Anglo-Saxon missionaries

Once converted, Anglo-Saxon England became a vital source of missionaries to the continental Germanic tribes. All the missionaries to the Frisians, including Willibrord and Boniface and the second-generation missionary Lebuin (Leofwine), were Anglo-Saxons. Boniface (Winfriţ) went on from Frisia to Hesse and Thuringia with a papal appointment as bishop to the Germans; for ten years he destroyed heathen shrines, countered Arians, and founded churches and monasteries, including the Abbey of Fulda. In 747 he founded the first archbishopric in Germany at Mainz, having already revived the bishoprics in Bavaria. He was assisted by large numbers of fellow Englishmen who were drawn to help him; the first bishops of two of the new sees that he was able to found due to the success of his missionary work, at Erfurt and Würzburg, were English, and a cousin of his became the first bishop of Eichstätt. He also went on to reform the Frankish church (that is to say, place it under clear papal control), which had an immense influence as the Franks became more and more the agents of the Pope against the remaining heathens and the Arian Germanic peoples in Europe, and as Charlemagne used that excuse to overthrow the Lombards in Italy.

In the tenth century, again, English missionaries played an important part in converting Scandinavia. King Hákon, Ćţelstan's foster-son, sent for English priests to aid him in converting Norway; Olaf Tryggvason was accompanied by an English-born bishop and English priests when he sailed for Norway in 995; English missionaries clearly worked in Sweden, since England and Sweden show the deepest influence on parochial organization of the notion of the Eigenkirche - that a man who paid for a church therefore owned it. Denmark was more influenced by Cologne (there was tension between the archbishopric of Hamburg, later Hamburg-Bremen, founded as a subsidiary of Cologne, and the archbishopric of Lund, founded directly by Pope Gregory VII at a time when the Archbishop of Bremen was at odds with the Pope); but in ritual and organization, Norway and Sweden showed an English heritage. One simple indication of the influence of English missionaries is the names of the days of the week: in the Scandinavian languages and German, as in English, they were named for the Germanic gods not because it was heathen custom but because the Anglo-Saxon clergy translated the Latin day-names making substitutions for the Roman gods. Similarly, in the Scandinavian languages, the word for Easter is based on the Anglo-Saxon goddess name, not on Latin Pascha as in other European languages (in this case the German is independent, from heathen Old High German, as shown by its being plural unlike the English).

 


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