burning became a prominent form of ritualized violence against heresy and paganism. The literature that was burned was chiefly of the magical, astrological, religious, philosophical or anti-Christian variety. People had their limbs amputated for copying heretical and other banned books.

According to the book of Acts, Christianity began its campaign of active literary destruction as early as the 1st century. A group of Ephesian converts, in response to a Jewish sorcerer’s failed exorcism, gathered together their religious and prophetic books and had them burnt. This act of religious violence is spoken of with approval as an example of how god’s word spread widely, gaining influence among the people. This served as one of the chief theological justifications for the many book burnings that were carried out in Christian Rome.

Legislation that prescribed the burning of heretical and pagan, especially magical and astrological, books was enacted by Constantine in the early 4th century. These included books by Arius, the priest who denied that Christ was consubstantial with the father, and the Neoplatonist philosopher Porphyry, who wrote a book attacking the Christian religion. The pagan Library of Antioch, which contained Julian’s extensive collection of Greek and Roman classics, was burnt to the ground in 363 by the Christian emperor Jovian, an act of retaliation against Julian for replacing Christianity with Hellenistic paganism.

Imperial legislation prescribing the burning of pagan books, specifically by magicians and astrologers, is found in the Codex Theodosianus. The burning of pagan books continued into the 6th century, where it is well-attested in contemporary sources associated with the reign of Justinian. Not only were the books of heretics such as Nestorius and the Manicheans to be consigned to the flames, but also books by the hated Porphyry and other pagan critics of Christianity. The laws of Theodosius II and Valentinian, ordering their inquisitors to burn the writings of Porphyry and any pagan work judged anti-Christian, was maintained by the Codex Justinian. The Digest grants the inquisitor considerable latitude in deciding which books were sufficiently heretical, magical or anti-Christian enough to warrant being consigned to the flames.

There was a systematic and empire-wide destruction of pagan literature through book burning under Justinian. The most spectacular book burnings were carried out by Christian officials in Constantinople and Asia. Amantius, the Byzantine inquisitor, ruthlessly hunted down pagans in Antioch. He smashed their idols, burned their books and confiscated their wealth by imposing exorbitant fines. Justinian even found it necessary to ban pagans from all teaching positions in the empire. This legislation is associated with Justinian’s closing of the Neoplatonic Academy in 529, a great deathblow to secular education in philosophy and the sciences.

How successful was the church’s war on Western culture through incineration of pagan texts? The entire ancient corpus of magical, astrological and religious literature was so thoroughly destroyed that nothing has managed to survive. We have none of the many scholarly writings that could have shed light on traditional Greco-Roman polytheistic worship, such as Varro’s monumental Antiquitates rerum humanarum et divinarum.

Christian officials diligently rounded up and burnt any work of philosophy written from a materialist perspective, like those by Epicurus and his followers. The fragmentary literary remains of Epicurus, a voluminous author who published over 300 books, is due to the zealous efforts of Christian book burners. Christians also successfully eradicated all pagan literature that openly criticized the Nicene state religion on both rational and philosophical grounds.

Of the most famous anti-Christians, only fragments of their prolific literary output survive. Pagan anti-Christian writings were considered so dangerous that even their Christian refutations had to be incinerated along with them. Of the anti-Christian works that bothered Christians the most, Porphyry was repeatedly singled out by imperial legislation for burning, followed by Julian’s diatribe against the “Galileans.” We know that many pagans wrote against Christianity, but the fact that barely any of this literature survives is a clear indication that what Christianity could not dispel through reasoned argument, it silenced through brute force.

The monastic scriptoria played a major role in the church’s eradication of all secular knowledge. The monks would recycle parchment from secular manuscripts by scraping off the ink with a mild acidic solution; a “washed” parchment was then re-used for the copying of Christian manuscripts. This was subsequently known as a palimpsest. For centuries, manuscripts overwritten with patristic, biblical and liturgical texts were almost always of pagan origin.

The systematic destruction of classical literature somewhat abated by the eve of the Carolingian “Renaissance,” but the secular writings of antiquity were still far more likely to be destroyed by Christians than any other body of literature.

That this was the case is further demonstrated by examination of the ratio of classical to Christian manuscripts. When extant manuscripts are considered, the ratio is 1:25 or 4%. A 7th century copy of the Vulgate, for example, is listed by Codices Latini Antiquiores (CLA) as a palimpsest with sheaves pilfered from the manuscripts of 9 different classical authors, including Livy, Cicero, and Seneca. Given the 4% ratio, the statistical likelihood of so many classical authors being used for a single manuscript because of fortuitous circumstance is so remote it borders on the impossible. This is made even more improbable given the fact that the libraries of the late antique and medieval periods were typically stocked with patristic, biblical and liturgical writings. The Vulgate manuscript would never have been assembled unless the church was deliberately targeting the ancient cultural patrimony of an entire civilization and people for systematic eradication.

The most notorious—and the most destructive—act of Christian cultural genocide was the deletion of Archimedes’ mathematical treatises. In their place was found a Byzantine liturgical manual. This is known as the famous Archimedes palimpsest. The most important of these manuscripts, the Method of Mechanical Theorems, reveals that Archimedes had a rudimentary understanding of the integral calculus; he was the first to calculate the area and volume of solid geometric figures using infinitesimal magnitudes. This was some 2000 years before Newton and Leibniz, the modern discoverers of the integral and differential calculus. If Christianity had not retarded scientific and technological development in ancient and medieval times, mankind would be far more advanced than he is now. Christianity was the single greatest impediment to material progress in the history of Europe.

Christians actively destroyed the writings of classical antiquity under the delusion that they were sanctifying a text formerly under demoniacal influence and reclaiming it for god. They believed that everything that had happened in the past was a mistake. Eradicating ancient civilization would reduce Europeans to a prehistoric existence, but it would free them from all worldly attachment. It would allow Europeans to focus exclusively on the redeeming work of god in Christ, the crucified Jew whose triumph over reason ushered in the Dark Ages.